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Starting the forest garden from a lawn  RSS feed

 
Posts: 31
Location: Olympia, Wa
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Hey all,

I know there are numerous threads and sources about this but I am having trouble finding the right thread.( Feel free to send me links).

I have almost 1/4 acre of lawn that I want to convert over to my dream yard. This involves a dome greenhouse, large chicken coop, lots of trees, tons of food, amazing flowers and lots of wildlife. I know this will take 5 plus years but I gotta start somewhere. I have my compost bin made and many lists of different tree guilds I want to try and even a sketch of the 5 year plans.

The soil is about 95% sand and 5% clay. Compacted with very little organic matter. Low on nitrogen but adequate levels of P and K. PH is 6-7. See picture. Zone 8a, the end of the yard has a cliff that goes to the  southern point of the salish sea in the PNW.

My question is what is a good way to start. I want the grass gone but I don't want to pull it all up and loose what little organic matter I have. Should I rent a powerful tiller and till it? Then sheet Mulch? If I sheet Mulch I want to do it properly (that's a lot of material) I can't sheet Mulch the whole yard at once, too expensive,but I could probably do 1/2 of it. Also, do you suggest sheet mulching around trees or would it stifle the tree? What does the community suggest? I am willing to spend some money on this as I see it as an investment for my family and the local ecosystem. Suggestions? Links?

Thanks

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Soil. Mixed with water then settled for 18 hours
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Yard
 
pollinator
Posts: 481
Location: mountains of Tennessee
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Howdy. I suggest starting by reading this series of excellent articles. SOIL
 
Chris Emerson
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Location: Olympia, Wa
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Mike Barkley wrote:Howdy. I suggest starting by reading this series of excellent articles. SOIL



Working on it.... It may take a bit, lots of good info there. I recently finished Gaia's Garden which is a great read. Luckily I received a degree in biology with a focus on ecology so much of this knowledge is familiar to me (though I am a bit rusty).
 
Posts: 267
Location: Abkhazia · 400m elevation · temperate climate
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cat forest garden solar trees wood heat woodworking
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Looking at the picture, the grass does not appear to be very happy. So getting rid of it will probably happen without doing much. Maybe put some seeds of drought tolerant plants there?
As for the trees … what fruit trees grow well around your place? Some berries might also work, possibly in combination with trees?
 
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Location: Herefordshire, England, UK
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Which way is your site facing? You've got some big trees to the left of the picture there, and their impact will vary greatly depending if that's the north or south edge.
Grass responds pretty well to light exclusion so sheet mulching without tilling would be a cheaper and less intrusive option.
With soil this sandy I'd suggest two approaches: choosing plants that can handle lack of water, and adding organic matter to improve water holding capacity. Some compost in planting holes and a mulch of woodchip over the patches you want to plant up would probably do the trick.
Look out for other perennials in the grass - a lot of the are more resistant to mulch than the grass itself. They could also give you clues to the nature of the land, they may have some good uses in themselves or could be replaced with plants of similar growing habit.

 
Chris Emerson
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Sebastian Köln wrote:Looking at the picture, the grass does not appear to be very happy. So getting rid of it will probably happen without doing much. Maybe put some seeds of drought tolerant plants there?
As for the trees … what fruit trees grow well around your place? Some berries might also work, possibly in combination with trees?



Here in the pnw the grass will die back during the hot summer and then shoot back to life in the fall. We get plenty of rain to keep it alive without me ever watering it.

As for the trees... We plan on 3 multi tree guild and a single tree guild of mulberry (planted next to the chickens). Multiple plums, pear, Quince, medlar, paw paw, fig and more. Each area with have lots of useful plants to help build soil, nutrients, attract pollinators, fix nitrogen and feed the family. I started another.thread to discus my bird focused tree guild

https://permies.com/t/91802/tree-guild-feedback

 
Chris Emerson
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Tomas Remiarz wrote:Which way is your site facing? You've got some big trees to the left of the picture there, and their impact will vary greatly depending if that's the north or south edge.
Grass responds pretty well to light exclusion so sheet mulching without tilling would be a cheaper and less intrusive option.
With soil this sandy I'd suggest two approaches: choosing plants that can handle lack of water, and adding organic matter to improve water holding capacity. Some compost in planting holes and a mulch of woodchip over the patches you want to plant up would probably do the trick.
Look out for other perennials in the grass - a lot of the are more resistant to mulch than the grass itself. They could also give you clues to the nature of the land, they may have some good uses in themselves or could be replaced with plants of similar growing habit.




The site is facing North. I have a cool app called sun position. It shows the path of the sun on any given date, very helpful. From December through February we get little light due to some very large evergreens behind the house. Other than those months the yard should be full or partial sun for rest of the year. I am waiting until next year to start planting permanent things like trees and the greenhouse.
Those trees you see have been limbed up since that picture was taken.

Your suggestions for helping the the soil sound great. That is more or less the plan for next year. I am building up a supply of Mulch and compost as we speak. I am thinking in the mean time I may till the earth to break up the compact soil and plant a heavy winter cover crop to add organic matter and nutrients. The cover drop would be a diverse selection of seeds. I started a different thread to discus that option as well
https://permies.com/t/91977/cover-crop
 
pollinator
Posts: 10183
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I recommend planting a lot of support species and nitrogen fixers in addition to your crop trees.  Geoff Lawton uses 90% support plants to 10% crop plants in his food forests. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2bvTeMUuO0
 
Posts: 353
Location: SW PA USA zone 6a altitude 1188ft
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I'd consider marking off some of your plans into the ground. For instance I'm considering a new garden that's 64 ft x34 ft. It's too big for me to do in one year, and next year is the first year. I need it fenced because of the deer herd. You can only hunt here with a bow and not many get culled. So I plan on continuing to mow inside the garden. I have a 5 foot wide path thru the middle to give me access for the mower. A fence at both ends, one even bigger to allow a small dump truck to dump. I marked off the center path and my potato patch. Five by 16 feet for 3 rows of potatoes. Late potatoes in the center. I started digging in two inches of horse manure, yesterday, which I hauled in bags on top of my car. I dug in a 5x6 ft patch. Doesn't sound like much but I have seven or 8 months till I have to start with my early season crops and longer for late items like tomatoes, maybe peppers etc.

If I were you I might order 10 yards of manure. It's possible than you can find a farmer who will give you the manure. A horse barn is most likely. Some of these guys have loaders and you might find someone with a dump truck who you can pay to haul it. If you get the product on site then put a wheel barrow load where you mark each tree, dig it in. Keep going as you find the time. You can also possibly find tree surgeons to dump free wood chips. Dump those between each of the garden rows that you've manured up.

Another possibility is to look for a used mold board plow. I owned a big property years ago. One of those plows sat there in the woods all those years. I never used it. I'm thinking of going back. See if it's still there. Might now be a planter. Till the whole plot, and then remark my pegs.
 
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Thanks to everyone for the videos and articles.
 
Chris Emerson
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Location: Olympia, Wa
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Good advice John. Last week I put about 100 pegs and 500' of twine in my yard to stake out where things will go in the future. This was so very very helpful. It is one thing to sketch it on paper and a whole nother to walk it in real life. I made adjustments,took a picture and have since removed the pegs.

I have ordered a sold mix of cover crop seeds with lots of nitro fixing seeds. I also order a bunch of diakon radish seeds, hopefully this will break up the soil a bit. My plan is to broadcast these then cover with a light layer of of straw.

I keep seeing a sign  ear my house that says free horse manure! I will ha e to hit them up soon
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Chris Emerson wrote:

I keep seeing a sign  ear my house that says free horse manure! I will ha e to hit them up soon



Beware! https://compostingcouncil.org/persistent-herbicide-faq/
 
Chris Emerson
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

Chris Emerson wrote:

I keep seeing a sign  ear my house that says free horse manure! I will ha e to hit them up soon



Beware! https://compostingcouncil.org/persistent-herbicide-faq/




Thank you! I will be sure to ask if they are organic. Thanks
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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