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This weeks "debate" with hubby....

Jul 27, 2012

OK - don't get me wrong, my husband has farmed in the past and also worked a dairy farm and took ag at school - he is educated and knowledgeable regarding large scale farming and plants, etc, but when it comes to setting up my little veggie gardens we end up squabbling.  Like the time he set up 4 raised 4 x 4 squares for me to raise veggies in our backyard.  I was so tired of dealing with all the weeds and put down a screen type material prior to adding our dirt.  Well, where do you think the dirt came from that went on top of our screening?  From the weedy dirt and fresh horse manue pile.  I wanted screen top soil, but got a heaping load of weedy dirt and fresh horse **** :0)

So this past week, we went round and round as to where to put our kitchen garden and how big - although I want to end up with about  a 1200 square foot garden, I want to start on a smaller scale, around 600 square foot and then expand out each year or each season.  I already had the area picked out in our 1 acre back yard, but he now wants to put me in the middle of one of our weedy horse paddocks. Sighhhhhh

Mind you, we have 7 open, semi-flat acres. So, I put my food down and won. Yeaaaah! But now the question is to all you experienced gardeners - I would like to either do raised plots and set them right on top of the grass that is already there or de-sod the area where the plants will go and keep strips of grass inbetween each plot to walk on. Hubby would like to just turn the grass under.  Should we strip the sod away or turn under if we are not going to use raise plots?

Thanks all and have a great weekend!



My experience includes example of both approaches. The rancher-co-founder of our local Sustainability Center started an extensive pick-it-yourself demonstration farm on his beautiful little riverside ranch with the *turn the grass under* approach. He did this very expertly with lots of good machinery equipment & happy volunteer help & the first stages looked like dramatic progress. But the demo farm has been abandoned now because all the grass came right back up again & in the midst of all the plantings, some of then perennial, such as raspberries. *De-sod the raised bed area* worked for my first big gardens & easier than you would imagine. One of my son's crew that helped with the installation said the thing to do was scalp the sod off - which you can do with a shovel or by machine - & simply turn it upside-down in place, roots-up. None of the grass regrew - it worked perfectly. I think that you would have some grass invasion if you just bedded over existing, rhysomey pasture grass. I had a small grass lawn between the raised beds, similar to your vision of grassy paths. I found over time that the grass looked best & did not invade the raised beds if it was kept 3-4" away from the bed-edges & that area was filled with sand. I had a sharp sod-cutter - a half-circle - & kept the edges trimmed neatly. From some of your husband's ideas - it sounds to me like he is looking for simple approaches that avoid un-necessary or fussy work. That's a good perspective to keep in mind - at the same time that a good, solid installation avoids a lot of future fixing work. :-) Please keep up posted. It looks like you have an inspiring setting.
An advantage of scalping the sod & turning it over in place is that you preserve that soil microbiology of your land, which is important for future crop health & productivity.
Here is the biggest, most inspiring example of raised bed building I have ever seen in my life - with lots of photos - posted on the kgi facebook page in fall 2011. You & your husband will surely feel an affinity with the open spaces! :-)!/profile.php?id=100001384051108&sk=wall
my experience in my small backyard. I de-sod the old area, and only planted what i eat. So, the herbs are in pots, easy for me to cut for daily cooking. Where I walk around the garden by using a combination of mulch and stepping stones. I use companion planting, so my square foot garden is giving me harvest which I can use for daily cooking. I can't do raised beds, I'm not handy, and I decided to use a lot of pots for smaller vegetables. I mixed compost and soil, then put it on top of cleaned area. Then I planted the beans, cucurbits, eggplant, bitter melon the on the ground. The rest were in planters. So far, few weeds are coming out, but easily pulled out. Good luck, keep us posted.
OK, grassland into flat garden(no raised beds): as to my experience the sods have to be turned upside down AND ENTIRELY covered with a solid foot of soil from underneath. Only then not much grass will come up in the future (some in the first year). The only way I know to do this properly is double digging by hand. This is hard work: When I was at the height of my power and in good soil conditions( could be similar to what I see at Your pictures) I was able to double dig 100-150 sq ft in a long day. But the alternative of removing the sods and compost them separately may not save You much work as removing the sod gets You about have way done while after double digging You are basically ready for planting. I would not leave grassland strips as pathways, as every linear foot of grassland-garden border is an invasive front. Instead of, the row-path-row concept may be worth a thought (or several thoughts): the whole plot blank soil(no permanent soil cover,no permanent structures), divide it into two foot wide strips( attention to natural water flow because of irrigation and/or soil erosion) and plant each other strip with one row of vegetables.Intermediate strips are walked on and weeds or green manure grown on them(which may have to be cut down to avoid seeding). The next year strip use is reversed: previous paths are planted and previously planted strips are let lie fallow and walked on. - happy decision-making, Greetings,antonis

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