Lasagna Made Dirt

I have decided that traditional lasagna mulch piles are just not my thing.

1. The first layer is twigs and branches that won’t compress as the pile builds.

2. The next layer is Brown and made of straw, dried leaves, wood chips, sawdust, even torn up paper. All these materials are carbon-rich.

3. The last is Green and is nitrogen-rich layers materials. This includes food scraps, grass clippings, garden weeds, manure etc.

Then you have to turn it and move it and all that stuff I don’t have time for.

My hugelkulture, my one hugelkulture that will take me probably a few years to build even improperly will look much like this lasagna method. The two Christmas trees and evergreen branches, trimmings from our trees, stuff from cutting wood for the stove, then manure and weeds. When it is big enough, I’ll grow cantaloupe on the south side and lettuce on the north. It won’t be a proper hugelkulture which is made of logs as a base but I want it to break down faster so I can spread it around the area. I’m building it on very poor soil.

My present mulch pile in the north garden is a real problem. It pretty much just sit there. No pretty dirt. It shrinks a little every year but then fills back up over the summer as I pile weeds on. It’s become a monster in size and I’ve not the time nor the back to flip it. It’s why I just spread mulch piley stuff around the garden now and let nature take its course. I’ve come to realize it breaks down so much faster when in small amounts. I only have to handle it once too.

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I need it broke down and shrunk. Mulch should be put where it is closest to where it will end up says the Resilient Farmer book and I’d agree. I’d also agree with Harvey in the chicken book that chickens are the answer, or the next experiment anyway. I’ll open the garden fence and push it back around the perimeters of the pile so it is open 24 hours a day to be worked by the wildlife and chickens. I don’t want them in the garden but this won’t be the garden anymore. Think about the power of chicken feet as they scratch and peck and level ground or dig holes. I figure I can add manure and some good stuff to encourage the chickens to rifle through it and then scrape off the top layers as they tear down to the bottom. Then I’ll make piles here and there around the yard like I do now. One in the corner of the greenhouse, the one still needing to build. Some here and there around the garden. Lasagna piles around the fruit trees etc. I can likely come up with small amounts of what is needed to do a more lasagna approach if done in small amounts. Fence the chickens into these areas and they can spread it, break it down, and gain nutrition to boot.

They already did an awesome job on the south garden as we used them for two years as we just kept dumping manure and bedding on the area. It wasn’t planned. The area was open, not fenced so we just observed. Chickens love leveling. A…nd digging up onions a…nd garlic you just planted. They do it every year. My hubby is still learning about what gates are for. They did a real number on them this year and I pray we get a crop this summer.

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This is the winter mulch pile. Don’t see a pile. It’s only a gallon bucket worth at a time. We dump a gallon bucket every couple days and the chickens and wildlife clean it up. It does not matter if it is potato and carrot peels, or orange peels and banana peels, it’s gone. What eats orange or banana peels? This is where I put my egg shells. When the chickens and deer see me coming, they come running. The only thing left is some corn cobs from last fall. Why doesn’t anyone like them? I love watching the deer and chickens mingle.

The pile in the garden remains vacant in the winter as the snow piles up 3 to 4 feet making it impossible to get in through the gate. The fence, reworked, would allow the chickens to walk on top of the snow and right in. When the snow gets crusty and hard, I could use the Otter sled to haul manure if I desired. Right now I put all mulch material like bedding and old hay on the south garden which does not get very much snow.

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I’ve got plans to add mulch piles in the winter to the greenhouse and let the chickens loose in there. The one we’ve yet to build. I’ve got a section in the south garden I’ve been piling hay and bedding on right now. I just need some step fencing posts, (more than I have presently) so I can build a restraining perimeter to contain the chickens. Next door there are strawberries and asparagus I don’t want the chickens uprooting or the newly planted bushes. Once I’ve perfect the fencing, I want to use the chickens and not the rototiller. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it? – Nature helping nature. –

I know some of you are thinking electric fence but that is not sustaining even if it is solar. I’d still have to buy the fence and its not cheap. I’ve an idea of recycling some garden fence we need to replace (don’t buy deer fence, the rabbits chew right through and weather breaks it down quickly) and just buy easy to push in the ground and uproot step fence posts.  Make the top floppy and the chickens don’t perch on it I’ve discovered.

Are any of you using chickens in your mulch piles?

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Lasagna Made Dirt

  1. J & D > We have many years of experience with making compost, and so it’ll be no surprising that we have two huge compost heaps (an ‘old’ heap, which in second year is dug and mixed and moved to the ‘new’ heap) that give us about 10tonnes of compost a year. That’s not enough, though, and what will be of interest to you is our experience of using various types of organic matter – fresh – as mulches. We only started doing this about 10-12 years ago, and what we’ve learned is that a mulch which is thick enough to suppress weeds, but thin enough to avoid compacting the soil and to allow worms, insects and bugs generally to munch through the lot, can be just as quick as, and a lot less work than, using a compost. What we recommend, though, is that anything ‘sticky’ is put through a good garden shredder first ; also to mix different materials ; and lastly don’t disturb it once put down. Birds will disturb it – looking for grubs etc, but that’s a sign that the system is working!

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    1. I don’t have many birds in my garden. We just don’t have as many as we did at the other home. I’m working on that but the next phase is learning how to feed small birds and not the pesky magpies everything including us hates. We put up the metal pole near the deciduous tree so the cats don’t kill the birds. The top piece needs ground to fit the new feeder. 17 below zero is not the time to do it. What I’m curious about is what fresh mulch do you use? My brain is spinning. Do you pile at the end of the garden row weeds you pulled and let them wilt down until dead and then pile those under the plants? That could be really handy. I will have to be super careful as I notice mulches cool the soil and we need all the heat we can get. So thin is best I’m curious what you call sticky. I can’t think of anything sticky, smelly yes, but sticky? We of course don’t have a garden shredder. You have to have lots of brush and deciduous trees and we have very few. The creek down below yes – us no. Because we have to choose, we have cut down ten half dead deciduous trees and placed evergreen ones. Taming the wind and driving snow is imperative to the preservation of the new siding we are placing on our home – and they block the view of the neighbors year round. Too dry a climate and sandy soil to contend with grubs and snails though I’ve heard they can be a problem. Funny how different areas deal with different things. But I’d really like to know what you consider fresh mulch and if that indeed is weeds. I’m sure there is a great deal I can learn from you.

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