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reclaiming an old abandoned garden  RSS feed

 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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I've spent the last few weeks continuing to reclaim an old abandoned garden plot that was here when we moved here 39 years ago and we haven't used it cause it was so far from our original house..after our housefire our new house on the property is closer to it so we figured we'd try to reclaim it.

it is mostly quackgrass and overgrown wild herbs and weeds...although there was a producing bed of asparagus, rhubarb and horseradish on the plot.

I started doing a little work on it over the past years..but was busy with other things and just didn't have the time to do all that needed to be done.

so this past two weeks i have been using a pitchfork and shovels and wheelborrow and have been digging out quackgrass and huge groups of gone wild oregano..and having to dig up the asparagus as it is solid with quackgrass and oregano...i hate to dig up the asparagus in the spring and ruin it..but it has to be done..hopefully some of the replanted asparagus will still survive.

well i have now hauled out dozens and dozens of wheelborrow loads of weeds, and have gotten several beds cleared, edged with either lumber or plastic edging, raked and manured and any decent plants put back into some of the beds..(there were also some iris and daylillies and herbs and minor bulbs and poppies gone wild out there).

this is a 40 x 48 ' plot..so it is taking me a long time..i did decide to leave all the paths to lawn (mown weeds and grass) ..so edging the beds to keep the grass out is a have to..i don't have the strength to dig out the paths too.

i've been working on it from 6 to 9 hours a day..and i'm about half way done..2 6x8 beds are finshed as well as 3 out of 4 curved beds around a circle of lawn with a beautiful scarlet canandian ornamental cherry ..in the middle.

i have one arbor up with a swing on it..but will build a second arbor to put the swing on..as i don't like the placement of this swing..

i have fruit trees ordered as well as grapes to go into some of the beds..and around the perimeter on 3 sides i have planted S blueberries hedge, W raspberry and blackberry hedges and N wild plum and hazelnut hedges.

i also have 2 other circle gardens marked out and semi done..(still really weedy)..and some beds between them and am doing some in hugelkulture by burying bark under them..(experiment).

it is a LOT of very hard work alone..at my age ..nearly 59..and partially disabled..but it is very rewarding and i'll be so happy when it is all finished..well it will never likely be really finished.

but i'm tackling the last of the asparagus beds this afternoon (one was 8x8 and this one is 8x30 and is about 1/2 done.) it borders the lower part of the E side of the garden

when i get semi finished i'll take some photos..and yes i'm overdoing..my upper back is all knots..but i'm sticking with it until it is all done..need to plant my tender plants out in about 4 or 5 weeks here in Michigan ...i realize i could have used weed killer and probably gotten the same results..but i'm determined to do it organically

 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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well i got that asparagus bed completely weeded yesterday  and managed to notdig up some of the asparagus, but did break off a few of the sprouts..whew..glad to have that done..piled the rest of the manrue on it and put over 60' of edging around it..so it is done for now..also planted 200 onion sets out..yesterday..

the main part of the beds are either done or partly done now..there are some that are still weedy..but not to the extent that these ones were..so now i'll start working on them as well as transplanting my Jerusalem Artichokes..(started out with 4 roots last year and after digging up two of those i got 30' of row of new tubers..man they surely multiplied, i should be eating plenty  in the fall)
 
Emil Spoerri
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you ought to smother the quack grass with manure and compost. Excess nutrients rot the roots out of the ground. Also, buckwheat will smother it well.
 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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there was just too much of it and it would have come back..here is a link to some photos of what i've been doing with the garden and with the pond
http://www.homesteadingtoday.com/showthread.php?p=4412474&posted=1#post4412474
anyone who is interested please follow the link and check it out on the homesteading today forum
 
Josiah Maughan
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Location: wellsville, utah
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i did something like this last year. digging up the plants didn't really work, cause there was still seed. it was overgrown again like a sonofa-b.
so i sheet mulched it this year. we'll see how it goes. i can't imagine it will fail after reading all about it.
 
Rob Sigg
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Location: PA-Zone 6
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You go girl! It makes me smile to hear that someone that is 59 is loving their garden work still!

Im curious how you managed to extend your pond naturally? I dug out a small pond using a steer loader in clay soil, though Im not sure how close to your type of soil since ours has a lot of rock in it. Mine wont hold water worth a darn since the natural gley layer is only a few inches to a foot from the top. Im trying the gley technique in the shallow end by putting grass clippings down and then covering it with soil but I have no idea if it will work. One major booboo I have is that the sides of the pond are almost vertical in most parts so I have no idea how im going to gley them! Arg. Any ideas?
 
Irene Kightley
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It makes me smile to hear that someone that is 59 is loving their garden work still!


 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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my son was curious as to how deep the clay was so he took one area that was really shallow that we could have closed off had it leaked and dug and dug and dug to see how deep he could go..he went about as deep as the huge backhoe could reach down into the ground ..about 9 feet he figured..and he was still hitting solid clay...it was wonderful..so we knew we had really deep clay in this area..there was a layer of white sand on top of some of it though.

all the areas we worked on so far are solid solid clay..when it fell out of the backhoe bucket they looked like nearly volkswagon (exaggeration) size clumps and we weren't sure what we were going to do with all that clay on top of the ground !!! literally.

but fortunately by having it exposed to the elements through a Michigan winter it immediately began to break down..and crumble (top layers)..so it is movable when it isn't wet..and it is exposed.

this spring he scraped off a few feet on the top layer ..if you go to that link you can see in the last picture where the clay had been piled in very rough piles are now much more smoothed off at the top ..and as it breaks down we'll continue to move out the clay

we have some piles of topsoil and pond bottom scummy  soil that can be spread over the top of the clay layer when the landscaping is finished with it.

also was very surprised that the green weeds are growing happily in the bottom of the newly dug area of the pond..besides the water liles that i planted there..so it should support some decent life in there..we have a few goldfish  but lots of frogs and turtles ..etc.
 
Brenda Groth
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Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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update, well i was kinda worried that all that disturbing of the asparagus roots was going to destroy my old asparagus patch..but it seems that just the opposite has happened...

less than a week after finishing the dig on it..i have some beautiful spears ready to pick..maybe not as many as i would have had had i not broken and damaged some crowns and roots..but there are some really nice ones coming on..so we'll have asparagus for supper tonight.

what a relief..and blessing
 
Rob Sigg
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Location: PA-Zone 6
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Im coming to your place for supper! I love asparagus. This year was my first year growing it. I just planted it a week ago after having the crowns in my basement for 2 months. Hopefully they will be ok. I heard Bill Mollison once say that as long as you let 3 spears develop into the full size plant you can harvest the spears all season. I think he even said you could do it your first year despite what most people tell you about waiting until your second year. Have you had any experience with that?

Also, about your pond, it sounds like you didn't have to use gley to expand your pond. Im kinda stuck at the moment with how to get it on the steep sides. I thought maybe of using chicken wire to create a barrier to hold the grass and a tarp in, but I doubt that will work.
 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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i stood right next to the asparagus patch and ate it raw, unwashed..bad me..but it was soooooooooo good.

No i didn't use anything in the pond..except a backhoe.

when our house burned..we asked our contractor to take soil from the low area of the field for backfill around our house..wonderful topsoil and a bit of sand and clay..the next spring (this was in October)..we had a pond there..really shallow but it held water..

so..my son rented a backhoe for the weekend one weekend, and he dug out some of the shallow areas and a really deep hole..he never hit the bottom of the clay.

(he also had some ditch work and other stuff to do so he didn't get a lot of work done on the pond)

this past summer..7 years after our housefire..we had the use of a really large backhoe for a couple of hours..again..so he doubled the size of the pond in those few hours..he is really good..but it left a lot of piles of clay, sand, and dirt all over...the neighbors had rented the backhoe for their use..and we got some of their soil too..

hopefully this summer some of that  extra soil will be distributed to areas that can use some extra soil..as well as my piles of quackgrass too...and then i'll be able to continue to develop the areas whwere the dirt is piled now..or moved to when it is distributed..lots of big plans
 
Nina Jay
Posts: 85
Location: Southern Finland, mean annual temp +4 C, rainfall 700 mm, growing season 180 days, clay soil.
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Thought I'd share my story... I'm in the process of reclaiming a large old abandoned garden too. We moved to this place a little over two years ago and the previous owner had been letting the garden go for some years. I saved what was still alive like chives. Then I applied different methods for different rows, just to see what works best.

Some beds I completely turned over, dug all the weeds out and added a lot of compost.
Some beds I covered with spoiled hay or cardboard or plastic sheets (whatever I found at the farm, I did not want to buy anything) for one summer. Other beds are still covered and will stay that way for a whole year.
Some beds I just lightly turned around adding a little bit of manure and removing most of the weeds.

Now it appears the easiest method by far is covering the bed with something that the weeds cannot grow through. NOT turning the ground. Turning the ground tends to lift new weed seeds to the surface. Just cover it until the weeds are dead and then sow or plant, possibly add some compost before sowing.

BUT I'm glad I didn't do this to the whole garden. The beds I lightly turned around have been a lot of work because of all the weeding but on the other had I've had many pleasant surpises. For example, a few Borages appeared on these beds without me having to sow them. Also the beds have a large seed bank of chamomile which is nice. Had I covered all the beds I would have lost these treasures.
 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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Ninajay, I'm glad I'm not the only one..tee hee.

Well I did end up digging up MOST of the garden, as there were plants that required saving mixed into all the quackgrass..so i would have lost all those plants and had to buy them all over again..and miss several years of harvest..but the way i did it..i got the best harvest i have ever had from the asparagus i dug up, and have a very productive garden there now.

there is one area that the quackgrass was that there was nothing worth saving other than 4 baby wild plum trees, so i laid cardboard around those and piled mulch on top of that..and they are growing much nicer than they were under piles of quackgrass.

i'm still pulling out some quackgrass pieces, but not a lot..most of it is now gone.

i put plastic edgeing on several of the gardens but not all of them, i still have work to do to finish it up..but we've gone into the hot humid and horrifying part of summer here and i hurt my back with all the hauling of quackgrass..so some of it will just have to wait.

there are photos of the garden  on mhy facebook page..here are some links

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=24270&id=1846485863&l=fcadcee02a

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=23386&id=1846485863&l=500c304934

 
Nina Jay
Posts: 85
Location: Southern Finland, mean annual temp +4 C, rainfall 700 mm, growing season 180 days, clay soil.
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Brenda Groth wrote:
..but we've gone into the hot humid and horrifying part of summer here and i hurt my back with all the hauling of quackgrass..so some of it will just have to wait.



Outhch!! You take it easy for a while now!!

Occasionally we have the hot & humid summer weeks here in Finland too and now is one of those times! I wouldn't dream of digging in the garden in this weather, even weeding and watering are heroic tasks now.  Glad I was able to do most of the hardest work at the end of May.

I sympathise with your back problems as well, I suffer from ischias... It bothers me more when I work in the office but still, there are limits to what one can do in the garden with a bad back...

Nice photos! Is that black rim in the hazelnut photos the plastic edgeing? How deep does it reach? Is the idea to protect against competition from grass roots?
 
Brenda Groth
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Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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yes absolutely that is black plastic edging..i know buying plastic encourages the big oil, but that stuff works so well here. I have it around most of my gardens and have some more on hand to finish up some areas..it is definately to slow down the quackgrass..keep it out...well that is another story..that is a lot of pullling and close planting..i have quackgrass in many of my gardens where the edging is..it wasn't necesssarily that it "crossed" the edging but probably that seeds were either blown in or brought in..or bits of root might have hitched a ride when i divided a plant.

I buy the cheapest edging i can find, this was around $3 american for a 20' long roll, so it was affordable..any more and i couldn't have bought it.

after all that backbreaking work of removing the quackgrass i didn't want to have it just all fill back in...the asparagus bed that i removed the quackgrass from was totally wonderful this year, even with all the damage i did to the poor asparagus roots..and next year it should be even better, as i put in several more roots that were given to me by a neighbor..so it will be probably 3 times larger than it was this year..and up until this week i have eaten asparagus nearly every other day since spring..so i'm very happy with the rsults.

 
Nina Jay
Posts: 85
Location: Southern Finland, mean annual temp +4 C, rainfall 700 mm, growing season 180 days, clay soil.
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Ninajay wrote:

BUT I'm glad I didn't do this to the whole garden. The beds I lightly turned around have been a lot of work because of all the weeding but on the other had I've had many pleasant surpises. For example, a few Borages appeared on these beds without me having to sow them. Also the beds have a large seed bank of chamomile which is nice. Had I covered all the beds I would have lost these treasures.


Update to this. Now after one whole growing season has passed I am wiser  Borages appeared on ALL the beds, regardless of the method  Very nice.
 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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well it is winter here now thank God, as I'm still battling the quack grass, but the area that I dug out last year is still grass free..some other beds are choking with it and I'll tackle them in the spring.

i love borage, would love to have it popping up here, and the chammomile.

I have been letting a lot of things go to seed this year, we'll see if they survive winter and the deer and rabbits and I actually get some seed from them (oh also surviving Ron who forgets and pulls them up as weeds..)
 
solomon martin
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Brenda, I can commiserate with you on the eternal battle with quack grass.  Here are a few tips I'll share that may help gardeners everywhere.  Sheet mulching works good most the time, but as you may have noticed, after a year or so, all you have accomplished is fertilizing your quack grass.  Unless you want to continue sheet mulching (not a bad way to go, but a lot of work), something else needs to be done.  The down and dirty method is black plastic sheeting, which works great if you lay it over the sheet mulching and cut little holes for where you want your seedlings to go.  If you cover the plastic with mulch or straw  to protect it from the sun it will last 3 or 4 years or longer.  I realize that some people won't want to put plastic on their garden.  You can accomplish a similar effect by covering as much of the sheet mulch as you can with large flat rocks (thin slate would work the best, but whatever you have in your area should work.)  The stone denies places for the crabgrass to sprout.  You can plant your vegetable seedlings in the interstices between the stones.  The sun shines on the stones which act as a thermal collector and will keep your plants warm after the sun goes down.  The stones also protect the soil from heavy soaking rains and channel water towards the plants you want to grow.  I have had decent luck growing eggplant and tomatoes here in less than tropical NW MT using this method.  You can also use scrap lumber or sheets of salvaged roofing tin in place of black plastic or stones.
Another method I have used which is a little more labor intensive but works well is a slow moving hot compost pile.  The idea is to get a good hot compost pile going, make it about 3 or 4 feet tall in a long berm as wide as you want your planting bed to be.  After it gets going hot enough to kill the quack grass underneath of it, rake the whole pile over onto new quack grass directly next to your fresh, newly fertilized planting bed.  Repeat as necessary until you run out of compost. (you will never run out of quack grass.)  I have busted a lot of quack grass sod in my life, I finally got smart (back sore and blistered is more like it) and decided to stop digging it, as I was always made lugubrious when it grew back later.  Hopefully these hints will help you and other gardeners avoid fighting the stuff to hard.  BTW, the new old garden looks great!
 
                      
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Brenda, I'm hoping you are the same lady that was talking about selling your Rasberries on another thread... If so- and you are looking for an additional way to make some extra $$ with little effort (you seem quite busy) Why dont you sell some of that clay you have stacking up from your pond digging.  Offer it for sale to those interested in building cob ovens or doing other projects w/ cob. They can bring their own buckets or hauling venue & you get paid for what you're not really needing...
 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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MsM....hey if anyone really wants some clay I'll give it to  them for free, consider it a tithe and offering..tee hee..bring your truck and if you come when my son is available (plan that as he works 12 hours overnights)..and we'll even put it in your truck for you with the tractor bucket.

we have enough clay to fill several pick up trucks so don't be shy..come and get it..for free..anyone.

buckets are fine too, but it is a pain to dig out by hand, even hard with the tractor.

but come this spring as in the fall it might all be gone..as Joel plans to move it out of our way this summer..

send me an IM if you want to come get clay

yes I have sold raspberries in the past..didn't have enough this year to sell as I moved most of my plants last year..hopefully they'll do a lot better this year..the black raspberries bear like crazy !!
 
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