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Killing dense grass for a new garden. Dale's no till potatoes.  RSS feed

 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6146
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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This garden was covered in very thick sod when it was started last year. We did a lot of hard work last year, to get it started. Sod was dug up and beaten with a hoe and then the grass and roots were hot composted. When it came time to enlarge the space, I chose no till potatoes, against the wishes of my gardening partner, who is happy to fritter away hours on pointless drudgery.

I did it just like you see in the YouTube videos. Divots of soil were cut from the hard compacted ground, potatoes were planted and a heavy mulch was laid. I used cardboard, but unlike most do, I placed it on top of the mulch. We don't get much rain in the summer, so the cardboard doesn't rot. It's there to shade the ground. The mulch blocks most light that gets by the cardboard. This system prevents the cardboard from rotting and it promotes mulch rot. Critters of all sorts chew away in the shade.

By the end of July, most grass was dead. I took up the cardboard and mulched heavily with hardwood hedge clippings. People pay to have their hedges cut and I charge extra for disposal. Whenever I add woody debris, I also add coffee grounds, which are high in nutrients.

The area was harvested this morning. I raked up the mulch into a winter rot pile to reveal soil that shows no sign that it was lawn five months ago. Photos soon.

Edit- The cell location is bad. Photos won't load. Later.
 
Will Holland
Posts: 300
Location: CT zone 5b
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Interested. Waiting to see pics.
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6146
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
192
 
Dale Hodgins
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I used the same batch of seed for the ones at the farm. Nearly every one was perfect. I watered the much hotter, drier site only 3 times. Probably a quarter as much work went into the ones that were neglected and produced a better quality crop.

My main concern was killing the grass without much labor. This was highly successful.
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Dale Hodgins
gardener
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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The potatoes were all concentrated directly under the plants. I had to add soil, since many pushed above ground. It seemed that they would uproot themselves.

The first photo shows the woody material left from hedge clippings.

In the second shot, the cones of soil that were cut from the grass are visible on the left.

I grow shallots in shallow rot piles. Something is going to grow here while it breaks down. Shallots are easy to move when necessary.
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Dale Hodgins
gardener
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I had some time yesterday, and decided to gather coffee grounds. The first place had 150 lb. or so. I spread it pretty thinly. About half went on the bare bed and the rest was tossed between plants over the rest of the garden. There's a Starbucks a quarter mile away, so I went there and found another 300 lb. All of this was added to the 75 sq ft. of bed where the potatoes were harvested. I raked it around evenly and then I pushed down on the rake and moved it vigorously back and forth over the bed, so that the coffee was mixed with the top inch of soil. The rake cut through the old rotted grass roots. It was a harrowing experience. That's all for now. I will plant the area soon.

Notice the color variation. The bags of grounds often contain giant tea bags. The green stuff is green tea, the reddish stuff is roibous.
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Dale Hodgins
gardener
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Kale and mustard greens were grown here. Some will be transplanted to the empty bed. There's no room for weeds in a garden that produced a million kale, mustard and chard seeds. They are coming up everywhere.

In order to prevent the mulch mound from growing weeds, I covered it with hundreds of coffee filters. The pile will be spread between the plants after spring warm up.

Later yesterday, I went to both coffee shops in the Cook st. village and hit pay dirt. About 600 lb of grounds was obtained. I got 17 plastic pails. One place wants some back, and the other said "keep them". It took a total of five wheelbarrow loads to haul all of it to the garden. Usually the coffee is packed in big bags like one in the foreground. I got about 45 of those yesterday. Most places have gone to biodegradable bags. I have used them to smother unwanted growth and to protect tomatoes from frost.
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Dale Hodgins
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I decided that the various rot piles were not an attractive thing to have the owners look at all winter. Using volunteer plants that have come in really thick, I covered all mounds with plants.

The big compost was covered in a 50/50 mix of coffee grounds and soil. In a small garden, I don't like to give up an inch to idle space.
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Dale Hodgins
gardener
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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The potatoes were in the first of three gardens described in this thread. I've gone from no garden last June, to three now, with about 3300 sq ft under intensive cultivation.
http://www.permies.com/t/27910/projects/Dale-Day-Garden

Here's how I used my hedge cutter to process a mountain of vines to feed this big compost pile.
http://www.permies.com/t/40664/mulch/Dale-Compost-Cutter-processed-lb#316616
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Nicole Alderman
pollinator
Posts: 1232
Location: Pacific Northwest
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duck forest garden hugelkultur
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I see you're adding a lot of coffee grounds, and live in British Columbia. Are your soils as acidic as ours are in Western Washington? I've only been adding coffee grounds to my berry patches that really like acid. Can they be applied elsewhere without negative consequences?

P.S. I like seeing your no till potatoes, as we're trying some this fall, too. Ours are currently under 1.5 feet of maple & alder leaves with some sword fern fronds, too. Is there anything else we should add on top of them? Thanks!
 
Dale Hodgins
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Yes, the same acid issues. I do nothing about it usually. The grounds are about neutral. Most acid goes into the drink. I use this stuff everywhere on every crop. No problems. The bugs drag it down. Being a woody material, nitrogen is released slowly. Most manures contain a million weed seeds and cause nutrient spikes.

I think some pests are confused by the smell. Slugs don't crawl across dry grounds. Snakes and lizards bask on the dark surface. It extends my seasons. I harvested strawberries, eggplant and cucumbers yesterday.
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Nicole Alderman wrote:I've only been adding coffee grounds to my berry patches that really like acid. Can they be applied elsewhere without negative consequences?
Dale Hodgins wrote:Yes, the same acid issues. I do nothing about it usually. The grounds are about neutral. Most acid goes into the drink.


Yip. Coffee grounds are about ph 6.8-perfect for nearly all plants.
Just avoid getting it on edible leaves-it sticks like mad and while it's basically an aesthetic issue, it gets to me

Back to potatoes...
 
Dale Hodgins
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If it gets on fuzzy leaves like borage or oregano, it really sticks. Most disease issues with manures, have to do with it being splashed onto leaves by rain or sprinklers. I gathered 6 more buckets today.

It's cold and wet now. Soon the snakes and lizards will move under the hugelkultur for the winter. Coffee will be my only slug protection for the winter crops.

A solid band of filters is used to smother grass and provide a slug barrier.
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