I am getting so excited about current permaculture recommendations. I have been watching YouTube videos from Morag Gamble with OurPermacultureLife.com and Geoff Lawton with the Permaculture Research Institute. I have already incorporated some new ideas. Morag showed how she starts a new garden bed—she layers wet newspapers toward the top of the pile instead of the bottom.
I have been revitalizing a back yard that has been nothing but a little bit of grass, but mostly weeds. There is a lot of knot weed and pig weed which I am slowly eradicating for more productive plots. There was a corner of the yard that had wild morning glory (bindweed), but I am getting ahead of that challenge. I’ll describe those methods in a separate post. I don’t think this technique would work for something as invasive as bindweed. For the new planting areas, I put down cardboard, layers of mulch, and some clean dirt. I have tried a couple of other techniques, but that is the main method. However, Morag had a video where she showed forking up the rough ground to loosen the subsoil, then layering on the richest materials like rotted manure, finished compost, or worm castings. Then she layers on unfinished compost fixings. On top of that goes chopped green mulch with things like coffee grounds or tea leaves. Then comes the thick layer of soaked newspapers, layered in a pattern that lets water come into the layers, instead of shedding off. On top of the newspapers is an attractive layer of mulch, such as straw or grass hay.
I just tried this method on a plot where I had previously tried the cardboard method. I was trying to do a wildflower lawn, but so much knot weed and pig weed came up from seed that I have been digging out patches and putting in perennial flowers and bunchgrasses. It is probably my imagination, but the newly-layered plot already appears more productive and useful. The hay-covered areas in the photos are the new method. The brown bark-covered plot is another way to start a no-dig garden where you cut open bags of topsoil and plant right into them, then mulch around the bags. It made a quick, instant garden, but I don't like having to buy dirt or the plastic it came in.
It's fun to try new things!
Sunflowers are so productive in our hot, dry climate here in Boise, Idaho. We are in the western half of the Snake River plain, which has been heavily developed for agriculture. I only wish more commercial crop production was better suited to our desert climate.
Every five years, the United States Geological Survey publishes a report of water use in the nation.
Maupin, M.A., 2018, Summary of estimated water use in the United States in 2015: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2018-3035, 2 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/fs20183035.
The last report compiled data for 2015, and Idaho is one of the top consumers of fresh water, primarily for irrigation. I really do understand the importance of agriculture-no farms, no food. But if we can grow crops more suited to our environment, we would be so much more efficient in using our natural resources.
I have a little story from my garden to illustrate how we can all accomplish our part in conserving water and growing our own supplies. In the past, I had a great longing to grow bamboo so that I could produce my own straight, tall stakes for pole beans. I really hate buying anything new for the garden, wasting money on manufactured products. Much of my gardening philosophy is to produce useful products using as many recycled, reused, and repurposed materials as possible. But bamboo never did well for me. However, sunflowers come up volunteer every year in my back yard. I don’t know if they started from bird seed, or if they are self-seeding from a variety pack of sunflower seeds that I planted in 2016, or both. They are extremely hefty plants, producing a lot of biomass with a many uses. I cut off the leaves, small stems, and flowers to feed the goats, save some seed heads for winter wild bird feed, and use the heftiest stems for stakes in the garden. Right now, as of August 7th, I have already harvested a significant amount for all these purposes. I left the root wads of two big stalks in the ground and bound them together for a natural arch. Keeping the root wads in the ground will make it a very stable arch. I cut even lengths to make little teepees to protect some plantings from my dog Bo laying on them. I have more teepees to support morning glory and some newly-planted fall peas. What a wonderfully generous useful plant!
I am so glad I didn’t expend any more energy, time, or resources into bamboo, which didn’t even originally come from this hemisphere.
Plant sunflowers next year. You will not be sorry!
I have been an organic gardener long before it was cool. (Is it cool yet?) I still have Organic Gardening issues from my subscription in the early 80’s—sent to “Miss Darcy Sharp”. I’m looking at a July 1984 issue that features “7 fall crops you can plant now”. The 1984 recommendations for fall planting are still so timely and pertinent. The tiny magazines were packed with very practical information as well as results from scientific trials.
Cole crops are still in my fall planting repertoire, including Asian greens. I already have some pak choi seedlings sprouting, I just hope I can keep them damp enough in this 100-degree weather! I planted some cabbage, broccoli, and brussels sprouts this spring, but have seen cabbage moths fluttering around them for months now. I doubt if I will be able to eat any of these crops, because they will probably be wormy and full of tunnels. I am totally at peace with that, though, because I can feed them to my goats and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the fluttery white moths all year.
I have goats because I love them, but it is also very practical to incorporate animals into your organic gardening system. Feeding them fresh vegetables that are less than ideal for your own diet results in generous droppings packed with fertilizer for your compost pile or for layering with mulch.