Geoff Lawton does sexy stuff with soil and his Instant permaculture raised bed might just be the fix I need for my raised bed that is being overrun with the less than glorious Morning Glory.
I had the privilege of viewing Geoff Lawton’s video Permaculture Soils for free on International Permaculture Day this past May 3rd and wow, just wow. In the video he discussed Instant permaculture raised beds and I decided I need to do this!
My back yard has a very large raised bed against the fence line and it is being taken over by Morning Glory. I weed and weed and weed and it does not stop coming back. This is a lot of food growing real estate that is not being used for anything other than weeds and not even edible weeds! What is a a girl to do?
Well first off I am killing off as much as I can with sheets of metal roofing I have. I put the sheets over the soil and it is working to smother the Morning Glory. If this was just grass or something less pernicious I would not bother killing it off and I would just begin building my Instant Permaculture bed right over top of it but I have a hate-on for this Morning Glory and it needs to die.
After about a week of warm weather I pulled off the metal sheets and began weeding like a mad woman. I did this late in the evening when it was dark and I am sure the neighbors think I was burying a body the way I was going after that garden bed; swinging my hand tiller that looks like a pick ax with a claw. I know tilling soil is frowned upon but I will build over top I just want to get rid of as much of the Morning Glory as I can and Morning Glory has an extensive system of root runners. I covered up the bare soil with the metal roofing again and began plotting to get my supplies to build the new bed.
How to build an instant permaculture raised bed:
Spread manure from ruminant animals over the the area you want to build your garden. If you are building it over grass, spread a light layer of manure over the grass.
Get cardboard and newspaper and junk-mail. Basically raid your recycling and lay it down in the place and the shape you want your garden. You should never walk on the dirt in the garden because it kills the microorganisms working in the soil and compresses the soil removing air and space. This will make your soil not as usable! Keep this in mind when planning the garden width and position. You want to be able to reach all the way across while kneeling or be able to walk around the perimeter and have it twice the width of you reach from a kneeling position so that you can reach all parts of the garden from the edge.
Remember to wet each layer with water!
Place about a foot of mulch, hay or straw. I personally would avoid things that will reseed or take root. I am hoping to get some straw or hay for free or cheap and use lawn clippings as well. Leaves are a great mulch but are in short supply in Spring. I plan to add some composted material interspersed in the layer as well. Lawton also suggested sprinkling more manure between the layers of mulch.
Once all the mulch is down make room to plant your seedlings. I think of it sort of like the mulch is an egg carton and at this point I am making the holes that the eggs nest in or in this case, seedlings.
Once the holes are defined take a knife and cut in the hole you made down through the cardboard (my being so overly zealous about exterminating the Morning Glory makes more sense now doesn’t it!) The hole is to make a connection with the soil life below. This is permaculture after all!
In each hole you made add compost.
Plant seedlings in the holes you made.
” You can solve all the world’s problems in a garden” – Geoff Lawton
The concept of this style of gardening is to mimic the layers of the forest floor. This will create good quality soil that is alive and that replenishes itself! Once established it will also retain more water meaning you will need to water less and less water will be wasted! (But while it is getting established and breaking down please water it regularly).
I could not possibly explain this gardening technique as vivaciously and eloquently as Geoff Lawton did in his video but I am going to try to adapt his techniques to reclaim the back garden bed for fruit bearing shrubs while learning the art of rebuilding and replenishing soil because I am sure many of you know how expensive dirt is to buy!