We are two guys from the southeast of Norway (A place called Asker, not far from Oslo) planning to convert our garden lawn into a much more (hopefully) productive permaculture style garden! It's not a particularly large space, around 60 m^2. We are complete beginners and have no practical knowledge whatsoever. We do have a certain amount om theoretical knowledge from reading and watching vids but we need some support from you guys!
So here are a bunch of questions, if you have any tips to give us about a few of them or even all of them, it would be much appreciated!
How should we deal with the lawn? Is it a good idea to dig up the lawn cover and start a mulch bed or even just start planting straight into the bare soil with mulch on top, OR should we rather just do a sheet mulch on top of the lawn and let the lawn decompose underneath over time? Is there any risk of the lawn coming through the sheet mulch and would it in that case be better to get rid of the lawn alltogether? We might try out both techniques but any input from you guys on this would be great!
2. TOP UP WITH MULCH EACH YEAR/SOIL COMPACTION DUE TO SNOW?
In a sheet mulch layered raised bed system, do we need to "top up" with mulch/manure/compost etc every year or does it just stay as it is once settled and decomposed? What about winter time? Here in Norway there's A LOT of snow during winter, and wouldnt that compact the soil beyond whats good?
3. TILL THE SOIL?
The soil here underneath the lawn is quite compact and with a lot of clay especially as you go deeper. There's also a lot of big rocks. If we plant something straight in the soil, is it advisable to till the soil first to improve soil structure and aeration? Or would such tilling destroy the humus/microbial layer in the topsoil? Or do we do this just once as we start it up and then leave it? Again, what about soil compacting due to heavy snow?
4. COMPOST SOIL VS WILD FOREST SOIL
Whats the difference between composted soil and soil from the forest floor? Do we have to buy ready compost soil, or could we just go out in the forest behind our house and grab some soil from there to use in our garden?
5. COMPOST SYSTEM
We are going to start up a hot composting system, made with recycled pallets. Do they need to have a "roof"? Should we have one warm compost put together all at once and then another ongoing cold compost? Again, what about winter? temperatures get down to -20 celsius quite often, how would this affect the process, it would obviously freeze, but is that ok?
6. THE BIG BROWN IBERIA SNAIL
Norway has a big problem with the Iberia snail, the big brown one. How should we deal with this? Killing them is not really a desirable option, we are looking for ideas on natural, peaceful ways of distracting them/keeping them out of the garden in the first place! Any herbs/flowers that they hate? Can we make a barrier around the garden? What about natural predators, which ones are they and how do we attract them into our polycultural diverse garden?
We want to start a little pond as well, should we also grab reeds/plants from a nearby large semi natural pond and plant them in our pond to get instant aquacultural activity, or wait for it to happen naturally? How do we keep the water from getting stagnant?
8. BUY WORMS FOR WORM TOWER?
We wanna have several worm towers in our garden, should we just wait for "normal" worms to come to our tower filled with manure and kitchen scraps, or do we need to buy and supply composting worms? Where do we find these worms to buy? What about the winter, will the worms die and come back or do we need to supply new ones each year?
Thanks for taking the time to help us in our project and therefore helping the earth as a whole! Gardening is definately the sustainable way forward!
Mads & Mikkel - Grindegutane
posted 7 years ago
I'm in almost the exact same situation as you. I live near Oslo too, I learned about permaculture this winter and i am starting to use a lot of the principles this year in my garden. I think the best way to learn the basics of permaculture is by reading one of the many books written about it (if you haven't already). I recommend Gaia's garden by Toby Hemenway, It covers a lot of subjects and most of the plants he talks about are plants that do well in our climate since he lives in an area with a climate that is close to the Norwegian climate.
Although i'm beginner too i can (partially) answer some of your questions:
4) I have read several times that pine trees (needles) cause the soil to become more acidic, but other people say his is a myth. Does anyone know more about this? pine trees also excrete toxins that stunt other plants' growth, but i don't know if those toxins can be found in all of the soil in a pine forest. I think that if you want to take soil from a forest it would be best to get soil from deciduous or mixed forest because most domesticated plants don't come from a pine forest ecosystem. Bought soil often has most essential minerals added and also contains some fertilizer, so it has it's advantages, but it is probably not completely organic, and there may be some weird things in there(depending of what it is made of). I used a lot of store bought soil because the soil of most of our garden consist of gravel, clay and rocks since it used to be a parking lot. Of course the permaculture way is to use as many local materials as possible.
5) make sure the pallets aren't treated with chemicals that protect them, or they won't decompose well and you will get all kinds of possibly toxic chemicals in your soil. Compost piles need moisture, so a roof should not be used. Some people cover their piles with black plastic to warm it more and retain the moisture. During the winter the composting process will probably stop because it's too cold, but there might be some activity when there is a thick layer of snow.
6) The Iberian snails did actually not cause a lot of damage last year because there were fewer of them than before, probably because of the cold winter. The regular slugs were worse. I'm sure there are other people that know more about catching or avoiding snails, so i won't say anything about that.
to remove lawn or mulch really depends on how much of a hurry you are in..
I am in a smililar zone in Michigan and I find that to remove just the sod is helpful to get a good start on a garden quickly..you can use a flat shovel and a fork..cut around the areas in smallish squares and then lift them off with the fork, shake out as much soil as possible and set the sod aside upside down in a pile to rot..you can place them over an area that you aren't ready to work on quite yet and use this to start to kill of more lawn..or..compost it..or if you need grass somewhere else you can put it there too
then after you have removed the sod..use the fork to break up the soil a bit not turning it but to break it up so roots can get into it well..and put on any compost or ammendments that you will add..plant and put down your mulches.
that will give you a start for some plants now..and then after you do that you can start working on breaking new ground by whatever means you find helpful.
you will have fewer weeds in the new area as well.
I don't find that snow compacts the soil, here in Michigan we call it white fertilizer.
tilling brings up weed seeds, not the best idea
wow if you have access to forest soil, that is great..i sheet compolst my garden areas here
catch those snails and eat them..or sell them for food?? I put in a pond in a low area, you can read about it on my blog...see my siggy
Bloom where you are planted.
posted 7 years ago
Thank you very much for the answers! We've learned a lot, and it will be fun to begin! We've gotten cow compost, soil, hay, planks, stones and other stuff! Seeds are ordered as well!
1. If you are planning on doing the entire area at once I would suggest doing the sheet mulch method, then put compost/soil on top of the areas where your annuals will go. Anything that is a perennial will do just fine once you plant them into holes in the cardboard. If you have enough of a polyculture and density you wont need to worry about any grass or weeds that might come through. Some will come through but resist the urge to pull them and just keep planting perennials over them. I tried digging up sod and turning it and sheet mulching, and I found sheet mulching to be much easier and more effective.
2. You should top off every year with any decaying matter you can find. Use the ideal ratio of C:N and you will have a great cover. It will sink over time, so add nutrients from the top down by doing what the forest does each year. Your perennials will add nutrietns from the bottom to top by mining the nutrients. I wouldnt worry about snow compacting soil, and if it were me Id use all that snow as insulation to store cool weather crops in the ground. See Elliot Coleman's techniques.
3. I have the same exact type of soil that you have, and I didn’t till. The sheet mulching, hugelkultur style beds and constant mulching to build soil is the key. Treat unusable soil the way the forest would by succession.
4. I would agree that hardwood soil is ideal, not pine type soil. But if its hardwood, use it over commercial compost hands down.
5. I cant speak to this because I don’t have compost piles, I always compost in place. Its less work, just as effective and no fuss involved.
7. Getting native plants and moving them is a good idea to help it get a jump start. Mother nature will do the rest. If its in full sun, and its deep enough some hardy fish would be good to control bugs, and native plants will help keep the water clean. If its not right next to your house or anyone, then I wouldn’t overly worry about it. Since you guys are in a pretty cold climate I don’t think it will be a huge issue. Maybe your other Norwegian friends can speak to that.
8. No experience with this. Once I built up my soil, the worms naturally came. No need for extra inputs.