Thursday, April 17, 2014

Pasture to Garden - part 4 (part 1)

Next step - rototill the surface. I'm using the tiller like it's a cultivator to cut the plants off at ground level. This is just one more way to try to kill the grass, or least slow it down. 
For demonstration purposes I've cultivated a small section. It will take me a couple of days to do the entire new area since I can only run the tiller for a half hour before my hands give out. This type of cultivating is hard on my hands, wrists, arms, and shoulders. It's because of those dang lava rocks. Bang. Bang. Bang. Anyway, I got this section nicely scuffed, cutting just about all of the grass plants. Not every plant was burned brown by the vinegar/clove oil. As you can see, there's some green grass still. But the tiller successfully chopped it down to the dirt. 

Once I have most of the grass decapitated (yes, farming can be brutal warfare), it's time for the next step before the grass starts coming back. No time to waste because I've discovered that if I delay, the grass gets the upper hand again. So now's the time to apply soil amendments, microbes, and mulch.....and water. I want to water everything after applying so that the amendments bond or mix with the soil, the microbes stay alive and start to set up housekeeping, and the mulch keeps the soil moist. 

Before this new garden is usable, the pH needs to be adjusted. I know that the soil will be acidic because of two factors -- acid rain due to living downwind of an erupting volcano, and the factor that I sprayed strong vinegar onto the grass and soil. I'm not going to bother testing the pH at the moment because I have done so in the past when I've used this method of grass control and always found the pH to be acidic, so I'll plan on checking it in a couple of weeks and made more adjustments as needed then. 

Why bother applying amendments? Why not just apply lime and then plant the garden? Well, the soil is currently suitable for growing pasture grasses, not the more finicky vegetables I'm planning to raise. Grasses can take a low pH and lower nutrients than vegetables. Plus by spraying vinegar and exposing the soil to the sun and drying wind, I severely damaged the soil ecology and mass murdered the soil micro organisms. Those micro organisms are extremely important for my farming technique. They feed on the organic material that I add to the soil, becoming part of the natural cycle for producing plant nutrients. 

So here we go........

#1 - wood ash. I save the wood ashes from my own stoves plus I have friends who give me theirs. I have plenty. So I apply enough to get everything ashy but not totally covered. As I said, I'll plan on applying more in a couple weeks if needed. Wood ash raises the pH fairly rapidly, supplies potassium and small amounts of many minerals.
I spread the ashes fairly evenly. The red dish pan in the photo was full with ash when I started. That gives you a bit of an idea how much I applied. 

#2 - a light spray of dilute ocean water.  I'm not sure if this really is beneficial but I haven't seen it hurt. Some people swear that it helps with establishing the micro organisms. Since I haven't seen it harm my soil, I do it just prior to introducing the microbes to virgin ground. I mix I cup of ocean water to a gallon of water and spray very lightly. 

Oh my....rain. It's started raining fairly heavily so I call it quits for the day. Tomorrow I'll pick up where I stopped. be continued. 

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