Briggs Burnham

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since Jun 06, 2010
Fairfield, IA
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Recent posts by Briggs Burnham

Ben! Hi! Thanks!

So, did you till or fork the ground at all before sheet mulching over these weeds? What kind of sheet mulch recipe did you use? I've got access to free newspaper, wood chips and *possibly* free compost, but not sure about getting more top soil. How deep did you mulch?

Wyomiles: Yes I can see the basic structure of the vines spreading along the ground, and see where they send down roots ... but they're so tangled together with themselves and the weeds it's pretty difficult to tell which vines are new and which are old. I suppose I'll just dig them up in (how big?) sections and replant them and hope for the best.

Thanks so much, guys!
7 years ago
Also, you guys might have missed it, but this forum does have a sub-topic of "Gardening for Beginners"

https://permies.com/forums/f-124/gardening-beginners
7 years ago
@dj:

If what you want is to figure out which companion plantings and guilds work best for your area, the best thing for you to do is start trying some out. Seriously, there is no substitute for learning by observation. If you don't have a teacher/mentor in your area that might be able to help you with knowledge about your specific area, then you're just going to have to make some educated guesses and see how they work.

Don't let this sound discouraging! I put this off myself for years because I thought it sounded incredibly boring and time consuming to spend a year or two just creating different guilds and observing them, but it's really so rewarding and you learn so much!

Also, the awesome thing about this forum is that if you start a new topic about what you are specifically doing, people will give you great feedback! Some of them will be from similar climates to yours, and some won't, but most of the people here have already done a ton of trial and error work and you can use their advice!

One more thing: don't let this huge topic of PERMACULTURE overwhelm you. It literally covers everything about living on this planet and you can get confused and bogged down if you're just a beginner. My advice is pick something that sounds interesting and manageable with your resources (like trying out a few companion plantings in your back yard) and run with it. Once you feel comfortable there, or hunger for more knowledge you can find another topic to learn and try out.
7 years ago
Thanks Nicholas!

Yes, I was also thinking of doing several raised beds in order to better observe the separate companion areas.

Thing is, and I should have mentioned this, I would like to keep at least some of the strawberries and of course they're RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE of the plot.

Hmm. It would be easier for me to just make a diagram and show you:
7 years ago
I remember taking part in a discussion on this forum about a year ago ... and a couple years ago ... about how to reach a greater audience with permaculture. It's a discussion we need to keep having because it's so so so worth talking about and coming up with new solutions!

While online resources are awesome, and they keep growing, I feel very strongly that the most effective way to learn about the basics of permaculture is to take a structured class with a knowledgable instructor. Unfortunately, this is completely out of reach for the majority of people who are interested: students, homesteaders, or small farmers who are on limited incomes and can't easily travel.

I guess the second most effective way to learn would be to just keep reading. Both here in these forums and in the great books that I'm sure you'll hear mentioned here: Toby Hemingway's Gaia's Garden, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren's Permaculture Designer's Manual, and Dave Jacke's Edible Forest Gardens are my favorites. I'm sure if your local library doesn't have them, they can get them through inter library loan.
7 years ago
I rent a house with a nice little garden patch in the back yard. While it's not ideally situated from a permaculture perspective (it's about as far from the back door as you can get) ... I figure I might as well make the most of it. It's about 20'x30', there's a mature apple tree to the north, which overhangs part of it. According to the landlord, it's been an organic garden for at least 10 years. When we moved in last fall, the tenants said they hadn't touched it during the year they were there.

I wanted to do something with it last spring, and I did spend a couple days clearing part of it and digging a bed, but didn't follow through and finish the project. I'd like to do something with it this year.

Thing is, it's entirely overgrown with these ungodly 4' tall weeds with cast iron roots ... and strawberries. Last year we got a few quarts of berries out of it, but I'm not familiar with strawberries particularly so I don't know how to tell which sections of the vines are old enough to be dug out and which ones are new and will bear fruit.

I'm also not sure what the best approach is for dealing with the weeds. My initial thought is to bury the whole mess under thick layers of sheet mulch and plant on top of them, but they're very thick and tough, and I'm wondering if tilling them under before sheet mulching might keep them in check and give my veggies, herbs, and flowers a better root space.

In case you're curious, what I'd like to do with the plot is experiment with different combinations of companion plantings focusing on about a dozen of my family's favorite fruits and veggies. I had each of my step sons and my husband pick a fruit and veggie they liked, and we're going to plan around these.

What I'd love to hear from you guys is ... what should I do to prepare the plot for planting? I'm in Southeast Iowa which is a slightly warm zone 5. I've already started seeds indoors.

Thanks so much for any input!!!
7 years ago
Actually, water doesn't get close enough to the foundation (that we can see).  The landlord has sloped the land away from the house pretty well, and while water does come up to the back steps, this is a good 4' away from the house.  Sorry, my sketch isn't entirely accurate.

Another thing: both the down spouts point into the back yard.  I could set up a rain barrel on either pretty easily.  At least that would let me use the water on the garden rather than 'wasting' it all in this puddle.
9 years ago
This is my quick sketch of our property.  The cross hatched area by the back door is the place that floods. 

I wonder if a long rain garden along the north side of the house would be a good start...
9 years ago
So, my partner and just moved into our first (rented) house!  No more apartment for us, no sir, we have a garage!  A front and back door!  A basement!  And a yard complete with a garden plot and a few fruit trees!

Now, we only plan to live there for a year or so, and right now autumn is just settling over the midwest, so I'm not going to be doing much except compost building and sheet mulching right away ... but I can't just let this opportunity go to waste.  I must permie-up the place at least a little bit!

A bit about the lot: the back yard is about 50' square.  The garden plot is in the center at the very back of the lot (of course!) and is overgrown with strawberries (woo hoo!) and weeds (meh).  I have two pear trees near the back door and one red delicious apple tree back by the garden.  This yard floods right up by the back door in heavy rains (this is the low point for most of the block), and one of the pear trees may have root rot from occasionally being in standing water.

I plan to post a sketch of my yard and brainstorm ideas here, and I would love love love any feedback you guys have.

I do have to keep in mind that this is a rental property, and while my landlord is pretty open to my doing some landscaping and would love to see me re-claim the garden, I need to plan for my eventual departure and expect the future tenant to not be as go-hung about intensively managing a system I might implement.  And it has to look pretty, both for me and so my landlord doesn't freak out.

My first thoughts are: how do I deal with the water problem?  Rain gardens?  Terracing?  Swales and ditches? 
9 years ago
I think the other answers are correct:  land is supposed to slope away from the houses.  I think the original intent of most blocks may have been to all slope in a gentle dome away from the center, but over time land is disrupted, settles unevenly, etc.

However, I think what your instructor meant is that water that doesn't penetrate into the ground, is drained away via the street and gutters, eventually ending up in either a water treatment facility, or discharged into a stream or waterway outside of town.  This is why swales or some kind of water retention on the property is so important in an urban setting: if you don't catch and hold it, it will be shipped away.  And with so much water being used to maintain unsustainable landscaping, catching more rainwater in town goes a long way towards solving water management issues.
9 years ago