straw bales arriving

Experimenting with “natural” soil building and weed suppression

One of the problems we have faced is weeds – fields of them growing very tall and dense.  We did have our fields/uncultivated areas ploughed in 2015 and they looked fine all last winter.  However, the ploughing had the effect of (a) cutting up all the roots of nasties like the docks and (b) bringing those broken bits of roots – as well as other seeds that were buried – closer to the surface where they can germinate and grow, so this Spring we are full of them again. What to do? poison? flamethrower? hand weeding (uggghh!!)

Well, I watched the “back to eden” videos which is about using thick layers of woodchips and was hooked on Paul’s methods and wisdom for several reasons – (a) simplicity (b) nature’s way (c) possibility of using any ground covering (d) patience and time (e) God’s desire for us to look to Him for solutions that exist in nature. We did find a source in our village of woodchips taken from an annual clearance of the hedgerows along the roads to and from our village. They are relatively expensive per 6.5 tonne load and until I take a load I would not know what area they would cover (at 6 inches deep).  So I am still prevaricating about that and will probably (at some time) get at least one load to deep mulch around the fruit trees – but I do fancy putting down a 12inch layer of woodchip in some areas and wait to see what happens….

However, while prevaricating, one day coming back from Polski Trambesh (market town about 20mins away) Toby spotted some rotting hay bales at a farm in Obedenie village – the large round ones – so we pulled off the road and found a nice lady called Margarit who was the farm manager. After a short conversation where neither of us spoke the language of the other, she sold me 8 large (300kg) bales of rotting straw for 15 leva (7.5 euros) per bale and she organised transport to our place (15 mins) for just 30 leva – a pretty good deal I thought.

While we waited for the bales to arrive we had the orchard weeds (docks) brushcut to the ground. And then it arrived and apparently (according to one of the ladies in the village supermarket) everyone is curious about the crazy Angliski buying so much bad straw…

We first covered an area that will (eventually) be planted with vines – it’s a narrow space and two bales  unrolled really covered it to a depth of 10-12 inches of the thick matted straw, overlapped and felt really good.  Rather than plant anything in there I am hoping that in autumn and next spring I will be planting through the straw mat with my vines, fruit bushes and companion plants.  Then we moved onto the orchard – we had to take out some fence panels (because our rustic gates are not wide enough) and we laid down 7 round bales (7 x 300kg = over 2 tonne of rotting matted straw) edge to edge between the fruit trees and right up to the boundary wall where it is really rough ground.

In 10 months time I hope that the soil underneath the straw mulch will have been transformed and certainly free of the nasty density of weeds that we have at the moment.

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