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Starting a new garden over grass  RSS feed

 
Rick Hatch
Posts: 16
Location: Penticton, BC. USDA Zone 6b, 300 mm annual precipitation
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hey guys,

I'm getting ready to start a mostly annual vegetable garden on an area that is currently grass. Our soil is mostly silt but fairly rocky, with some really big rocks here and there.

If I wasn't so busy last fall I would have sheet mulched it to decompose over winter, but now I'd like to use the area for this year and I'm wondering if it's too late to sheet mulch and have a successful garden in the first year?

The other option I'm considering is to double dig as per John Jeavons, I'm somewhat adverse to the back breaking labor aspect of this, but I would then have the added benefit of removing big rocks as I go, to improve the soil that way, and also to add compost at a deep level.

What does everyone think, both from a short and long term perspective?
 
Zach Muller
gardener
Posts: 778
Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
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I think short term, to develop a garden where grass is you have to either import materials to cover it or use a lot of energy on a process like double digging. The energy level needed depends a lot on what type of grass we are talking about. Different grasses will cause different trouble while removing.

In the long term, slower solutions will be more energy efficient. You really don't have to double dig , you could plant certain plants that thrive and overtake the grass and slowly change your lawn over to a garden that way. Although you are talking about annual veggie gardens and not perennial food forests so I imagine you will have to add nutrient to the soil every season as you take out a harvest.

If you have the energy and work available I am always a fan of a few hours of hard soil turning labor to get something worth planting your seeds into. While your at it you can bury some wood for a hugel bed.
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
Posts: 1703
Location: Western Washington
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Hey Rick,

So I have done so much double digging in my life. It works pretty well. I avoid it at all costs. Especially if you have rocky silt. Bone jarring KUHCHUNKS get old quick. And then painful.

There are a bunch of other ways to do stuff.

1) High clay seed balls. I suggested this earlier this year and decide to play with it this spring (it's spring here) These work. Mix clay and compost and some seed. Then roll the ball isin seeds. It should be sticky slick wet. Go pretty large. The Rain will melt them into the ground. It works. Downside: uses more seed and seed aint cheep.

2) Mulch. You can use this in conjunction with Seed balls. You can seed ball on top of mulch. Especially if you use larger balls. Mulch is awesome. Mulch is cheep. Use mulch

3) Poultry squish. This works better on clays, but will also work on silts and sands. Concentrate web footed poultry on the space you want to garden. Feed them. Let them compact and crap and dig until the desired area is fairly bare. It won't take long if they are confined. You can do this on top of mulch. And use seed balls.

Anyhow, Digging and lots of other stuff works well too. But there are some ways which don't involve any. I use a mix of techniques personally depending on what I'm trying to accomplish and where.

Hope that helps some.
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
Posts: 1703
Location: Western Washington
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Also, to answer one of your questions more directly,

You can sheet mulch any damn time you feel like it. Use a trowel and cut into the mulch to plant. This works better with starts and transplants.

When you say annual vegetable garden what exactly do you have in mind? Others here are much more familiar with the inter-mountain west then I but I have grown my fair share of veggies. Some require different treatment and prep than others to be sure.
 
Ben Stallings
Posts: 159
Location: Emporia, KS
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I agree with Landon, go ahead and sheet mulch. You won't have much luck getting seeds to germinate in the mulch, but transplants will do fine. Your growing season is probably a good 2 months shorter than mine, Rick, but four years ago here in eastern Kansas I helped a neighbor start a sheet mulch over his grass lawn in April, and he had tomatoes by June. His house has been abandoned for over two years now, but I'm still harvesting hot peppers, herbs, and strawberries descended from what we planted in the mulch that first April. Your mileage (kilometrage?) may vary, but the method is sound. So go for it!
 
Rick Hatch
Posts: 16
Location: Penticton, BC. USDA Zone 6b, 300 mm annual precipitation
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Thanks guys. I think I will try sheet mulching . My neighbor just had a large cottonwood tree removed and I got a large pile of chips from the arborist, and I also have a large amount of cardboard from moving and renovating last year. We have a pack of wild horses who live in our area so I can get quite a bit of manure as well by being "that guy" roaming the street with a wheelbarrow and a shovel. What do you all think of wood chips as the sole carbon source in a sheet mulch? I've read that they might be very slow to break down. I'm not too eager to buy straw, but I actually do have some leaves in brown paper bags that I saved from the fall from neighbours.
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
Posts: 1703
Location: Western Washington
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Rick I think as long as you use a clay/OM seed ball mix on top or dig down through the mulch to plant into the earth you should do fine. If you have lots of both material I might try doing a wood chip/manure/wood chip sandwich even. I haven't found straight horse manure to be super fertile but it provides way lots organic mater and structure for the soil.
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