So times you need to be creative and see what can be, not just what is.. So to the one side you have a food hedge row with five layers of different things aka a guild system, and then on the other side, you have the start of the same, I still need to add in a few more things but its a got the three spruce, the middle trees’ the little fruiting bushes and the herbs, soft fruits and canes in the area, in the middle of that however is a good long stretch that its just wild meadow, its a edge area, it produces natural a ton of wild strawberries, wild violets, milkweed and other naturalized greens but it also gets full sun but its pretty wild blocked at the same time.. We rolled one of those bad bales, back and forth to make it three layers deep and to create a straw mulch bed, then built dirt mounds every so many feet( yes I made them more level once planted) and planted them out into squash hills..
in total there are fifteen hills, the cucumbers, summer and winter squash and pumpkins will grow up and out of the hills, over the straw and into the hedge rows themselves, once they clear the food hedge row, they will hit the bank on the other side and again have full sun all day long for their leaves etc. It may not look like much now but this should produce like a house of fire in terms of returns!
Having this much space devoted exclusively to large (space-hogging, shade-everything-else-out) vines? AWESOME! Using them to “pioneer” a new space like this? GENIUS!
Thanks Deb, I have lots of room, its time an energy that I run out before I run out of land LOL
I love this! I’m just learning about “guilds” and food forests. I’ll be interested to see how it turns out for you. It sure beats plowing up field grasses, like we did!
I have a area that I need to work on filling in and developing from tree’s with naturalized undergrowth mixed with some annuals to a proper guild, would this be of interest if I went step by step and showed it from beginning to end?
O yes, so so much easier then plowing up and so much better for the eco-system, and it will be just as productive as the plowed land.
Interested? LOL, do snakes crawl on their bellies?
And boy, do I hear ya on the energy thing – sure wish I’d known about all these techniques when we first moved here – when the sun goes down, so does my energy; )
Ok, at least one of you is interested LOL
Have you done the rolled-out round bale with dirt on top before? That looks like the sort of tactic I would be totally into as far as growing squash is concerned. I am curious how well it works – do the squash put roots through the hay/straw and into the ground? How well anchored are they?
yes and no JJ
We have taken sections of the layers of a round bale or sections of a large square bale, laid it down and then planted in the middle of it, typically we dig a hole, amend the soil, and then plant things like tomato’s or peppers or sqush or anything that is a well started plant that needs its own space but also ideally really needs a good amount of space with lots of ground cover.
On the flip side, we have done the dirt hills for the past two years on top of farm compost on the hugelbeds for squash, melons, cucs and tomato’s etc.
So this is a meet it the middle of two successful ways to plant. The plants done in the hills do indeed grow their roots down and past the bedding and into the soil below, if tomato’s can be grown this way and hold up, I have no real fears about how well anchored the squash will be..
Hope that helps.. as you can imagine, it would be quite hard to get a round bale of bedding into my main garden without having issues with fencing, gates, walk way spacing and soil compacting, however because we did it in a area in the front, none of that was a issue. It would depend on your garden layout on if you could bring that bale in and just unroll, then flip it end to end and unroll again, If the soil has been well worked, I would not be surprised if you could get away with one or two layers but if just green and not done, I would recommend the three layers thick that we did..
Do you find there are higher water needs until the plants are well established, since the mulch effectively creates a barrier to capillary action of ground moisture? It was a real disappointment last year after I had my straw bale garden all laid out to find I could not supply the daily needed watering!
Yes, it does increase the watering needs to get them well started, if that is a concern, I would recommend that you still do the bale roll out trick, but then indent into the bedding by at least one layer and bring your hill down just a bit deeper, but you are still going to need to water those hills (but at least only the hills) until they really get going, once they get their roots though the straw and into the soil, then you will not need to do so much, depending on the summer temps, average rain fall etc.. For myself, I am able to water at the start of the season, and then most years, I only need to water two or three times late in the season if really required to hold them over in dry spells, if I am running low on water, I make long dew traps on one or both sides of the plants, often because they are so heavily mulched that is all that is needed to get them that bit of extra and that way it does not come from my well.
Ideally though you would be getting these rolled out and getting the spring rains, I got this done at least month before the hills and planting so that the straw was well soaked a number of times naturally, and because its only three layers thick, nature can do this for you, where in the tightly packed bales, it takes long and steady soaker hoses to get the same effect, I just don’t have enough water in the dug well to do that, as the back is a hand pump and haul, I so don’t want to do it 🙂
But really, thank you so very much for this post, you have no idea how much we needed this idea!
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