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Beginner here! Critique my plan and help me get my husband on board!  RSS feed

 
Ashley Joy
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Hi there! Long time lurker. I bought my first house earlier this year and I was lucky enough to get a huge backyard that's basically a blank slate. Tons of sun, slight slope but relatively flat, fully fenced to deter large marauding wildlife. I put in raised beds for vegetables this summer, and the end goal is a food forest with lots of fruit trees espaliered along the fence, a butterfly/bee garden, medicinal herbs, etc. BUT! I live in an area where it is hard to grow things. Windy, dry, cold most of the year. With horrible, depleted, nasty alkaline clay soil with no organic matter. The whole yard was horribly overgrown with weeds, and I spent the majority of the summer just whacking them down with the weedwhacker occasionally while I focused on the veggie beds and the neglected interior of the house.

I have unlimited free horse manure, leaves and cardboard, and from the end of April until the end of September, unlimited free pine wood chips. My strategy has been to cover huge swaths of "lawn" with cardboard, then lay down wood chips. I'll let it marinate over the winter, then plant winter-sown perennials in the spring, using horse manure as an amendment in the planting holes. I also want to plant a bunch of whips next spring along the fence and start training them into cordons since it will take a couple of years for them to mature.

I'm going to chop and drop the remaining veggies as soon as it freezes, cover them with cardboard to smother any volunteers, then top it off with a layer of manure and a layer of mulched leaves. I'm going to leave one bed fallow and use it for composting in place, then rotate the compost bed from year to year. I also want to double the beds this year. I have a bunch of slash/tree trimmings that have been piled up since spring, and I was thinking about doing mini hugels in the raised beds, laying cardboard down as the bottom layer, packing in as much wood and debris as I can, then topping it with horse manure, leaves, vermicompost, bokashi, and compost. I'll mulch the asparagus bed with more leaves.

I do want to keep some areas as lawn so my son and his friends have a place to play. I'm planning on broadcasting clover to start crowding out the weeds and getting some nitrogen into the soil.

My main problem right now is the sheet mulching is a slow process. I can get maybe 1/3 of a yard of mulch at a time because I just have a compact car, and there's no more free mulch for the year anyway. My husband is ready to kill me because it "looks trashy." He especially hates the exposed cardboard. He's also not a fan of yardwork. Has anyone here convinced a reluctant spouse to go along with their permie vision? How? 
 
Scott Charles
Posts: 9
Location: Adirondack Park, New York
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Sounds like a common theme from what I've been reading here since joining - new place, big dreams, and a reluctant partner.  My dearest absolutely hates the way I start a project, get things all torn up and looking like a demolition zone, and then jump to the next project because I got inspired and needed to change focus for a while.  She would love nothing more than for me to finish any one of the half dozen things I've started out there so that at least one part of the property could look "decent"   Not sure how this would work for you, but we decided to go with a compromise that gets each of us a little of what matters most to us.  She can do whatever she wants with the inside of the house as long as it isn't too far over the edge, and I don't totally hate it.  And I can do the same outside, with the same stipulations.  When she pushes things a little far  I'll drop subtle hints and she tones it down some, and likewise with me and the gardening.  An interesting result has been that I am now actually liking having every room in the place decorated for Halloween since the middle of September (including the red light bulbs, for the most part), and she spent several days outside helping me managing burn piles, clearing the property, and sawing up firewood.  She's still not on board with raising meat rabbits, and I haven't given in to the big deck she keeps saying we need, but we're each making progress.  It's all about compromise and baby steps
 
Peter Kalokerinos
Posts: 94
Location: Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia
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chicken hugelkultur solar
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You need to find some material, preferably good quality videos which show what the "end" result will be....these things are always a work in progress....our place looks like the moon at present.

I can't find the exact vid, but this lady does a walk around her garden and explains exactly what is going on and its a beautiful place. This might give him some enthusiasm...that and tell him once its established its no (less) work.

http://our-permaculture-life.blogspot.com.au/
 
Ashley Joy
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Scott Charles wrote:My dearest absolutely hates the way I start a project, get things all torn up and looking like a demolition zone, and then jump to the next project because I got inspired and needed to change focus for a while.


This is the story of my life, lol. I technically have full reign over the yard and we compromise on the house stuff and any hardscaping outside (built a deck this summer, doing a patio, paths and a firepit sometime in the near future). What gets me is I'll say something like, "Look, I got more mulch down, that area's going to look good soon" or "I just put in a bunch of new perennials" and he says "I'm still skeptical" or "but that OTHER corner still looks nasty, you need to get rid of the cardboard." Not demoralizing, because I'm confident in my vision, but annoying and rude.
 
Ashley Joy
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Peter Kalokerinos wrote:You need to find some material, preferably good quality videos which show what the "end" result will be.


This could be very effective. I tend to not have the patience for videos, but he's always watching stuff online. Maybe I'll get my son hooked on her channel and encourage him to show his dad the cool parts.

I do think something is getting lost in translation because I can already "see" how it's going to be when I get things the way I want it, and it's hard to share that image without pictures.

I also think differing backgrounds have a lot to do with it. I grew up with a hippy mom and we did a lot of permaculture-ish stuff before it became popular. He grew up on a cattle ranch, so different perspectives entirely.
 
Kate Muller
Posts: 212
Location: New Hampshire
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When my husband and I bought our house he was all for me doing all the gardening to turn our place into a permaculture homestead.  He has always helped with the heavy lifting, loved renting a backhoe to build the swales and huglekulture beds but the rest was up to me.   I spent a good deal of time figuring out where to put everything and made sketches to show Alec what my plan was.  I also made sure most of the stuff we planted the first year were things my husband loves to eat.  I also planted a pretty mix of beneficial flowers and herbs to cover the place in flowers while the trees and shrubs got established.


Buried in the flowers is 2 apple trees, 2 quince, and a sour pie cherry. 

Now that we are 2.5 years into the process my husband loves to be in the garden.  His favorite thing is wander through the garden snacking on berries and veggies.  His doctor told him he wasn't getting enough exercise so he decided to start working in the garden more instead of a gym membership.   He has found he doesn't mind digging, moving mulch and building stuff for the garden.  I never ask him weed or plant anything smaller than a tree sapling.  His increased help in the garden wouldn't have happened if he hadn't fallen in love with the garden.  When I started we hadn't realized how important it would be to us to have beautiful place to retreat to.

We still have a ton of work to do and we do have a bunch of unfinished projects in the yard but we now have a shared vision of what it will be and what it means to us.   
 
Anne Miller
pollinator
Posts: 752
Location: USDA Zone 8a
53
bee dog food preservation greening the desert hunting toxin-ectomy
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Ashley Joy wrote:"I just put in a bunch of new perennials" and he says "I'm still skeptical" or "but that OTHER corner still looks nasty, you need to get rid of the cardboard." Not demoralizing, because I'm confident in my vision, but annoying and rude.


Maybe you could cover the cardboard with mulch so it doesn't stand out like a sore thumb.  Then the mulch could be raked off when you are to the next step.

Could you slowly get him interested in what you are doing?  Maybe talk about planting his favorite veggie or flower?  Is he interested in hummingbirds or butterflies?

When you cook dinner make comments like "Doesn't this [his favorite veggie] taste great?" And when he comments say "It was grown in our garden!"  Be sure to say "Our" so he is included even though the garden is yours.

When you talk about the deck or the firepit, mention his favorite plants.  How great they will look there.  Make him feel like an important part of your plans.


And be sure to post some picture so we can see your progress...
 
Ashley Joy
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Kate Muller wrote:
Now that we are 2.5 years into the process my husband loves to be in the garden. 


I can't believe that only took 2.5 years! Your yard is beautiful and gives me hope! The veggie garden this year was mostly his favorites. Lots of herbs, tomatoes, and peppers. He cooks with the herbs a lot and made a vat of salsa to take to a fantasy football party and it was apparently a hit.

Anne Miller wrote:
Maybe you could cover the cardboard with mulch so it doesn't stand out like a sore thumb.  Then the mulch could be raked off when you are to the next step.


This is the biggest problem. That's exactly what I planned to do but it's not going as smoothly as planned. Cardboard is easy for me to lay down during the week before/after work, and its much easier to get than the woodchips or manure are. Mulch has to wait till the weekend, because I go to work before the place I go to opens, and don't get off until it has closed. And I have a subcompact car and don't have any friends with a truck or trailer, so I can get maybe 1/3 of a yard at a time. So what's been happening is that cardboard goes down, we get busy, and it sits there looking awful until I have a chance to get more mulch. I've been signed up with chipdrop since March but the network doesn't seem to be very developed in our area yet. I'm HOPING that in a few weeks I'll have enough leaves and pine needles to cover most of the cardboard and let stuff start breaking down and becoming good soil. I'd love to be able to pay for a big delivery of wood chips, but the house was just as neglected as the yard so all of our expendable income is going into making it a safe/comfortable place to live.

He doesn't care even a bit about plants, animals, or flowers, but it might work to let him do the engineering type stuff. He likes modeling things up with exact measurements and scale drawings and stuff. He was excited when they legalized rain barrels here and can't wait to do solar panels on our house, so I might put him to work on an irrigation system with a solar pump. And he'd probably like figuring out the contours for swales if I promised to not make him do the digging. And maybe stuff like researching the best grills, smokers, and hammocks.

 
Ashley Joy
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Oh, and I'll definitely post pictures eventually. I'm pretty embarrassed by how it looks now.
 
K Putnam
pollinator
Posts: 245
Location: Unincorporated Pierce County, WA Zone 7b
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Having learned from making similar mistakes, I would recommend scaling back to an area that you can manage to tidy up for fall.  Pull up the unmulched cardboard if necessary and tidy the edges of what you have done so far.   Scaling things back has the added benefit of keeping the plants you've already invested in alive.  I've lost more plants by dreaming way bigger than my limited hours can support.  The other lesson I have learned is to not underestimate the important of finding a ground cover plant and getting it going.  The problem with mulch, from a visual perspective, is that it will look great for about six weeks, then things will start growing in it, so those might as well be things that you want.  The areas where I have plants acting as real groundcover are much easier to keep tidy than the areas I have been relying on cardboard and mulch. In smaller spaces, I think tidiness is an overlooked part of permaculture.  In areas where it needs to look good, a permaculture garden will only last if it looks good enough to inspire people to care for it.
 
Anne Miller
pollinator
Posts: 752
Location: USDA Zone 8a
53
bee dog food preservation greening the desert hunting toxin-ectomy
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Ashley Joy wrote:The veggie garden this year was mostly his favorites. Lots of herbs, tomatoes, and peppers. He cooks with the herbs a lot and made a vat of salsa to take to a fantasy football party and it was apparently a hit.

He doesn't care even a bit about plants, animals, or flowers,...


Don't use plants or flowers when talking about the deck or firepit, use veggies.  Talk about how great a ornamentsl kale would look planted by the deck or a sweet basil in a hanging basket. The point is you are trying to get him interested.
 
Ashley Joy
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K Putnam wrote: Pull up the unmulched cardboard if necessary and tidy the edges of what you have done so far...In smaller spaces, I think tidiness is an overlooked part of permaculture.  In areas where it needs to look good, a permaculture garden will only last if it looks good enough to inspire people to care for it.

I'm hesitant to pull up the unmulched carboard only because it's keeping the weeds in check...I've kind of been of the opinion that it can either be ugly because of the cardboard, or ugly because of the waist high, prickly weeds that I'll have to cut down over and over. Given the option, I always like to go with the lower-maintenance approach. Lol. I see your point about tidiness though... maybe instead of the haphazard way I've been doing it, I should concentrate on the area closest to the house and build from there. That way he'll be able to see one area come to life fairly quickly instead of several adjacent areas coming together SLOOOOOOWLY.

The places I've mulched so far don't seem to have much growing on top of the mulch. A few dandelions have poked through gaps/holes but I cut them down, rake the mulch back, cover the plant with another small piece of cardboard and replace the mulch. And the garden beds, where I planted directly in the double-dug, nasty soil, then surrounded the seedlings with cardboard sheets and topped things off with several inches of horse manure, had NO weed problems. I was expecting a ton because of what everyone says about horse manure... but I spent maybe 5 minutes per week weeding those beds all summer. It was the weirdest thing.
 
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