Our first order of business was to remove the unwanted plants. The disciplines of permaculture (Mollison/Lawton/Holmgren/Holzer), natural farming (Fukuoka), and also basic soil texbooks suggest that tilling or plowing a field damages the availability of soil nutrients and soil structure. When we stir up the soil, we increase the amount of oxygen, which in turn increases microbial activity. This increased microbial activity and the physical breakup of soil aggregates during tilling leads to the break down of organic matter, which is essential to the water holding and nutrient holding capacity of the soil. Once the organic matter is gone, microbial activity decreases and microbes begin to die, surrendering their bodily nutrients to the soil strata. When plants are present, these nutrients can be utilized; however, when plants are not present, many nutrients will wash down and out of the soil strata. Consider this - by increasing soil organic matter by 1%, we increase soil water holding capacity by 3.7%!
Bearing this in mind, we utilized soil forks to remove unwanted grasses and weeds, taking care to disrupt the soil as little as possible. Our main goal at this stage was to remove roots that would continue to grow - i.e., quackgrass rhizome growth. Once the unwanted plants were removed, we added 2 bags (6 cubic feet) of Happy Frog soil conditioner and rough raked the whole plot. We then mixed sand and approximately 2000 seeds of various edible species together to help evenly hand-sow our plot. We chose this planting method in an attempt to out compete and weeds.
|Our plot after 9 days|
|Our plot after ~ 39 days|
By late July, our garden was an oasis of green between gardens with neatly rowed crops and paths. When we visited the plot, we saw little to no weeds. We noticed weeds encroaching on the sides of the gardens, but very few within the garden itself. In fact, the few weeds we did see inside the garden were spindly at best, desperately trying to gain hold amongst the edibles. We made another discovery during this time - the ground was always moist and never dry, even during the hottest of summer days. Granted, we were fortunate enough to have rented an irrigated plot, but this ran only once per week. Turns out, having a crowded garden allows for greater soil coverage by plants, thus decreasing the amount of evaporation of soil water to the atmosphere!
It was fantastic to visit the garden at this point - there was never much 'work' to do, rather, we admired the now flowering edibles, the insects they drew, and of course, the endless bounty of harvest! During one visit, we harvested about 2/3 of the garden - flowers, tender seed pods, and stems, which in turn became 10 gallons of delicious green kim chi. The yellow, white, and purple flowers added great aesthetics to the batch!
|Our plot after ~ 140 days|
|Seed harvest with Lia and J.B.|
Next, we employed a weed wacker to make light work of the above ground biomass. This was raked to the side so that we could assess the plot and prepare for our next planting.
Thus began our garlic patch. At this point, we made straight rows by pounding a stake into the ground, attaching string and then stretching it straight and securing it to another pounded post. We were then able to dig a small trench for the garlic. Rows
|Removing above ground biomass, while leaving root structure intact|
Now I wish we could show you pictures from the following growing season, but alas, no one in our group thought of taking any!?!
|Making rows and planting garlic|
We closed the plot this past growing season in a way quite
|Closed for winter|
Side note - we will put a crop other than garlic in for 2015, as it is suggested that Alliums should only be planted in the same place for two consecutive years before rotation. More on that later though! Happy planting!!!