Starting a New Garden Plot

rudymeganDecember 19, 2008

Hello there,

My husband and I have owned our house for 1 year now, this winter I would like to make a 20x20 garden polt out of what was once a lawn in my front yard. The grass is over grown and sloped down hill away from the house. there are a variety of weeds and things growing on their own (horsetails, mint, grasses, boxwood shrubs) Before I started reading about permaculture I would have had my friendly neighbor tractor rototill the area. Now I'm feeling like this might not be the ecologically sound idea.

I have a Bunch of straw bedding full of goat poop goodness to add to the already rich dark soil. Chickens are part of our little family too.

So my question, how to create a space for the veggies herbs and such so they wont compete with the grass? with out tearing everything up? is it ok to till the soil the first year and then just mantain it after that without tilling? Any ideas? Hand pulling a whole lawn just can't be the answer =). thank you!

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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

Horsetail cannot be beaten. the rest you can solarize or cover with cardboard to smother it then build a garden on top of that. Some "peraculture" methods such as double digging absolutely require that you go through and turn the soil.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2008 at 2:37AM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

g'day rudymegan,

you could chcek out our raised garden beds there may be some ideas there for you?


Here is a link that might be useful: lens garden page

    Bookmark   December 20, 2008 at 12:17PM
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thanks for the info! I looked up how to solarize and I'm worried that I don't have the kind of hot sunny days that are needed this time of year. I live in Northern California on the coast so I have a lot of foggy cool days. The summer brings a few months of solid sun but those are the best (and only for some crops) growing times!

The layered mulch idea seems good.

You mentioned that some methods need the soil to be turned... would this mean rototilling? I don't have a problem with this method it would save me lots of time. I was afraid it was bad for the soil though.

Len- your page is very nice and I might look at raised beds. I will have to look in the the costs of border materials and starter soil.

Thanks again - still looking for answers on the "permaculure- to till or not to till" idea

    Bookmark   December 20, 2008 at 1:16PM
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marshallz10(z9-10 CA)

Rudymegan, I have a small organic farm in coastal Summerland, S.Barbara County. So I can commiserate with your cool foggy growing environment. There are some summer months where we see the sun between 4 pm and sunset. My main problem, then, is the same as yours: soil temperatures too low for really good summer cropping of those tomatoes, eggplants, cukes, and corn. Long ago I moved away from heavily mulched cropping ground to raised bed into which we work compost and, as needed, "organic" fertilizers. Raised beds with dark-colored soils tend to heat up faster; mulches keep soil temperatures lower in summer and warmer in winter in our sort of climate.

We do rototill to work in amendments and raw OM materials not taken to the composting area. This practice is hard on the soil organisms and should be limited. If you decide to work the soil with tractor, figure you can have a lot of organic matter disked or rototilled where after a few months you can begin gardening in earnest.

You never mentioned how deep your soil reached, the texture of the soil, how steep the slope and what exposure (e.g. South, North)

    Bookmark   December 20, 2008 at 2:00PM
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The soil reaches at least 5 feet (we planted a redwood last year and dug a good deep hole.) The soil is moist, not too clay-like but does stick to your boots. When dry or wet it is easy to dig and work with. the slope is less then 15 degrees. exposure is to the east and south. We have a mountian to the west so the sun sets fast here.

What kind of food producing plants have you had success with? I came from the centeral valley and I tried my regular peppers, tomatoes, summer squash, and some corn. the corn did ok and I see it growing around town, but it still didn't trun out like I wanted. my pumpkins did great! and I only threw them in as an after thought. the tomatoes had a little green house (4 foot plastic tent type) and I got one big bowl and then no more. I'm thinking articokes, brocolli, spinach, carrots, and i'd love some tomatoes... they just don't grow here like in that warm valley =)

    Bookmark   December 20, 2008 at 2:43PM
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marshallz10(z9-10 CA)

Other than the Mtns on the West, your site is blessed. Your frost season may limit what you can grow in winter time compared to what I can grow under my subtropical Mediterranean climate.

The kinds of vegetables and herbs you can grow are many; you can even grow the heat lovers of summer with a little more effort and expense and the right varieties.

Our summer crops are all pre-started for later transplanting, often through plastic sheeting that allows more soil heating. We also use perforated plastic tunnels over wire hoops or just floating row covers to create warmer interior temps and more optimal growing conditions. Keeps bugs and critters off the plant too. You can use paper mulches but these don't allow for as much soil warming.

Without the use of these infra-red transmitting plastics, our transplantings of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and squash family plants are delayed by a month or more. In some years with late rains, our soil temperature at 6 inches doesn't warm past 60F until June. We try to get out first cycle of summer crops in by mid to late March by which time cold weather and most rains have passed.

Given our climate, we can grow most cool-season crops year round, or least stretch the season at both ends.

Today I've been seeding transplant trays with lettuce, beets, broccoli, cabbage, endive, escarole, kales, Swiss chard, kohlrabi, onion seed for green bunching onions and scallions, leeks, peas, and a bunch of Asian greens and mustard greens. About the only things we direct seed are radishes and carrots.

We already have growing most of the above as well as arugula, cilantro, parsley, leaf and stalk celeries, garlics, onions, shallots, fava beans, snap and snow peas, Brussels sprouts, spinach.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2008 at 4:29PM
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