Toil
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applestar wrote:Did you say you're going to DIG OUT the mugwort?
Why not sheet mulch?
I got no materials to start with. I was shot down on planting cover last year. And earlier this year as well. This spot was spared the total stripping (gotta eliminate the bad bugs!). Looks like a mine to me! Anyway, I can't even spare any cardboard. My plan was to pull the wort, spread some clover, and just hold the line until the squash are in. Oh, and the fermented wort is going back on the soil.

what say ye?



Farmerlon, that's a great idea - assuming you want to grow plants that like the same conditions as worms. The greater concept is more important, and to get technical, is even less technical and more general.
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cynthia_h
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I say, Ask on FreeCycle for cardboard, etc. for sheet-mulch or whatever technique you select.

I see boxes asked for and offered on almost every FreeCycle digest I receive, so I know they're out there!

Cynthia

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but what would I put on the cardboard?

I'm not using the leaf compost.
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cynthia_h
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When are you starting this series? Today is April 30, Walpurgisnacht (Walpurga's Night; anybody familiar with the ballet "Giselle"?). Tomorrow is Beltaine (May Day). Auspicious for new undertakings and adventures. So...

(statement of primary theme, forte) Get the cardboard together. Heck, go wild: get two layers' worth of it together! :D

Find out how many of the other garden members make compost. Surely *some* of them do. Ask the ones who make compost to bring a 3-gallon bucket of it in the interest of an experiment. If they're enthusiastic about the experiment, ask gently (leise, piano) whether they'll contribute 5 gallons' worth.

You, of course, will contribute as much in the way of vermicompost as possible; it's pretty powerful stuff, as we all know, and you've told us on the forum that your specific system generates good volume as well. So that will be your volume contribution.

My idea is that the mugwort patch can be cardboard stifled 100% with the two layers of FREE cardboard. Then one-half of the area will have compost applied on top of the cardboard; the other one-half will "just" have the double layers of cardboard. Why? Because...this is an experiment. (In precisely what, I'm not sure; there are many possible parameters to observe.)

I'm sure you and the other gardeners can decide on two plants which generate edible food + biomass and can be planted on both halves of the mugwort experimental patch. Does corn grow there? Sweet potatoes? I'm thinking maybe vining plants (winter squash, melons) will generate food + biomass; I know sunflowers do.

So that you end up with four areas planted in the mugwort patch:

Cardboard only + two food/biomass crops
Cardboard + (vermi)compost + two food/biomass crops

I would've suggested fava beans, but you said that cover crops were a rough slog, so maybe food + biomass will work for this tough crowd! :)

Now, what to observe? Hmmm...so many choices! You know best what they'll go for, so here are some ideas:

--Which seeds germinate when? (Maybe give the seeds on the "cardboard only" side a little handful of soil apiece so they don't simply blow away.)
--Seedlings--when?
--Growth rate?
--First edible food?
--Total pounds of edible food?
--Total pounds of biomass **for the community garden's new compost project**? (so that you aren't stuck with the leaf-only stuff)

If the ground to be covered with compost is reduced by half in this way, maybe there will be enough compost, what with the others' and your vermicompost, to give the compost-covered side a real boost. In any case, it may get people interested in contributing biomass from other plants on other plots to a community compost project.

(2nd iteration of the theme, mezzo forte) This is also a good entry point for discussing plant diseases: diseased plant remains should not be composted; they should be trashed so as to avoid spreading the disease to the whole place. No sprays, etc. Just good, old-fashioned hygiene! If you're a good enough teacher, the others will be convinced they thought it up themselves.... :wink: If not, maybe it can be the next (or "a future") session.

(harmonic suggestion Windrows are used in commercial compost production b/c they coordinate with the machines used for aerating and turning the materials. The windrows I've seen were maybe 20 feet wide at the base, tapering to a point approx. 15 feet off the ground, and as long as the compost yard's property, minus a turnaround at either end. The cross-section of a windrow, taken as the viewer looks from one end toward the other, is an acute isosceles triangle which appears somewhat "squashed" on top. Windrows do generate lots of heat due to the volume of materials; one municipal compost yard in the Bay Area caught fire two or three years ago when the crew made an error, either in the watering or aerating schedule--I forget now which one it was.)

Cynthia

organum, organic ... vox/vita humana

Toil
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wowo awesome post cyn!

I am with you on the corn and squash. And they will have beans on them.

Today, I picked up a whole bunch of radish seeds and some white clover. On this patch, I can get away with cover cropping. But I will be sure to point out how the corn beans and squash give us both biomass and food.

When I mean no compost, I mean it! Nobody has compost at home but me. They joined up because they are curious about gardening. Our "in charge" person did not do so well at composting. Probably the oak leaves? Anyway, there is nada to work with. Or near nada.

What this garden needs is to always have a bed growing compost material, like alfalfa or fenugreek.
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rainbowgardener
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"What this garden needs is to always have a bed growing compost material, like alfalfa or fenugreek"

AND comfrey! Great big leaves that are wonderful for the compost pile and it is a medicinal herb. Borage would be good... Bees love the flowers and now that I'm growing it for the first time, I am discovering that it grows big fuzzy leaves very fast. I've already cut a bunch off for my compost pile too keep it from crowding other stuff.

AND people need to start composting! I can't believe a group of people who are interested enough to show up for a community garden and no one composts! Start a compost pile there for all the garden wastes, weeds, etc and get people to bring in bags of Starbucks coffee grounds. Mix the old leaf only compost into it, until you start having fall leaves.

WONDERFUL post cynthia.... I love it!
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great ideas rainbow!

wow I am really lucky to have you guys.

Comfrey makes a great fermented extract as well, so I'm told.


No, the new guys don't compost. This is in some cases their absolute first time gardening. Even so, one in the group is already nuts for mycorrhizae and is coming over for microscopy.


Looking at our topsoil, even at just 40x magnification, is depressing. I have yet to spot a microarthropod, and nematodes are rare. I am aerating samples with molasses, and so far all I get is near monoculture of rather large flagellates.

There is just no organic matter for anyone to eat!
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applestar
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What about Bokashi UNDER the cardboard. You won't need much. -- or spray some Activated EM and/or AACT. Kitchen scraps from EVERYONE, that and the vermicompost with some of the worms, mugwort breaking down, the moist cardboard.... YUM YUM!

Top of the cardboard could be straw or spoiled hay, and weeds and grass clippings -- if you don't have any now, wait a week and they'll grow. You can hold the cardboard down with rocks for the time being (I know you have lots of those :wink:)

If you absolutely have no extra soil to use as a buffer, FLIP the mugwort patch on top of the the raw stuff, let dry a bit and rake smooth so you'll have the soil layer just under the cardboard to plant into. A little more work but should do the job.

(Bravo! to Cynthia from me too!)

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My husband was never big on my organic gardening. He wanted a tractor and plow and chemicals, and straight rows.

But, we had no tractor, no plow, and no money to buy chemicals, so we made do.

But one day he came home all excited. He had seen tomatoes. And I mean tomatoes. The folks used a round wire cage, and simply filled it with compost materials. Then they went all around the outside of it with tomato plants. I don't know details, just what my husband saw was, compost grew the largest and most tomatoes he had ever seen. And then he was "sold" on the idea of adding compost materials to the beds and helping the crops grow.

What if you duplicate this to a smaller extent, put in a small compost cage, and just fill it with weeds and stuff from the spot you are gardening, and plant the tomatoes around the perimeter, with perhaps some legumes intermingled? You have the 3 sisters going elsewhere, so get the tomatoes going in this way? It still makes your point on gardening with compost. I don't compost, but surely it would work the same.
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Toil wrote: Farmerlon, that's a great idea - assuming you want to grow plants that like the same conditions as worms. The greater concept is more important, and to get technical, is even less technical and more general.
Yes, you're right, and I appreciate what they're trying to do. I will certainly spend more time reading and learning (or, at least trying to learn :) ) there.

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farmerlon
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cynthia_h wrote:I say, Ask on FreeCycle for cardboard, etc. for sheet-mulch or whatever technique you select.

I see boxes asked for and offered on almost every FreeCycle digest I receive, so I know they're out there!

Cynthia
Near me, there is an endless supply of cardboard to be had, at the recycle drop-off locations. At the place where I drop off my recycle items, there is always a large container filled near the top with cardboard. So, I could easily take some out to use, if needed. {no need for diving! :wink: }
You might look there, if your town (or local community organizations) has similar recycle drop-off centers.

Toil
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Ok, I am looking into all these possibilities. Will keep you guys posted, and thanks again.

On another note, I spoke about our garden with and gave flyers to, among other, a priest leading an immigration rally, a state representative, a guy from a foundation with money, and a nursery willing to donate flats.

And I had only set out to put up a flyer at the market. it's amazing how life can get interesting when you go outside!
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soil
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keep up the great work toil.

my advice is show them how nature does all the hard work. or let taste and flavor do the talking :)
For all things come from earth, and all things end by becoming earth.

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