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Keeping the pasture out of the forest garden!

 
Sam Palmer
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I know this answer is out there, but I spent 45 minutes with the search and did not find it.

I'm working with a forest garden that borders pasture, and we need to keep the grass from going over to the wrong side of the fence.

Looking for something other than plastic that will do this. I know I've read about living fence/hedge plants that maybe root so densely that they keep the grass out? If we do that it will need to be on the pasture side of the fence, and then it's going to be subject to the goats a couple times a year.

Ideas?
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think you need more ground cover plants to shade the soil surface. I'm trying to link to a specific Youtube video called "7 Food Forests in 7 Minutes with geoff lawton" but the link keeps screwing up so you'll need to look for it on Youtube yourself.
 
Dan Boone
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I just heard a podcast in which somebody mentioned an attempt to build a grass barrier by planting a three-foot-wide strip of rhubarb down their fenceline, since rhubarb shades out everything underneath it. It wouldn't work in my climate, but it might work in yours.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Cardoon also makes a massive shady plant, and makes good compost material, plus you can eat it too.

cardoony.jpg
[Thumbnail for cardoony.jpg]
 
Casie Becker
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Posting your location (or better yet, adding it to your user info) can help people give you suggestions more tailored to your location.

Where I live, we have very aggressive grass that spreads with both above ground runners and below ground rhizomes. I've had some success protecting my garden beds with deep mulches.

I start by covering with cardboard and several inches of ramail wood chips. If I use a double layer of cardboard, then everything that's away from an edge dies. Any stray bits that make it through the cardboard are easily hand weeded. After the first year I maintain the mulch and regularly patrol the edges for encroachment. The deep mulch makes it much easier to pull intruders.

In a couple of areas we've also dug down and laid a row of cement test cylinders (industrial building waste product) under a raised border of natural limestone. It noticeably reduces rhizome penetration and forces runners to arch up where they are easily spotted before they root.

I'm experimenting with a line of chives to block the grass around one tree. It's going to be at least a year before I see if that will be effective, though.
 
Michael Cox
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Watch the video "The Permaculture Orchard".

They use black plastic weed block (not the woven stuff), and plant their trees and other polyculture plants through the plastic. Their side by side comparison of a row with and without plastic is impressive.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I'm not able to see how black plastic is appropriate! How do they build soil fertility with the plastic in the way?

 
William Bronson
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Michael Cox
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I'm not able to see how black plastic is appropriate! How do they build soil fertility with the plastic in the way?



Watch the video. I too was sceptical, but the massive advantage gained from suppressing the grass (which competes vigorously with the trees) is obvious in the vigor of both their trees and the inter-cropped species. Their plastic is not totally impermeable for a start - there are cuts every foot or so for herbs, comfrey, berry bushes, vegetables etc. Worms use these holes to pull leaf litter down into the soil, and water percolates as well. The advantage of plastic is that it works at large scale, unlike mulching with woodchips for example.

Sometimes it feels like permies are generally too quick to totally throw out technologies that work and could be co-opted into the permaculture fold. They may not be totally "pure" but they bridge the gap between what can be achieved at farm scale and what can be achieved in a back yard. If the alternative was wood chips, for example, you might consider the lifetime of each set of chips and the fossil fuels consumed in their production - chainsaw, chippers, vehicles to get them to site etc... repeated every two years or so. Contrasted with a one off installation of plastic at planting time that will last 20 years.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Michael Cox wrote:If the alternative was wood chips, for example.


There are other alternatives, such as growing mulch in the form of groundcover and support plants, or even placing a chicken run or other animal paddock between the pasture and the tree area.

I happily reject the use of plastic when possible. In this example, I think there are alternatives.
 
Casie Becker
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Michael Cox wrote:
The advantage of plastic is that it works at large scale, unlike mulching with woodchips for example.

Sometimes it feels like permies are generally too quick to totally throw out technologies that work and could be co-opted into the permaculture fold. They may not be totally "pure" but they bridge the gap between what can be achieved at farm scale and what can be achieved in a back yard. If the alternative was wood chips, for example, you might consider the lifetime of each set of chips and the fossil fuels consumed in their production - chainsaw, chippers, vehicles to get them to site etc... repeated every two years or so. Contrasted with a one off installation of plastic at planting time that will last 20 years.


Since the biggest problems I see are the edges where grass extends runners and rhizomes, chip mulching works better on larger areas. Eventually (maybe in 20 years, with the way things go) people might stop trying to send their tree trimmings to the dump. Until then I don't feel guilty for turning their waste into my resource. If my plans for growing perennial grass for mulch production works, I hope to eventually be able to maintain deep mulching without chips. I want to be prepared when people do catch a clue.

I also actively nurture self starting ground covers in my garden beds. They're developing into a low maintenance poly-culture that I chop and drop when I want to add a new crop. One of the interesting effects of the chip mulch is that the early self starters are all either very low feeders or nitrogen fixers which will be little competition with most crops. It's too soon to know for sure, but early results are very promising. Best results would be developing a permanent grass suppressing ground cover, at the very least they're making it harder for grass to intrude.

Of course, I learned most of my gardening knowledge when we were so poor that most purchases have been way outside of our reach. My mother figured out how to work without plastic weed barriers decades before we could imagine having money to spend on such things. Working with them is so far outside my experience that I have no ground to compare the relative benefits.
 
Todd Parr
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I have come to use both methods. I have a hard time with quack grass invading. I use the "Back to Eden" method for most areas of my property, but quack grass invades from the sides badly. My new method is to continue to use heavy mulch, but I'm making a three foot DMZ from rubber roofing that I get when a roofing company replaces the roofing on commercial buildings. I'm cutting three to four foot strips of it and going all the way around the planted areas. I hope to eventually have my entire property covered with things I planted and the quack grass entirely wiped out. Even then I plan to have the strip around the outside to keep the quack grass from re-invading. I haven't had luck keeping it out with comfrey or other plantings. This summer I may try a four foot area of comfrey on one side of one of my gardens to see if it can out-compete the quack grass but I have little confidence that it will. Cardoon doesn't grow in my zone that isn't an option. I may try rhubarb and see if that works.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Another reason I wouldn't personally use plastic is because it breaks down very quickly in this climate, turning into nasty little brittle shards. I've made a LOT of mistakes by buying plastic stuff and thinking it would last in the sun. It mostly doesn't, and then it turns into a huge trash problem.

 
Todd Parr
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Another reason I wouldn't personally use plastic is because it breaks down very quickly in this climate, turning into nasty little brittle shards. I've made a LOT of mistakes by buying plastic stuff and thinking it would last in the sun. It mostly doesn't, and then it turns into a huge trash problem.



I'm with you Tyler. I won't use plastic for anything like this. I only use rubber roofing for any of these kind of things now. It's free, it's used so I'm keeping it out of the landfill, and it lasts (as near as I can tell) nearly forever. I don't think it's ideal, but it until I find a better way, I have no problem using it for this.
 
The permaculture playing cards make great stocking stuffers: http://richsoil.com/cards
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