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Salthart

How does your garden grow ?

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Salthart
Well, I'm running a bit late but its time to till my small garden in the back yard and I was wondering about a few things. THe ground here is a red clay and sand mix and I have trouble with any root crops like beets and potatoes etc. So I'm thinking about trying to add something to help keep the ground from packing so hard. Maybe peat moss or some such. Any ideas on whats best out there ? Thanks in advance BTW, that garden is something along the lines of 120 feet square

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Kent
IMO, peat moss is over-rated for anything but flower beds. It quickly gets too expensive for use in large areas, because you need to add a LOT of organic material in order to notice the difference... One of the cheapest ways if there's sawmills around is to add sawdust -- 1" to 2" of it -- but you'll also need to add nitrogen at the same time (sawdustleaches nitrogen from the soil to decompose). If not available, price mulch by the cubic yard from a garden supply store. Ask to see if they have any older stuff, such as last year's leftovers or older -- you'll get better, partially rotted stuff, and you may be able to get it cheaper... My personal preference is composted (rotted) cow or horse manure, since they add both the organic material and fertilizer at the same time. The rotted stuff doesn't smell as bad and is much less likely to "burn" any plants from being too strong... I think you'll have to do this two or three years in a row, but at the end of that time, you won't believe the difference it makes....

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GregB
Anything you add to the soil to amend it will help. I have used peat moss for small raised bed gardens. Over a couple of years a bale a year dosen't get to pricy. On my current garden I got a couple of scoops of leaf compost. Our township collects then composts the leaves as part of the recycling effort. $10 a scoop is half the price or more of mulch. Saw dust will work, but like Kent said you need to add nitrogen. Manure is a good soil modifier, if you have a supply of aged or composted get that. What ever you do try to keep the ph balance your vegatables need for good growth. Do you have a corner you could set up a composting area? Composting your own leaves, cuttings etc.with fresh manure, saw dust, is a cheap way of making good garden soil for next year.

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RayS
Here where I live you can buy a truck load of peat moss for $15.00 or at least that is what I paid for it a year ago. Stay away from the bags and check the yellow pages in your area for someone that grinds there own peat moss.

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ka9bxg
I have a freind bring in a couple of tons of calf S**t with saw dust.So I get the best of both worlds.Who is working up there garden anyhow I did get out there and clean out the aspargas and cut down the raspberrys.Got up into the 60's yesterday but it is going to cool down and next week they are talking about the 40's for highs.

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Salthart
I think the closest you'll come to anywhere near here to Peat is the 2 or 3 inch layer of "Black dirt" on forest floors. But there is an old sawmill that has been closed for 10 or 15 years and I remember the sawdust pike caught on fire a couple of times. Maybe thats the place to try. Also, the idea of manure may be a go. There is a dairy farm 20 miles from me. As to the idea of a compost pile. I did read something about that and the web site I found told how and when to turn the pile like when the moisture got to high or low and how to add sugar or cricket manure etc etc. Just sounded far to complicated for a poor old hillbilly...LOL But I'm sure I should try. With 3 acres here in grass and 5 at mom's place. Not to mention all the leaves. BTW, Have any of you ever tried using your grass clippings between the rows in your garden ? No weeds, no mud and it holds water.. Thanks for the input !

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RickS
Marty, I do some composting of grass, leaves, and household food waste (no meat). I attend3e a gardening show and at that show there was a presentation on composting. That speaker stated that you can monitor the composting pile to add water, turn the pile and add nitrogen as needed. If you do all this work you will be rewarded with great compost in a short period of time. Or you can skip the turning, adding water, and only add grass clipping two or three times a year. If you do it this way you will also be rewarded with great compost. The only difference is it will take longer. I use that lazy approach and after a 2 years or so, I turn the pile over and remove the good compost material for my lawn, garden or plantings. Works great and very easy. I have better things to do then tend to my compost pile weekly. Rick.......

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MPH
When I get energitic enough to go gather up leaves from the ditches at a road side park about 15 miles south of town I just till in 3-4 inches of them in the fall, never have seen any come spring tilling. Using raw manure is a good way to intorduce a lot of weeds into your garden,esp. from the straw and hay mixed in it. Composting it properly will kill most the weed seed. Best easy way to compost is with a tumbler/drum set up, you walk by it and give it a couple cranks a few times/day. Friend of mine has one here and it works great. Piled compost is way too much pitchfork work for me anymore, wore out enough of those when I was a kid to last me this life time.

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rsachs
Marty, Does your freind get use out of the tumbler year round? I suspect it to be warm weather only? My wife just bought one and I got it set up the other day, but we have not put it to the test yet.

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MPH
No year around composting here, maybe 4 months use. In the past when I had goats and too many chickens I have had piles keep heating inside til Dec, couse I covered them with plastic and added hot water and all kinds of other stupid stuff. Now I green manure crop half the garden each year 3 or 4 times, add leaves when I have time to kill in the fall. I claim to actually have a little 'top' soil out there now instead of dirt

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crequake
I am a big fan of soy beans Marty. After my early crops are done (potatos, peas, corn, etc) I sow soy beans. Just before they go dormant in the fall I till them under. It puts a LOT of nitrogen into the soil in addition to all the green manure type material. It may not meet your immediate needs, but I think its very beneficial in the long run. Nick

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MPH
Thats a good way to do it Nick if you have the time. I cover my garden for the full moon in Aug., which normally brings 3 nights of frost, then I get another 3 weeks before its history. Two years ago I did hairy vetch for a cover crop, wound up leaving home for work in July so it got to be a bit of a mess, My son decided to take the B-112 to with the mower on, smoked a belt, it was taller the the tractor, but he got it chewed up.

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Salthart
I think maybe I have come up with an idea..Every now and again I see the large trash dumpsters at the metal yard. Weld shafts on the side, add a pillow block bearing on each side and the worm gear set from a tiller with a hand crank ( makes an awesome engine stand crank BTW ) or maybe I'm wrong in thinking I need this much compost ? Any ideas ?

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snapper1650
In your area, you might look for worm growers who also produce castings (poop). If they are set up for casting production, they will sell it by the ton, pretty cheap too. It will add micronutrients, microorganisms, tilth, and a moisture retaining capability unlike anything you've ever seen. N-P-K will be along the lines of 2-1-1, which seems low but is more than adequate when the soil is alive with organisms and the plants will readily take it up. As Kent said, compost is a great way to go, if it is fully composted. It should smell like sweet earth, and NEVER smell bad. If it smells bad, rewet it (70% moisture, or squeeze it and get only ONE drop), mix it up, poke holes in the pile and let 'er heat up again. Composting ratios are 20 or 30 to 1 browns to green. Grass is a green until it dries, then is considered a brown. Above, you mentioned using grass as mulch. I would suggest composting it first through the heat stage to kill seeds unless you want to add grass and weeds to your garden. I've gone completely organic, thrown the NPK philosophy out the window, gone to the soil food web philosophy and have been producing some great food the last few years. My plants have been in the ground for a couple of weeks now, and the tomatoes and peppers are already popping out. This was all once red clay, so I know where you're coming from...;)

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TBOLT
I agree with Billy Jack on the grass and weeds.I have a fairly good sized garden, planted 2lbs.sweet corn, 120yellow squash,30zuccini, and 25cucumber hills yesterday. When the cool snaps are over I'll set out about 100 tomato plants, sow a row or two of okra and with the land I just cleared probably plant 100 or so watermelon hills and about 50 canteloupe hills. I never have added any mulch but I usually sow greens; turnips, cayle,rape,and mustard and winter peas in the fall.After we eat all the turnips and greens we want and sell all we want I plow the rest in. This year I tilled it first to chew up all the turnips, then I cut it wit harrows.Before I planted I tilled it again.

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dlcentral
When I used to garden I had yellow clay soil.What really helped it produce was add rotted compost all year, and in the fall plant winter rye, and add lime,as my soil was acidic.Plant it heavy don't skimp!,In the spring till it in when it gets to 8-10 inches tall,you will have wonderfully rich soi,with an abundance of worms to digest all the material there.

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Kent
Buckwheat is also a good "green manure" crop, for planting after the harvest, then till it in. It adds a lot of organic material to the soil, similear to winter rye. Crown vetch is a good "cover crop" that you can leave there over the winter and till it in before planting in the spring. It's a legume that actually adds nitrogen to the soil. It's also good to prevent erosion of the garden soil. Some people even plant it on banks as a grown cover.... BTW, for you Northern gardeners, peat moss doesn't naturally occur in the South and Mountain West (only Pacific Northwest), so it must be imported and is MORE expensive than landscaping mulch. Most of the peat moss in other parts of the country is actually imported from Canada....

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lndscpr
Very Lazy method=. Let all of you kitchen/lawn waste (no meats) add up in a pile for a year or two. Include eggshells and coffee grounds. I go to Starbucks and get a big bag of used grounds for free. Turn over every once in a while with the dozer blade. You will end up with excellent compost.

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snapper1650
quote:
Originally posted by Kent
Buckwheat is also a good "green manure" crop, for planting after the harvest, then till it in. It adds a lot of organic material to the soil, similear to winter rye. Crown vetch is a good "cover crop" that you can leave there over the winter and till it in before planting in the spring. It's a legume that actually adds nitrogen to the soil. It's also good to prevent erosion of the garden soil. Some people even plant it on banks as a grown cover.... BTW, for you Northern gardeners, peat moss doesn't naturally occur in the South and Mountain West (only Pacific Northwest), so it must be imported and is MORE expensive than landscaping mulch. Most of the peat moss in other parts of the country is actually imported from Canada....
I plant vetch, ryes and clovers for winter covers then plow in for spring, along with adding compost and vermipost all year long during the growing season. Kent has a good point with the legumes. We don't have peat down here, as Kent said. It is not cost effecient to use it here. No to mention that it offers nothing in the way of food or organism. It is only a bulk agent. Worm growers use it to bulk the bins and provide "air" in the system. But for "food", we use other things.

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Allis_B12
Planted 4 20-foot rows of Green Mountain potatoes two days ago. I'll clean up the garden a little and take some pics. For winter, I sow winter rye, then till it all up in the spring. I don't know what nutrients it returns to the soil, but it works. The deer get to eat it as well when there's not much snow cover. I went to the local farmer's co-op and got a 40 lb bag for under $10. It works well here in CT, not sure about anywhere else...

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Salthart
I was told by the local dept of agriculture that the ground here needs 2 tons of lime per acre and not to worry about fetilizer. I understand he was speaking of new ground and my garden spot has been used for half a century. But all the same, my biggest worry is about the ground packing so hard. So I guess I am going to try most of whats been talked about here. From peat moss to cover crops. And start a compost pile for fall use. No luck yet in finding sawdust. Couple of questions.. How many cubic yards of peat moss for a 150x150 garden ? And will the peat break down and leach nitrogen from the soil ? Once again, Thanks in advance..

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MPH
Be real careful with the saw dust. I speard a couple inches of planner chips from aspen trees over a piece of ground several years ago, tilled it in, and couldn't get barley to grow more then 4-5 inches high before it turned yellow and died. Finally got a crop of vetch to take hold in it and that put some nitro back in the soil. Its still not much for soil bt haven't been home the past two summers enough to do much for it.

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