Archive for December, 2006

Sheet Mulching

sheet mulching diagramFor those interested in sheet mulching here is a diagram I prepared earlier – apologies it was drawn in paint (that ultimate graphic design tool) though if you click on it, it’ll open larger in a new window.  Feel free to use it where ever you want – if you’d let me know where even better.

Sheet mulching is similar to how nature prepares soil for new growth.  Imagine a winter scene where leaves are falling onto the ground.  Beneath the leaves is the end of the years growth, animal droppings etc – all good compostable material.  The leaves provide  a new layer on top that stops weeds from routing.

Similarly we’re laying down a layer manure between the old growth and compacted soil then a layer of mulch.  The cardboard stops any original weeds working their way through.  For my experiment I am using a double layer of cardboard in my beds.

The worms and soil beasties (inc fungus etc) work their way up into the manure and break it down into lovely soil.  The mulch protects the soil being compacted by the natural elements leaving nice, loose soil.  This’ll mean I can simply pull out my crops (as can animals).

Permiculture teaches us to live with the animals (ie providing them with food as well) so that’s not a problem.  They will eat the food, provide more manure and possibly eat other creatures that are less desirable.  I’d love to encourage ducks onto my plot – the ultimate in slug destructors.

For more regular progress I highly recommend you join us in http://forum.downsizer.net (grow your own) as I hope to post my progress and chat about the project.  Come… join us.

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Allotment in planning

Finally my allotment application came through.  When I spoke to the lady on the phone she wasn’t overly informative and shocked when I asked these things I lovingly refer to as questions.  Apparently she’s confused as to how I’ve found out that she’s the woman who’s roughly in charge of allotments – after all there seems to be absolutely no published information about these allotments including an address or map.  Both of which I shall provide here, so that locals have some idea of how the place is laid out.

The allotment I’ve been provided is 5 poles.  This equates roughly to 20ftx30ft.  It is still intact – that is to say no-one has taken the topsoil off – but unfortunately entirely covered in couch grass.  Yay! = )

For those who do not know the pleasures of couch grass, it is the kind of parasite that digs itself about 8-16 inches into the topsoil and will come back time after time from a single root fragment.  The only way to rid yourself of it is to dig it out and sieve it by hand. I however, am going down the lazy man route of permaculture – namely the no-dig method!

This method employs cardboard as a weed resistant membrane – I shall be first putting down chicken crap as my fertiliser then applying a double thickness of forementioned cardboard – 6″ of horse manure (I shall be using fresh for those who are interested in these things) then a layer of mulch – straw.

I shall water and… leave.  Until I’m ready to plant!  This lazy-man attitude was brought to you by Mr Bill Mollison through the magic of Permaculture.  If it works for couch grass it’ll damn well nearly work on everything.

For those of you who get worried by these things, yes, it will raise the soil line by 12″ (or more) but that’s ok because I have a bad back and prefer to have the ground a foot closer to me.  It also means this’ll work pretty much anywhere – including concrete, though you may want to include a few shovelfuls of natural earth and a few worms to get the composting going on the lower levels!

Once composted the horse and chicken poo will provide a rich source of nitrogen for my crops, though root veggies will be difficult to grow in the first year.  The straw stops the rain from directly impacting the ground and the natural worm aeriators will keep it nice and unpacked.  So when I pull on my potatos, they’ll just pop out of the ground!  No digging required!

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