Monday, October 24, 2011

Sheet Composting, Update

The first load of chips, ready to spread over several inches of alfalfa hay on a cardboard base

My effort to build a totally new garden area with new-to-me concepts (based on Gaia's Garden) is making some progress. I may be close to finishing what I can do before the weather is too cold, so it's time for an update.

So far I have spread 12 bales of alfalfa hay, 6 truckloads of chips, 20 pounds of Greensand, 20 pounds of Azomite, about half a 30 gallon garbage-can of biochar... and I'm not yet finished for the year!

Mulch berm with Jerusalem Artichokes and Chard just beyond it. The spent vines on thr trellis back and to the right are Hops. Next year there will be perennial  Hardy Kiwi planted on the trellis.

To better manage rain run-off on my sloping garden, I decided to build a mulch berm on the high side of the garden, and it will have a swale dug parallel to, and just above it. The greywater (just from the washing machine) will run into the swale, but only after it exits 2 planned shallow bog areas with plants that filter the water. The berm will help hold and slowly disperse water from the greywater bogs and the rain runoff from the steep hillside behind the house. 

Since the washing machine water may not always be enough to keep the bog plants wet most of the time, I will probably run one or two of my downspout water-cachement barrels into the bogs, with a valve to control the amount of water in the bogs.

Hugel Edge, partially covered

On the down-slope side of this area is the hugel-edge, which is now partially covered in rough mulch and chips; I ran out of chips and need a 7th load to finish! I managed to scrounge quite a few lengths of partially decomposing logs I found on our lower hillside, plus a few shorter pieces of punky stuff from the firewood pile. It's not as tall or wide as I'd like for the hugel edge, but I will add to it over time.

The Edge will not only absorb water that moves down-slope, it will also be planted with veggies next year. (It will soon get a layer of topsoil over it.) In fact the whole area needs a layer of topsoil... good topsoil, full of microbes... but I'm not counting on finding any. When is the last time you bought topsoil that actually had a worm in it? It's all sterilized dead dirt they sell.

The other thing I really need to do (and possibly cannot this late in the year) is add some Efficient Microbes to my mix. If I cannot, that will get top priority in early spring. There are already some microbes in the mulch/chips I've added, because I have seen some small patches of fungi. It just isn't enough, nor a balance, in my opinion.

I recently attended a conference on economic opportunities of goods from wooded properties, for which mine certainly qualifies. (19 acres total, 17+ of those are fairly steep woods.) Among the several topics presented were elderberries. See the white fence in the background? I plan a row of elderberries parallel to the fence next year, and maybe even start a coppice of basket willow against the fence itself. I won't be planting enough elderberries to market, but certainly enough elderberries to make elderflower champagne, elderberry wine, elderberry cough/cold syrup, elderberry jelly and juice... and who knows what other uses I will find! The elder row will act somewhat as a buffer to prevailing winds, and some basket willow along the fence should help.

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