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Transitioning to Back to Eden (ish) garden  RSS feed

 
Grace Gierucki
Posts: 35
Location: Southern Michigan
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Hello, I'm trying to transition my garden away from tilling but I have so many questions.  My current gardens are a 30x70 perennial garden and a 170x70 annual garden, few amendment have been added and my soil test showed 7.2 pH, only 3.4% organic matter and the Potassium, Sulfur, Zinc and copper are all well below optimal levels. . I've tilled beds into the annual garden and mow the strips of grass in between. The perennial garden has rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries and grapes planted, the soil is well protected by a forest of weeds.

1st- Is there a good book or website about conversion? I've read the Stout books but there isn't much on the awkward phase I'm in.  If not then here goes-

I have unlimited access to wood chips (until my back gives out) and am thinking of covering all pathways with many inches to smother weeds.  How do I keep them in place away from my already planted and growing well beds? Do I need to build walls to keep what would then be raised pathways in place? If I do so this year then in the fall I'll cover everything and let sit overwinter.

I was thinking of adding a cuff to the grapes. Probably 6" diameter and sunk below the surface to slow down the slugs.  That way I can mulch very heavily without touching the stems. As for the strawberries I think I'm going to save what I can (there is one bed that I managed to salvage,) and I'm giving up on the rest. I'll just mulch heavily enough to smother everything.

I have about 2 cu yds of chicken manure compost for the annual garden that will be fully ready this fall. The way I see it I have two choices,  1.  Let it finish cooling in it's pile and in the fall as beds are wrapped up I will put it onto the  current beds directly, cover them and let overwinter. 2. I could apply it now to the paths, cover them, then in the fall cover the current beds and then next year swap all my planting spots to what used to be paths. This seems far easier IF the paths will be suitable for planting next year.  They are currently covered in weedy grasses.

Sorry this is so involved but I can'r spend another year weeding like this.  I'm spending more than an hour every day on weeding and it's too much.  Plus I hate tilling up my precious worms.
Thank you



 
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree
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Location: Portugal
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This book might be what you need - No Dig Organic Home & Garden

Don't tell everyone, but I'm working on getting the authors here as soon as I can to do a book promotion, where you'll be able to ask them questions and maybe even win a copy of the book.
 
Simone Gar
Posts: 172
Location: Alberta, zone 3
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Grace Gierucki wrote:
1st- Is there a good book or website about conversion? I've read the Stout books but there isn't much on the awkward phase I'm in.  If not then here goes-


There is a Back to Eden movie on youtube if you haven't watched that yet. And a ruth stout movie on vimeo (I think).
Grace Gierucki wrote:
I have unlimited access to wood chips (until my back gives out) and am thinking of covering all pathways with many inches to smother weeds.  How do I keep them in place away from my already planted and growing well beds? Do I need to build walls to keep what would then be raised pathways in place? If I do so this year then in the fall I'll cover everything and let sit overwinter. -

Lucky you, go get them! I cover pathways too. Not sure what you are worried about they don't move into beds. We are super windy here and they don't blow much around at all. And even if they do, it won't hurt anything.

 
Todd Parr
pollinator
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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The beds are exactly where you want the wood chips.  If you have plants already in place, put the chips right up to the plants.  If you are planning on seeding, just pull the chips back until you hit soil, plant in them, and after the plants are big enough, push the chips back against them.  If you want to keep paths for some reason, put down layers of cardboard and then pile chips on those too.
 
Marco Banks
Posts: 615
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Grace Gierucki wrote:
How do I keep them in place away from my already planted and growing well beds? Do I need to build walls to keep what would then be raised pathways in place? If I do so this year then in the fall I'll cover everything and let sit overwinter.



Chips stay put where you dump them.  Unless you live in a tremendously windy area, they don't move at all.  If you've got "growing well beds", sprinkling a few handfuls of chips in and among your growing plants is a great way to save water, feed the soil and keep weeds away.  No need to build pathway walls.  If chips migrate a bit as you walk on them, that's good.

Do both: integrate chips where every you can now, and then stockpile a big load of chips to begin breaking down so that you can cover everything this fall.


Grace Gierucki wrote:

I have about 2 cu yds of chicken manure compost for the annual garden that will be fully ready this fall. The way I see it I have two choices,  1.  Let it finish cooling in it's pile and in the fall as beds are wrapped up I will put it onto the  current beds directly, cover them and let overwinter. 2. I could apply it now to the paths, cover them, then in the fall cover the current beds and then next year swap all my planting spots to what used to be paths. This seems far easier IF the paths will be suitable for planting next year.  They are currently covered in weedy grasses.


If you are aging a pile of wood chips for the fall, you might do well to throw a bunch of that chicken manure on top of the chip pile and give it a major jumpstart.  Or, as you are proposing, sheet compost (along your paths or anywhere else) with a thick player of wood chips and then an inch or two of chicken manure on top.  Since chicken manure is so hot with nitrogen, the chips will become a nitrogen sink, only to slowly release it in the months to come as they break down themselves.

A layer of cardboard, covered by a thick layer of chips and chicken poo . . . . that's a beautiful way to teach those weedy grasses a lesson.


Perhaps it would be helpful to not think of your garden space as one big monolithic field, but a collection of smaller spaces that you will slowly cover with a bucket of chips here, then there, then over here . . . one 5 gal pale at a time.  It's naked.  You don't have to cloth it all at once, but if you were to take two buckets of chips a day, and slowly begin to mulch your way around the garden, you'll be amazed with how different it looks in a month.  Mulch a couple of the tomatoes today.  The peppers tomorrow.  Put a layer of chips right down the center of the row between the sweet corn.  Handful by handful, put some chips down between the onions and beets, carefully tucking them under the leaves of the plants.  Quick, lets get a layer of cardboard and chips down before the watermelon spreads any farther.  Just lift up the vines, tuck the cardboard under, spread 4 inches of chips, and then carefully put the vine back into place.  Die, grass, die.

Best of luck.


 
James Freyr
pollinator
Posts: 517
Location: Middle Tennessee
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It sounds like you've had a soil analysis done, and that's the first step. I think a good approach to lowering your pH is to add elemental sulfur, considering your soil sulfur is below optimum levels (I'm guessing the levels stated on the soil test). There are other ways to acidify soil like adding pine mulch or needles, but it's a very mild way to adjust a soil's pH but a good way to maintain an acidic pH, like in growing blueberries. If you choose to add sulfur, it's important to know that microbes convert the sulfur into sulfuric acid, lowering the pH, and they only do that when the soil is warm. If you add it now, it will have an effect over the summer and will be noticed in a fall soil test, whereas if you added sulfur in the fall right before winter, no pH lowering effect will take place until the following summer warm months. I like your idea of mulching thick with wood chips, and if you can, dump some in the current beds. I see you want to alternate from this years paths being next years planting beds, and vice versa, and I think that's a wonderful approach. Your chicken manure compost, I personally would dump it in the current paths before they're mulched so it is ready for next years garden beds (or even this autumns fall cold crops like leafy greens if you grow those). I would like to make a suggestion, and that's to add some minerals while you're at it preparing the paths for next years beds. Pick up some glacial rock dust or azomite or some sea-90 and apply one of those on the path with the chicken compost beneath the wood chip mulch, and you will be well on your way to remineralizing your soil and growing some delicious nutrient dense food. And those mineral amendments will have some zinc and copper in them to help boost those levels. Since you need to boost your potassium levels, there will be a little in the mineral amendments, but if a substantial amount is needed, consider Langbeinite. It's a mineral ore from the earth, and will also add some sulfur to your soil. The cool thing is, none of the amendments or chicken compost or wood chips need to be tilled into the soil. Just place them on top, and let the rain, insects, worms, microbes and fungi do their thing to improve your soil.
 
Grace Gierucki
Posts: 35
Location: Southern Michigan
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Chips stay put where you dump them.  Unless you live in a tremendously windy area, they don't move at all.  If you've got "growing well beds", sprinkling a few handfuls of chips in and among your growing plants is a great way to save water, feed the soil and keep weeds away.  No need to build pathway walls.  If chips migrate a bit as you walk on them, that's good.


Thank you, I wasn't sure how much they would shift and I'm going to grow celeriac if it kills me but they are easily squashed seedlings..
A layer of cardboard, covered by a thick layer of chips and chicken poo . . . . that's a beautiful way to teach those weedy grasses a lesson.


Sounds great to me!

 

Thank you!


 
Grace Gierucki
Posts: 35
Location: Southern Michigan
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Thank you, I'll grab some of the minerals next time I'm out, you're correct, my tests came back low in all the minerals on the test.  I do have several bags of sulfur already, I just wasn't totally sure how I was going to apply it. I'm going to try the amendment, chicken poo, chips lasagna and I'll post results.  Thank you
 
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