Posts Tagged ‘no till’

Garden Experiments

April 28, 2009

I’ve been doing daily updates on the Garden in Progress page, but it’s time for a longer post about the goings on in my garden. Our original plan was to get the garden area tilled, then fence it in to protect it from deer, rabbits, raccoons, and all the other critters that live in the woods right by our house. The tilling has not been possible due to rain and mud, so perhaps this year we will skip the tilling after all. I am really waffling on the issue of tilling, but the weather might be the deciding factor. If we end up not tilling, then we will still spend money on compost and soil. However, if the raised beds do well, then we will be set for next year. We’ll just have to add compost, which we are in the process of making, and mulch and rotate crops next spring, I think.

While waiting for the tilling, I’ve been experimenting with killing grass. I have three 4′ X 4′ garden frames built and they are all out in the garden. For Experiment 1, I put newspaper on the bottom to try to kill the grass. I was too impatient and went ahead and put some potting soil and compost in the frame. I finished marking off the grids with nails and yarn, just like I did with the bed where I dug up the sod. In the middle of the last week I planted two squares, one with spinach and one with cosmic purple carrots. Then on April 25, I planted two more squares of carrots and yesterday (April 27) I planted another square of spinach and two squares of romaine lettuce with radishes in the corners. So I have 7 squares planted in that one, and will probably transplant the broccoli to the top/north most facing row.

For Experiment 2, I put down cardboard instead of newspaper, mostly because I had cardboard and didn’t have any more newspaper. The grass is dying, but not as quickly as I would like (did I mention I get impatient?). I don’t really want to put soil and compost over the cardboard. I know it will decompose eventually, but not nearly as quickly as the newspaper will. I think I will take the dug out sod from Experiment 3 (see below) and put it on the bottom, then add compost and potting soil to finish it off. That bed is too close to the others to do any vertical crops, so I think I will plant my herbs in that bed.

Experiment 3 isn’t really an experiment anymore. I dug out the sod and poured soil and compost in the frame and already planted. This is the first bed I planted and happens to be the north most one, though eventually I will have other beds north of this one. So, I will be calling it Bed 1. Here are some pictures of the progression of this bed:

Partly dug up sod

Partly dug up sod

Garden helper

Garden helper

Partly filled raised garden bed

Partly filled raised garden bed

Filled with potting soil and compost

Filled with potting soil and compost

Grids marked with yarn

Grids marked with yarn

Bed 1 (Experiment 3) fully planted

Bed 1 (Experiment 3) fully planted

This last picture was taken on April 22. Since then, bibb lettuce, radishes, spinach, parsnips, and leaf lettuce, and onions have started sprouting. It’s quite exciting. To the left of the picture (which is the north side and what I think of as the top) are the broccoli transplants that Scott the Farmer gave us and helped us transplant. We planted onion sets in each corner of the broccoli squares. The column to the right of the broccoli is where we transplanted some leaf lettuce and bibb lettuce, with some onion sets in the middle. The next column is kind of a mixture, with two squares of bibb lettuce seeds, with radishes in the corners. Then there is a square of spinach and a square with two celery transplants and some onion sets (not sure how many since the kids were helping!). The column all the way to the left (or what I think of as the bottom row) is leeks, carrots, parsnips, and onion sets. Those squares are not quite a full square foot, so instead of planting 16 of each vegetable, I only planted 12.

So far, no bunnies or deer have bothered this one, but I need to make a cover for it. There’s a quick and easy plan in All New Square Foot Gardening, so I just need to sit down with the book in front of me and try to build. Eventually I will have to use the saw myself, despite my fear of cutting off my fingers. So the next step is to build a cover (UPDATED to say this is done and there is a picture here) for the beds planted, build more frames and trellises for the vertical plants, and get an area ready for the corn, beans, and squash. I’m not going to make frames for those because that seems like a waste of wood. I will, however, try to make a raised area for it.

In a related note, I was doing some research on herbs in the square foot garden and I came upon this site, which I’ve added to my links. In particular, the page about plant spacing and herbs in the square foot garden were very useful. There’s a lot of other really good information, but I leave it to you to explore that page on your own.

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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.