Deep Mulch Gardening

I know it's December, and I really meant to post this in the fall, but better late than never to give an overview on how my first year of gardening here went!

I had a garden at our home in the city and it did quite well, so I knew I wanted to go bigger here. My garden here is 12' x 30'. I was originally going to make it 20' x 30', but once we started creating the space I realized that was way too big for our needs and my time to maintain it. Now it's the perfect size.

Since we still had some moldy hay bales left over from last year, I wanted to attempt deep mulch gardening. From what I had read, the hay holds the moisture in (meaning less watering) and prevents weeds from growing (meaning less weeding). It also adds nutrients to the soil as it breaks down, and over time you'll eventually have a no-till garden. Overall, it helps make the garden more self sufficient.

For full details and information on deep mulch gardening, check out the Prairie Homestead's blog post here (this is the best guide I found): http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2016/05/deep-mulch-gardening-faqs.html 

First, we pulled the sod and filled the space with soil from a gravel pit that is close to our place. We got over 7 yards of soil for $30 (simply the charge for delivery), whereas a company I found with topsoil charged $30/yard... quite a difference! The soil is really great too, and I know it'll get richer over time with the hay.

The space is primed.

The space is primed.

Since there are so many deer in our area, we put a 7’ tall fence all around the garden with deer netting. We used 10' long pieces of 2x4 wood, and put them in the ground 3' deep. Hubby used a post digger for that. With 7 posts all around, he then stapled cheap deer netting I got last year (when I thought we'd have time to make a garden), from pole to pole. It's held up really good and hasn't sagged, so we'll see how it does over winter. He also made a proper door for me with a latch.

With the fencing up and the soil filled in, I gave it all a sprinkle of chicken poo tea. Since I have a nice big pile of chicken manure in my "compost pile" (aka the big mound of chicken manure past the coop), I decided to put it to use by putting some manure in a bucket, filling it with water and letting it sit in the sun for a couple weeks, stirring it occasionally. Be warned, it does not smell good, but I poured the "water" into a watering can, and it covered the garden space really well while giving it a boost of nitrogen.

Then I brought over 8 moldy square bales, busted them open and spread them out over the area. I've read that you're supposed to use about 10" of hay throughout, but mine was only a few inches for convenience, and I added more as needed. The moldy bales worked good because they didn’t blow away.

The door is to the left, and while you can't see it, there is deer netting all around.

The door is to the left, and while you can't see it, there is deer netting all around.

Then I put in all my stakes and twine to mark my rows, and pushed the hay over to expose the earth along those rows. I planted all my seeds and started plants, and as they grew I pushed the hay around the base of the plants. It's important to keep that earth exposed after planting, and not put the hay over top right away, otherwise the plants won't get the light they need and nothing will grow through the hay. Once they're sprouted, the hay can go around them.

Rows are marked and seeds are getting planted.

Rows are marked and seeds are getting planted.

You can see some lettuce that I started in this row. They perked up pretty quickly.

You can see some lettuce that I started in this row. They perked up pretty quickly.

Some zucchini plants breaking through.

Some zucchini plants breaking through.

It was all very experimental this year, so I didn't think I'd get much. Considering I got a late start in planting, combined with the endless downpours and storms (which resulted in some flooding and lost plants), I still got lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini. 

Here's how the garden turned out. Missing a lot of veggies that were planted, but I think next year will be much better.

Here's how the garden turned out. Missing a lot of veggies that were planted, but I think next year will be much better.

My lettuce was amazing!

My lettuce was amazing!

I had a good range of zucchini sizes.

I had a good range of zucchini sizes.

In the fall I put my chickens in there to eat up what was left, including the bugs, and they gave it a little till and some fertilizer before the cold came. I could already tell that the soil had improved a lot from the hay getting absorbed. Next spring I'd like to add some compost and hopefully I’ll enjoy more veggies!

The girls had a blast in here!

The girls had a blast in here!

The soil already looks much darker and richer, and there were lots of earthworms and other goodies.

The soil already looks much darker and richer, and there were lots of earthworms and other goodies.

Getting Things Done

Keeping up on the blog just hasn't been my forte, but as usual we've been very busy the last few months. I doubt many people read this blog anyways, and that's fine. I write it for myself and enjoy chronicling what we've done. It's fun reading old posts to see how far we've come.

Now, where do I even begin??

First, we replaced all the flooring on our main floor - laminate in the living room, kitchen and hallway, new carpeting in all of the bedrooms, and linoleum in our master bathroom. The flooring is amazing! I absolutely love it. It transforms everything in such a warm, open way. Taking out the old flooring - especially the 1970's floral carpet in the spare bedrooms - got rid of any remaining cigarette smell. The underlay was the worst! It's just so nice having all of that out and getting new clean flooring down. Hubby leveled the weird hump in our hallway - nothing structural, just a poorly done job when it was originally done. Now our floor is level throughout. Ripping out the flooring in the kitchen revealed some of the original layout of the house. The eating area looked like it was once two bedrooms based on where the vents were and where you could see the outlined former walls. Really neat. My dad was wonderful in helping put down all that laminate. Him and hubby are perfectionist's with that stuff, so it turned out beautifully! We also replaced all the old stained wood baseboards with new white ones.

Ripping up the flooring in the kitchen to level everything out.

Ripping up the flooring in the kitchen to level everything out.

New laminate! We liked the lighter and wider pieces of this flooring. It has a country feel. 

New laminate! We liked the lighter and wider pieces of this flooring. It has a country feel. 

Laminate goes through kitchen, living room and hallway.

Laminate goes through kitchen, living room and hallway.

This is what the two spare bedrooms had for carpet! This is the office room.

This is what the two spare bedrooms had for carpet! This is the office room.

The office room right after the carpet got installed.

The office room right after the carpet got installed.

Hubby also refinished the spare bedroom closets: fixing up the walls, painting, putting in a new rod and shelf at the top (one of the closets had the rod really low), and replacing the closet doors. Everything in those rooms are now brand new. The only areas of the main floor that are left to work on are the mud room and the kitchen, but they are totally fine until we decide to tackle them.

The office room with new door, closet doors, and baseboards. 

The office room with new door, closet doors, and baseboards. 

The spare bedroom with new doors, flooring and baseboards.

The spare bedroom with new doors, flooring and baseboards.

With warm weather here, now our focus is outdoors. I've got some seedlings started for tomatoes and lettuce in my new mini greenhouse. We're also almost done the garden space for planting, which is 12' x 30'. Hubby hand dug out all the sod - what a job! We filled the space with about 7 yards of extra soil and it'll have a 7 foot tall fence around the perimeter with deer netting. As long as it stops raining, we'll be finishing that up this weekend so I can start planting. I'll have a separate post on that.

The start of the garden being dug up.

The start of the garden being dug up.

We also put in new fencing for a "backyard" space behind the house. We rented a post pounder, and got 30 fence posts done in half a day. What a fantastic machine. We then stapled chicken wire around the perimeter, and put three cedar boards between the posts. It's a huge enclosed yard for Daisy to run freely, and to create some dimension to the empty space around the house. It's three times the size of what our city backyard was, and we still have tons of space around it. Love love love it!! To see Daisy run her little heart out without being leashed was really special. We'll put in our fire pit and we have some future ideas for landscaping other parts - did I say I love it?! 

The first set of posts in. You can see Daisy's original fence near the house (with the long grass around it). Quite a difference.

The first set of posts in. You can see Daisy's original fence near the house (with the long grass around it). Quite a difference.

Here's the fence competed. I love the ranch look. My garden is in the foreground with the tall posts around it waiting to be finished.

Here's the fence competed. I love the ranch look. My garden is in the foreground with the tall posts around it waiting to be finished.

We decided that our two main outdoor projects this summer would be the fence and the garden. Last summer just had so much going on - all big and expensive projects of necessity really - that we want to enjoy the summer and our accomplishments. We'll do odds and ends of course, but we're capping the big projects with these ones. Since they're both almost finished now, and it's not even summer yet, I'm looking forward to having time for more leisure activities. I'd like to enjoy gardening, my chickens, and start painting again, and Hubby wants to try making beer, do some woodworking, and work on his 4-wheeler. We don't want to be inundated with obligations, and it will be nice to treat ourselves to some downtime. I think we've earned it.

“Some people look for a beautiful place, others make a place beautiful.”

- Hazrat Inayat Khan