Kerstin Mengewein

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since Feb 20, 2015
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Recent posts by Kerstin Mengewein


Is there more? Not that that was not enough or any good, just... you know... I'm a woman, I like to look at all the offers before I buy
5 years ago
Hi Michigan people,

I'm from the Netherlands and would like to purchase some trees and shrubs for a friend in Michigan, Grand Rapids. Old, traditional and especially regional (adjusted) varieties is what I'm looking for. Could you guys please help me out with some contact details of a nursery I would want to buy at? Any suggestions, any positive experiences? My google search wasn't too productive.

Thanks in advance =)

5 years ago
Thank you, dan long, this was a very nice answer to my question! *happy*

First, the literature that I read was Gaia's Garden, predominently. Certainly Toby Hemenway explained everything correctly so I guess I din't use the right words. I am still just at the beginning of my permaculture studies.

Second: The impression I(!) got in this book though was that the more fertile and richer your soil the better. Without any exception, pretty much like a principle (if not even a dogma). I understand the concept of mulching, composting, enriching soils when you start with a garden. Most likely you'll have to recover the land from former use. This is why you should enrich soil. And in a well established garden design you compost right in place and that's mostly it. But still, in this well established garden, with rich soil and everything, how would you grow beans? Wouldn't the conditions for my beans be unsuitable pretty much everywhere because of my mulching, my in-place-composting, creating compost tea when it rains and so on, my not-disturbing-the-soil-policy?

Also I want to say that the place where I grew my beans this year was in the corner of a raised bed, totally no competitor plants around. The raised bed was filled with 4 layers, on the bottom with branches, then a layer of lawn from the place where we build the raised bed, a layer of relatively fresh horse manure, then the top layer of good veggy garden bed soil I purchased from the store and finally I mulched with wood chips and shavings from the guinea pig cage (full with their manure, too). So I think I've got nitrogen rich soil underneath and predominently carbon (full with mycelia and fungy!) on top. Could it be that this is the reason the beans didn't really grow there and were full with black aphid? Had I created an excess of nitrogen in the soil? Is it then that it's never a good idea to grow beans in a newly build raised bed? Well, this particular one was already 2 years old by the way but still I guess there was a lot of nitrogen left...

And about my initial question "Over-fertilizing":
Does this term only apply to plants growing in the wrong spot? Like when there is too much of nitrogen? That's what I understand from this anyway. I am still left with this question: As plants are most likely not forced by anyone to "eat" all the nutrients available what is the concept of "over-fertilizing" a plant?
5 years ago
Hi guys,

hope you can clear things up for me.
I have been reading about soils and fertilizing, have asked my PDC teacher, but still I am left wondering about this topic.

If I want to grow peas and beans which do need poorer soils what's the use of mulching, irrigating with compost tea and so on, all to improve my soil and fertilize it if they won't grow there? This question the other way round: If I improve my soils as everywhere discriped in permaculture books doesn't this mean that I will eventially develop soils that I won't be able to grow beans and peas in?

The question is about the concept of over-fertilized soils that I don't get. In my understanding every plant root looks for food and takes in nutriens as much as it wants. It's not that the plants are force-fed, right? So why wouln't beans and peas (and other plants of course that like poorer soils) grow in my good soils? Is it like a villager comes into a major city and doesn't feel comfortable even though he is not forced to interact with everybody? How do you guys then grow such plants, do you leave some areas of your garden bed "poor"?

Thanks for helping me understand soils better =)
Regards from the Netherlands,
5 years ago
Hey everyone,

thanks for your replies!!! I really appreciate your input!

Unfortunately, my questions have not really been answered yet. So let me try again.

Take a wood chips mulch layer that is some inches thick, and then on top of it take a topcover of (ready) compost mulch that will gradually fertilize the wood chips and soil below it after rainfall and so on. The mulch layers on top of the soil are so thick that no daylight can penetrate through it. You know, just the standard mulch - compost layer sytem.
My question is: Even if weeds (and of course also beneficial seeds) are hold back from sprouting from underneath the mulch - this is what mulch is doing - what about the weeds that could spout from on top of the mulch layer? Sprouting in the compost layer? It is fertile soil, it has access to daylight, it holds moisture, so why aren't the weeds coming up like crazy there? To me this would seem logical! But I dont hear people complaining about having mulched and composted their soils and have gotten enourmes weeds problems.

Bryant: I read on German websites and webshops that sell sprouting soils that these soils are less fertile than normal garden soil! Just the other way round! And there are also instructions on other DIY websites, how to make those soils and it's instructed hat you take plain garden soil from the garden center (not additionally fertilized) or your own garden soil and mix it with sand so that you'll create "poor" soil for your seeds to sprout in! I am suprised to read that yours is so very different then...?

So in fact we are now talking about two topics here:
1. Why don't masses of weeds on top of a well fertilized mulch system, with plenty of access to daylight, come up like crazy?
2. Is it perhaps because the over fertilized "sprouting soil" - meaning here the top layer of this well fertilized mulch system - is too strong for the young seedlings? If this is the case, is that why sprouting soils need to be weaker, poorer than normal garden soil? What makes sprouting soil so different and better for sprouts and seedlings than normal garden soil anyway?

Hope I could express myself better this time... If not, please ask what needs to be clearified.
6 years ago
Wow, thank you very much for your great and detailed answer, Bryant! I have gotten really a good impression from this how to work with mulch and compost. So in general I got the idea how to plant seedlings into mulch wholes and so on. What you explained made sense to me and I thought of it nearly the same way.

But I still have a question left:
E.g.: After one year, when the wood chips mulch had been toplayered with compost and winter cover crop clippings and stuff, all the chips have been soaked with nutriens because of past rain falls... Wouldn't that mean that the surface of that mulch, being rich in nutrients and LIGHT, would be coverd with weeds like crazy? Isn't it's function to shaden out the soil lost after the mulch layer itself has become a nice place to settle down for weeds? Isn't that actually the fact for all kinds of mulch layers? That is what I'm still left wondering about - this function of the mulch to hold back weeds...

The only answer I can think about is when you look to garden centers and stores, they sell special soils to sow into. They are less nutricious because the young seedlings won't be overfeed as if they were in compost-rich soils. So does this work for weeds coming up in compost-rich mulch then, too?
But then again I think of the Back to Eden movie, how Paul was directly sowing into the decomposed mulch layer.... And, when sowing into the soil in mulch wholes, isn't this soil compost-rich, too?

I don't really get it, it seems contradicting to me somehow...

6 years ago
Hello Permies!

I'd like to ask some questions about wood chips mulching:

After having watched the Back to Eden movie, it was already February, I wanted to cover my garden soil with mulch. It was laying naked all winter, so I went for wood chips. I put a 10cm (4inches?) thick layer. When it was the time to sow the first carrots and beets I found myself wondering about the following:
It's fresh (=dry, not yet decomposed) woodchips. So I removed the chips in that row and sowed on top of the soil and added just a thin layer chips back just to cover the seeds and protect them from birds. I suppose I need to make sure the area is kept quite moist there, right? Then the seeds will sprout in the soil and will be able to grow quick and easily through the mulch which I will graduately cover the row back up with...?

Still I am leaft with more basic questions about wood chips mulch and how to handle it:

1. As wood chips mulch is supposed to hold weeds back from growing through it, how are the little seedlings, the young vegetable plants that have been sown underneath the mulch, supposed to grow through the mulch then? Mulch doesn't discrimminate, right?
2. Often you read about removing mulch in spring so that the sun can warm up the soil. Sounds logic to me! But so does: In the forrests the mulch isn't removed even in spring. Are there any benefits of having the mulch NOT removed in spring?
3. There is a Youtube video that tells about the necessity to put manure, fresh compost from the pile or other organic material on top of the wood chips in order to creat compost tea when it rains so that the whole mulch system will fill with nutrients that slowly make their way down to the soil which is gradually fertilized. I saw that Paul (Back to Eden movie) does it with his chicken manure/compost, aswell. Wouldn't this mean that this mulch system would grow weeds like crazy?

Hope you guys can clear this up for me. Thanks!
6 years ago
Hello everybody!

This is my first post in the permies forum, I am so excited!!!

I live in Holland, 30km east of Amsterdam, and my husband and I have bought a typical Dutch row house here. So we've got a garden that's like 40m³ (about 48 square yards?) small! So when we got excited about permaculture three years ago, we started to implement the design concepts into our tiny garden and - I think - ended up with a very good solution. Here is the draft I made for myself (planning) and you guys.

Please also see my Facebook photoalbum on this topic since you'll be able to see the development of the garden from construction till now and some more info on what we got there.

I think you can pretty much call it Nano Permaculture what we're trying to do here =) This year's gonna be our 3. year of gardening and hopefully it will all develop better this tme. I ordered many more flowers and climbers (3 clematis!) for the front garden and try to set up a nice veggy planting plan for the raised beds in the back garden. Hope I can share some pictures with you in summer. Finally summer pictures!

Thanks guys, and please let me know if you see anything that has been misdesigned, won't work as intended or if you have any suggestions to improve anything. I'd be glad to hear from you.

6 years ago