nervous novice

Discussion in 'General chat' started by magic, Feb 23, 2009.

  1. magic

    magic Junior Member

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    hey there all,
    I have been reading quite a few different forums, looking for sources of info in regards to turning a 1/2 (with house) of grass and challenging aspects into our own/only food source. Finally I have decided to dive in and join the crew, in case there are questions I need to be answered.
    Right now we are just waiting for some rain so we can get our yard turned over. A mattock just won't cut it, no matter how determined one thinks one is! Hopefully this will happen before long as we hope to get some winter veg in. First summer without a patch as we moved on Jan 6 and the broccoli box garden freaked out at our 45 degree fortnight......only the chillies and basil survived. Necessary staples, so we are not complaining.
    I may not say much, but I am listening.
    Cheers,
    Magic
     
  2. raincrow

    raincrow Junior Member

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    Re: nervous novice

    Hi there Magic,
    Congrats on the new project. I had a quick thought-maybe a thick layer of mulch over the yard while you are waiting for the rain would do a lot of your work for you. cheers rc
     
  3. Tim Auld

    Tim Auld Junior Member

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    Re: nervous novice

    Another idea - if it's wild grass use a chicken tractor to turn the grass into fertiliser, kill seeds, cultivate the ground and produce eggs.

    Cheers,
    Tim
     
  4. magic

    magic Junior Member

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    Re: nervous novice

    Thank you for your feedback.
    I should have mentioned that we have only been here for 7 weeks and are starting back at complete scratch. No compost pile, no chooks. :( The grass is this amazingly tenacious tough stuff - lawn mower tracks still remain 2 weeks later.....tried suffocating it under black plastic, it just laughed! Hence my decision to wait for the rotary hoe. 1/2 acre is a lot to do by hand. And the soil appears to be a rocky red clay - cracks appearing due to lack of water. It is on the edge of river flat (Ovens River) with a drop of 1 - 2 metres to the cow paddocks. I am currently waiting for the bulls to be moved so I can go a collect their precious piles of garden gold. That will go straight into the turned soil once it is dried, trying to time it to happen together. All about timing, isn't it?
     
  5. Tim Auld

    Tim Auld Junior Member

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    Re: nervous novice

    It takes a fair amount of time to smother grass, perhaps 12-18 months. Make sure to cut off and isolate the area so it doesn't escape through the edges. Building no-dig gardens on top or planting fast growing pioneers to out-compete the grass (while smothering it) could also be options. If you are into forest gardening you can take a stepwise approach of planting and smothering over years to expand the cultivated area.

    Cheers,
    Tim
     
  6. Hamishmac

    Hamishmac Junior Member

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    Re: nervous novice

    Hi Magic,

    Welcome to the forum.

    If you are on anything more than a gentle slope then the triple threat of evaporation, erosion, and compaction (even from raindrops) can be very detrimental to the health of your soil. For that reason it is even more important not to have patches of bare soil lying around as this just exacerbates these processes.

    If you are not yet in a position to put in swales or rips on contour, clear & seed, or mulch the lot, consider throwing down some battens of well soaked organic stuff in lines along contour (anything: piles of leaves, grass, twigs, prunings, veggie scraps, debris from the river high-water mark...) as this will reduce wind and rain erosion, and catch some downhill flow of water and allow infiltration into the soil. If the rain is less than promised then the soil under these battens will be a softer option for digging beds or swales as some water will have infiltrated. In addition the lower layer will start to compost if kept moist. You can also just chuck all the kitchen trimmings and excess dishwater under the nearest batten.

    Also worth thinking ahead as to what seeds might be good to have on hand for a cover crop or green manure, suitable for your local area, & buy cheaper in bulk, so no faffing around waiting for postage or suppliers when rain comes. In addition to buying from seed suppliers I also buy what is on special at the local organic food store in the bulk bins that may be suitable in the mix, or as a top up for baldy areas. Beans like pinto, black eye, navy, mung, canellini, cowpea have all done the job, and at $4-$5 a kilo quite affordable for smallish block. Into the mix goes millet or sorghum and some sunflower seeds for a bit of colour. In winter I might use oats & fenugreek instead. Scatter around generously on surface after rain, and scatter mulch (so get an extra supply in) so seeds just covered. Then spend 2 weeks keeping the birds off the seeds :( .

    Can also consider in advance any biological barrier, weed excluding, or silt trapping plants you might need and start seeding or potting up now. For example gathering some lomandra longfolia seeds to put in seeds trays, sticking some lemongrass in pots to divide & replant later, looking out for vetiver, etc.

    I know only too well the sinking feeling of having a mattock bounce off the soil, or making the soil explode into dust. I put a few pics showing differences between covered & uncovered swales on 800 sq m of 25% slope at

    https://flickr.com/photos/hamishmac

    Best of luck,

    Hamish
     
  7. magic

    magic Junior Member

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    Re: nervous novice

    Wow,
    I know why I have joined this forum. Everyone is so efficient in their experience!

    My river flat is exactly that. Flat flat flat. Except for the 2 metre drop of rocky erosion risk, that is basically the back boundary. It seems to be clay based and a lot of boats and trailers have been parked on it in the past. I do know that about 10 years ago there was a productive veg plot in the back and loads of ornamentals in the front. the last owners were not gardeners. A concept I fail to grasp. The safeway tomato is too scary for me.

    I am currently collecting info from locals who know what is feasible to grow here in the line of fruit, nuts and herbs. It will still involve ripping or rotary hoeing to get some loosening up of the soil. I am sourcing mulch for the patch area so it is not exposed to dry out even more once the turf is turned and have planned to plant a living mulch in the front fruit grove (for food and western sun protection in the summer). I know we can turn this big brown grass patch into food. We plan to eat something we have grown by spring. We just sowed our first salad seeds as the prospect of not picking rocket was too much to bare. Meanwhile we continue to pull out (mattock out) loads of agapanthus ( you have no idea :rolleyes: but i am getting great mattock muscles) that are occupying potential food space.

    I do believe gardening/permaculture is just as much about feeding your body as feeding your spirit. Is there nothing more satisfying than watching your environment develop into a beautiful food source and creative outlet? I think not.

    Thank you for all your input, it all gives me more ways to approach this exciting task!

    Must go and get some more dirt under my fingernails!
    Magic
     

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