Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Sheet Mulched Garden Creation

WORK IN PROGRESS

Inspiration: Jen's garden 2012 (see pictures), permaculture, Food Not Lawns  (the book), wasted urban space, desire to grow more food and help our bees.

Concept: Create a garden out of waste material from a spot that was being wasted.
Jen's example of sheet mulch done right.

My house has a gravel back area meant for car parking. Nobody in my house drives, plus, we have a driveway if we did. This space had a small garden plot we built, but the soil was too sandy. Sandy soil + gravel underneath means very quick drainage, and limited nutrients. High organic matter can retain nutrients and moisture. I want this space to grow things that take less work to grow as well, because it is further from the house, so we'll probably forget to water more often, and just not want to walk as far away. Also a permaculture concept to have less time/energy intensive plants further away from the house. That being said, it will have perennials, pollinator plants, onions?, squashes, and well, really anything else I want. It also will be a spot for me to test growing things that my housemates aren't as interested in growing (quinoa, soybeans?, onions, watermelon?, mushroom-inoculated pathways?).

Jen's sheet mulch garden 2012.

What I know:

  • Many plants grow well in high levels of organic material.
  • Finding a use for waste materials closes our waste stream loop.
  • Gardening space is great to have! More tasty food.
  • During the decomposition process, some of the nutrients will be tied up (not available for plants).
  • A compost heap is hottest in the middle, so the bigger the pile the higher temperatures can be reached (quicker, and effective composting).

Project:

  1. Placed down wet cardboard gathered from my house and neighbours. This marks where the garden will be and prevent a lot of the weeds from creeping into the new garden. 
  2. Beginning in the fall.
  3. Gathered sandy soil, leaves, sheep manure, coffee grounds, and my pee and made a really big pile.
  4. Let it sit over fall/winter.
  5. Lay it out into the garden plot design. After lots of thinking it over and fun with drawing on trace paper, I've chosen a spiral design for the pathway and the plantings. I've used intuition, aesthetically pleasing patterns, fun, purpose, permaculture concepts, and the book Carrots Love Tomatoes to plan it out a bit.
  6. After step 3 in the spring (March 2013).
  7. As it's the first year, and decomposition has not fully settled, what can grow may be limited. I'll test it out. Jen's was a huge success last year though! Thus far my garden is growing tomatoes, potatoes, pole beans, onions, beets, chives, various bee perennials, pumpkins, sunflowers, and dill. Here's pics from the early spring: 

    As the season progressed, all the soil was dense with plant life. I am uncertain if I remembered to take a pic at peak growth. Oops. If I can find one, I'll upload that too.

    Future:
    • Make detailed designs, with sun, multi-functionality etc. in mind.
    • Document it's progress to maybe inspire others to do the same.
    • Place a perimeter of alder wood chips around my plot. This will prevent external creeping weeds from coming in, and, if I inoculate the wood chips, will give me another crop to grow: Garden Giant mushrooms!