New 1 acre organic farm/garden question

quin8670August 20, 2014

Hi everyone,

I'm new to the forum.

I have read through a few threads on similar topics but would greatly appreciate any feedback.

I am starting a 1 acre organic farm/garden next spring, and will be working it full time.

I will not be relying on this for my income, but maybe one day hope to.

I know there is lots of debate about whether to till the grass and turn it over or to dig it out with a tool like a sod cutter. I'm leaning towards cutting it out but I haven't fully made up my mind.

My question is, should I remove the grass in the fall or in the spring? I know its not optimal to leave the soil bare over the winter, so maybe a cover crop would be ideal to plant in the fall.

Which would be best:

1. Remove the grass in the fall and plant a cover crop
2. Remove the grass in the fall and get together a bunch of leaves that have fallen and shred them up and mix them into the soil
3. Remove the grass in the spring and plant immediately

I have had a soil sample done with the following results, which I have provided in case they will impact what course is best to take regarding the above:

PH = 6.8
Phosphorus (mg/L) = 3.5
Potassium (mg/L) = 74
Magnesium (mg/L) = 250
Organic matter % = 5.0

Based on the sample, the annual fertilizer requirements are:

Nitrogen (kg/100m^2) = 0.6
Phosphate (kg/100m^2) = 2.0
Potash (kg/100m^2) = 1.6

I have no idea what this means and have been searching around for someone that provides interpretation services and recommendations.

Thank you all so very much for your feedback.

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"Zone 6a" is how cold it gets in the winter. Where is this garden? (city and state)

Getting the entire acre under cultivation is ambitious ... start with a couple of beds and expand.

What are you planning to grow first?

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 7:47PM
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IMO, based on a fair amount of experience, you should do nothing right now except read.

I recommend:

Bill Mollison
Charles Walter
Masanobu Fukoaka

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 9:53PM
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Thank you so much for your reply.

It is located around London, Ontario (two hours southwest of Toronto).

I am planning on growing a variety of vegetables. My crop plan has not yet been established. I have been reading numerous books on organic farming/gardening at this point, and trying to determine what work needs to be done in the fall. I know that specific cover crops may be best for what I am going to plant, and if you really recommend I figure that out in order to plant the appropriate cover crops, that is something I will need to do.

I have on my fall to do list:
-build 2 hoophouses
-buy as much equipment that will be needed next year as I can
-determine where I will source all the required materials

So when you say start with a couple of beds, does that mean I should start in the fall or spring? What would I do with the beds in the fall? Would I plant anything?

I have met with one organic farmer so far (a few haven't responded to my enquiries; I have even offered to pay them for consulting services). This farmer used a bare bones approach, he applied no compost, no green manure, hadn't watered in 2 years, and used a rotortiller, and that was pretty much it. Though he said he had quite a few weed issues.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 9:59PM
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First off I do not think your fertilizer needs are correct. I think for P it is a once every ten years application, and for K once every five years or so. You definitely need that N every year, and certainly more if you plant N-high vegetables such as corn.

for the grass I am a fan of covering and killing. How much can one acre of paper cost at Home Depot? you cover with paper, then you add wood chips on top. You need 500 cubic yards. I know it is a lot but you do it only once in the beginning, then carefully maintain the plot. the protocol is add fertilizer, add paper, add chips. The first year you can only plant transplants, which you can grow in one of the hoop houses, and large seeded plants such as potatoes, garlic, beans.

you can also use plastic mulch but that is not organic IMHO.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2014 at 10:25PM
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The grass growing there has been taking nutrients from the soil and removing that grass not only removes those nutrients but will take with it a goodly amount of the "topsoil". You could till the grass in, so it will put the nutrients in the grass back into the soil and probably a good idea given the size of the plot. You could cover the grass with something to block access to sunlight which will kill the grass and allow the Soil Food Web to put that back into the soil so the nutrients are available for future plants, but plastic would not be something an organic grower should use. Tilling now would allow you to plant a cover crop which, with the grass tilled in would add more organic matter to the soil.
If you want to plant next spring prepping the soil now will give much better results because the Soil Food Web will have had time to work on much of the organic matter so they would be less likely to use available Nitrogen then to digest the raw OM you would till in.
Better sources of information would probably be someone like Eliot Coleman who gardens/farms in Maine, someplace closer to what you experience then Australia, Lousiana, or Japan.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 7:28AM
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Nice try Kimm:

Mollison is from Tasmania (temperate climate), and Walter grew up on a farm in Kansas. Walter forgot more about growing crops than anyone here knows. To not read the great experts and thinkers because they don't live near one's locale would be pretty silly. There is much to be learned from the One Straw Revolution, for example, even though as the authors of the book point out, southern Japan is a different climate from the majority of north america. However, if one is thinking along those lines, then one should bear in mind that north america itself contains immense climate diversity.

Coleman knows what he is about, no doubt, but I do not favor that very resource-intensive approach.

Regarding the OP:

I agree with Glib that covering is hard to beat for long-term gain. OTOH, moving 500 yards of wood-chips is a lot of expense and a lot of resource.

To make a plan one must have some technology. What are your tools? You talked about a sod-cutter (which can be very useful, IMO), but that is an expensive machine that is usually rented. Will you maintain this garden by spade, hoe, scythe? Light-duty rotary-tiller? Is the soil heavy? If yes, rotary-tillers will do next to nothing. If the soil is heavy, then in the long run Glib's suggestion is the cheapest, because one needs huge horsepower to rot ovate or plow.

If the soil is light you could get by using conventional tilling methods and a two-wheel tractor.

If I was starting out again on my rented acre, knowing what I know now, I would have deer-fenced it immediately, and started planting fruit and nut trees and done all the vegetables around them as they grew.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 8:13AM
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I started a quite large garden some years ago, for pleasure, not as a business. In the first year, I planted around 170 fruit and nut trees, an asparagus bed that was 60x50', a large herb garden, and of course a large vegetable garden. I used an 8 hp Troy Bilt tiller to prepare the soil, and used drip or soaker irrigation for the permanent plantings, and movable sprinklers for the annual plantings. Each day that I could (which was most days), I brought in 3500 pounds of free dairy manure, well composted. Each tree received 1500 pounds spread around it in a wide circle. The gardens received 3-4 inches coverage. Note that the soil here was already very high quality, but the organic matter additions really made a difference. If you have the time and energy, I recommend tilling this fall to get the ground prepared; a cover crop or organic additions could be the next step. I did not bother to till in the manure; the worms did a great job of incorporating it in a short while. Soil drainage was amazing; you could aim a hose right at a spot on the ground, and the water would move right on in because of all the organic matter. Note that the base soil is a relatively heavy clay. I highly recommend adding whatever organic matter you can as soon as you can. Different areas have different cheap materials available. My first year I went through a couple seed catalogs (Johnny's and Pinetree), and ordered one or two varieties of most vegetables they offered, and a few more of some popular ones, as well as herbs. There were a lot of seeds to start early, but the work paid off in larger summer harvests. I started much of the asparagus by seed, thereby saving a lot of money, but also delaying harvest a year or so. I only had strawberries, gooseberries, jostaberries, currants and raspberries, not other berries; if I did it again, I would expand the berry crop. One of my favorite features was a sitting area where I had a simple resin chair, water, and a little shade. It was a great place to take a break from working. The entire planted area was probably around 1.75 acres. I was very surprised to see how few weed problems I had. I allowed the orchard to naturalize to grasses, and just weeded elsewhere. The only place I had weed problems (and they were severe) was where I used horse manure instead of composted dairy manure. The horse manure had huge numbers of noxious weed seeds all eager to grow. Never again!

Regarding soil tests, I have an alternative approach. I examined the growth of my plants, and used that to determine what nutrients to add. In general, I needed to add little N because of all the manure, and only small amounts of P and K. I did study quite a bit in order to understand manifestations of soil nutrient deficiencies and excesses. If you have a highly organic soil, I believe this is particularly important because of the good buffering ability of the soil, and (at least in my experience) the poor diagnostic and analytic capabilities of many who offer soil tests. I had good relations with county extension service people, by the way, and they strongly endorsed this approach to nutrient monitoring over standard soil tests. They readily admitted the inadequacy of a soil test looking at what you have to hope is a representative sample of soil as opposed to looking at the field results. I would say to use your soil tests as a good indicator that you have reasonable soil to begin with, and then move forward with whatever amendments you can to improve. Most of all, have fun and enjoy the experience! There is something special about the feel of a large garden in the height of harvest season.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 2:05PM
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It's a bit alarming any extension agent would tell someone to use a current crop as an indicator of whether they should amend their soil.

That said, taking an improper (and/or improper amount) of soil samples for a soil test is just about useless...and almost every "at-home/DIY" soil test is useless.

A good lab, a good sample technique, and enough samples can spell out exactly what you need before you put a single plant into the ground for that season (aside from N...which labs really should quit even giving reports on).

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 6:03PM
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Let me mention that once, at my former place, two acres, I spread about 100 cubic yards of chips and logs and the same amount of dirt to fill a low spot near the home that had much standing water. I rented a bobcat and it was done in hours. It would be easier on flat ground. The tree guy dumped on my backyard for about 6 weeks.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 6:37PM
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Mollison is a big fan of large-scale dirt moving, so I must presume it has merit. Especially where soils are hard and would tend to not admit water either year-round or in the warm season.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 7:28PM
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Quin: kimmsr is right, you need to incorporate all that grass. If you had 100 sq ft, the best method would be double digging, which would loosen up the soil as well. You might want to do that for 100 sq ft, just for comparison-of-results purposes. But for one acre the best would be old-fashioned mold-board plowing; you would need to lease a small tractor and a plow for that. Done properly it would bury every bit of the grass, necessarily so, because any green left showing would continue to grow. This is best done in the fall, which presents the problem of covering the bare soil (that which nature abhors). My answer would be a mulch of leaves which in time would become part of the soil, thereby enriching it. If your local garbage collection calls for separation of yard-waste, you might see if you could do a deal to divert it to your p[lot, because there are about three weeks in the fall when nine tenths of the yard-waste is leaves.

I can't make sense of your soil test either, but I would offer the following: the pH and organic matter are super; also it looks like you have much too much magnesium (you might want to confirm that). If so you need to reduce it by adding calcium and not the kind (Dolomite) that actually contains magnesium. Now, seeing the phosphorus recommendation, I would add soft rock phosphate which primarily contains calcium (oddly enough) and phosphate as well as all the other minerals in much smaller quantities. I regard this as the organic gardener's most basic fertilizer. Did you note that they didn't test nitrogen but recommended adding it anyway? I hate adding nitrogen; I recommend growing legumes in rotation where one year in four or five will give you enough nitrogen for most vegetables. Regards, Peter.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2014 at 9:05PM
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I have to say I'm a little astounded that experienced people are recommending covering an acre with mulch. How thickly? An inch? A foot? More?

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 8:05AM
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"I have to say I'm a little astounded that experienced people are recommending covering an acre with mulch. How thickly? An inch? A foot? More?" It may seem like a lot of work to cover such a large area with mulch, but it really is not too bad taken a bit at a time, or done with equipment such as a Bobcat. 1 acre covered 6" deep, a reasonable addition in my opinion, requires 806 cubic yards of material. In our area, they deliver waste wood chips in 30 cy loads, so 25 loads would do the job. I was very impressed to see that some large public gardens in Colorado that are using wood chips as the main basis of their soil improvement and weed control. Chips are quite easy to spread out, and even without an underlying layer of cardboard or paper do a good job of controling weeds. In a large garden where I spread composted cow manure (the free kind of organic matter I had access to at the time) to depths of 6"-1' 26 years ago, I can still see the effects; such liberal additions: it jump-started a soil community that was vibrant and easier to maintain in the following years. If there is not enough material available at once to cover the entire acre, cover what you can, and do more every year. Over the years the worms and other soil creatures will be mixing the material in, and the results will be impressive. If you are in an area where you can get good composted dairy manure, adding some to the mix will help provide some N. Regarding the comments on soil testing: I think the biggest issue in testing, especially on a plot that is heavily amended with organics, is getting a representative sample. In my gardens, at least, I see some appreciable variation as I move from area to area in the looks, drainage characteristics and texture of the soil: it is impacted by what has grown there recently, sometimes quite substantially.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 9:12AM
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Thanks again everyone.

So I think I'm getting closer to a course of action.

The main question now is fall cover crop or fall leaf mulch.

My amateur research tells me a cover crop may be best to help penetrate into the soil (as nothing has been planted there in decades), then I could incorporate this organic matter into the soil in the spring (thereby having a mulching effect). And I think this would be more efficient than gathering enough leaves together.

Any insight?

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 11:33AM
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If you can find a trucker who is making empty drives to pick up material, you might be able to get them to pick up a load of organics for you on their way. This was how I got a lot of our cow manure at one place. The truck was hauling silage to the dairy, and then returning empty to the farm. I got him to pick up a large load of manure after he dropped off the silage, and drop it at my place on his return trip. Imagine a semi truck sized dump truck arriving at your place piled high with cow manure, many tons worth. The neighborhood kids loved to come and watch him dump the load. He would start to incline the bed, but the manure would not move, so he would very carefully, and from a safe distance, gently poke the manure. It would then come tumbling out into a great pile. Quite the site! A few of these truck loads would contribute a lot of material. Just like the wood chips, there was no charge for the composted cow manure, just a quite low charge for the trucking to compensate the driver for his extra effort.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 11:36AM
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Well, in most areas cow manure is hard to find and certainly not free, and haulage will be expensive. Deadheads are possible to take advantage of but one needs contacts in the trucking biz, most don't.

I'm of two minds about the wood-chips. Yes, they are cheap or free, if you can get local guys to dump usually the haulage and the chips are free. It isn't environmentally-impactive free, of course. One thing I know for sure, if you spread mulch like that thickly on light soils, and provide a food source (crops), sooner or later you'll get a whopping rodent infestation. Even without mulch in a low-till system they can be a serious problem.

In a heavy soil I would go for the mulch plan if you have a way to do it.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 7:13PM
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that is true. mulch plus sand equals voles. Major infestations way back then when I had 2 acres of near pure sand.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 7:27PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

1. soil test
2. are you using a tractor? I didn't catch everything. Disc now and cover crop if you have a good tractor and disc. Then disc again in spring. But many cover crops can be just as hard to kill as grass so you need a tractor.
3. do not think you can disc an acre and start growing and weeding all of it! I do just over 1/2 acre, without a tractor except for once a year a disc on the outside 2 edges. I have segmented the 22,000 sq foot area into permanent beds and use plastic mulch on the paths. I am experimenting with clover on the paths but have no lawn mower so I have to whack it and it grows fast. I think I will plastic mulch it next spring.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2014 at 8:43PM
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An acre of land, 43,000 square feet or about 208 feet by 208 feet, would need about 14,333 cubic feet of material for a mulch 4 inches thick. That is a lot of material although not impossible to get and spread. Most of the soils
I have seen in Ontario and Quebec have been clay
(along Lake Huron, Erie, and Champlain is a bit different) and most of the time covering clay with a mulch, without first amending it with organic matter, can result in a too wet soil. After the results of a good reliable soil test have been reviewed and the soil amended with what the soil test indicates may be needed then a cover crop can be planted.
Minnies idea of smaller beds is a really good idea, something along the idea of Bartholmews Square Foot Gardening concept.

This post was edited by kimmsr on Sun, Aug 24, 14 at 6:16

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 6:26AM
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In my orchard I spread (by hand) about 4 inches, 0.2 acres, about 40 tons, or three full loads.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 1:16PM
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Many areas have some local dairies. You might contact them to see who they get feed from. This is what I did to identify a trucker who would be passing by me on his route to bring feed to the dairy. Most dairies are quite happy to get rid of their manure: it is often difficult for them to find enough land to spread it on, so they are happy to have someone haul it off. In our area, no dairy charges for the manure; they charge $5 if you want it loaded by tractor (a very good deal if you ask me). As I mentioned above, it only takes about 800 cubic yards of material to cover an acre 6" deep. Some of the larger silage haulers carry over 40 yards of material. If wood chips are your desired material, not only check for people doing major tree trimming who will be happy to get rid of the material, but also look for any sawmills or lumber processors who might have a good pile of stuff available; such material is usually free in our area as well. Even if you don't do the whole area in the first year, if you do something, it will be better than nothing, and you can see what effects you have. I also really like the idea of establishing permanent paths that do not need to have the soil continually renewed. What I did in one area is to put down 6" wood chips on the permanent path area, and now just cover any weeds that come up with more chips. It is amazing to me how few weeds come up; the chips markedly reduced my previously very significant weeding chores.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 3:48PM
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I would say, IME, most areas have dairies of some size. However, where gardeners much outnumber dairies then the predictable law of supply and demand exerts its predictable effect and cow manure costs money. Around here it runs $50-$100 per tractor bucket for composted, you haul. That's at the one place that doesn't use it's own manure on the land, he sells it because he doesn't care that he's mining the land.

He got shut down for selling filthy dirty milk in any case, so I don't know if he has manure anymore. Horse manure is often free for the taking but it's full of pine shavings.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 8:47PM
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I do not recommend to make permanent paths with wood chips. wood chips make good soil, and after a while your paths are going to be a jungle. in the past I made that mistake, then I got some old carpet and made some better paths. At my current place, my collaborators brought in wood chips from across the street while I was away, and now I have jungle paths that need whacking 4 times a year. My biggest daikons are from seeds dropped in a path. fortunately the landlady is seeing it, next year it is going to be all carpet.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 9:09PM
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I'm partial to using leaves. I'd till all the grass in, add leaves and till those in and then add some more leaves on top for the winter. As you are trying to be organic I would refrain from manures with any bedding materials unless one can ascertain what the bedding material was treated with. Even if one is not trying to be organic, one can run into problems importing manures with bedding materials. Caution is advised.


    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 9:48PM
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Like leaves too, but it is easier to come up with tens of tons of wood chips than leaves. And leaves blow and smother seedlings, and they also mat and stop garlic from pushing out.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2014 at 11:48PM
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I managed to get a a lot of wood chips one winter but now all the chipping companies are delivering their materials directly to the landscape businesses so that is no longer possible around here. YMMV. I have my own chipper but it's a lot of work to make large amounts of chips.

I don't mind using woodchips in some settings but depending on the source of the wood (large trunks/branches versus newer growth versus ground up pallets), there may not be a lot of nutrients in some wood chips. I suspect there aren't a lot more nutrients than are what in sawdust in some cases. Leaves OTOH, are a veritable trove of nutrients (albeit in micro amounts) and are more easily handled by an average person. IMO, leaves are vastly superior for a garden setting.


Disclaimer: I am not a gardener nor organic grower.

Here is a link that might be useful: Plant Nutrients in Municipal Leaves

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 8:25AM
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Same thing as above, maybe a bit easier to get to.

Here is a link that might be useful: nutrients in leaves

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 6:41AM
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I agree with Lloyd that leaves are far more nutritious. Whenever I see landscapers cleaning up yards in the neighborhood I ask them to dump at my place.

A problem for me with all these materials is that in the time it takes for big piles to decompose, bramble roots and vines completely take over the pile and it's a hideous chore to move the pile later.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 7:35AM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

Here is a pic of one area of my garden.

I do permanent paths 2.5 feet wide, plastic mulched, and beds 3.5 feet wide, plastic, straw or nothing on the beds. When you get over 1/2 acre you really need to start treating it like a field, not a garden.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2014 at 7:45PM
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I appreciate that wood chips over one acre may be a bridge too far. What about chickens, then? for my retirement, I want to build a garden made of four paddocks, where vegetables and chickens are rotated. Chickens clean up after a crop, and their coop is located in the middle with four doors opening on the paddocks. PN has experience with them now, and he will testify that they are tremendous weeders and pest killers, including pests like mice. I think six chickens can do a 1/4 acre over 3 months, although the OP is in a cold area and will have to account for 3 months lost to snow. It would need some hawk protection.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2014 at 10:07AM
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So much to learn, so little time.


Like you, I'm new to this forum. I saw your post and joined to reply.

I just did this 3 years ago. When people see our garden for the first time (7500 sf) they are amazed. I tell them that I'm the internet gardener, because all of the stuff I've learned has come from youtube or forums such as this one. The web is a wonderful thing!

I used the double shovel method because I own a small backhoe - and I had a few years to dig before planting. Our area is about 1/6 of what you are proposing, so if you want to double dig, you might want to get really good on a rented excavator. There are definitely other ways.

First: What I have learned as a new gardener is that you can't have enough compost! I would suggest looking for a company close by that makes compost from reliable organic sources. We found lots of old leaves (decomposed for a few years), and aged manure to add to our garden before it was all tilled. Made a huge difference, but now we are constantly on the hunt for more organics to add - either directly to the garden or to add to our compost piles. If I had to do it again, I would have made compost piles during the 2 1/2 years that I was digging the garden.

Next, I recommend that you read "The Market Gardener" by fellow Canadian Jean-Martin Fortier. He takes Eliot Coleman's excellent work to another level. The book covers everything from tools to planting schedules, so it's sure to be a good resource for you. I have to say that I've been doing the same weeding procedures he recommends for the last year, and they really work! If nothing else, do what Jean-Martin did and divide your area into 10 distinct areas. That way crop rotation is easy.

After that, check out Eliot's videos on youtube about winter gardening. They give you a good idea of how resilient plants are, and how you can make plastic houses pay year round.

My favorite Coleman moment was at a fairly recent trade show. Someone in the question and answer period asked about pest problems. He stated that he had none. By adding compost to the growing beds over the last 40 years the plants that went into them had no stress - therefore the growing was pest and disease free. - hence - investing in compost really pays off in the end.

Best of luck and happy growing!

And finally - chill. It's going to be a process. It seems that many here really enjoy the process, as do I. You have to be ready for success and failures. Learn from all of it and make things better for next year.

Here is a link that might be useful: The Market Gardener

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 1:10AM
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Glib, what a co-inky dink, I and a friend are going to build a coop at my acre next week, to house her six chickens. We plan to use the amplitude of weeds there to feed them and slowly build deep fertility for vegetables. Also going to get some missing medicinals into the mix.

Regarding the issue of how a garden celebrity does this and that, and everything is so amazing, the Garden of Eden phenomenon, what is always missing from the conversation is soil type. Soil type, on its own, can explain every discrepancy.

This summer, for example, just because I constantly do odd things, I stuck some flint corn seed in a mulch pile next to a cranberry bog where I happen to be working all summer. That area is sitting on some quite heavy silt (hence the bog). The mulch pile is up on a higher area so not soaking wet. That corn, with some beans twining, is growing much better than almost anything else I have going on several different gardens and soils. I attribute this to of course the fresh ground not being deplete, and of course the half-rotted wood chips keeping moisture in the ground, but also of course the silt. Repeat the experiment on sand (or clay) and the result would not be near the same.

So when we get all excited about this and that celeb having such amazing results, it would be useful to know the soil type in question.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 5:57AM
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PN, in our zone 6 I think the rotation would look like this

1) paddock 1 has all the spring vegetables (lettuce, spinach, spring onions, peas), overwintered vegetables, and is done round June 30. Chickens use it for one month.
2) the next one has allium, corn and bush beans, done by Sept. 1.
3) The third one has all summer vegetables and winter squash, done at first frost.
4) has chard and overwintering vegetables, including root vegetables. is grazed during the spring and is left alone June 1- April 30 of the next year.

If you have a coop on wheels you can easily move them around. They will not graze when there is snow on the ground.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 8:01AM
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In our area, chickens are very much a target of hunting birds and other animals, and don't survive long in free range. You might want to try putting some out in a fenced area first and seeing how they do.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 11:05AM
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I would like to do the coop on wheels but am concerned about raccoons getting under it.

Renais, I left three chickens out all winter, they survived the cold here in z7 no problem and they are still alive despite a sizable hawk population.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 8:17PM
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Mr, Brown, many people have done what you are proposing and have posted their experience on line. P. Allen Smith has had shows about backyard chickens as has Joe Lampl on Growing a Greener World. There is a ton of very good information available.

Here is a link that might be useful: Backyard chickens

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 6:51AM
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Yes, I'm aware that people have been keeping chickens for a long timeā€¦

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 7:45AM
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Wipes coffee from computer screen.....



    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 11:25AM
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I'm surprised that some people get good results with a mulch of wood chips. I haven't tried wood chips myself because my thinking is that they need to be decomposed before they can add useful carbon or nutrients to the soil. Now, the agents of decay are soil microbes, and the source of energy for soil microbes is nitrogen, so that much of the nitrogen in the soil would be tied up during decomposition. True, that it would all be returned to the soil once decomposition was complete, but in the case of wood chips this would be several years after application, not months as would be the case with shredded leaves, or days in the case of compost. So how does one achieve yields with wood chips? or is my earlier logic mistaken? Regards, Peter.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 2:42PM
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I have often read the statement that wood chips will tie up too much soil N, but, in my gardens at least, I have not experienced this problem. I use copious amounts of wood chips as a mulch, and have for many years in some areas. I believe that some soil N is tied up as the chips decay, but they decay slowly enough that the plants don't seem to note the impact. If I do see some plants that need extra N, I apply it, just as I would elsewhere in the garden, and they seem to do fine. I look at the chips as a tremendous buffer for nutrients. I've suggested to friends that they try a small area with chips; that experience has been enough to convince them to expand their use of chips.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 4:20PM
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This is an area of a wheat field that had a layer of wood chips spread with a manure spreader over green grass clippings. This is an area that had mostly old leaves and spring thatch applied. This is an area that had fall trimmings and leaves applied. This shows the difference between just grass clippings versus grass clippings and wood chips.

Now this is purely anecdotal but the area that had green grass clippings and wood chips yielded the most even though the wood chips were incorporated into the soil. My guess is that as long as there is sufficient N for the plant, the wood chips actually helped with aeration and water retention. Once again this is just a guess. Also to note, even though this is all the same field, same seed, same rainfall there is a slight variation in the soil but not a lot.


    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 5:09PM
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