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How to handle thick leaf litter with weeds  RSS feed

 
Wes Cooke
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Location: Central Coast, CA
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Hi all,

I live in central California among the coastal live oaks. I've got about a quarter of an acre of space along the bank of a stream that is covered with leaf litter, I'd say about a foot deep. There is also a decent amount of weeds and some poison oak spread around it. The area hasn't been touched for years, so obviously underneath the top litter is some very rich compost... rife with weeds.

I'm a big fan of the permaculture school of thought "work with nature, not against", and have a good understanding of many basic permaculture principles. I would obviously like to minimize the amount of back-bending work required to create an edible food forest in this area.

Due to previous conditioning, my first thought is to rake up all of those weed riddled leaves, move them to another area and let them compost, and sheet mulch the area. This obviously would require a lot of weed-free material for the top layers brought onto the property.

I'd love to utilize what is already there, and skip the sheet mulch step if possible. Just rake all of the leaf compost into raised beds or hugelkultur beds (plentiful amount of oak logs here), supplement with some other organic matter, and just sheet mulch some paths. But the weeds...

Attached is a low quality photo of the area. Hoping for some suggestions on how to best transform the area utilizing what is already there. Much thanks for your time and advice!

 
Peter Ingot
Posts: 131
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I can't view the photo for some reason. I agree that moving the leaf litter and replacing it with sheet mulch does seem a bit counterproductive. On the other hand....poison oak...not nice, don't take chances. I'm surprised that there are a lot of weeds under such a depth of mulch, but you are on an "edge" so very unpredictable.

My approach would be: first get rid of the poison oak. Dig it out. Moving the mulch if necessary. Lay a really good thick layer of cardboard in case any root fragments start growing again, and then replace the mulch, maybe pile it deeper than before onto smaller areas and/or bring in other mulchables. I would also proceed slowly, wait a year or so to make sure the poison oak is gone before you do any hugelkultur. Perennials love hugelkultur and are very difficult to remove once they are tangled up in all that buried wood.
 
Wes Cooke
Posts: 25
Location: Central Coast, CA
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Thanks Peter,

I appreciate the suggestions. I'll definitely have to tread lightly around the poison oak; luckily it's in a small area, around a few trees. The majority of the area is just weeds.
 
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