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Starting up a new 1 acre garden bed  RSS feed

 
Grace Gierucki
Posts: 34
Location: Southern Michigan
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I'm installing a 1 acre garden at our new house. I will be rotating through it in thirds each year with permanent perennial beds on each edge and berry bush/ orchard sections. I have an 8 foot high, electrified (outside) fence with a 2' apron along the bottom for rodents. The problem I'm stumped with is what is the best way to prep the area for planting? I've done lots of gardening but always in raised beds and I can't afford to do them on this scale. The land has not been farmed or even mowed since before 1986. My options seem to be have it tilled and prepped by a neighbor once and keep it covered with planting, cover crops and deep straw or apply compost to the growing areas for this season and cover the rest to let it smother and mellow for a year. I currently use a deep straw mulch and like it a lot but I am very open to suggestions. I confess I just watched the Back to Eden video and it sounds awesome but could it be ready for spring planting this year? I'm in Southern Michigan zone 6, good wind breaks and great sun, very gently sloping to all edges of the garden area. I'm starting about 400 seedlings in the next 2 months so I need to figure this out!
 
Jim Thomas
Posts: 57
Location: SC; Zone 7B
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Welcome to Permies!

I'm almost a complete newbie to gardening, but for what little it's worth, my advice would be to just mulch and compost.
 
Thomas Partridge
Posts: 130
Location: Zone 7a
3
books chicken duck
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I am always hesitant to recommend tilling, every place I have lived our gardens have always out preformed the neighbors gardens who tilled and have done so every year.

What type of seedlings are you starting? I am guessing tree seedlings since you are mentioning 1 acre and that is the only type of seedlings I can think of that would take an acre.
 
Grace Gierucki
Posts: 34
Location: Southern Michigan
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Thomas,

Sorry, I should have been more clear. I'd like to put in about 1/4 acre mixed veggies each year (with wide spacing between rows) including some small grain patches and a few large sections of field pumpkins and sunflowers.
I'm putting in an acre so that I can quarter it up. 1/4 acre for permanent orchard & blueberries, the remaining 3 quarters will be rotated with annuals, cover crops and small grains. I have a 15' wide permanent lane down the middle so that I can easily use portable fencing to graze or animal till various sections.
I would prefer not to till but I'm not sure how to get a start this year. I could easily mow, green chop and run a pair of feeder pigs on the three unused quarters to prep for two seasons from now but how to get this first quarter started?
Also, just got many hundreds of seeds in today's mail. Can't wait to get started.
 
Thomas Partridge
Posts: 130
Location: Zone 7a
3
books chicken duck
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I would recommend starting as small as possible for many reasons. If you know someone who gets the newspaper, you can use it as a weed barrier and stack mulch and such on top of that and plant in the center of each "clump". Remember that traditional rows may not be the best way to do things (although always an option. If you do "clumps" instead of rows you can stack plants together that do not compete. Doing so will reduce your overall labor significantly and can cause the plants to have higher overall yields (harder for pests to take over and some plants benefit the growth of other plants.

Remember, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Start small and work your way towards a master piece .

Those are my two cents anyway.
 
Nicole Alderman
pollinator
Posts: 1233
Location: Pacific Northwest
133
duck forest garden hugelkultur
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Grace Gierucki wrote:Thomas,

Sorry, I should have been more clear. I'd like to put in about 1/4 acre mixed veggies each year (with wide spacing between rows) including some small grain patches and a few large sections of field pumpkins and sunflowers.
I'm putting in an acre so that I can quarter it up. 1/4 acre for permanent orchard & blueberries, the remaining 3 quarters will be rotated with annuals, cover crops and small grains. I have a 15' wide permanent lane down the middle so that I can easily use portable fencing to graze or animal till various sections.
I would prefer not to till but I'm not sure how to get a start this year. I could easily mow, green chop and run a pair of feeder pigs on the three unused quarters to prep for two seasons from now but how to get this first quarter started?
Also, just got many hundreds of seeds in today's mail. Can't wait to get started.


Hmmm, I have yet to work on something so large of a scale (we have five acres, but I've just been transforming it from grass to food bit by bit as time and toddler allow). But, you mentioned that you could run the pigs through the three unused sections. That leaves just one section (1/4 acre) section to prepare right now. There are some who do till just once to get things going, and then never again. I don't think you'd do too much damage with just one tilling--but I'm no expert. Some (such as Carol Deppe of The Resilant Gardener till every year. She's here in the Pacific Northwest where mulch is not our friend due to slugs, so she tills). Another option is to double dig the area. But, that will also take a long time and a lot of work unless you've got machinery. Would 1/4 acre be too large to mulch Back to Eden style? If you add in in some nitrogen (fish poo or other fertilizer), you should be able to get planting this season--if I remember Back to Eden correctly. You can also work in waves, getting the rows ready for peas and radishes first, and then continuing to mulch (or double dig) as time allows.
 
Grace Gierucki
Posts: 34
Location: Southern Michigan
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Thanks everyone,
Thomas- 1/4 acre is as small as I can go this year. I usually put in about 500 sq feet every year and it provides only 10% of what we need. It's time to put on my big girl overalls and just do it. Because we're moving I didn't can much this year and we are dangerously low on everything, I'm starting to freak out.

Nicole, I am going to focus on the 1/4 for this year. Instead of digging or lasagnaing the whole 1/4 is there a reason not to just do my specific beds as I have time and need and then heavy mulch the walkways? I have to leave my lovely compost at the old house (it's killing me) but I could probably afford 3-5 inches of good finished compost for beds and have plenty of access to unfinished mulches. If I did that then in 3 years when I rotate back to it it should be fully finished after seasons of green chop, mulching and running animals through.
I love the idea of the Back to Eden style but I'm worried that if it doesn't work out it's a hassle to undo. I think for now I'm going to stick to waste straw/hay and yard waste.

Thanks everyone, you're advice is so welcome!

 
Nicole Alderman
pollinator
Posts: 1233
Location: Pacific Northwest
133
duck forest garden hugelkultur
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That sounds great. If you've got the time, ability and resources to transform it with waste straw/hay and yard waste, then that should work well! The only down side I can envision would be the weeds in the paths creeping into your beds (I haven't had the time or resources to mulch between my beds, and the grass and creeping buttercup is always creeping in). But that would only be temporary. Also, transforming it bed by bed is also a lot easier for moral that trying to do it all at once . Each bed you finish will be a reward in and of itself!
 
Grace Gierucki
Posts: 34
Location: Southern Michigan
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I'm thinking I may need to Just spend a little money and have a few round bales dropped off. I won't have enough waste for a long time and if I do that I could start smothering before official spring hits. We have almost no snow here (it's so weird) so I shouldn't have to deal with the spring muck that is usual for our area. I'm also hoping that an 8" layer of nice cushion will help protect the garden from further compaction while we work to install all the fencing. l can easily peel it back from the beds I want to create and I figure it's the fastest way to get the ground covered. Based on pending soil tests should I be prepared to top dress with lime before I put the mulch down?
 
Nicole Alderman
pollinator
Posts: 1233
Location: Pacific Northwest
133
duck forest garden hugelkultur
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I honestly don't know about the lime, but I'll BUMP this in hopes someone else does!
 
Nicole Alderman
pollinator
Posts: 1233
Location: Pacific Northwest
133
duck forest garden hugelkultur
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I just realized no one has responded to your question about lime. If you haven't already found your answer, maybe try posting the question separately? Hopefully a lot of people will chime in for you!
 
Jamie Chevalier
Posts: 60
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I'm not clear on the lime question. Are you asking if the soil tests comes back with a need for lime, should it go down before the mulch? Yes, it should. I like to put manure under the mulch as well, if I can. Compost or manure really gets the lime dissolving.

We found that going by the furniture and the appliance stores on the days they get freight gave us big sheets of cardboard once or twice a week, which we used to kill the grass on our new land. We also tilled once, to get the parts we couldn't cover or that were incompletely rotted down. The tiller did a good job of incorporating lime and ash (our soil test showed we needed potassium) to get it into the root zone in time for he first growing season. We haven't tilled after that and have a lot of soil life, fungal mycelium, etc.
 
Grace Gierucki
Posts: 34
Location: Southern Michigan
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Thank you, I was wondering how well the additives would break down if I just layered them on instead of tilling them in. We finally got the keys to the property and I spent a long time investigating yesterday. I have done serious plant id'ing to do and need to figure out exactly where our property line is but I'm feeling very hopeful! As a bonus I was pawing through our new barn and noticed an electric fence charger mounted to the post. I plugged it in and the thing works!!! It's an older but much more powerful version than I could afford so I am soooo excited. Using the extra money to have lots of round bales and compost dropped off for the garden. Luckily I discovered that our township makes very nice compost!
 
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