An experiment in sheet mulching, battling koochgrass, and our first Winlaw garden.

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On our last trip out I got cracking on the gardens, I have essentially 7 tiers (newly fenced off) of garden beds, each between 2-3 meters wide and just under 80 feet long. For the last decade+ they have grown food organically and I have old records of crop rotation from the previous owner which will be really nice should we decide to get certified as organic growers in the future. But the garden has been left unplanted for a couple years and the kooch grass has really taken hold, the soil is VERY acidic, and although pretty nice and rich smelling, it is awfully sandy. When planting 2 rows of potatoes I noticed there was virtually no creepy crawlers in the dirt, which caused me some concern.

Ideally over the next few season I will get most of the 7 beds sheet mulched, and grow nearly everything in them, but one step (and lesson) at a time. I have one full tier now ready for seeds, the process was a little challenging considering the trouble I had in the valley sourcing dirt / compost or top soil… the next few tiers should be a little easier, as I have already found some new sources.

I started by laying out 1 layer of cardboard directly over the kooch grass, and soaked the cardboard well. Next I layered up a mix of composted chicken manure and composted sheet manure and then toped that with what little dirt I could find. Then off to the woods I went with a large rake, and I raked the forest floor, enough duffy material for a really good 8-10” layer (it was a strange act, raking the forest!) I soaked this layer really well, and then topped it with a couple bales of alfalfa hay. I selected alfalfa because I plan to plant more of it on some of the lower tiers to grow as a ground cover and try to overtake the kooch and I figured I would get some seed from the hay anyway, it might as well be welcomed. I then used up some timber scrapings we amassed when doing the fence project and used this as a mulch pathway. The bed looks great, but I am certain that it will not have quiet enough dirt in 2 weeks when I plant it, so I plan to open pockets in the mulch and fill them with amazing black compost I got from Bow Point Nursery, top them with a seed, and hopefully the duffy layer will start to break down pretty quickly.

This mulched tier was tier #2 from the top, tier #3 got planted with a ton of potatoes, (which will need some lime to help deal with the acidity and a layer of hay once the potatoes start popping up. Tier #3 I think I’ll cover with blue moon squash and a few other deep root plants. Then Tier #1 will get a very large herb spiral and the many wonderful varieties of tomato plants along with some beans (I think). The rest of the tiers I plant to run the chickens over on section at a time, let them devour the kooch grass, fertilize the ground, and once they are moved down the lone I will ground cover with red clover and alfalfa, and maybe some peas.

Next week I am thrilled to be meeting with a friends mom, to review my list of flower and veggie seeds I have acquired either from seed saving last season or purchased from the seedy Saturday in Nelson, and odds n sods we have picked up here and there. I am hoping that she can help me plan my companion planting as well as suggest some bird and bug attractors along with mosquito repellants!

I will post my planting guide and updates after the herb spiral are complete! As for building, it looks like project number 1 is a waddle and daub outhouse, which Dylan I will build before May long, so we have a fresh facility for our many long weekend guests, then we’ll have to start excavating and acquiring tires (some 320) to get cracking on Dylans workshop, which will be rammed earth into car tire + sandbag + living roof + water catchment and our first rocket stove. The more we planned all the trailer projects the sooner we realized Dylan having a workshop is key to all future projects, so it will be a great exercise in all these new techniques on a manageable scale. We are assembling a small crew for the 3rd week of June tire ramming sessions, drop me a line if your interested in joining us!

* Also I have revised the title of this blog from r|sustainable home to r|sustainable homestead as this adventure is so very much more than just one building!

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