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How do you rejuvenate soil in a raised bed?

Ok,,the title kinda says it all..I need to rejuvenate the soil in my raised beds. The tricky part is that I cannot use horse manure like I used to. Thanks to new government restrictions on farmers stuff like that is a no no close to crops, even if those c ops are picked off trees Sheesh

Comments (50)

  • Sheila z8a Rogue Valley OR
    8 years ago

    Adding compost yearly could really help. I'm planning alfalfa pellets as well.

  • Maria (S. FL. zone 10a)
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    I need to really give it a big boost this year. Basically redoing it

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  • Sheila z8a Rogue Valley OR
    8 years ago

    I had a couple of large pots I just shoveled all out and added entirely new soil to. This was where I planted a new camellia where one had died from the former home owner. That would be a huge job to replace all the soil, I would think in raised beds. Maybe you could shovel off one spade deep and replace with fresh goodies.

  • Maria (S. FL. zone 10a)
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    Right. I'm not going to remove what is there but over the years it has shrunk LOL. So I'm going to add and mix in. It is just that before I would have used ALOT of horse manure from the stables across the street. Now I need to come up with something else..can we say "workout"?

  • Sheila z8a Rogue Valley OR
    8 years ago

    And expense.

  • Rosefolly
    8 years ago

    While I also like well composted horse manure, any good compost will benefit your soil.

  • AquaEyes 7a NJ
    8 years ago

    I'm a fan of used coffee grounds. I've posted often about my daily hauls from Starbucks. I bought two garbage cans, and left one there. The next day I returned and swapped them out. A full can is heavy, so I'd suggest getting a hand truck to wheel it out to your car. Then I bring it home, dump it in a wheelbarrow, pull out the filters, and scoop the grounds into a bucket. When I have a bucketfull, I bring it to where I want to add a layer in the garden, and pour it out. Filters go in my compost area. If you're doing this in the off- season, you can apply it a few inches thick. The earthworms will pull it down as they feed. If you want an extra boost, throw down some alfalfa meal first, then cover it with grounds. Also, save up any tree leaves, shred them, and put them down. Finally, if you can source some free wood chips, that's awesome. Contact some local landscapers and ask if they'd leave a pile on your property. Often they have to pay to dump it, so it's doing them a favor.


    :-)


    ~Christopher

  • AquaEyes 7a NJ
    8 years ago

    OK, I'm home now, and can type better than I do on my phone.

    Looking back at your first post, if the raised beds contain trees and no other things growing around them, you can put the filters down first and cover them with grounds. That will add further bulk, and also keep down weeds. I'd still recommend separating them out first, since they'll look unsightly if they're poking through the surface. But putting them down first will make a temporary biodegradable weed barrier. If you have a leaf shredder, you could also shred the filters -- but let them dry out first.

    Used coffee grounds have a similar range of nutrients as manure, but there's no worry about burning. The nitrogen in it needs to break down before it becomes available, so throwing a little organic fertilizer or alfalfa mean as a first layer will speed up the process. Plus -- no offense meant -- the used coffee grounds are a bit more pleasantly aromatic than manure. If you'd like to see pics of how I use them in my garden, I can search through threads with pictures. One which comes to mind right away was my thread with pics from last Spring -- see link below.

    http://forums.gardenweb.com/discussions/3053953/spring-2015-garden-shots?n=62


    :-)

    ~Christopher



  • nanadollZ7 SWIdaho
    8 years ago

    I would use a good compost mixed with high quality garden soil, either bagged or bulk from a nursery (they usually deliver it) to replace what you are removing. Composted manure doesn't smell or burn in my experience. I don't use the fresh stuff, though. Coffee grounds would be a fine addition, too. Diane

  • User
    8 years ago

    I'm trying cracked corn this year; an idea I got off the organic rose forum,in addition to alfalfa, bought manure pellets, collected orgnic matter from the woods, etc.

  • Buford_NE_GA_7A
    8 years ago

    I just bought a dump truck of good soil for a new rose bed. It was $250 for 7 cubic yards. It sounds like a lot, but it's a good fast way to replenish a bed. Look for a company near you that does this. you can also get compost and mulch.

  • nikthegreek
    8 years ago

    Wood chips, coffee grounds... I would suspect this will 'enrich' the soil with a large dose of carbon while nitrogen will be wanting...no good by itself. I would suggest if one goes that way to add a source of nitrogen as well. That could be urea fertiliser, fresh manure ,alphalpha or 'green' manure such as grass clippings.

  • catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Agreed, Nik. Adding a bunch of carbon to soil without adequate nitrogen generally leads to nitrogen-depletion. In fact, carbon addition (often straight sugar!) is a restoration strategy that has been tried (along with conventional practice of repeated mowing and biomass removal) to reclaim former agricultural land for native habitat, or areas suffering from atmospheric nitrogen deposition via pollution. Former ag land and areas near freeways and downwind from industrial facilities tend to have elevated nitrogen levels, more suitable for exotic weeds than native plant species, which are more adapted to relatively low nitrogen availability, so getting rid of nitrogen in these cases is desirable. Not so much with roses...

    In particular, I would really hesitate before adding a high starch component like cracked corn to soil. I can't find any support in the literature for doing that, though supplements like coffee grounds, cotton meal, alfalfa, etc. have some support there.

  • AquaEyes 7a NJ
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    One thing for Catspa and Nick to remember is that rain contains nitrogen -- it's the most abundant element in the atmosphere, and readily dissolves in water falling as rain. We on the east coast of the US -- the OP is in Florida -- get plenty of it. When I had my mulch delivery in 2013, it was such a steaming hot pile that my hands felt almost burned after scooping a wheelbarrow-full to bring to the back. This mulch was just shredded tree trimmings, aged for a year, and shredded again. The only nitrogen in it came from the material itself, plus rain. Those in more arid areas where gardening requires a more significant irrigation component will require the addition of more nitrogen than we do because tap water lacks this added nitrogen.

    :-)

    ~Christopher


    P.S. Used coffee grounds is 2% nitrogen, but almost none of that is in plant-ready form. However, after passing through earthworms, it's good to go.

  • nikthegreek
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Yes you are quite right with regards to precipitation nitrogen and the differences aridity makes, although the below would suggest (page 3) that you are getting much more of that than they do in Florida (who might also suffer from leaching where soils are sandy). I was pointing out that one should be aware of the balance required between carbon and nitrogen. I, at least in my conditions, would use wasted coffee grounds in my compost but not directly on the ground.
    US Nitrogen

  • catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    True, Christopher, not to mention that increased precip makes for faster cycles. Interesting to note that with better controls on pollution and conversion of power plants from coal to natural gas, even those downwind from the Rust Belt are getting a little less N in their precipitation. Compare these two maps (unfortunately can't find one since 2006, but I believe the trend continues):

    1998:

    2006:

  • AquaEyes 7a NJ
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Nik and Catspa -- yes, human activity contributes more nitrogen to the air, but there would still be some present without it. I'm not arguing that it's thus "good" that we're putting excess nitrogen compounds into the air. Rather, I'm saying that even with decreased human contribution, there will still be nitrogen in rain. The images posted above show measured nitrogen via human-activity-contributed nitrate and ammonium -- it does not show nitrogen occurring "naturally" from nitrogen gas. Soil testing for nitrogen in sandy Florida soil will show less nitrogen than in my clay-based soil, but that is more an effect of leaching -- my soil holds it, sandy soil lets it pass through. Applying layers of organic material will trap more of the nutrients that would otherwise filter through the sand.

    Additionally, applying lots of carbon doesn't "remove" nitrogen from soil -- it just ties it up temporarily as the carbon-rich material breaks down. Once fully composted, the nitrogen is available again. With additional input of nitrogen from precipitation, there is less of a "pull" of nitrogen from the soil for this to happen. And even so, this temporary nitrogen depletion happens at only a thin layer where the material meets the soil. This is why things like wood chips are best applied on top, rather than incorporated into the soil. As the bottom layer breaks down, the nitrogen utilized becomes available again, and then feeds the breakdown of the next thin layer above.

    Nik, you are probably right about composting coffee grounds first for your conditions. In my garden, however, I haven't seen adverse effects as of yet. But my conditions are different -- our "driest month" still sees an average of 3.5 inches of precipitation, and not including snow, we see an average of a smidge more than 4 feet of rain per year. During the growing season, the coffee grounds I apply sink down rather quickly, and I find myself starting back at the beginning again, giving each area two layers per year. And as it breaks down, it's teeming with life. Of course, YMMV, but it's doing well for me here.

    :-)

    ~Christopher

  • Maria (S. FL. zone 10a)
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    Should I add that the ph here is about 7.5? And that is well water.

  • catspa_NoCA_Z9_Sunset14
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Not sure what the significance of nitrogen gas, whether in rain or not, would be, Christopher, since nitrogen gas isn't an accessible form for plants -- it's not a form of nitrogen that plants can use. There's already nitrogen gas in the soil, anyway, in the air that is in the pore space of unsaturated soil (78% of it!).

    Without bacterial activity, the atoms of a nitrogen molecule are very tightly bound and do not spontaneously break apart and unless the atoms are broken apart, they can't be converted into those plant-accessible forms of nitrogen (e.g., nitrate and ammonium ions). ("Nitrogen fixation" and "nitrification" are the processes that different bacteria carry out in order to produce ammonium and nitrate ions, respectively.) If plants could actually use nitrogen gas, it wouldn't be a limiting nutrient....

    And, yes, the nitrogen compounds aren't removed, just incorporated into the bodies of the carbon-decomposing microbes. When they die, it is released.

    Edit to add: I forgot about nitrogen oxides and ammonia emitted from natural sources, e.g., plants, animals, manure, soil, etc! Those ARE about 62% of the wet and dry deposition. The other 38% (which is not negligible) is from purely human sources. The maps above include both natural and human sources of nitrate and ammonium, however, so overall amounts seem to be diminishing.

    Agree that the microbes "tying up" nitrogen are both a positive and a negative. The "accessible" ionic compounds of nitrogen are highly mobile in and soon leached out of it by water filtering through, but not if they are residing in a microbe body.

  • roseguy
    8 years ago

    A pH of 7.5 is not in and of itself bad. Mine is 7.8. The question becomes the buffering capacity of the water, that is how easy is it to change the pH of the water or how effective is the water in changing the pH in your beds. A good water test will let you know this. I also always spend the money on a good soil test. What you perceive as material that has to be replaced may just need the application of suitable amendments. I also always test any potting or garden mixes. Some of them are so poor that they will permanently damage your beds until replaced, looks can deceive. I once looked at material that appeared to be some of the best loam I had seen in Florida. When submitted to the soils lab in Gainesville I was contacted because their equipment was not able to read the pH it was so high and it was exceptionally high in carbonates. That test saved me thousands in lost plants and man hours. Contact your local Co-operative extension, they have the forms and sampling supplies.

  • AquaEyes 7a NJ
    8 years ago

    Catspa, I know it's not accessible to plants, but the nitrogen is accessible to the microbes which start breaking down the organic matter. In any case, in our east coast US climate, ample rain seems to make organic matter break down rather quickly, and I don't see adverse affects on my roses. Somehow or another, they're getting what they need -- no depleted soil here, despite all the mulch I put down, followed by "seeding" it with live composted manure, tree leaves, and copious used coffee grounds. As such, I recommend that others with similar rainfall give it a try. Especially the coffee grounds -- they do more good in the garden than in the landfill, anyway.

    :-)

    ~Christopher

  • Sheila z8a Rogue Valley OR
    8 years ago

    That high ph story is horrible, roseguy. I hope you told them of your findings and straightened them out.

  • boncrow66
    8 years ago

    Maria I'm not sure I have the answer but what I have done in the past is to add mulched leaves and I bought some compost and chicken manure and mixed it really good with the existing soil. Sometimes just aerating your soil helps too.

  • Rosefolly
    8 years ago

    Wood chips on the surface of the soil do not tie up nitrogen except right on the very surface where they actually touch. Wood chips mixed into the soil are another story. Don't do it -- they will bind the nitrogen and make it unavailable. That is why wood chips are good mulch, but poor compost.

  • AquaEyes 7a NJ
    8 years ago

    I won't discount the merits of having a compost pile and using the finished compost in the garden, but I also like what is referred to as "sheet-composting" right in the beds. Finished compost is basically plant-ready, but the uncomposted material in beds needs other organisms to get it there. Those other organisms create their own little food web, and within that population resides beneficial predators who feed upon not only the composting organisms but also pest species. In my garden, the compost pile is for things I don't want to lay down in the beds but would also like to keep out of the garbage can -- basically, larger stuff that would smother plants in the beds. When it's broken down, I just throw it where I need some filler. The small-particle stuff, like coffee grounds and shredded leaves, I throw directly in the beds.

    :-)

    ~Christopher

  • AquaEyes 7a NJ
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Catspa, another difference between east-coast and west-coast is that our warm seasons tend to be our wettest, whereas your warm seasons tend to be your driest. This is also why we have more blackspot issues, and you have more mildew issues. Decomposition is sped up when both warm and wet -- faster than either cool and wet or warm and dry. From what some of my Florida friends have said, even thick layers of organic mulch need to be applied two or three times a year to maintain desired height.

    :-)

    ~Christopher

  • Maria (S. FL. zone 10a)
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    It is very warm and wet here. I have lost about 8 inches in depth in these gardens. As for leaves, well this is a grove here so I have leaves. Big, thick leaves. We grow mameys here.

  • seil zone 6b MI
    8 years ago

    I have a large two tiered raised bed with roses in it. Over time the soil levels always sink so after a few years I just add a fresh layer of new soil to the top to bring the levels back up.

    Before adding the soil I take a pitchfork and break up the surface of the existing soil really well. Then I add some soil and mix that in with the existing soil again with the fork. After that I top dress the bed with the rest of the fresh soil to bring it up to grade. It's a lot of work but it seems to work and I always have a nice healthy population of worms in the bed.

  • subk3
    8 years ago

    "Thanks to new government restrictions on farmers stuff like that is a no no close to crops..."

    I am very curious as to what the restrictions are. Florida is a horse capital and the idea that you can't use horse manure in a home garden leaves me dumbstruck. I suspect if there is a problem it is the use of *fresh* manure. National Organic Standards regulate how quickly you can harvest after fresh manure is spread, but by 90 to 120 days it is pretty much considered compost. "Horse manure compost" should be in a different category than "fresh horse manure." Could you/do you get your manure from your neighbor from a pile that is a few months old so that it would be considered compost?

  • Rosefolly
    8 years ago

    The sign of well-composed horse manure is that it has practically no odor.

  • Maria (S. FL. zone 10a)
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    I grew up with horses. I know all that. Anything used today has to be bagged and labeled or you have to document all composting. This is a home garden but it is within 10 feet of the nearest trees, let alone their roots. With all the problems lately i.e.: chipotles if you are raising a crop for the public market you have to follow these strict practices. I'm also not allowed to use milorganite.

  • nikthegreek
    8 years ago

    Does this fuss have to do with potential E. coli contamination?

  • Maria (S. FL. zone 10a)
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Yes..and other stuff. And it doesn't matter that there has never been a contamination report in mamey (which is what we grow) or a number of other crops, these new regulations hit us all.

  • boncrow66
    8 years ago

    That sucks it is effecting you in the way of your home garden. Have you decided how you are going to amend and rejuvenate your raised beds yet?

  • Maria (S. FL. zone 10a)
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    It sure does suck...I'm sure coffee grounds are ok. And I checked with the extension and the bagged cow compost is ok. Gonna bring in some alfalfa meal and cottonseed meal but I sure can't raise the beds 8 inches with all that. So Not sure yet what to add for bulk. I'm sooooo ticked off about the horse manure though

  • ashrosetx
    8 years ago

    The cheapest way would be to start a compost pile and use the compost in your beds. All the leaves you collect from the trees, even perhaps from the neighbors leaf bags along with some green stuff from the kitchen. Will they let you add the horse manure to your compost pile. Should be safe if sufficiently composted. Some of my friends also get coffee grounds from Dunkin for free and add them to their compost piles. I used to make my own before life for so busy :(

    Now I just order in compost. Also adding expanded shale for clay soils helps a lot. It's a one time amendment.

    Its a pity you can't use horse manure. Roses seem to love it.

  • Maria (S. FL. zone 10a)
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    It IS safe. Just not allowed. They are treating us grove owners the same way they treat ground crops like lettuce or carrots.

  • boncrow66
    8 years ago

    That's a shame. I would probably do what Seil suggested and break up the existing soil and add some bags of soil and your other amendments.

  • nikthegreek
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    If you just need organic bulk you can always add peat. Mix it with compost or bagged manure or any other amendment, add in some clay and you're good to go.

  • AquaEyes 7a NJ
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    If you're in horse-country, something else you could add for bulk would be spoiled hay. If you can't find that, buying baled hay shouldn't be too expensive. One thing to consider is the possibility of introducing seeds from the hay. To prevent them from growing into grass, you could put the hay down first, cover with cardboard, then add something else on top. Or, if you're collecting coffee grounds, throw the filters down over the hay to make a sheet-like layer, and put the grounds on top of that. If you're planning to add organic fertilizers or alfalfa meal, put that on the hay and under the cardboard or coffee filters. I suppose mixing in bagged manure with the hay would create something similar "nutritionally" to collecting used stall litter.

    :-)

    ~Christopher

  • Maria (S. FL. zone 10a)
    Original Author
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Hmmmm....most stalls actually use shavings. Would that be usable with some mixed in bagged manure and alfalfa? I LOVE the smell of shavings. Even without the horse LOL.

  • fduk_gw UK zone 3 (US zone 8)
    8 years ago

    I'd think if you used shavings you'd need to compost the resulting mix for a while before using it as anything other than mulch - due to the aforementioned nitrogen draw down isses.

  • AquaEyes 7a NJ
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    Oh, I see how I wasn't clear. I wasn't saying that hay or straw was used in the stalls -- just that hay mixed with bagged manure would be rather similar. And I figured that where there's horses, there's available hay. Shavings could also work for adding bulk, and you wouldn't have to worry about smothering seeds as with hay. If I was going that route, I'd probably want to mix any organic fertilizers, blood meal, and/or alfalfa meal into it -- even if just scratching it into the top few inches after the shavings are put down. Used coffee grounds over the top would give it a "soil" look, and would probably filter down through them with every rain. Shavings would break down much faster than wood chips, so keep that in mind.

    :-)

    ~Christopher

  • Sheila z8a Rogue Valley OR
    8 years ago

    Maria, Mamey was new to me. Good luck with this all. It looked like cantaloupe growing on trees!

  • Maria (S. FL. zone 10a)
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    Sheila, totally different taste. It is very hard to describe. Not too sweet..very nice :)

  • AquaEyes 7a NJ
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    I had Mamey Sapote for the first time just this Autumn. Oddly, my local supermarket had a bin full of them. I knew what it was because I bought this book -- eventually, I'd like to be one of your neighbors, Maria, if you're down in Redland -- but hadn't yet tasted one. The texture was somewhat like avocado, but water-based rather than oil-based, and slightly stringy. The flesh tasted like a mix of cold steamed sweet potato, muskmelon, and had a dark cherry finish with a bit of tannin. They're ready to pick when scratching the skin reveals colored flesh -- depending on variety, since they vary with regards to depth of color -- and are ready to eat a few days later, when soft enough to allow some give when pressed. I cut them in half, popped out the one large seed, and ate it by scooping the flesh from the skin with a spoon.

    :-)

    ~Christopher

  • AquaEyes 7a NJ
    8 years ago

    P.S. Maria, when you pop in on this thread again, send me a message. I'd love to know more about your particular neighborhood -- and if you're on facebook, send me a friend-request.

    :-)

    ~Christopher

  • Maria (S. FL. zone 10a)
    Original Author
    8 years ago

    To me the best way to eat them is making them into a shake..HEAVEN. btw. There are a number of different varieties that vary the taste and texture abit. And yes they are shipped to NJ :)

  • AquaEyes 7a NJ
    8 years ago
    last modified: 8 years ago

    I heard that as well, but frankly, I tend to gulp down liquid. After my first bite, I really enjoyed the taste, and preferred to eat it slowly, halved, with a spoon. Up here, it's not like they're growing on trees -- haha! It's not as sweet as most fruit, but it's definitely flavorful and pleasant to eat. I look forward to them coming here again. I bought four at first, knowing that if I didn't like them, I'd give them to Sammy. I ended up eating two that first night, the other two the next day, and went back to the store to buy ten more. A week or two later, I didn't see any more at the supermarket.

    :-)

    ~Christopher