Maddie Bern

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since May 12, 2010
Sierra Nevada foothills, zone 7
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Recent posts by Maddie Bern

Eric, I have the same problem, with 3-4 hours of sun and lots of dappled sun. I am also gardening under deciduous oaks, which don't like summer water. I would love to start a food forest, but am not sure if I can with the oaks. There is a small clearing where my veggie garden is, though it also suffers from getting less then 6 hours of sun. Are there any perennials I can plant under the oaks, or on the edge of, or in, the clearing? Which perennial vegetables might do well in my moderately shady garden? I am in the Sierra Foothills of northern CA, zone 7.
6 years ago
I have 3 beds in my garden and I was going to rotate plant families each year in the beds, especially the solanaceae (tomatoes/potatoes/peppers), because I have read that they can have more disease problems if they aren't rotated. However, I have a LOT of volunteer potatoes in one bed this year. I thought I harvested them all last summer, but obviously not. So, is the disease potential so high that I should rip the volunteer potatoes out and plant the tomatoes and potatoes in a different bed, as I was planning? Or should I keep the potatoes (it's always fun to welcome volunteer plants!) and plant tomatoes again in that bed this year?? I would hate to get diseases in my tomatoes.

I am not sure where these various diseases come from, initially. The starts I have are all from local, organic farms, so I would think they are quite healthy. I live in the Sierra foothills in Northern CA if that helps.
6 years ago
I was wondering about that. There are two different kinds of thistles there, both doing well.
7 years ago
Thanks for the ideas! Berries sound interesting. I am thinking about gooseberries, I don't know why. Just curious about them. What do they taste like? Are there any good-tasting cultivars without spines??

The ferrocement is neat! Cool link.
7 years ago
I have some half-baked ideas about cleaning up a weedy area by my garage, inspired by the fact that I am looking for a place where I can relocate my mint patch ASAP. I was going to sheet mulch over the mint, because it is taking over part of my garden, but I would like to save it.

We are in the California foothills at 2500', with black oak, madrone, and Ponderosa pine. Most of the yard has sparse patches of nonnative grasses coming in, more every year, under the oaks. Very weedy-looking, and, yes, I realize that is definitely in the eye of the beholder.

Anyway, one area I would like to clean up and replant is next to our garage. The part right next to the parking area has a shallow ditch where water drains off the drive in the winter, so it can be quite wet.  The first photo has the front of the garage on the left, and the ditch draining the driveway straight ahead. The tall grasses fill the ditch area. There are also a bunch of thistles, which are on slightly higher ground. I would like to replant these areas with something edible, perennial, and more attractive to me. Our summers are dry, so the ditch area is very wet in winter and dry in summer. (Though we did have a very late spring this year, so the grasses in the ditch still have some green at this point.)

What can I plant in the ditch itself? Of course, the grasses do a good job of slowing down the water, so I like that aspect. Could mint live in this area? Or maybe native grasses? Any other ideas? Or maybe I should replace it with rocks to slow the water.

What small tree or large bush could replace the thistles? The corrugated metal walls in the corner face south and east. (Second photo is looking due north.) I'm not sure how many hours of direct sun it gets per day. I am guessing 3 or 4, with dappled shade the rest of the day. This could be the other location for the mint. If it then fills the ditch on its own, that's okay. I don't think it will spread too far beyond the watered area because it is so dry here in the summer. And if it does, that's okay.
7 years ago
Thanks for all the replies. Right now it is 2 feet tall and very lush, despite no watering all summer, and no rain the last half of the summer. I did try pulling it out by the roots in the lettuce bed, but several of them went straight down into the harder soil (only did the sheet mulch last year) and I couldn't get them -- they broke off. Plus I felt sad to upset all the soil microfauna in my no-till bed to chase down these very spread-out roots.

Now you all are giving me the idea of transplanting it to an area by my driveway that is super weedy and unattractive. I can sheet mulch the worst of the weeds and move some big clumps of mint over there. And move the other herbs that are mixed in with the mint (sage and thyme, I think), which will then be nice and close to zone 1. It is so great to hear from other people and come up with new ideas! I do feel worried it will pop up again in the garden, and it probably will. But I am going to try to move it anyway. My daughter will be happy.
7 years ago
A few years ago, we planted peppermint in our veggie garden, not realizing it was extremely invasive. Right now it is in the weedy area that I haven't sheet mulched yet. It covers an area about 10 feet in diameter, and it is just now getting into the lettuce bed! My plan for this fall was to chop and compost it, then sheet mulch with cardboard/manure/straw/compost, and maybe plant a cover crop to outcompete any stragglers.

On the other hand, the bed of mint looks lovely, smells great, and my daughter loves it. Do most folks grow mint in containers only? Is there a way to have a patch of mint that doesn't spread?? Ok, maybe it involves concrete walls or something...
7 years ago
I planted comfrey last year, and it is a big plant this year. However, I have no idea which species I have. So I have been cutting off the blossoms, though I am not sure I got them all before they set seed! Is there any easy way to tell which species you have?? What are the chances I got the self-seeding one?

Also, is it necessary to wilt the leaves a couple days before using them as mulch? Somewhere I read that the fresh leaves might take root and grow into a new plant. Or is that only true of the flower stalks, as it says on Appropedia?
7 years ago
I just bent the tops over on my onions (many were already over on their own). Do I need to also stop watering until I harvest in a week or two?
7 years ago
Hey Mekka, I just watched those videos of Emilia Hazelip, and she is pulling back the mulch and planting seedlings in the ground, not in the straw. I'm sure those lettuces were going right into the soil in the third video, but maybe I missed something earlier.

I am really trying to figure this out because I have been frustrated with my no till beds.

Last year, I made no-till beds, using cardboard, wood chips, manure, and straw. I did a final thin layer of compost over all. When planting my starts, I pulled back the straw to make a coffee can sized hole, filled the hole with compost, and planted in that (as my PDC instructor had described). I used drip irrigation, and overall, things worked well. The compost was moist, even the straw was moist.

This year, I (perhaps mistakenly) thought I needed to repeat some of those layers again. So I added more manure (llama, so it is not so "hot"), and another layer of straw. I did not add a thin layer of compost, but did plant the starts in a pocket of compost as before. What is happening is that the drip irrigation is not even getting the entire pocket of compost wet, let alone the straw around it. Things are not growing as well, and my watering seems very uneven. Lots of dry areas, even very close to the plants. I did switch several garden areas to 1/4" soaker hose, thinking my drippers were clogged, but no improvement in soil soakage. I think I did use different straw this year, I believe it is rice straw, and it does have a different texture. So maybe that explains the dry straw, at least. Also, I did not top off the whole bed with a thin layer of compost.

Now I am thinking that I really need to just pull the mulch back and plant down in the dirt, so the water will soak the soil more evenly. But I do have lots of questions,if anyone has answers or ideas for me.

Should I just keep adding manure every year (pref. in Fall) until it looks like healthy soil?

Does anyone have preferences in straw type for the no-till beds? My husband likes the rice straw for his archery targets, and he gives it to me when the bales start to compost from the rains.

What watering systems do others use in their no-till beds? I have dry summers here in N. Calif.  I can overhead water, and may resort to that this week, but don't want to do that next year.

Why is the water not soaking outward into the coffee-can sized lump of compost???

Mekka or anyone, where can I find the pdf from Emilia Hazelip online? Her gardens look great! I really enjoyed the videos.

Thanks!
7 years ago