Posts Tagged ‘mulch’

Tilling sucks

June 10, 2009

OK, I suppose tilling has its uses, but I must say that my tilled area looks really bad. I worked on it some yesterday, using a garden rake and a ho to get some of the grass up. There are some weeds in the tilled area, but mostly it’s just the grass growing back. Now to be fair, I haven’t done much of anything in the tilled area. Combine my laziness with lots of rain and that explains why the grass is growing back. However, compared to my raised beds, the tilled area is much worse. It is more work and the grass is growing faster. Even the Pie Bed, (the no-dig bed in which I turned some sod upside down and then filled with some potting soil), which is the raised bed with the most weeds, does not compare to the tilled area. 

Pizza Bed in the foreground, tilled area in the background

Pizza Bed in the foreground, tilled area in the background

The only complaint I have with the raised beds is that there is not enough room to get the riding mower between them. We don’t have a push mower and I really don’t want to buy one since we have a gas-powered weed whacker (that I can’t start!). Ideally I wouldn’t have grass in between the raised beds. I would like a garden with no grass at all, but how to get rid of that grass? Or, more precisely, how can I get rid of that grass without chemicals and without spending a lot of money? I know that if I put down mulch that will help get rid of the grass, but right now I’m short on mulch since our bagger for the riding mower was back ordered. We can pick that up today, so as soon as I can mow again, I will have mulch and lots of it. I also know mulch would help in the tilled area.

While I like the idea of grass clippings as mulch in the raised beds and the tilled area, I would like something else to put in between the raised beds. This site, Organic Weed Control Methods ~ Mulching, has some great ideas. It has some good information about why mulching is so helpful and has a list of natural mulches, with suggestions on where to get them. None of these mulches jump out at me as easy and cheap and quick (quick as in tomorrow), unless I want to walk around collecting the grass clippings from the last time we mowed. I guess I will just wait until we have the bagger and then let the grass clippings dry and apply them to the tilled area. Then I guess I will use the weed whacker to trim around the raised beds. I think it would be a good idea to put down cardboard and/or newspaper before putting down the mulch, too.

The best idea I’ve had for in between the raised beds is to use broken up concrete. I remember reading somewhere that broken up concrete is a flagstone alternative. It can be laid out so that it looks like flagstone, but has the benefit of being more environmentally friendly. One of our neighbors just up the road has a big pile that’s just sitting there. I’ve thought about asking him if he is going to use it, but I haven’t done it yet. Maybe I should stop by and ask him next time I am driving to town. I think I could always do the paper/cardboard with dried grass clippings piled on top and then add the concrete afterwards. The concrete part might be a good autumn project, though. You know, after we build a henhouse for our 24 pullets (though I suspect one of the Buff Orpingtons is a boy) and a greenhouse and a workshop for Tim.

Sometimes you have to laugh at yourself

May 5, 2009

I am full of ideas, some good and some bad. Before the grass grew and we had to mow, I was telling the guys that we could get a reel mower. I saw one of the Amish boys using one on their lawn and I felt inspired. I figured between that and letting the cows and chickens* mow for us, we would be doing our part for the environment and getting some exercise.

Yes, you can laugh uproariously now. If I weren’t so tired, I’d be laughing at myself, too. After two days of using a push mower to mow my mother-in-laws yard, and then parts of ours, I was exhausted. Our lawn is not even entirely mowed, either! There’s still the side of the garage and one side of the house, a small part by the garden, some by the cornfield and out by the road, and then another part by the corn. I have no idea how many acres we have to mow, but it’s too much to do with a push mower, let alone a reel mower and cows! Clearly, that was not one of my better ideas.

Despite how that idea turned out, I keep thinking about what we can change so that we have less grass to mow. Even when we get a riding mower, it would be better for the environment, not to mention our pocketbook, to not have so much grass to mow. So another option is to let some of the grass go wild and turn into prairie grass again. But where to do that? Not near the house, of course, because we already have too many bugs and ticks. Not along the driveway for the same reason. There might be some parts near the corn that we could either skip mowing or we could incorporate into pasture when the time comes. The only other idea I have is to put a big circle of mulch around all the trees. That will help, but there’s still a lot of grass to mow. If we just had two acres of flat ground to mow, it might not be so bad. Or maybe if I were in better shape. Even so, I do have better things to do with my time than spend an entire day mowing. We have spent well over two hours mowing for each of the last two days. Everyone but Mo has mowed. Aidan loves mowing, though his technique could be more efficient. (I figured I’ll let him figure that out on his own because for now he really enjoys mowing and who am I to change that?)

So anyway, I have more mowing to do today. I can take the kiddos down by the bridge that is over the creek. They will have fun in the mud and the creek and I can get some mowing done. That’s the plan anyway! I might get all the mowing done today if I’m really ambitious.

*Scott the Farmer knows someone who wants a cow to show at the fair, which apparently means the cow would be tied to a tree and would eat the grass for us as part of the taming process. Also, the chickens do a fantastic job of mowing! The area around the garden is almost weed free and the grass is not long at all!

Killing grass

April 11, 2009

For some reason, I forgot to link to this blog post which got me all excited to research no tilling last night. I think I got to Hot Belly Mama through The Compost Bin.

Anyway, the thing I liked about this post is that she is just using mulch, straw and leaves, to kill the grass underneath and then using raised beds. So simple! No digging or tilling or chemicals. It was inspiring. I love the Internet!

No tilling?

April 11, 2009

Our neighbor, Jeff, recommended that we talk to a local nursery about having them come till our garden plot. He said they have a reverse tine tiller which is supposed to get the sod up better. Well, we talked to them about how much it would cost and all that, then finally decided to do it. I let them know and now we are waiting (I’m waiting patiently, Tim not so patiently) for them to call to tell us when they are coming out to till.

In the meantime, we have only built one box for the garden. It’s 4 feet by 4 feet (that’s 1.2 some meters, for you metric users) and is made out of 1″ by 6″ boards. I want to make a bunch more of these, as well as some 1 foot by 4 foot boxes for vertical crops, but we just haven’t had time between building the movable coop, Tim working, and my unwillingness to use a saw. I’m afraid I would cut my fingers off!

So we are waiting for time and tilling. But, now I’m reading more about no till gardening and rethinking the tilling. Here are some of the things I’ve been reading that are making me rethink the tilling:

Raised Bed Trials at From Dirt to Dinner.

Raised Vegetable Garden at No Dig Gardens.

No-till Gardening

No till and raised beds boost yields

No till gardening feeds the soil

No till gardening beds save water and labor

Now, I already knew that tilling isn’t always good. It does break up the soil, but it also exposes anaerobic bacteria to oxygen, thus killing them. Also, what about the worms that are already there? Wouldn’t tilling kill them? It seems like it would, and everyone knows worms are good for the soil. I have been thinking about tilling for a while, but was just too lazy to do the research, I guess. Our neighbor recommended the reverse tine tiller and I figured that was a good idea. Also, in the square foot gardening book I have, he mentions tilling, though I did wonder why you would need to till if you are adding your own soil anyway. Heck, even Mother Earth News recommends tilling eventually.

So I’m thinking maybe we will take the box we built out to the garden area and then lay some cardboard, newspaper, or whatever we can find down and see if it kills the grass. Then we will add soil, compost, leaves. Or something like that! I need to read and think about it more and see what we can find. We don’t have any compost of our own yet, so we might have to buy some. I was thinking of asking the diner in town (the small town near us, not the big town) if they would give me their vegetable trimmings and eggshells to use for compost. As far as mulch, we have an abundance of leaves since we have woods all around us. Also, I do recall reading somewhere that hair trimmings work well as mulch, but of course I can’t remember where I read that. I will ask Marvin, our barber, if I can have the hair trimmings from his shop. I bet he will think I’m weird, but heck it’s free and all I have to do is pick them up.