I started this growing season with many great theories and not much experience. For once, these theories still look pretty good after a little experience to try them out.
The sheet mulching worked well. I did have to weed some, but it did not take me hours and hours. As we begin to harvest and clear out the plants that have gone by, I can see how grass has crept in places. It's been a small matter to pull it out and plant my oat cover crop. On the other hand, our root crops did not like the sheet mulch much. There are places where the soil acted completely different from other places, and I cannot explain why. So, for now, I'll put in the cover crop and continue to sheet mulch the places that I just could not get to last year.
What I'm doing is this- The feed sacks are paper, and we get a couple of small newspapers weekly and we get a box now and then, and as these things are ready for the trash, I instead put them in the garden. I'm throwing the straw from our straw bale brooder on top of this.
One thing that was definitely a bad idea was putting the litter from the brooders straight into the garden paths. Maggots grew in that so fast and it smelled so horrible. Interestingly, just a sprinkle of compost over this bad idea made decomposition get going faster than the maggots and the problem was solved.
Another bad idea was working blood and bone meal into the bed I was planting onions in. I think we'll harvest about ten onions because the dogs really wanted to dig in that earth.
Other parts of the plan seem to be going pretty well. The lettuce bed by the front door has been weeded very well all summer, but I think I'll put a cherry tomato and Brandywine in it next year. The cherry tomatoes and Brandywines just did not get harvested from the garden the way they deserve. The perennials I planted in that bed also seem to have established themselves. On the other side of the walk, the raspberries and asparagus look great. I've gotten some Swiss chard and spinach from that one, too, but next year, I'll just fill in with flowers and leave the rest to the stars of that bed.
Planting the raspberries by the path to the front door was definitely questionable. They loll across the walk ready to catch hair, socks, and skin. I laugh at my folly for putting them there, but I might be the only one who finds it funny. I need to reconsider that part of the plan.
One of the gardens definitely did not get enough sun, even with the pine trees cut down. We'll peck away at that this winter once the leaves are off the trees. The three sisters garden got too little attention. I'm not sure what the answer is there, except that I did not like working in the tilled garden. It's very sunny in that spot and might perhaps be a good place for peppers, but I did not like all that sun and bare soil early in the season. Maybe I'll sheet mulch it once we get the beans and pumpkins out of it.
The herb bed did not get planted densely, but it has been a source of joy all summer. I'm thinking about completely filling it with sunflowers next year and just integrating the herbs into the big gardens. The sunflowers are just wonderful and I'm not sure if I could have too many. The few cutting flowers I planted also were a delight and I'll plant those again next year. The varieties I planted did well and survived despite the weeds that grew up in some of the beds.
The trees and berries have been a mixed bag. About a third of the blueberries died, and I'm told my source was the problem. A couple of trees died and four of the other berry plants died. Still, I have 9 apple tree saplings and 6 pears and 2 plums and a cherry and a dozen raspberries and some gooseberries and elderberries and high bush cranberries and currants and a maple and 2 locusts and 2 chestnuts and 2 hickories and a mulberry that lived. And that seems pretty dog gone good.
Also, I have had my doubts about planting trees in the pastures after I have heard repeatedly that I'm making a mistake. But as we come to the end of summer and the grass is drying out, I see how much healthier the grass is that's in the tree line. Right at the trees, the grass doesn't have much of a chance; there's too much shade. But, the trees I planted are scattered and the shade will not be dense. The trees will create a microclimate, helping keep the water in our sandy soil a little longer. They'll drop their leaves and improve the soil. I still think I did a good thing. Time will tell.