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Our first attempt at gardening -- raised bed back to eden style  RSS feed

 
jeff hogan
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We recently purchased 2.5 acres and really want to grow our own food. Conceptually I'm in love with the Back to Eden method. I've built three raised beds to start our garden.

I've been having a tree company dump mulch off for some time.

I have a source nearby for free horse manure.

Up the rood I can get mushroom compost relatively cheaply.

We've been composting in a tumbler and I have the bin almost completely full.


Beyond that -- I've read lots and lots of information but generally have no clue. I want to avoid rookie mistakes and would like to ensure some level of success with growing food.

What are some other staples that I may not be considering? We definitely want to plant and grow organically.
 
Jami McBride
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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books chicken duck food preservation forest garden hugelkultur trees
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Hi Jeff,

Can you tell us what your weather is like - rain patterns - frosts - etc. How about sun exposure, and soil issues you may have?

The best way to get off to a good start is compost, and you sound like you have lots of materials to get you going.

One rookie mistake would be to mix your wood chips into your soil, but I'm sure you didn't miss that on the Back To Eden videos.
To much raw or hot manure mixed in would be bad too. Without details or specific questions it's hard to advise much more than this.
 
jeff hogan
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I'm in Florida so lots of son. The soil doesn't seem too great; but, then again there are a great many greenhouses all around us. I imagine it'll take some time to get the soil into the shape we'd like it and that's partly why we want to start with raised beds.

I looked at the compost in the tumbler today and it still seemed pretty brown and leafy. I may need to add some coffee grounds to it. I want to build a pallet bin for the compost.

picture of backyard attached
backyard.jpg
[Thumbnail for backyard.jpg]
 
Jami McBride
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
27
books chicken duck food preservation forest garden hugelkultur trees
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Well you will want compost to mix into the soil you put into your planter boxes, unless the planting soil you've got has compost already in it. So if your compost isn't ready yet find a place where you can buy a yard or two of good compost. You'll want some to mix into your soil and some for making compost tea to use right on your plants as needed.

With the Back to Eden method Paul recommends allowing your wood chips and manure to season for at least the Fall and Winter before using.
If you do not want to wait, use good seasoned compost. Add the compost to your soil mix for your box, plant starts or seeds into the soil/compost mix. Lastly mix compost with your wood chips and place them over your soil around your plants. With raw wood chips it takes a lot more fertilizing so be ready with compost tea. If you can wait a week I'd recommend you inoculate your wood chips with 1 part urine to 10 parts water, just to jump start their break down. Do this each day, using as much urine as you can, keep them damp and turn for a week, two weeks is even better.

Good compost will give you the best start at your 'first attempts' at gardening. In the mean time pile up chips for seasoning over the coming year, and make several compost piles to so the same with fresh manures. Then next year you'll be ready and have everything you need on hand.

 
Dave Lodge
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Location: New England
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With the back to eden method, its not a lot of messing around to achieve it. Keeping things layered is ideal. Mixing will increase the composting process temporarily but adds more work, destroys soil structure, eliminates fungi, and reduces drainage.

When you add organic matter to a rich compost, it will start sapping nutrients from the soil to process the organic matter. This reduces the nutrients available to plants until the organic matter is processed. The larger the surface area, the quicker the decomposition process. Some materials like bark are resistant to decay and won't lock up the soil as much.

To combat this, adding a water soluble nutrient (fish emulsion, urine dilution) to the root zone of the plants will allow them to uptake it directly. Do this on a dry day if possible to allow the roots to take in the nutrients before they wash down into the soil.

Another alternative is to add a organic "slow release" garden fertilizer and apply it in the wood chip layer. This would feed the bacteria/fungi as they go and not tie up nutrients at the root layer of the plants.

Compost tea can be added monthly to keep everything moving quickly.

Mulch Layer
This is above the root layer. This can be anything with carbon (wood, leaves, dried grass stalks)

Compost/Organic Matter
This can be planted in. Minerals can be lacking in this layer. Carbon rich wood lacks a lot of minerals. Adding rock dust or soil to this layer can increase available minerals. Can hold 7x its weight in water.

Soil
This is mineral rich, but not a lot of organic matter. Roots are shielded by the organic matter and mulch, and have good drainage.
 
Just put the cards in their christmas stocking and PRESTO! They get it now! It's like you're the harry potter of permaculture. richsoil.com/cards
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