Field Project Update
Posted by Tessa Neill
Tuesday, January 07, 2014
For continued soil improvement, I've gathered many leaves in bags that people around town wanted to rid themselves of- I just had to pick them up- close to 25 bags, I really didn't count. I did nail down a few people that would like pick up yearly! Yay! I also ran across an ad on craigslist for mulch and compost at $2/cu. yrd! I did some computer work for a friend so they helped me go get it- her friend has a hauling dump truck! Nice! We picked up about 5 yards and we'll be going back for more. The wood chips they had (mulch) was starting to break down nicely- I'm tempted to get that as the chips I laid down last spring everywhere was fresh and full of pine needles- not a concern in the paths, but for the beds I really needed broken down chips. I can't complain though as the fresh pile I got for $25 and it was close to 15 cu. yards! Still, I do need to continue adding it every year so I'm not sure what to do. They have about 5 yards left. Compost though is gold- especially at that price so I'll probably end up getting that.
For my down time I've been doing research on what I want to plant. I'd like this area to eventually take care of itself- and by that I mean it will be a system that works with little intervention from me- a food forest. Trees, perennial vegetables, nutrient accumulators to help bring up minerals from way down deep, good ground cover (eventually edible). A water feature will have to go in to bring in the frogs and others, and I plan on working on insect hotels first thing this spring. If you give the good bugs a place to live, they'll stay. The thing about the good bugs is there are fewer of them then the bad bugs, and they hatch at different times- usually after you find a few aphids getting out of control- planned that way so they have food! That's usually when the gardener gets out the stream of water or pesticides and begins killing their food. Since the aphids are sometimes born pregnant, who do you think survives the sprays? You guessed it, the aphids. So we essentially starve and spray the good bugs to death. My goal is to create a balance out there- letting nature take care of nature the way it does in forests. Calling in the good bugs, lizards, frogs, toads, etc. plus the chickens that will get out there occasionally and I'm hoping everyone will just keep each other in check. We'll see! This balance is not going to happen overnight!
So first things first- flowers, and lots of them. Ones that have tiny flowers for the tiny wasps that are great for pest control. There will be two insect hotel areas where a lot of these will be planted and they'll go here and there in the beds too. A big list and I plan on starting most of them from seed. Next is ground cover- mass amounts of white clover, which fixes nitrogen from the air, will go in- I will mass plant this and other ground covers to get them going before the native weeds get a foothold. Also any area or bed that will not be planted with crops this year will be cover cropped- I'll chop and drop that for soil improvement.
Next I'll be preparing the soil where trees and shrubs are planned. Possibly just making a compost bin in place. I have some trees coming this year that will go in the front of the house, so I'll be working on those spots too. These areas will become tree guilds...but that is another post.
I've set up my lights- very soon it'll be time to start. I'm planning on sowing some pansy soon- they'll spend a cold 2 weeks in the garage before going under the lights, which helps with germination. I'll scatter some seed around outside too.
A lot to do and a very tall order- one day at a time.
Here is a link to all photos taken as I've worked the field.