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chickencoupe1

Tedious Soil Amendment(s)

chickencoupe
12 years ago

I picked a heck of a year to start gardening. OK. I cannot dig so my husband digs for me at a place of his choice. He chose rock hard clay from the dry pond bottom. The following was placed inside tires for planting cabbage OR Brussels OR Cauliflower:

1) Gently added water to clay and broken down by hand

2) Added unamended sandy loom from garden/yard area

3) Added 3/4 complete fine rotted compost

4) Spent a couple hours mixing very diligently by hand

These were added approximately at a ratio of 2:1:1 (respectively)

Final product: Looks very much like a deep rich potting soil. The texture is moisture retentive but it is pelleted. The pellets are likened to moist rabbit pellets of various sizes. Will this be OK to go ahead and plant in or should I wait and add more sandy loam? I thought about digging a hole and adding pure compost in the middle to avoid complications to the seedling plant.

DIY soil testing showed absolutely Zilch in nitrogen in my garden soil. I don't know about the pond scum. For these plants should I add nitrogen as usually recommended or can I assume the compost is sufficient for now?

Today I will perform a DIY acidic test.

Comments (21)

  • slowpoke_gardener
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    ChickenCoupe, I am no pro at gardening but I have worked my share of sorry soil. I have in the past, and may again in a day or so, just amend the soil where I am planting. I will dig a hole the size I think the plant will need. That will be from 1 gal size to 5 gal size, I then go down the row a few feet and make another planting ares. When I start a new spot like that I almost always add a little nitrogen. Depending on what I think the soil needs I may even add a complete fertilizer. All soils will be a little different and it sounds like your soil may be worse than mine (may God help you).

    I have been working a spot I started yesterday morning, it is about 4'x25'. I have one bale of peat and some shredded leaves. I will concentrate on about 4 hills and amend them better than the rest of the row. I will place a complete fertilizer in the plant area and mulch all the row. I will not expect this area to produce as well as the older part of the garden, but it will do OK if I watch it and try to supply what the plants are needing.

    Larry

  • soonergrandmom
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I periodicly buy compost, by the truckload, for my garden and in the winter I let the chickens run in it. This year I will have to make a temporary fence because I have perennial plants that they would dig up. As I have expanded, I have done just as Larry suggests and treated the planting hole. Eventually you get everything improved and better texture to the soil.

    I built a flower bed a few years ago in terrible soil. I covered the area with two layers of thick cardboard, then covered the entire thing with lots of leaves. I wet the cardboard down really well and cut holes to put in the plants. The soil was so poor I could barely dig out enough for the plants. The next spring when I started to add some additional plants, I was amazed at how much the soil had improved over the winter. It was soft and fluffy because the worms love cardboard, and the leaf mulch had kept the cardboard moist until it disolved or was eaten by the worms.

    I think I would struggle along this year by treating the planting holes then this winter I would gather all of the leaves I could find. Shread them if you have the capability and they will break down much faster. Some people just do this by driving over them with a lawn mower.

    By adding sand to the clay, I think you may almost be making concrete. I would skip the sand and buy a big bale of peat moss and mix it with the compost and native soil in each hole, then work on long term improvement this winter.

    Just my 2 cents worth, but it may not be worth that much.

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  • chickencoupe
    Original Author
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thank you so much Larry and Grandmom. I have so much to learn. This has been very confusing to me. Before the drought I thought I had rich delicious soul. Yet, when the drought came it turned it right to sandy loom in the tiny garden area I have and clay elsewhere. While I was hacked that my husband didn't dig soil from the yard I learned a lot by being forced to work with that concrete pond scum.

    It rained this morning. I dug a hole when the soil when moisture was just 'so' and took a peek.

    What I have is about 4-6 inches of 'regular' soil under the ground cover. Apparently the previous owners had planted clover and some other ground covers (because of the past drought). They planted fescue in some places, too. They didn't have a garden but they were vain and attempted to amend the top soil for grass growth. In time this has amended the top soil.

    Tilling a garden could very well destroy it. OK I think we're going to go ahead, add some organic matter (like ya'll suggested) and till this 35' x 42' area. Whatever goes wrong. Goes wrong. Then, we'll make adequate amendments to the rest. I'm not going to waste my expensive heirloom seeds on it but plant regular commercial hybrid and gmo for a start. We are, literally, going to fill up our entire 1/8th acre over time. Working with this soil as a newbie is hard enough!

    I'm glad I've done some homework. I have a nice big one year old pile of compost going as well as a worm farm. At the worst i can make raised beds and amend the soil right where I'm planting like ya'll suggested. Boy, this is all so frustrating. My first attempt at a raised bed failed. I now have wilt and need to have it sterilized!

    The soil in the tires looks pretty good. I agree, adding the sandy loam was risky. So far it doesn't look as though I added too much. I just recall the nice beautiful delicious earth I've seen or remembered the look of store-bought potting soil and headed in that direction. When I do a "grip test" this amended soil looks very good. There is absolutely no way I can reproduce this in a large garden, however. I'd need buy tons of compost as ya'll suggested to come up with that. I might try a section as you suggest, grandmom, and add some of my worms under cardboard to see what reaction I get.

    You both have been a BIG help. I've never done any of this before. When we gather the leaves this fall for the compost I'll be certain to find a way to break them down before adding them. I hadn't thought of that. I have a bunch of it but it takes so long to compost! I hope my worms are reproducing so I can have a very large worm farm. It looks like I'm going to need as much worm compost as I can get my hands on and to use some of those little critters directly in the garden next spring.

    Bonnie (Sorry, I keep forgetting to add my name. Ya'll can just call me "Bon".)

  • soonergrandmom
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Save your worms for your worm farm because you don't need to put worms in your beds when you use cardboard, "Build It and They Will Come". Worms and crickets just seem to be drawn to cardboard.

  • Okiedawn OK Zone 7
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Bon,

    You've already received great advice.

    With any soil that anyone is attempting to improve, the answer is always going to be that you need to add organic matter, organic matter, organic matter. In our climate, it is hard to add too much organic matter to the existing 'virgin' soil. There is a saying that is very true that 'heat eats compost', meaning that compost decomposes extra quickly in our heat. So, no matter how much organic matter, you constantly have to add more. One argument against rototilling is that the act of rototilling speeds up the decomposition of organic matter in the soil by exposing it to air as the tiller churns up the soil.

    One of the best ways to add organic matter to your soil is to continually add mulch. As the mulch breaks down, it turnes into compost or humus. If you did nothing but mulch the soil, you would find your soil still improved greatly over, say, a decade as the mulch was being broken down continually. I always use a natural woodland to describe this process.

    Our house and garden are on a slope that consists mostly of dense red clay with a small sandy/silty band that cuts across the front pasture. When we bought this land, it was just overgrown native grasses and forbs with some small trees and brush. Meanwhile, in our acres of woodland, the top 8-12" of soil are rich, brown, humusy soil that has developed on its own over the decades as trees, limbs, twigs, branches, flowers, understory plants, insects and even animals die and decay. The earthworms and other soil-dwelling critters carry the humus underground but other than that the soil has improved itself from the top down. Ever since we moved here, I have piled tons of organic matter on top of the garden soil, in effect mimicking what happens naturally in the woods. The first few years, I rototilled a lot of organic matter into the soil, but now I use the cultivator a lot less and rely upon eartworms, insects that burrow in the soil, and the digging I do when planting to carry the organic matter down more deeply into the soil. Maybe someday my garden soil will be a good as the soil in the woodland acreage.

    We catch all the grass clippings from mowing in a grass catcher and I spread them on the beds weekly as mulch. Of course, it is a very big garden, so every raised bed doesn't get mulch added to it every week, but I do the best I can. I also use old spoiled hay if I know it is not contaminated with Grazon and other long-lived herbicides, and I gather tons of leaves in the fall. Some of them I shred by running over them with the mower and catching them in the grass catcher, and others I rake up, place in a large trash can, and then I shred them by sticking the weedeater into the trashcan. It cuts them up really well.

    I always put down layers of newspaper and cardboard under the mulch layers. Doing so really cuts down on weeds and earthworms love newspaper and cardboard so it attracts more of them and they do a lot of soil improvement for me. Don't just collect and save your leaves, but beg all your neighbors for their leaves and, if you see bags of leaves left curbside on trash day, pick them up and take them home. Your soil will thank you!

    While fertility and pH are important, I have found that the composition of the soil is the overriding factor in how well my garden performs. You want soil that has a good blend of dirt (which is just decomposed minerals, after all), organic matter (anything once living, including compost and humus), and air (roots grow in the open spaces between soil and humus particles). Too much of any one thing is not good. For example, if you're starting with clay, it has really small particles that stick together into clods (especially when dug or rototilled while wet) and is very low in organic matter like humus and compost. Because the particles stick together, the roots struggle to find air space in which to grow. Because the clay does not drain well, it is hard for the roots to take up nutrition from the minerals in the soil. Often, clay is extremely fertile but the plants are growing in such tightly compacted (or waterlogged) soil that they cannot take advantage of the nutrition available in the soil. If you have fast-draining sand, its particles are too large and let water drain through too quickly, which makes it hard for the soil to retain enough water long enough for plant roots to take up the moisture before it drains away. A lot of times, people describe their soil as sandy loam when it really is mostly sand and little loam.

    I'm going to link the jar soil test from Fine Gardening magazine. Our first year here, I did this soil test using separate jars for different parts of our land because I knew there was great variation in our soils and I wanted a way to measure/understand the soil in each area before I started amending so I'd know what each area needed.

    With regards to the clay dug from the pond bottom....(sigh)....I hardly know what to say. I wouldn't have done it, but y'all did it already, so now all you can do is focus on improving it. The most important thing is to add organic matter. I cannot emphasize that enough.

    When we began improving our red clay, we added 6 to 9" of organic matter to each area. Just the act of rototilling that organic matter into the soil raised the grade level of the improved area for us and we built wood frames to enclosed the now-raised beds. Since then, we have focused on mulching heavily every year and on rototilling additional organic matter into the soil every fall and winter. Someday I'd like to give up the tilling altogether because it really isn't good for the earthworms, the organic matter in the soil or the texture of the soil.

    One way I improve our soil in the raised beds is to heavily, heavily, heavily mulch all the pathways in between the raised beds. Then, in the fall or winter, before spring planting begins, I use a compost scoop to scoop up all the decomposed mulch in the pathways which, by then, has decomposed and is compost. I usually get from 1/2" to 1" of compost from each pathway and add it to the beds on either side of that path. While that is not a lot of organic matter, don't forget that every little bit counts and the decomposed mulch from the path supplements whatever compost I have on the beds from the mulch that decomposed there during the growing season plus all the leaves I add in the fall/winter. As a bonus, I'm not hauling as much compost from a distant compost pile to the garden because the mulch is, essentially, sheet composting that is being done there in the garden right beside the beds that ultimately will benefit from the compost. Every wheelbarrow load of compost that I don't have to physically haul from the compost pile is a blessing.

    When you add sand to clay, you pretty much get adobe. Just throw in a few handfuls of straw, and you're turning your soil into adobe clay, which is great for building homes and walls, but not so great for gardening. The only good solution is to add lots of organic matter too. I rarely add sand to my garden beds, but add organic matter year round.

    As for the tires......I know some people grow food in them but that's not something I think is a good idea. Tires have a lot of chemicals in them that may leach into the soil as they break down over the years and I don't want to contaminate the soil where we're growing edible crops with tires and their leachates. Also, tires are black and soak up heat from the sun all day long. I think there's a good chance the soil inside those tires gets really, really hot and may cook the roots of the plants grown in them. In a cold climate, if you totally ignore the issue of what tires contain in the first place, I could see where growing in tires might work in winter and spring because they'd soak up heat from the sunlight and warm up the soil---a definite advantage in cold climates. In a hot climate where the ground already gets too hot as it is, tires are not as useful.

    One of the best easy methods of improving soil is to use the Ruth Stout "no work" method, which is the forerunner of Pat Lanza's "lasagna gardening" method. I've read books by both of them and they did heavily influence the way I have worked to build beds and amend the soil.

    You cannot expect to go from poor soil to great soil in one season or one year. Soil improvement is an ongoing process that never really ends. You also can grow your own organic matter by sowing cold-tolerate cover crops in the fall and then mowing them down and planting right through them or into the areas with them at the proper time the following winter or spring.

    By far, the best soil amendment we find naturally on our land is autumn leaves. Nothing will improve your soil more quickly at such a low cost.

    Good luck with your soil. Just keep the thought in mind that Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is great soil. We've been here 13 years now, and sometimes I look at my improved soil and think how beautiful and healthy it is and how proud I am of how far we've came since we first broke a shovel and pitchform by attempting to dig in our rock-hard red clay that first spring here. Other times, I look at the improved soil and mumble and grumble about why it doesn't look better than it does after all the improving we've done over the years. (I know that the answer is that heat eats compost!)

    Also, all other things being equal, and for all that I complain about our dense red clay, I'd rather have clay than sand or most sandy loams any day of the week. Any soil with a high sand content in our climate is prone to root knot nematodes and they can greatly affect your ability to raise a veggie garden. I think it is easier to amend clay and make it better draining than it is to amend sandy soil enough to keep nematodes from becoming an issue. Obviously, not all gardeners with sand or sandy loam have nematode issues, but lots of them do.

    Dawn

    Here is a link that might be useful: Article: Fine Gardening Magazine-Jar Soil Test

  • miraje
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I pulled up the soil info from SSURGO (the national soil survey database produced by the National Resources Conservation Service) for our house out of curiosity yesterday. I knew we had a lot of sand, but I guess I didn't realize just how much. The surface is like 65% sand, 18% clay, and 17% silt, and the deeper soil only has about 10% more clay and less sand. Unfortunately it also says I'm only sitting about three feet above bedrock (possibly a lot less in some spots), so I need to be careful not to plant anything that requires a deep root system. I may even have to consider raised beds, too. :/

    Of course, the soil survey was done on natural prairie, so I have no way of knowing how the developers changed the soil without getting it tested. But...yeah, drainage is definitely not our problem. Hopefully the organic matter I add for our new garden will hold the moisture and nutrients in place longer.

    Any suggestions on plants that love sandy soil? I'm thinking about investing in more blueberries since they have shallow roots and my soil is on the acidic side already.

  • chickencoupe
    Original Author
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Excellent;

    @Sooner Grandmom ; Thanks for that. I have noticed some tiny earthworks when digging under rail road ties. Your comment set off a light bulb! Sounds to me the suggestion would work very well for me.

    I began to wonder if I should just work with potted plants and work on amending the soil for next year. But, then, I read Dawn's post and was reminded that it takes a long time and anything we do now should just be done without expectation of next year's fruition.

    @Dawn
    At least I know my thinking is in the right direction. I'm constantly thinking EXACTLY of the soil under a rich composted pile in the woods. I got such a chuckle out of your weed-eater in the bucket advice. It was a funny visual but I'm going to do just that this fall! I might go ahead and do it with some of my compost pile that is not breaking down fast enough.

    I once thought planting the garden along the fence line where the leaves and grass have been composting. After reading your experience I bet this would do well. In fact, I have short rows of corn planted just so. I might just dig a bunch of fence-line dirt to place inside the tire for the fall planting.

    I make it sound terrible but there's only about 75 lbs of that pond bottom. Thank goodness!

    I thought about the chemical decomposition of the tires but by the time I had come to that conclusion my husband happily laid out 18 tires including taking some off old cars. Apparently, he was more than happy to put those tires to use! hahaha I'm stuck with them. hehe

    Nematodes. Oh gawd. I am SO not ready to learn that much. I did remember, today, I have some more potting soil. I added them to the soil (middle) in the tires without mixing and leave that which I amended to continue to decompose. The potting soil will provide everything the seedlings need for now and I'll add fertilizer as directed. If it doesn't work. It doesn't. I just had to put that possibility in my head and drop the perfectionism.

    Good news: So very much of my compost is from trees including dead ones, etc. We burn wood in the winter and I keep absolutely everything (even the ash pile) to be used in something with much of it going into the compost pile.I've already begun using some of the larger compost "stuff" as mulch. The plants really enjoy it as a topping but I must constantly weed it, too. Getting the dirt from it requires filtering but the soil is delicious (for the plants lol). I once had a squash seedling my 3yo butchered. After a couple months in the compost pile it popped up from amongst the pile and continued to thrive.


    I have just ONE more question for ya'll. Asparagus. I was dismayed to find Asaparagus plants are permanent. Not so much because I must wait several seasons before a true harvest but that I must get started right away (as a newbie). I've looked up all the information and am confident I can plant it appropriately. I'm even willing to buy soil for this baby cuz it's so important for healthy eating.

    The only question I have concerns location, location, location. Should I make a bed? Should it be in partial shade? Under a tree? Behind the house? If a bed; what kind of trim? Wood? Concrete? (definitely not tires for this baby) Should I sing songs to them every morning? (LOL)

    I suppose I should plant extra in case some of them fail. let's say.. ten plants?

    I think I'm headed in the right direction. I cannot tell you all how much I appreciate your input. I'm a bit obsessive so I'm going to lay off the thinking for a while. I don't want to wear out my welcome. Besides, I can often over work my mind as easily as I overwork soil! I want to just enjoy the process.

    Blessings in abundance to you all!

    Bon

  • soonergrandmom
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    First of all, I only planted my asparagus this year and I have lived here ten years. I knew I wanted it, but didn't know exactly where. I planted most of mine in a raised bed which was built from 2x12 lumber and the 12 ft side pieces were left over from another project so I didn't have much expense involved in building it. If I remember right, the boards had only been used to stack siding on so it didn't get damaged and it hadn't been used for anything else.

    I bought Jersey Giant which is supposed to be all male, but I think I read somewhere that it is usually about 83-87 percent male. I would say that was about right because I can see a few reproducing plants in my bed. I didn't take them out though.

    The general rule of thumb is 10 plants per person. I will attach a link to Simmons Plant Farm in Arkansas which is where I bought mine.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Simons Plant Farm

  • Lisa_H OK
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I'm only going to echo the previous comments! Amending the soil can be done in several ways.

    Composting in place (dig a hole, dump in compostables, and cover it over), is an easy to do in a small area.

    I have built several beds with the lasagna method and I highly recommend it. Cardboard is an excellent bottom layer.

    I'm not sure where you are located at, but if you have access to coffee grounds, I used them for a major part of a bed I built on top of ground wood. (a neighbor cut a tree and chipped up all the limbs.) Starbucks will give them away, but if you are coffee or tea drinkers, you can probably save plenty.

    Like Dawn I frequently catch my grass and use the clippings, either in my compost pile or a mulch, wherever I need it the most at the time. I don't rake my leaves in the fall either. If asked, I claim it's mulch. Truth is, I'm just too lazy by fall to rake or mow them. LOL. Oh, I also compost some of my weeds in place too. I find a hidden place to stash them. It's convenient for me and good for the soil. In my front yard this year, the hidden stash place is under a huge ornamental grass. For a number of years, it's been under my front hedge, but last year I gave the hedge a major trim and now the legs show!

    I've had a fun new mulch for my paths this year. Friends of mine work on a Meals on Wheels crew. One of their clients feeds sunflower seeds to her squirrels or birds, or something!, and then saves the hulls. They make their way back to me. I have been gathering quite the reputation lately as the person who saves "garbage"!

    I'm glad Dawn mentioned the tires issue. The soil forum opened my eyes to the fact that using tires or railroad ties (with creosote/oil covering) was not a great idea for anything edible. Even pressure treated wood was considered not a great idea.

    Lisa

  • chickencoupe
    Original Author
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Ten plants per person! Grandmom are they very big? That'll equate to about 40 workable plants for my family. Still worth it, though. I've read up about those Jersey plants. Thanks for the link. At least I know a good source to get the roots from. I'd hate to plant 40 to find out they're all duds. lol Do they need be in our full sun or would partial shade (from the side or above) be best? I don't know if they easily burn up or act like tomato plants.

    @Lisa Maybe I'll just plant flowers and herbs used for herbicides in those tires. I'm located in Cushing about 25 miles outside of Stillwater.

    @Mari - Thanks for the SSURGO tip. I'm headed there right away.

  • miraje
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    If anyone's curious about how to look up the SSURGO information for where you live, I can give a quick step-by-step guide. I find it to be very interesting, but I'll just say that the soil classifications are somewhat general. It's likely that when they did the classification, they didn't sample the soil at your exact location (it was probably somewhere nearby though). They also didn't test things such as what you would get from a soil test like NPK.

    Anywho, start by going to http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov/app/ and click the "Start WSS" button. If everything works you'll see an app come up with a view of North America.

    1. Use your mouse to draw a box over the area you are interested in, and keep zooming in until you can see your neighborhood. I have to draw about four or five boxes to get that close.

    2. Now find the row of square buttons above the map, and click on either the rectangle AOI or the custom shape AOI. Then go back to the map and draw a box around your land.

    3. At the top of your page there are tabs that say "Area of Interest", "Soil Map", etc. Now that you have your area of interest drawn, click over to the soil map and soil data explorer tabs to read about what kind of soils are there. "Soil Map" will give you a general description in soil science lingo about each soil class.

    4. The Soil Data Explorer tab is where you'll find the most detailed information. Select which feature you are interested in from the list on the left (I'll use pH as an example), and a list of options will appear. The options you'll probably care about most are the "Layer Options". That will let you select which part of your soil profile you want numbers for. Pick what you want there (either the surface layer or some range of depths below ground), and then click the "View Rating" button. The data will appear in a table below your map.

    Let me know if anyone has any questions about the terminology. Part of my day job is in the area of hydrology and soil science, so I'm pretty familiar with using this stuff.

  • soonergrandmom
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    At this link you can see a picture of what the roots look like and what the growing plant looks like. After cutting in the Spring the shoots that are not cut will grow up to be a tall fern type plant which you have to let happen so you get a crop the next year.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Asparagus Planting

  • chickencoupe
    Original Author
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Thank you, grandmom! Husband tilled the soil today. We got a few inches of rain overnight. I wasn't expecting him to till so soon. Nonetheless, I went ahead and began covering it with cardboard, newspaper and dry compost material hoping the topsoil doesn't get destroyed when the heat comes. This soil in the yard is beautiful. It has a perfect grip. Because of you guys I know how to keep it that way. Sure is alot of work covering it up. I bet the neighbors think I'm crazy.

  • dawnrenee
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Those of you who have mentioned using your grass clippings for mulch....what kind of grass do you have? We have Bermuda here, so we have always dumped our grass clippings into the chicken run. Any ideas on how I could better use those clippings. Bermuda scares me when it gets near the garden!

  • Okiedawn OK Zone 7
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I use bermuda grass and then whatever is growing in the pastures...which is virtually everything. I wouldn't use bermuda grass if it had formed seedheads. That batch would go into the compost pile so the heat of composting could sterilize the seeds.

    To prevent anything in the grass clippings OR the soil from sprouting and growing up through the mulch, lay down newspaper or cardboard and then pile on the mulch. If there is any wind, wet down the cardboard or newspaper as you lay it down so it won't blow away before you pile on the mulch. The newspaper or cardboard serves as a barrier. Weed seed beneath it cannot sprout because of the darkness and if it sprouts, it generally cannot penetrate the paper or cardboard. Weed seed on top of the cardboard or paper may sprout, but any plants that sprout in the mulch can't grow down through it and it is easy to pull them out of the mulch when you notice they've sprouted. As a bonus, earthworms adore newspaper and cardboard so having them on the ground attracts them to your soil and since they improve the soil, that's a plus.

    A couple of tips:

    1) Never use any grass clippings from lawn treated with herbicides, including weed and feed fertilizers;

    2) If the grass is holding a lot of moisture after it is cut, I leave it in the garden cart or wagon for a day or two and let it dry and then I spread them on the beds;

    3) If you have cut tallish bermuda in humid, hot conditions (especially in late spring/early summer) and think chiggers might be lurking in there, spray yourself with an insect repellent before you spread the grass clippings. Then, after you're done, scrub yourself thoroughly to remove any that may be climbing around on you. I have chigger issues about once a year after spreading grass clippings DH has cut and it usually happens in late May or early June.

    4) Be very picky about your grass clippings. If neighbors see and understand what you're doing and offer you theirs, make sure their lawns haven't been chemically-treated.

    5) If you have an issue with snails, slugs, pill bugs or sow bugs be sure you leave a little open space (at least 1/4") between the mulch and plant stems so you can spot those little buggies and sluggies and kill them dead. (I just sprinkle Slug-Go Plus in that little open area so they can find something to eat. It is just a bonus that the 'something' they find to eat kills them.)

    Dawn

  • chickencoupe
    Original Author
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Grandmom, Larry and Dawn;
    I can't tell you how much I appreciate your input. I think you have allowed me to embark upon doing many things right 1) Not destroying my eco-system and, mainly 2) preserving what good topsoil is in existence.

    It rained recently which brought my beautiful soil back. My greatest concern was preserving it and the top layers of newspaper, cardboard and compost materials for mulch have done the trick. I haven't sufficient quantities of "stuff" for the entire yard but it provided an excellent experiment. The soil I covered is doing very well. I only have 5-8 inches of good top-soil before hitting (moist) clay beneath. As I've seen suggested I am having my husband force the tines of the pitchfork deep into the soil providing air and water holes. Then, I will let time work that clay area. To my surprise, I found a nightcrawler in the are I had covered. I take that as a very good sign the entire eco system has been working to improve itself since the relief in the Oklahoma droughts began a few years ago. It's amazing, but the answer is to be very careful in working that soil so I don't destroy what's already there.

    As gradnmom suggested the covering it has drawn all the bugs to the area and they are busy composting away. I now desire to have all of the tilled soil covered over for the winter in hopes for much better beds in the spring.

    Without a doubt, if I had proceeded to just till the soil, work it and plant the soil would have been easily destroyed by next winter or most of it washed away from erosion. I shall always keep it well covered and plan on grading the garden area appropriately. I'm going to need to use a stair-step method of preventing soil erosion. I believe a bulk of the topsoil to be silt and washes away easily. As I was working the squash plant areas I noticed I was getting some clay up into the soil area. So, I'm off to a great start.

    Consequently, the Cauliflower I planted in the tire with amended pond bottom clay. silty soil and compost dirt is thriving. I got lucky in mixing the right combo. Even with all the rain we've had recently it is draining sufficiently.

    It really does pay to do homework and ask those who know!!!

  • mulberryknob
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Bon, concerning Asparagus. We have ours planted in full sun. Asparagus likes a neutral to alkaline soil so we spread our woodashes between the rows. It is also essential to keep a mulch on asparagus. I can tell you from experience you do NOT want to be on your hands and knees under 6 foot tall asparagus fronds in June. For years we used sawdust from a local sawmill, then when we lost that source, we used our own oak and mixed tree leaves. Last year we were fortunate enough to arrange for the electric company to dump 13 dump truck loads of wood chips for us and we spread that very thickly over the asparagus.

    A note about wood ashes. It is better to store them separately and NOT add them to the compost pile. We used to do that and would often notice a smell of ammonia after we did. That was the nitrogen outgassing as a result of the ashes changing the pile chemistry. Now we keep them in a 55 gal metal drum all winter and spread them in spring. That way you have good compost for the things that need it--like blueberries and potatoes--and woodashes for the plants that need neutral to alkaline soil. Woodashes are highly alkaline. A while back I posted a list of plants that need acid and those that need alkaline soils. You should be able to find it by searching.

  • slowpoke_gardener
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    I use about any type of organic matter I can get. I have at times collected Bermuda seed heads and tilled them into the garden. My sweet potato bed had about a pickup load of grass clippings tilled into it last fall, much of it was Bermuda. I have more weed problems than I had last year but nothing I cant deal with. I planned on doing the Irish potato area the same way today but did not get around to it.

    I really don't think it is a great idea but I am so hard up for organic matter I will take almost anything.

    Larry

  • chickencoupe
    Original Author
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    Mulberryknob; Thanks for the tips. I'm not certain what it is in my area but my plants are not taking that full sun well. Even my healthy potted plants must be moved into partial shade. I'm taking a wild guess but I believe the only ones doing well in full sun are those who are well root-bound into that bottom clay I wrote about. I just think it's my area. I asked the elderly woman next door where she thought I should plant my asparagus and she recommended a spot that received some sun but was partially shaded by the trees. I might try some in more than one spot to see how they do. After they are well established I bet I need not worry about them. The hardest part is watering constantly those that are "down" during the day. I barely water them but must do so to keep them off the ground. Some of these problems I'm having in areas, of course, where the soil just drains to fast such as my raised bed (a relatively poor job I did). Will they do okay up against a fence line? My mind is on a very good spot near the fence that will naturally capture leaves for mulch. Like you suggested, I'm just not looking forward to working hard on a such a permanent planting.

    I will definitely keep my wood ashes separate now!! Thanks for that one.

    Larry;
    As I was digging up the grass from my new garden area I wondered if it would be OK to put it all in my compost bin. I think I might do that since I am lacking in "green" material. Hopefully the sunny side of my compost will kill most of the grass? My compost pile is about 5' high at the peak. I try to turn it but my back will only let me do so much. Especially after it rains I attempt turning at least part of it.

    Blessings
    bon

  • Okiedawn OK Zone 7
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    If y'all are having trouble finding organic matter to compost, don't forget that you can compost newspaper and cardboard in your compost too as well as your shredded junk mail if you shred your junk mail. We shred all of it and compost it.

    In the fall, when neighbors (or strangers) put out their leaves and other lawn debris for the trash collectors, gather it up.

    You might check with whoever your local electric company hires to trim trees. In some areas, they'll dump loads of shredded tree trimmings, but in some areas (supposedly for liability reasons) they won't.

    If you have a ragbbit breeder or horse stables nearby, often they will let folks collect manure or stable bedding/manure mixes for composting. This is not quite as wonderful of a source as it used to be because of herbicide contamination issues, but some folks still collect these materials and compost them, and then test them for herbicide contamination before adding them to the garden.

    Some counties and cities chred up tree trimmings and leaves and let residents pick them up and use them. Those can be shredded too.

    I've linked a list of other items that can go on a compost pile. Some of the items might be stuff you never thought it.

    Dawn

    Here is a link that might be useful: Stuff You Can Compost

  • slowpoke_gardener
    12 years ago
    last modified: 9 years ago

    On my ornamental sweet potato bed I grew a cover crop of Elbon rye, cut in down with a line trimmer and just let it lay in top of the soil about a month, tossed on some 27-0-0, planted the ornamental potatoes. I then took the news papers I had been saving and placed them in the bed of plastic-bed cart I have with 5 or 10 gal of water and a cup or so of 27-0-0. I placed the wet paper, several pages thick on the bed and cover with shredded leaves. So far it has been working wonderfully. The ornamentals I did not do this way are not doing as well, but they did not have the rye and much less 27-0-0.

    Larry