Organic Gardening

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10/15/2014

tomatoesApples, tomatoes and potatoes, Oh My!  How is it October?  Where did summer go? I honestly felt very busy and productive during the season of making hay while the sun shines. Yet here we are, beautiful comforting slowing Fall. In our area of North Central Idaho the leaves are turning, the days golden, and the nights comfortably star filled.

After our late September county fair, I annually feel we are on the work of living downhill slide. Peaches line the pantry shelves and my blackberry abused fingers begin to heal. Applesauce simmers scenting the weekends with cinnamon. This is our first full calendar year on our homestead, and I am realizing that October is not for rest.

Our six discovered homestead apple trees are bursting with yellow and fluorescent red globes of free sustenance. The wild turkeys meander daily across the yard. A third of the potatoes are stored in a garbage can between layers of newspaper, the remaining rows still upright and green with life. I have spinach sprouting in my birthday gift cold frame (rough cut timber and a re-purposed double pane sliding glass door.) The tomatoes are ripening for dear life in face of the cold nights, 15 pounds last weekend alone. 12 gallons of wild blackberries stacked like antioxidant bricks in the deep freeze.apples

My weekly list includes apple and pear picking forays to now wild trees around the county, my apple hoard now 6 large boxes. I have wanted a cider press for years, searching classifieds and yard sales alike. Thanks to social media and good fortune, friends from Peck, Idaho offered their turn of the century model free for the taking. The Elsbury family was kind enough to let us drag the behemoth out of their hayloft where the press and cast iron grinder was placed by tractor five years ago. They felt the press was akin to a quilt, meant to be used.

So the apple picking race is on, there isn't a tree within 30 miles safe from my cider desires. Armed with Jenna Woginrich's hard cider recipe and bees still churning out honey, Apple Jack is imminent. I can't say I don't have moments where the list seems too long and it's contents too perishable to be possible. But ten feet up in an apple tree with audible wing strokes as a hawk flies above on a fine October Sunday soothes my urgency, and reminds me that the gift of this life, of this sustenance making journey, is as sweet as Fall cider.


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10/14/2014

Egyptian walking onion in a pot

In America, there are wild Alliums known as wild garlic or ramps. The onions we cultivate in our gardens today likely originated from a wild Asian onion, but has been grown so long, the road back to the original is lost. Two thousand years ago, there were many varieties that we would recognize today. There were round onions, white onions, red onions, flat onions, long onions, keeper onions, sweet onions, spicy onions. Onions have been important for their perceived health benefits in times gone past and proven health benefits today as well as the fabulous taste they add to an array of dishes.

Onions are easy to grow, have little to no pest problems and are a perennial to boot! Onions have shallow roots, like to be moist, but can’t stand being waterlogged. You should enrich the soil with plenty of organic matter before planting. As common sense would tell us, they also like loose soil. Organic matter helps this along. Onions can be grown in the ground or in pots. My perennial Egyptian walking onion has been growing in its pot for 8 years.

In the Midwest, seeds can be started indoors in early February and transplanted outdoors in March. Transplanting should be done 4-6 weeks before the last spring freeze for spring planting. Since onions are perennials you can also plant in the fall, October for our Zone 6/7 garden. For multiplier type onions or Egyptian walking onions, fall planting will provide a bigger harvest next spring and summer.

The more popular method of starting onions is planting “sets.”  Young onions that are put out in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked, just as the daffodils begin to fade. Bulbing onion in flower

You can place them close together and pull for scallions until the bulbing onions are 5-6 inches apart. As the bulb reaches full size, you can pull the soil away from the top of the onion to help the bulb and neck cure for harvest.

You can also plant the bottoms of store bought onions. If you get enough of the bottom, the onion will take root and give you an onion next season.

Onions tell you when they are ready to harvest, when half of their tops fall over. What can be easier than that? Like garlic, they should be lifted rather than pulled from the ground and leave them in shade for about a week to harden. I use a trowel to dig under the bulb and pop them out. You don’t want to nick them or they will not store well. If you do, keep them in the fridge and use them first.

So, how do you choose which onions to plant? The best bet is to talk to your local nursery to see which grow the best in your area for the ones that thrive in your climate.

Bulbing Onions

There are 3 types of bulbing onions: short day, intermediate day, and long day onions. Intermediate and long day varieties have been around for a long time. Short day onions are relatively newcomers. Onions are sensitive to daylight hours. They start forming bulbs when daylight hours hit a minimum. For long day onions, it is 15 hours. For intermediate, it is 12-13 hours. Short day onions are 9 to 10 hours.

I would have thought long day onions would be for further south, but this is wrong. The north gets the really long summer days (think of Alaska in June with no darkness). Long day onions should be planted in states north of the Oklahoma/Kansas border (approximately 36 degrees latitude). Long day onions are planted in states in the northern part of the US. Intermediate in the middle and short in the South. Short day onions are planted in the fall and form bulbs in the spring. Intermediate and long day onions are typically planted in the spring as sets, not seeds. Seeds require sprouting indoors and transplanting. So, if you want a sweet onion and live in the Midwest, Vidalias are not the best bet since it is a short day type. A better choice is a Walla Walla or a Sweet Spanish.

The other thing to keep in mind is that, like wine, onions pick up the terroir they are grown in. You can grow the exact same onion as you buy in the store or at a farmers market but have a different taste because of the differences in your soil.

There are many fun onions to grow besides the round ones. There are the flat disk like Borrettana Cipollini or the Red Baron onion that is a red scallion type onion. Of course, there is the onion made famous in French cooking, the shallot-French, Gray or Sante are well known varieties. Then, there are onions for keeping over the winter like Rossa Di Milano, Early Yellow Globe, Sweet Sandwich, and Granex Yellow.

Onions will also keep over another year. When onions I planted last spring did not get to decent size, I left them over the winter. They gave nice bulbs in the summer.

Another type of onion is the Egyptian walking onion. It is a perennial that you can pull year round. They do not form bulbs. They are about the size of a large scallion or leek, getting an inch or two wide and 3” long bulb. They also grow great in a pot. When they get their bulblets, they remind me of Medusa. Really cool.  You just snap off the bulblets and plant them for more onions next year.  They also multiply underground year after year. They are one of my must haves in the garden since they can be harvested year round. Their bulb is great as a cooking onion and their greens as a chive.

Onions are a great addition to the garden. They are perennials, easy to grow and have little to no pest problems. I really like the perennial type onions, the Egyptian walking onions and multiplier onions like potato onions. The Egyptian you can just leave in place and harvest from year round. The multiplier potato onion has a very long shelf life indoors for a storage onion. When you harvest it, just leave behind the smaller onions and they will multiply again for next year’s harvest.

For more tips on organic gardening in small spaces and containers, see Melodie's blog.

Photos: top, Egyptian walking onion; middle, bulbing onion.


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10/13/2014

I wrote “In praise of West Indian Gherkins” on my blog on September 23, 2014.

After a few years of growing many varieties of pickling cucumbers and getting too many pests and diseases, we went outside the box in 2013 and tried some West Indian Gherkin seed from Monticello, where they used to be grown by Thomas Jefferson (and some of the enslaved people, no doubt). These are not closely related to actual cucumbers, but are used similarly. (They are not the same as Mexican Sour Gherkins, either.) I saw them growing in the Monticello garden when I was there for the Heritage Harvest Festival in September 2012, and they are certainly robust and productive in hot humid weather. This seems like a great crop for disease-prone gardens – no trouble with cucumber leaves turning yellow!

West Indian Gherkins  are prolific and drought-tolerant, and show no sign of any of the many cucumber plant diseases or pests. Because the healthy vines cover the ground, there is no room for weeds, making it an easy crop to grow. Our pickles turned out well and are becoming quite popular! We grew even more this year. Next year, I want this to be the only pickling cucumber we grow! It is a rambler (long vines) so maybe a trellis would be wise if space is tight.

Because West Indian Gherkins are open-pollinated and don’t cross with actual cucumbers (or watermelons, despite the look of the leaves), we save our own gherkin seeds, and a little money in the process. In late September this year, I harvested four 5-gallon buckets of gherkins (one for seed, 3 for pickling) from a 50-foot row we abandoned over five weeks previously. These plants survived that period just on rainfall, as we pulled out the drip tape back when we thought we were done. And there was only about 3-inches of rain, almost all of it in one week, with nothing in the other four weeks.

Before I saw these gherkins growing at Monticello, I had no idea of their existence. Now I’m starting to hear about them in more places.

William Woys Weaver, author of Heirloom Vegetable Gardening wrote about them for MOTHER EARTH NEWS in 2008. He discovered that they originated in West Africa, rather than West Indies, and that they can be pickled, eaten raw or cooked like zucchini. Read more

Seed is available from Monticello, Seed Savers Exchange, Trade Winds Fruit and Reimer Seeds. These round cucumbers with soft spines are an unusual and attractive crop. When first forming, they look like miniature watermelons, and might lead to that old question “Is a cucumber a fruit or a vegetable?” Botanically a fruit, in the kitchen, a vegetable.

I’ve learned that West Indian Gherkin is resistant to some species of Root Knot Nematodes, so we plan to grow it in our hoophouse as part of our rotation of nematode-resistant crops for a bed there which produced some gnarly-rooted tomatoes this year. We’ll get soooo many pickles! It’s a very productive crop for us. I wrote about our struggle with RKN in the November/December 2014 issue of Growing for Market magazine. We have been growing a series of nematode-resistant cover crops in the winter and spring, and solarizing the bed in the summer. Now we’re ready to grow some of the more resistant food crops and seed crops. After that, some resistant varieties of susceptible crops.

See my blog to read more about our nematodes.

Here is our first (baggy) attempt at solarization in the hoophouse.

Early this September the pickleworm arrived in our part of Virginia. This tropical insect, Diaphania nitidalis overwinters in south Florida (and maybe south Texas) and spreads up the east coast each year. It regularly reaches South and North Carolina in August or September. This is the first time I've seen this pest on our farm. I've read that it can reach as far north as Michigan and Connecticut some years. We're reassured that it can't overwinter here, and that we could get at most 3 generations. Sort of reassured.

The adult is a night-flying moth, which lays tiny eggs on buds and flowers. Despite the name, this pest likes yellow squash more than pickling cucumbers. (And winter squash, gherkin and cantaloupe can be colonized if necessary, as poor third choice crops.) We first found ours on Zephyr yellow squash and initially the neighboring Noche zucchini was untouched. But yesterday some of the zucchini also had holes.

Read more about the pickleworm on my blog. It looks like growing gherkins rather than pickling cucumbers will help us avoid damage from that pest, too.

The extension website publication Biology and Management of

Pickleworm and Melonworm in Organic Curcurbit Production Systems by Geoff Zehnder of Clemson U provides useful information.

For pictures of pickleworm damage, see Sunninglow Farms blog. They are in Florida and posted in April. I shouldn't complain too loudly. It was September here before we saw them.

Photo Credits: Large pickleworm larva, Photo University of Florida; Hoophouse, Credit Kathryn Simmons; Root Knot Nemode, University of Alabama; West Indian Gherkins, Suzie’s Farm


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


10/10/2014

Summer gives way to Fall as the night air cools and the breeze comes out of the north. The summer garden's bounty is safely stored on shelves and in cellars. Time marches on. But wait! Could there be more to come from flowering plants on these crisp mornings? Yes! There will be another harvest and who doesn't love a good comeback? Especially when it's all said and done you're left with fresh, organic vegetables for dinner. Winner, Winner.

Plant and Grow Heirloom VegetablesOrange Peppers

First came the grasshoppers, then the squash bugs and blister bugs, and as expected, blazing 100 degree heat and more severe drought; an all out attack on my garden. It was enough to make Mr. Green Jeans pack it in.

For the past month I battled the insects and the elements on a daily basis, finally getting some cooler nights and now, much to a grasshopper's chagrin, my garden is making a serious comeback. Take that you pesticide immune, genetically modified Frankenbugs.

Tomatoes, beans, peppers and okra are back in production after a month of stress and dormancy. The all-heirloom variety vegetables from Baker Creek Seeds, and my own seed stock saved over the past several years, have battled the elements and won. I'll take an assist by constantly watering the garden thru a drip and soaker hose system, and for liberal applications of garlic-pepper spray, Neem, BT, orange oil, Garrett Juice, and much hand picking and chicken scratching. Once I had picked everything this summer that was ripe, I turned the hens and a young rooster into the garden for a couple of weeks. The chickens rounded up the rest of the bugs and tilled up a few areas where I had harvested potatoes, onions, beans, carrots, chard and corn, plus added a touch of fertilizer. Now that's what I call round-up ready.

Green Tomatoes On The Vine

The Queen

If there's one thing you'll always find growing in my garden, it's tomatoes. The old song is right; "there's just two things that money can't buy and that's true love and homegrown tomatoes." I love them all. Chocolate Pear (small pear-shaped fruit with a dark chocolate color and rich semi-sweet taste), Cherokee Purple (prolific bearer with large deep red and purple colors which have that homegrown tomato flavor, times two), Amazon Chocolate and Atkinson and I could go on forever. These heirloom varieties grow well in the hot and dry climate here in north Texas, and they'll produce fruit thru the end of the year if you protect them from the elements, water them and feed them. A few years ago we had fresh Cherokee Purple tomato slices with New Year's Dinner and I'm hoping for more of the same this year. I've already canned more than 50 pints of tomatoes, some with peppers and onions, so I'm hoping for another 50 jars by Christmas. Are you on my list?

Planting Fall Garden VegetablesRooster In The Field

I'm fixin' to plant lettuce, spinach, cabbage, chard and other cool season vegetables in the newly cleared areas. I've already added organic compost, corn gluten, molasses and blood and bone meal to the soil which I'm turning with a broad fork and keeping moist. I plant a few seeds of each veggie, then plant another round every week for 3-4 weeks. Hopefully it stretches out the "fresh from the garden" meals for a month or two.

Do your thing, Mother Nature. Let me know where I can help. Cold weather is coming so it may require covering everything in the garden with large sheets of plastic once December rolls around to get to one more harvest. I use four big pieces of plastic and bricks to cover four sections of my garden. Cover it at night, uncover it in the morning. Repeat. A second harvest of tomatoes, lettuce and beans on the way with some mild peppers on the bush. Will someone please pass the oil and vinegar?

Nothing is better than the nutrition-packed goodness of homegrown, non-GMO, organic vegetables. Fresh off the vine is best but don't kid yourself, an all heirloom vegetable pasta sauce with venison and wild pork meatballs would be worth the trouble as well.

Happy Meals, y'all. Happy Meals.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



10/8/2014

food challengeThere is a challenge going on in October that you should know about. It is the 10-Day Local Food Challenge that is being kicked off by Vicki Robin, author of Blessing the Hands That Feed Us. The challenge is to choose a block of 10 days in October 2014 and commit to only eating food grown within a 100 mile radius of your home. To sweeten the deal, you are allowed 10 exotics, which are foods you want but can’t find locally. The exotics might include baking ingredients or the coffee you can’t seem to live without.

In her book Robin relates her experiences eating only food grown within a 10-mile radius of her home for 30 days. She allowed herself 4 exotics: olive oil, lemons and limes, salt plus a few Indian spices, and caffeine. If you are serious about local food, and even if you are just curious about how someone could do that, you will enjoy her book. My book, Grow a Sustainable Diet, gets into planning to grow a substantial part of your diet, including the cover crops to feed back the soil. It also stresses the need to build community systems. What you don’t grow yourself you should buy from local growers who have good soil building practices.

More than anything this challenge is an experiment in mindfulness. It gets you thinking about all aspects of what you eat. We are all responsible for how the earth is used to produce the food we consume. If you want the earth to be used in good ways, choose to eat food produced that way. For me, this seems like a fun, easy project, but that’s because I have experienced Homegrown Fridays when I consume only what I’ve grown during the Fridays in Lent. I have already thought through what is important to me and what I can live without. I also grow staple crops and have written an article for Mother Earth News about that. My homegrown cornmeal cooked into a hot cereal topped with honey will be breakfast each day of my challenge. Learn more about me accepting the 10-Day Challenge at Homeplace Earth.

If you already have a garden, this is a good exercise to see how much it contributes to your overall diet. I know that by October the season is over for many gardens, but it doesn’t have to be. Next year you could plan to have more to eat through the winter by harvesting from low tunnels or cold frames. You could also preserve more for eating all year or grow crops that can be stored without much fuss, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, onions, garlic, peanuts, and grains. Many farmers markets now extend through the winter and some of the farmers have on-farm stores. If you have a CSA membership, taking the challenge will highlight what more is needed to complete your diet. If you enjoy the convenience of the grocery store, inquire about having your neighborhood grocery carry food produced in the neighborhood or at least within 100 miles or so.

While you are considering the origins of your food, besides the earth it is grown in, consider the workers who plant, tend, and harvest the food you eat. Are their working conditions acceptable to you? Besides being responsible for how the earth is used, we are responsible for the health and welfare of the workers who produce the food we choose to eat. If you haven’t thought about these issues before, your 10-Day Challenge might be to become aware of the origins of your food and begin to align your choices with the conditions for the earth and for the workers that you deem acceptable. For those ready to jump into the 10-Day Local Food Challenge, visit the website to sign in and complete the survey. Choose your 10 days and your 10 exotics and begin the adventure! Tell them Cindy sent you.

Learn more about Cindy Conner and what she’s up to at www.HomeplaceEarth.wordpress.com.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


10/7/2014

leavesBecause of pottery-grade clay soil, my garden is  built as raised beds, a foot deep and 10 or 8 feet long. I bought fertile mix, which is a blend of sandy loam and composts, to fill them, and have been maintaining their organic matter locally for 16 years. When I first began gardening, I tried to grow cover crops, but they always failed. The red clover was eaten by mini-slugs soon after emerging, and, the one year I did raise a good stand, I had to pull it out just as it was covered by feasting bees. After we acquired chickens and the chicken tractor, cover crops were no longer an option—but I discovered something far simpler. Leaves.

Every October, I gather leaves from our block. Property maintenance workers blow the leaves into the street to be collected by the city, which then delivers dump truck loads to local gardeners and farmers.  I cut out the middle person and truck them into the back yard myself. When the piles arrive—hopefully on a dry day, because wet leaves are messy—I grab the extra municipal recycling cart we stow in the back yard for these moments and my flexible leaf rake, lock the cats into the bedroom so they do not roll in the street, and head out. One cartful of leaves, pushed down fairly firmly, equals one garden-bed’s worth of mulch. Load, tamp, roll, and dump. Load, tamp, roll, and dump. Ten trips covers the vegetable garden of the winter. Four or five more fill in the flower and herb beds. After dumping, I spread them over the entire surface if it's barren, or work them around the few remaining plants if it is not.

Just leaf mulch worked well, but having the chicken tractor really improved the quality of the organic matter. Our coop is sized to fit directly on the garden beds; it is four feet wide and five feet long. When there are two chickens, we shift it from one end of the bed to the other. When there are more, we build a little run so that they have the entire bed during the day and are closed in at night. The Ladies spend the day rooting around, shredding leaves, eating bugs, and leaving behind some fine poop, which helps break down the leaves and bedding straw. When I shift the coop to the next bed (usually once a month), I quickly turn over the entire plot with a pitchfork, increasing the contact between organic matter and the soil.

By spring, the leaves are broken down into a rough seed bed. I push some aside and plant the starts in the soil, snugging the mulch around the roots. Leaves continue to break down until early summer, increasing the fertility of the gardens. The oldest garden beds are soft and friable throughout the growing season and the plants are lush. Leaves—the miracle mulch.

To read more about the Twenty First Street Urban Homestead, check out my blog. To see more of Julia Lont’s amazing artwork, go to www.julialont.com and www.bluecamaspress.com.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


10/7/2014

According to the literature, hügelkultur can remain fertile for up to 30 years without adding new materials. However, it can be difficult to plant into the logs and branches. We call our latest experiment a hügel mulch. It is a base of logs and branches covered with a wood chip sheet mulch that should give us many years of growing without any labor except planting and harvesting.

At the Living Systems Institute we work with the theory that nature maintains a habitat for a whole soil ecosystem that retains nutrients. By “whole soil ecosystem” we mean a complete set of organisms that cycle nutrients through complete growth, decay and regrowth cycles. I have been working with the concept over ten years now and I know I can grow more vegetable with substantially less work using a deep mulch system than with any of the other gardening technique that involves turning the soil. In my experience maintaining a habitat for that whole soil ecosystem is why it works.

Experimenting with Deep Mulch Systems

August 2011I started the experiment in 2004 using the permaculture technique called sheet mulching.[1] By 2011 our gardening teams were incorporating ideas from a technique called hügelkultur.[2] One third of our 2011 experimental sheet mulch garden was built with varying sizes of branches, sticks and wood chips twelve inches deep, then covered with an inch of horse manure. The section using hay has been renewed annually, the section using only wood chips will need to be renewed this fall. We planted the section built with branches for the 4th year in 2014 and it shows no sign of slowing down.

Typically, organic gardening involves a cycle of composting, tilling in compost, planting, weeding, watering, harvesting and removing plant debris for composting. We spent a morning. We followed the sheet mulching formula contained in Toby Hemenway's Gaia's Garden except that we used the sticks instead of the recommended materials. I then went in and “drew” pathways on top with more wood chips and put in drip irrigation. Since that morning we have done nothing but plant and harvest with an occasional mulching of volunteer plants. You can see how productive it is in the pictures.

August 2014I have given this explanation to people in my garden where they can see the results and yet they go home and crank up their rototillers. Many gardeners who have achieved success using labor intensive methods seem loath to try the deep mulch approach. How is it that we can do so much less work and still get this kind of production? Let's look at how the theory of whole soil ecosystems applies to our observed results.

Building a Habitat for a Whole Soil Ecosystem

Have you ever wondered how nature grows things without depleting nutrients from the soil? How can nature increase the nutrients in the soil while the land is fallow? Why is it that human gardening and farming depletes the soil?

The way a forest builds soil is by a regular addition of carbon on top. The wind blows, branches break off, old trees fall over, and the leaves fall each autumn. The animals make their contribution of nitrogen. That process creates layers of decomposition. That is the habitat for the soil ecosystem that developed in the forest. The ecosystem itself is a complete set of organisms that evolved to decompose the carbon and nitrogen raw materials and convert them into the food required by the forest plants which in turn produce the food for the forest animals. As soon as something excretes a substance, or dies and releases the nutrients contained in its body there is another species there ready to take up those nutrients and process them further. Nutrients of all types are produced continuously. The nutrients cycle through the system over and over. The nutrients build up in the system rather than being depleted from the system.

When we till the soil we destroy the habitat for that whole soil ecosystem and start losing the participation of specific species. Without the participation of the primary decomposers we have to gather the carbon and nitrogen and do the composting ourselves. When we till in the compost all of those nutrients are available for our plants immediately. Our plants do not need all of the nutrients all at once and the unused nutrients are taken up by weeds or leach out in the rain. Then we have to supply more nutrients next year.

Tilling creates the perfect habitat for nature's pioneer plants. Because we have no bare soil in a deep mulch system many of the species considered weeds are not a problem. Seeds will blow in or are carried in by animals and those plants may volunteer in the mulch. These volunteers are rooted in the mulch, not the soil, and are easy to pull. A weed, by definition, is a plant growing where it is not wanted. If we want that plant for mulch it is not a weed. It is a gift and when you pull it and lay it down the decomposers with take up and cycle those nutrients right away.

We also have no pests in our gardens. We want to foster a healthy system that includes as many different species as possible. That means that the insect eating our plants is not a pest. It is food for the species that want to protect our plants. Each species participating makes its contribution by processing nutrients as a part of its life cycle and excreting them and releasing them in death as a part of the nutrient cycle. The more species participating the more “whole” our ecosystem becomes.

This fall, when the first hard frost is predicted, I will dismantle the drip systems and bring in the head strings for the winter.[3] Every thing in the garden, tomato cages and all, will stay just where they are. That way, when the wind blows, the garden will collect organic matter and improve the habitat for our soil ecosystem. In the spring we will plant directly through the accumulated mulch. The habitat that we maintain for our soil ecosystem forms the basis for the integrated closed loop production systems we explore at the Living Systems Institute.

Building a Hügel Mulch

Hugel Mulch

1. Start by soaking the area to be mulched with water.

2. Spread manure over the area about 1/2 to 1 inch thick.

3. Assemble a weed barrier by laying down a layer of cardboard with as little over lap as possible. Take newspaper and lay it out over the seams in the cardboard. Don't do a lot of unfolding. Just lay it out whole sections at a time. You will want to wet the paper as it is laid out if there is any wind at all. Lay out a second layer of cardboard and cover all those seams with newspaper.

4. Spread another layer of manure 1/2- to 1-inch thick.

5. Keep the water running and wet each layer as you go.

6. Cover the area with logs and then fill in the gaps between the logs with smaller branches and sticks.

7. Fill in any remaining gaps with wood chips.

8. Spread a third layer of manure about 1-inch thick.

9. Add 12 inches of wood chips on top.

10. Spread a final layer of manure about 1-inch thick.

11.You can now mark your pathways by laying out a line of wood chips about 2 feet wide and maybe 1 or 2 inches thick. 

Resources

[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheet_mulching

[2]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%BCgelkultur

[3]The head string is the timer, filter, pressure regulator and back flow preventer that attach to the outdoor faucet.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

 









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