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Posted by Marc Van Hummelen over 11 years ago
Wherever you are in this world, when you want to start a garden, there will most likely be something wrong with the soil and you will have to put energy and time in it to amend it: the soil might be too dry, or low in nutrients and microbial life, overly ploughed and degraded, full of rocks, too acid or salty, etc. Many of these circumstances are often described in great detail. As difficult as any of these circumstances are, the answer is usually quite simple and uniform: mulch.
It is very rare to find a situation where mulching is not the best solution. Logically, the soil that doesn't need mulching is one that has nothing wrong with it: it is not dry, high in nutrients and life, not degraded or too acid. The perfect soil, but also the perfect soil for weeds. And they just love mulch. They devour it in weeks after application, even in winter, when the mulch shelters them from the cold.
The soil conditions in my garden are not that perfect, it is too wet due to a thick layer of nearly pure clay in the subsoil, which is too thick to break open. Apart from that the soil is rich and very lively. In early spring this year I tilled a plot and pulled out as many weed roots as I could, then made (slightly) raised beds and applied Toby Hemenway's bomb proof mulch. In another part of the garden I started a forest garden, planted ten fruit trees, applied mulch around it and planted Symphytum, Armoracia, Malva and Tropaeolium, and alongside it a wild zone 4 hedge with ash, chestnut, maple etc.
At that time I imagined myself walking serenely through the plots the next growing season, browsing through the veggies, pulling out any remainders of unwanted weeds, Emilia Hazelip-style you know, in a zen-like atmosphere with birds chirping all around me.
Later this year, very contrary to the idyllic scene I had anticipated and to the permaculture principle of working with nature, the battle began against broad-leaved dock, buttercup, bindweed, couch grass, brambles and the like. The mulch layer became an ally of the weeds....
So no more mulching for me. But what are the alternatives? In the forest garden part it is not so much of a problem, I can go through it with my scythe a few times a year, which keeps me in shape, but a scythe is useless on and around the vegetable beds (I still call them vegetable beds, even though I didn't have any this year...) The plot is about 50 m². What suggestions can you offer me?
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|Full residential PDC course|
|Type: Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course|
|Teacher: Aranya Austin|
|Location: Turku, Finland|
|Date: Aug 2011|
|Type: Soil Biology/Compost|
|Teacher: Gerrit Van Dale, Comité Jean Pain|
|Date: Mar 2001|
|Permaculture Educator's Course|
|Type: Teacher Training|
|Verifying teacher: Andy Goldring|
|Other Teachers: Cat Dolleris|
|Location: Friland, Denmark|
|Date: Oct 2014|