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Turning new ground. hints and tips required.

Posts: 1420
Location: Denmark 57N
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First hi! *waves*
two years ago I bought a rundown small farm in a swamp. it consists of a field of around one acre. overgrown garden/scrub land of another acre, many small nearly silted up ponds, a spring and 50 thousand slugs.
I reclaimed a small portion of the old vegetable garden the first year, and about the same amount of my field (140m2) last year, using black plastic and a lot of arguing with a spade in the first instance and a rototiller in the second.  but the weeds. wow. It was very wet here this year, and hoeing just didn't do anything, everything could just re-root instantly, so the weeds got away from me, I didn't however let any of them get to seed (I think)

The field has not been ploughed in over 50 years, whereas the lawn area I wish to tame this year, was a vegetable garden for around 10 years 20 years ago, but has been lawn since. (I've been stalking the old air photos!)
What is going to be the best way to tame this, I have until June 1st to get some sort of control going, as I wish to use the area for my marrows/squash etc this year.

Some info.

Area around 150m2 sloping 1:10 to the south.
Soil black silty loam, seems highly fertile and full of life. (slightly alkaline up the hill, getting more acidic as one goes down)
Water. Water table is less than 6 inches under soil surface at the bottom of the slope. rainfall is spread throughout the year, with the summer being WETTER than the winter. (Last year I had to water once in May)

I've been toying with the idea of trying some no-dig on the area to get it going, but I'm leary about the slugs that might encourage. And don't try to tell me that the natural predators will take them, they won't. I have millions of frogs and toads, and millions of slugs! What would people suggest. other than nuking it with chemicals that is of course!

Posts: 3
Location: Ohio
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First of all, congrats on finding a farm!

Second, I suppose it depends on what you want from the land?  Are you just creating veggie garden?

Even if you are starting a garden, you mentioned that you have a swamp, so obviously you don't have a problem with a lack of moisture... but you will have a problem with too much moisture.  If you try to grow a standard veggie plot then you are going to find that you plants will be drowning.  You’ll need to find a way to raise the soil level.

Now, you mentioned a problem with slugs.  You’re never going to beat a “pest” no matter how hard you try.  Just try to plant more of a variety of plants.  Plant some cover crops, oats, wheat, peas and then directly plant into the cover crops.

The variety will encourage a more diverse environment thereby balancing out your snail population.
Posts: 2732
Location: Fraser River Headwaters, Zone3, Lat: 53N, Altitude 2750', Boreal/Temperate Rainforest-transition
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Welcome to Permies.  Great that you have your Farm!  

Sod is agonizing to try to till, and tilling damp ground is not only difficult but potentially quite destructive to the structure, compacting the soil into dense clumps and creating an instant hardpan below your tiller tines.  

I highly recommend cardboard instead of plastic.  Unlike plastic, you can build up compost and mulch on top of it, and it all makes soil in the end.  Although it takes more work to separate the tape or staples from the cardboard, the soil microbes and worms love to live under cardboard.  Since you are planning to plant squash, this works out well, since you can leave small spots open that you plant your squash plants and they will sprawl all over the cardboard, and squash loves to be mounded, which it seems would be beneficial on your plot.  I recommend not tilling, but instead using that time and labor to build raised beds.  Cover these with cardboard and plant squash in holes in the cardboard.  

Dig out a pond, and or channel some of the water downhill to a chosen area, and make that area wetter, while drying the rest.

Start small and manage one smaller area intensively, so as to get ahead of the weeds.

You will have slugs, but I doubt, considering what you have wrote, that you are going to find a garden method that is not going to produce slugs on such land.  

One thing to do to get rid of slugs is rotate chickens on half the land, and each year switch the chicken yard so that you are always gardening in a land that the chickens have eradicated the slug population during the previous year.  Train the chickens to eat slugs by slicing slugs with a knife and tossing them to the chickens with other food scraps.  Once they have a taste, they will seek them out.      
Posts: 2154
Location: Sunshine Coast, BC
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Well, as ol' Bill used to say, you don't have a slug problem, you have a duck deficiency. Apparently ducks are the best for slugs. But you will probably have some slugs, whatever you do, so you'll just have to plant extra for them. Also, if you are a seed saver, you can start selecting for slug resistant plants. If you're into that sort of thing. (Read Carol Deppe's Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties, if your interested in how to do this.)

As for gardening on wet land: Hugelkultur is probably a really good thing to try. It will get your stuff up out of the wet. I am using buried wood, because we have sand instead of soil, and dry summers. But if we had wet land, I would use above ground hugelkultur.

I would avoid tilling - as mentioned earlier, it is hard on soil structure, especially with wet soil. So, building on top of what you have is going to be a really good start.

Good luck with your new venture!


Posts: 1401
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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If you use a rototiller you propagate perennial weeds by cutting them up. If you work by hand you get them out, but weeds will always be with you. Potatoes are very good for a new garden. You could even grow them on the top of the ground and chuck weeds to hill them and in autum the ground might be softer that you can turn it.
Posts: 571
Location: South Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain)
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Some fast growing trees such as poplar will pump water out of your soil and into the atmosphere.
Trim the trees aggressively when you plant crops below them to stop them competing with your crops for light and nutrients.
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