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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

In Praise of Permaculture-Mulching: Summer Project #3

Tomato plant that reseeded itself in our sheet mulched garden
I have to admit that out of all the summer projects on our bucket list, moving mulch was the one I was least excited about.  My husband is the gardener of the family---as I have mentioned before---and he is always looking for a more efficient method to grow our food that is less labor intensive.  In a nutshell, he is a huge fan of permaculture.  In particular, he loves the aspect of mulching.

Our one ton pile of wood chips dumped in our yard in May
According to Wikipedia, "In permaculture, sheet mulching is an agricultural no-dig gardening technique that attempts to mimic natural forests' processes.  When deployed properly and in combination with other permacultural principles, it can generate healthy, productive, and low maintenance ecosystems."  This hill of mulch was the final step in the sheet mulching process for the one and only garden we planted this summer.  For my husband, this was the solution to the incessant weed problem in our gardens.  To me, this just looked like months of work shoveling mulch into a wheel barrow, dumping it in place, and then spreading it with a rake because we don't have any tractors here.

Our garden at the end of May.  Notice my flowers that looked so pitiful then.
However, along with a successful crop of comfrey for our livestock and enough peas and onions for us to preserve, it also laid the groundwork for a number of tomatoes reseeding themselves and growing into the plants shown in the picture at the top of this post.

A closeup of part of the garden a week ago.
Not to mention what this mulch has done for the marigolds, zinnias, and gerber daisies I planted back in early May.  These are the same flowers that appeared to be dead 2 months ago when we first applied the wood chips.  You can see there are still a few weeds and sprigs of grass creeping in, but they pull out easily, and we now only need to pull a few weeds once or twice a week as opposed to the daily weeding and hoeing we used to do.

A flower bed along the front of our farmhouse at the beginning of summer
In addition to helping the garden, we also used the wood chips in a traditional fashion as mulch in the numerous flower beds around our farmhouse.  There are still many beds to fill at various sites on our property, but most of the beds next to the house have been mulched to some extent.  This one was the worst since it was filled with overgrown bushes, many weeds, and wild raspberry shoots.  I'm embarrassed to even show this picture that was taken back in early May.

The same area now
After a few hours of some pruning, digging, and mulching by my wonderful husband and several of our strong children, this is what the bed currently looks like.  Now I can actually do something with it.  Hopefully before the summer is over, the remaining 5 flower beds will look this good, and I won't feel like we're living in a mountain jungle.

As we continue on our small farming journey, I believe we will incorporate more and more aspects of permaculture into our family's hobby farm.  The premise of it is something we believe in, and it makes complete sense to stop going against nature in traditional methods of plowing, planting, tilling, and other conventional ways of farming.  I would consider this summer project of mulching a success.  It is a bit of work early in the summer (for which I can take no credit), but it ultimately leads to much healthier soil, plants that thrive, and very few weeds.  To learn more about permaculture, check out the sites below:

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