Reclaiming the yard for my veggie garden!

reyesuela(z7a)May 16, 2012

Background: We have a fraction over 2 acres. About one acre is lawn, house, and driveway. Across the back yard is a steep slope leading down to the river bottom, which is the other acre--part wooded slope, part river bottom.

The place where the lawn gives over to woods has been sorely neglected. There was once a veggie garden on the last 20' or so before the slope, and the woods were kept open, with a couple of fruit trees. The previous owners stopped gardening there 10 or 20 years ago. They stopped trimming at all probably 4 or 5 years before we moved in. So we had lawn backing up to a thicket of various woodland edge trees and overgrown with grapes that had gotten out of control and spiked with rebar stakes and rusty tomato cages.

We tried to just maintain the lawn, but it went crazy. We had a line of 20' tall tulip poplar, box elder, dying peaches, and willow oaks, smothered in a mixture of grapevine (I think NOT native), honeysuckle (invasive), rugosa rose (invasive), native brambles (VICIOUS!!! thorns), and poison ivy.

So, I'm cleaning it out. In 3 days, working from 1 to 5 hours a day, I've taken down about 8 trees and innumerable vines. I've cleaned out a 30' x 20' section of the back and have accrued a 20'x6'x10' solid pile of trees, brush, and vines.

So far, only the tulip poplars have given me a rash! Contact dermatitis.

I have about 20' left to go and one day to finish it in. We'll see how far I get.

Saturday's job? Processing the trees and brush--lengths of softwood for oyster mushrooms, hardwood for shiitakes, small branches and leaves to be chipped for mulch, peach trees readied to be made into hardwood chips for smoking meat, and lengths of grapevine set aside for grapevine balls and wreaths.

If I can get just the first three done, I'll be thrilled.

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You sound like a trooper! The hardest part of starting a garden is breaking the dirt, clearing the weeds/sod/trash that has grown up. What you are doing here is the hardest part of your garden, and it goes downhill from here. once the soil is bare and the ground is loosened, you will only have to make minor adjustments after this!

We're rooting for you!!!!

Here is a link that might be useful: My Garden, Hope it gives insight

    Bookmark   May 16, 2012 at 11:53PM
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I actually had a veggie garden last year but only planted and harvested a little.

I was doing 4 hours of therapy every day with the neighbor's MR son--everything from bowel training to teaching him to cut paper to teaching him to count and read CVC words in preparation for next year to how to handle his lunch containers on his own. Basically, he was at a 12 to 18-month-old functional level when I started and at a 2.5-3.5-year-old level when I stopped 9 weeks later. (Chronological age: 5.5 years.) With that, my own preschooler, and my elementary schooler I homeschool, I gave up on the garden after the chicken wire fence fell open and the deer wandered in one day and ate everything. I pretty much fell over at the end of every day from sheer exhaustion.

Now, I'm expanding my garden to include every part of it that I want. Also, mosquitoes were horrid last year--and I've realized it was because of the overgrowth that I'm taking down.

In addition, I had originally planned all raised beds. But I discovered that all the topsoil I could buy here really stinks. It's much worse than the native soil. So now I'm doing wide-row in-the-ground, for the most part, instead.

Almost all the actual stumps are behind the line of the final garden position--thank goodness!

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 12:47AM
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That's awesome... Sounds like a great idea.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 12:55AM
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Wow, that's really inspirational, I know I don't have the patience to teach young kids all of that. I do just ok in teaching my son how to be a responsible person!

If you want to build up your garden's soil, start a compost pile. Anything but plastic and metal that you throw away is organic matter, carbon, which will break down in the soil. Newspapers, cardboard, sawdust, horse stall bedding with manure mixed in is golden.

try finding some horse stables near you, or any farm that has livestock, get in touch with people who raise animals near you, you'll be amazed by the knowledge most farmers have and how willing they are to help when they find a dedicated gardener.

In my own opinion, If we didn't have horses, I'd PAY for the stuff, its that good

On our farm we have a huge wood pile that we have been piling up for years, and this winter I am going to burn a little of it at a time in my garden, every few days burn some more in a new spot. The ashes will add a ton of potassium, potash, along with other nutrients.

In my book, if it isn't metal or plastic, then it does into the garden soil.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 1:31AM
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sunnibel7 Md 7(7)

Sounds like you have your work cut out for you! Keeping those woodland edges clear is tough. Especially the poison ivy. The grapevines, if they are thriving are likely native. There are many native grapes in the US, and some are even useful. I made use of some of ours last year for grape leaves for stuffing and in pickling, and even as a wrapper for grilling. Not that I have an opinion on whether or not you spare any grapevines, especially that close to the garden. I just thought you might be intereseted to know. Good luck, it does get easier!

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 9:41AM
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Wild Grapes sounds strange and intriguing to me. I have wild blackberries, but I'm sure they were planted by birds a long time ago. I also have a grape vine, but they don't usually get very sweet.

Besides harvesting vegetables, there isn't much more satisfying than looking at an area you cleared and turn it into a productive vegetable garden.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 12:03PM
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>If you want to build up your garden's soil, start a compost pile.

I have a small one, but I want to build something substantial instead of the wee one I have now. I'm going to be stealing the neighbors' leaves to build mine bigger this fall! I also have a source for free horse manure, well composted. Yay!

Looking at pictures, it's not wild grapes. There was a domestic grapevine that the neighbor's previous owner had put in--it seems that it might be that or it might be something that the owner of our house put into the garden that went insane.

Actually, the poison ivy is being beaten up by all the other climbers! There's only a little bit.

It was multiflora rose, and it turns out that the brambles are NOT the natives. Hmmm.

What killed me today was the green brier, which has taken hold of the last 30' or so of that section.

I've now cleared out 50' with my mother's help. (She'd gather vines as I freed them from the mass...) I have about 10-15' to go in the same direction. I'll have another 20' to go the other way, but I can't do any of that until I'm all done chopping up the wood we have.

Turns out I don't have enough hardwood for shiitakes, so oyster only this year! When they're used up, I'll burn them in the wood stove. :-)

We already have a 5' pile of kindling for starting fires next year. I really need the mulch pretty much everywhere, so that's where all the small sticks are going.

So freaking exhausted.......

BTW, we've never gotten a single apple from our apple trees, a grape from the grape vines, a peach from the peach trees, a berry from the berry brambles. We've gotten probably 5 walnuts total from the walnut tree. The gray bushy-tailed tree rats eat EVERYTHING, and the peaches are old, sick, and dying, and the apples are too large to protect and under the shade of other trees. We're removing it all and starting from scratch.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 9:12PM
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You may not have time to inject the logs now. In my experience, they are best cut before they leaf out, but I guess you will have to do with the leafed out ones. In my experience also, they will last a long time in the garage, or other covered, dried place. You can inject them in August, for example. I routinely cut my logs in February or March for injection in April or May. But they have to be dry and sheltered.

The mulched branches will be a great addition to the soil, much better than anything you can bring in. With cardboard underneath, the weeds will be gone, specially poison ivy. Having all sorts of vines there, you should really consider only gardening through mulch and cardboard. That means all tomatoes and other plants from Home Depot, nothing from seed. But next year you should be able to plant from seed. You don't have the time to bother with seed starting anyway.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 9:29PM
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Oyster are supposed to do OK even when inoculated in the summer. I'd be out of luck for shiitake. My take will be a bit reduced, but it's better than nothing, right?

My garage is a very bad place to keep things mold-free. It is horribly damp. I haven't figured out why. I'm planning on inoculating, placing them in the woods in a correct manner for oyster shrooms, and hoping for the best! According to several sources, logs cut in summer have to be inoculated much sooner because they don't keep as well.

I'm not going to plant ANYTHING this year except a cover crop--and maybe my brambles in their spots. So I've got plenty of time to get everything dead. I was planning on scalping, tilling (with a rented tiller--would really like to till, dig everything aside, and till again deeper, like double digging but with a tiller, but we'll see), then seeding with a cover crop.

I plan on mowing the cover crop, composting the tops separately, and lightly tilling in the rest of the cover crop--about 2-3" deep. If I can get 2 cover crops in, I want to mow the first, compost it, seed the second and THEN mow/compost/till lightly in spring. I want a nice, flat surface of dirt for seeding but want to avoid breaking up the lower soil structure ever again--and I also want to avoid turning up too many weed seeds.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2012 at 9:49PM
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Chipper rental cost: $200.

Plus, I'd have to rent a truck to haul it with.

I think I may be buying a chipper/shredder this week....

    Bookmark   May 18, 2012 at 10:52PM
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Bought a chipper/shredder. Got is $100 off because it was used once by the store, so $650 including tax was the final cost.

Since even the best shredder would have taken me 2 days to shred everything, and the truck rental would have cost $40 plus a $60 hitch attachment, I'm less than $200 out. I'd need to rent one again this fall, so I think I'll count myself ahead here!

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 9:39PM
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Are you using the chips as mulch? You should, even if it's just in the walking paths.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 11:01PM
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I'm going to be using the chips on my front yard first. I have 60' of beds between my property and the neighbor's in desperate need of mulch, 35' along the front of the property, and ~105' along the front of the house (it has two build-in wing walls, so my house isn't really THAT long.)

Basically, I need 10 cubic yards of mulch per year, minimum, for the FRONT of the house. I need way more for the veggie garden...

All my neighbors have tons of leaves every fall that they put along the road. I'm planning on taking as much as I can and shredding them.

I also have access to unlimited composted horse manure, but I have to shovel it.

I really, really want a landscaping trailer that I can put high walls and tiedowns on!

I could use as much as 40 cubic yards of shredded leaves and chipped wood a year in the veggie garden by the time I'm done. I doubt I'll be able to round up that much (time, not opportunity), but I could use it.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2012 at 11:36PM
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The basic plan:

The area I've set aside for the garden is 80'x80'.

This is my dream plan, right now, subject to change and horribly out of scale:

I am going to start in the southeastern corner (east--drop off, south--neighbor).

I'm going to straighten the old deer netting posts and put deer netting back up and I'm going to add 4' of chicken wire below, 3' up with 1' on the ground. I can get to the backside of the fence by climbing the slope from a trail that goes down to the bottoms.

In front of the fence in the part that curves the farthest before it drops off will go some Shasta doublefile viburnums, for looks and to secure the edge. I'm also leaving the trees I cut there as pollards--they will do well in that form. At the most southeast corner, diagonal to the garden, will go the compost piles (partially recessed into the earth) and the lawn tractor shed. The compost piles will probably come this year. The shed will not.

Then, I'm going to shoot straight up the property for 36' feet along the east side with a 2' wide bed. This is the expensive bed, as I'm planning on using PT lumber to make it 2' high, with dividers every 3', and with landscaping fabric in the bottom--for raspberries! This, I will fill with the topsoil I already bought and absurd amounts of compost, as the topsoil is mostly crap.

The back (east) side of the raspberry will be smothered and mulched. The front will be mulched or will have the cheapest pavers put in, depending on how rich I feel.

A temporary chickenwire fence will go around the garden space, with 1 or 2 wireless deer fence stakes stuck along the only side the deer can come up. It will be adjusted as the garden grows.

Then, I'm going to start at the south side. First will be a 2' wide bed 16' long for my first blueberries (if it's a bit shady) or espaliered apple trees (if it turns out to be the sunnier than the S end when I'm done removing trees). Then will be a 2' walkway and rows of 16'x4' east/west running beds. There will be room for 5 beds and change along the raspberry bed.

The reason I'm putting tall things in a narrow bed up front is to deter deer. The tallish bushes/trees will seem to form a second fence behind the surrounding fence and will discourage them from jumping. There will be a 2' space between the fence and the first beds, minimum.

I will be able to put my permanent fence (inexpensive black metal fencing), with chicken wire discreetly attached to it, along the south side as I build it. All other sides will be just chicken wire, and the back side along the dropoff will never be anything except deer netting and chicken wire.

In front of the fence will go the deer-resistant varieties for my perennial cutting garden, with deer stakes among them.

The beds will be edged with 2x4 PT lumber, just to define the edges and keep them neat. Each bed will be first dug as deeply as I can--for the first and last time. After this, 2" tilling will be my max. A cubic yard of compost will be incorporated--or, more likely, half a cubic yard of composted manure and four cubic yards of mulch. A couple of inches of topsoil from the 2' walkways will be added to the beds, too. Then I'll sow with a covercrop and move on to the next bed.

In the future, I'll VERY shallowly till in the cover crop plus about an inch of compost before I plant anything each year.

If I finish 5 beds this year, then I'll do the second half of the length of the garden--36' feet of blackberries in 2' beds, then another 6 4'x16' beds.

Then along the north side will be the the beginning of the north end of my living "double fence".

Then I'll move on to the second row of 4'x16' beds--probably next year or the year after, I fear! Rinse and repeat. There will be a 3' aisle between each set of 11 beds.

All in all, I'll have a 2' bed surrounding the entire space, with 44 4'x16' beds, if I decide to do it. Or, if I decide it's too much work and I have more than enough veggies, I can stop at 11 beds, or 22, or 33.

The first bed I'll put in will be my main herb bed. Many things there will be perennial. The second will be my strawberry bed--part June-bearing, part alpine, part day-neutral. And bed #11 in the first set will be asparagus, while bed 8 or so will have other perennial veggies like artichoke and rhubarb.

In my dreams, I'll also build a pretty double shed--a potting shed and a tool shed. If I get ALL the lawn and garden equipment out of the garage, maybe I'll actually have room for my woodworking tools. Right now, it's like the game Rush Hour whenever I want to do anything in the garage.

And, of course, since I'm dreaming, I'll have a greenhouse. Who doesn't want a greenhouse?

Here is a link that might be useful: This is what my garage is like....

    Bookmark   May 20, 2012 at 1:49AM
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