Yesterday, we winter prepped the bird pen garden and Garden E in the Side yard, (yes, when I have a large number of gardens in different areas, they giving plots by letter it makes it easier when talking to each other)
while Bird Pen garden is a very easy garden to winter prep, This year it grew tomatos, beans and cutting flowers its a lovely raised bed garden that runs the length of the chain link on a pen (its normally used in some form for birds) and the garden is a combo climbing and normal, it has 12 feet of vertical climb space, so while the garden bed itself is only three feet wide by 20 feet long, it is in fact a larger garden then it seems..
Helpful hint* When looking at gardening, be it on a homestead or in the city, always look at each space as its own and do not be afraid to use small tiny spots to put a mini garden in.. Each garden area will have its own micro-climate and that means that what you can grow in Garden E can be grown somewhere else.
Garden E is a interesting garden, its a mix of methods and then some.. its the size of a average garden plot in town or a city, so small compared to my gardens or a garden market type but average otherwise.
The land was mowed down hard and tight, then I placed 6 to 8 inch deep large straw bale squares down over it and I overlapped them tightly, on top of that, they got 1 year compost, 9 wheelbarrels loads, I spread each load over 1-9th of the garden, it gave me 4 to 6 inches on top, then we repeated with 4 year old compost to top it, another 4 to 6 inches.
Into this was planted Corn, winter melon, radishes, and some dill, the corn loved the insane richness, and produced very well, the wintermelon produced well for a late planting, the radishes were lovely and the dill was planted later and was used for greens only, not making it to seed, but I have lots from other areas in the gardens.
I did not weed out at all in the corn area, which was 80 percent of the garden, with only the front being done into other.. when we harvested the corn, I pulled all the corn including roots up and feed it all to the pigs, same with the winter melon, I then went back and took my hoe and dug up anything growing in the whole garden, I put a few things into the burn bile, one or two into the compost and the rest into feed the pig pail.
At that point, hubby brought me 9 more wheel barrels of one year old wet, heavy but turned deep pack bedding, its a mix of hay, straw, horse, sheep and goat poo with a bit duck to boot. this was spread 4 to 6 inches thick..
The garden is above the soil by close to a foot an half going into winter, the bed has composted and settled over the summer dropping height while things where growing..
The straw will hold for three years under, by which time if I want to do so, I will be able to do a very nice turn if I want to plant a deeper root veggie in that garden, but that is a good while coming.
This garden is going to be crazy rich again next year.. its going to be down into a three sisters, corn, short climbing beans and pie pumkins is the plan, the year after that, I will do either potatoes, tomatoes or peppers.. and only then on year four will the garden be ready for roots.
All newer gardens will be getting huge amount of the deep pack pre-mixed, already starting to compost nicely topping, the fine garden areas will be done quite differently. We are going to get there.
So if on a homestead, lets say that you do not have the money or the ability to buy extra straw to be used as a the first layer, well you have a few choices, one is to pull the top layer, flip it over and go, but you will struggle with weeds in pretty short order..
The second is to layer newspaper or cardboard or wood chips if you can get them on the ground and do your layers on top, (if using wood chips, if you can, put a layer of bird manure on top of it before you put the rest..)
Push come shove, create it without the straw layer, and then underplant like crazy, by this I mean, plant your corn, or main crop, baby it, water it, weed if needed to get it a good start, then come back and heavily seed the ground with something like raddish, mustard, greens, or anything that grows quickly, produces a green crop that CAN NOT outproduce the main crop..
If the costs of seeds is a issue (and it can be when you are first buying seeds, ouch, do they add up.. then turn to whole untreated grains, you can use barley, or wheat to do the same thing, when it gets to certain stage, just hoe it down and turn it into the soil, its much better to be in control of what is growing with the crop then not..
One more hint to cheaply outplant tradionally considered bad weeds that is very cost friendly, pigweed.. yes you read that right, so easy to collect seed from a wild source, easy to spread, easy to grow, so easy to spot, no issues that even hubby or helping children hands can not find and harvest the right plants, now young pigweed is a delight in the main kitchen garden but if you are not ready for that, everything on the homestead will sit up and beg for that young tender pigweed, be it chickens, ducks, rabbits, sheep, goats or pigs.. honestly, everything you can grow to feed your family protein be it fowl or hoofed, will eat and love being given pigs weed.
Just like its worth having a small batch of nettles growing on your farm for harvest and drying for farm use even if you do not want to eat them yourself, you should have a stand of pigweed that is your seed base source.
Having pig weed seed for use in the gardens will save your upwards of 50 plus each year in, and its high protein count can be worked into feeds for young chicks, laying birds and young rabbits..