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Need advice on what to do on my new rental property

 
                                
Posts: 34
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I recently moved into a rental house on 2.5 acres and am looking for some advice on what to do with the yard. The landlord is awesome and has given me freedom to do pretty much whatever I want. It's in the Bellingham Wa area, so I think that's zone 8. The soil is a silt loam with poor drainage. There are currently old mature hazelnuts, cherries, apples, and pears. There is a small grass area in the front of the house with pretty good sun exposer that drains better due to being the highest point. I was thinking of planting perennial and annual herbs and flowers there mostly. On the side of the house is a very large grass area with good sun exposer which doesn't have standing water, but does have poor drainage (this would be the main garden area). Out back the drainage is very poor, consisting half of a wetland area with tall grass and the other half is the apple, pear, cherry orchard which is very muddy right now. I'm unsure what makes the back of the yard drain so much worse than the side, as they both are at the same level.

Spring is a ways off, but I really want to get a jump start on planning things. I'm excited to have all the space to work with, but feeling a bit lost and overwhelmed too, so I'd gladly accept all suggestions about what to plant, what techniques to use, etc. I'm planning to grow a lot of annual veggies, but also want to experiment with perennial veggies, herbs and flowers. At least the ones that don't take too long to start producing. Although, I don't mind leaving some things behind for the next renters. I'd like to improve the drainage where I can (raised beds maybe?) but also figure out what to grow that likes the current soggy soil. I'd be interested to hear if I should try to produce any food in the wetland area. Maybe try some wapato (if I can find it), lotus root, or others. Or, maybe it's best just to leave that area for wildlife, as I have plenty of space without it.
 
                                                                    
Posts: 114
Location: Nashville, Tennessee, USA
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That sounds exciting.
First you need to identify the best opportunities for permaculture.
Make a list of the best ideas and just go down it.

I would talk to neighbors, previous owners and local folks.
Show this group some photos.
It is hard to visualize from your description.

I sounds like you have some good work to build on already.

Go for it.
 
Kirk Hutchison
Posts: 418
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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If the existing trees are in good shape, go on a forest garden planting bonanza. If they aren't, graft or prune them back into shape if at all possible. Try to get in some sort of perennial ground-cover like mint, ramps, or whatever will do well in the area as soon as possible. It would be good to get some compost crops and dynamic accumulators (comfrey) into the ground fairly quickly so that you can start improving the soil. Once you get the soil in a good, stable condition, you can proceed at your own pace.
 
                                      
Posts: 172
Location: Amsterdam, the netherlands
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hey barefooter, if you didnt do it allready, i found that drawing a base map on which you can indicate things like sogginess, wind directions etc to be quite a good start.

If drainage is so poor it would be good to try to find out why, if it is the natural condition of the property you could consider it to become wildlife, like you said, if the need is not there. If it is not the natural state of the place find out why.

there is a considerable chance that it is due to compaction of the soil. If soil is walked on a lot, or heavy equipment drove over it (to construct a house for example) underlayers of the soil can become compacted, leaving you with very poor drainage.

Breaking it open (a one time, never again digging), could help heaps. Digging out paths so you allow acces to every bed without having to walk on them (the distance to the middle of a bed not longer than your arm), and heaping up the soil you take out of the paths, on top of the beds is a good start.
 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
Posts: 855
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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These here hills are mighty soggy right about now.  Things might dry out quite a bit.  A fun challange depending on your experience would be to learn the names of plants already growing on site.  Many of them may indicate how wet your site is year round... something you might not be able to discern looking at water on the ground in a Maritime NW December.

Deep mulching or some other ground prep now (avoid machine tillage in wet ground) may save you breaking sod for summer annual veggies.

You roof might be generating 1000 gallons of runoff in a heavy rain... I wonder if the direction your downspouts are pointing has something to do with your wet spot.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9445
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Here's a video about gardening in a wet area:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugFd1JdFaE0
 
                                
Posts: 34
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Paul Cereghino wrote:
These here hills are mighty soggy right about now.  Things might dry out quite a bit.  A fun challange depending on your experience would be to learn the names of plants already growing on site.  Many of them may indicate how wet your site is year round... something you might not be able to discern looking at water on the ground in a Maritime NW December.


I don't know all the native plants on the property, but the ones I do know indicate it's naturally a wet area. The woods out back are mainly alder, red osier dogwood, pacific crabapple, unknown grasses, and a few others I don't know. I've been meaning to map out the yard and document most of the existing species.

Fortunately, the large grass area, which will become garden does have the best drainage. Now that I look again, I think this is due to some drainage ditches that run on the side of the property, but I'm not entirely sure. This area will probably be mostly annual veggies with lots of herbs and flowers interplanted all over the place. How should I approach converting this grass area to garden? I've been piling raked leaves on a very small section of it, but I would never be able to get enough material to do sheet mulching. Is my only other options to wait until it is dry in spring and dig the grass up and loosen the soil to prevent destroying the soil and making huge clods?

I'd like to get a lot of hardy perennial herbs and flowers in front. If I get starts of rosemary, sage, etc. can I plant them this time of year, or is it best to wait until spring?

The fruit trees aren't too out of control, but are in need of a good pruning, which I've never done before. Are there any good resources online for pruning fruit trees?
 
jacque greenleaf
pollinator
Posts: 489
Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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Veggies in a wet area in Bellingham? Raised beds in the sunniest spot you can find. By the time that soil warms and dries sufficiently to be diggable, your tomato starts will crawling out of their pots!

How long do you think you'll be there? I wouldn't dig that dirt at all if you want to start growing annual garden veggies this spring. I'd buy some straw bales and do this - http://www.carolinacountry.com/cgardens/thismonth/march06guide/straw.html. Use the leaves to start composting your food scraps. Find a coffee shop and add used grounds. Beg garbage from your neighbors. Keep your compost pile covered so nutrients don't leach.

And when the soil does dry this summer, then dig some beds in the ground for perennial food and herb plants. I would still use some kind of raised beds for your annual veggies. As the bales break down, they will form a nice base for future veggie gardens.
 
                                
Posts: 34
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I'll probably only be at the place for two years, so that makes it kinda tough in terms of deciding what to do. I'll be looking for land to buy and two years is just a rough guess of when I might finally buy a place where I can start working on longer term projects with a high percentage of perennials. Until then, I'm trying to find things that will produce quickly for me, but at the same time I'd like to experiment with longer term things just for the practice.
 
Shawn Bell
Posts: 156
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barefooter, there is a thread on propagation beds you might want to look at.  If you acquired perennial plants, bushes, and trees, and then propagated them for two years you could end up with lots of plants for your new piece of land.  You might also create an extra income to help you buy your land faster.

Just a thought...
 
jacque greenleaf
pollinator
Posts: 489
Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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What Shawn said. All practice is good.

Talk to your landlord. If you build some good perennial beds in the ground, s/he may have no objection to you also building some temporary raised beds with the idea that you take the improved soil from the temporary beds when you leave.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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on your wetlands, if the soil is acidic, you could plant cranberry bushes..you also could raise up some hummocks on top of the wetland area and plant blueberry plants up on the hummocks..wintergreen berries will also grow in these conditions, winterberry, elderberry and possibly service berry on the drier edges..mint will grow well near wet areas, and if it is really wet, you can grow cattails which are good for food
 
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