Lmcirig
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Fertilizing help?

Hello! I'm finally going to plant my garden tomorrow. I'm going to buy compost/ manure to till into the soil. Anyone have any suggestions? Should I do something else as well?

Or ideas on how much I should use on a 12' x 24' garden. Last year I basically just bought a bunch of bags and spread it around.

Thanks in advance!!
~Lisa

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I would do what you did last year!

Tilling won't help in the end, especially compared to sheet composting or just compost with mulch on top (not wood!). Along with the compost, you will be burying lots of vegetation. Cover is a good idea too - weeds or other plants that will take hold quickly and hold your soil in place.

The results from building soil this way should become apparent around the same time the drawbacks of tilling can be noticed.

what is your soil like?
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rainbowgardener
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You are doing great!

Next step, start a compost pile, so you won't have to buy it in bags and will know what went into it.

Then once things are up and growing be sure to put a good layer of organic mulch down (grass clippings, wood chips, hay, straw, etc) This suppresses weed growth and keeps you from having to work so hard at weeding, but also as the mulch breaks down, it is feeding your soil.

Mid season add some more compost and more mulch if it is thinning out.

Next year you will have such great soil, you really won't need to till (which is harmful to earthworms and other soil biology).

You can use Search the Forum to find what has been written here about no-till gardening, Ruth Stout (a proponent of same), sheet composting, etc.
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Lmcirig
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Thanks for the responses!

I hate to admit that every year I usually use that black paper to stop the weeds. Is that no good? I did get a sample of this stuff called "sweet peet" at my nursery last week. It's a combination of organic soil conditioner/ mulch. I suppose I could get a few yards and add that rather than the paper. It'll be a lot more work. If it's much healthier, then I'll do it. Think it's worth it?

I did read that tilling isn't good for the soil, but I expanded the garden size this year by 8 feet. So I have to get rid of all that grass, unless there's a better way to do it that I don't know about.

As for what my soil is like, I'm not sure I'm experienced enough to make an assesment on that. But for the last 4 years that I've lived here, I've produced tomato plants that are 6+ft tall, with lots of fruit & same with just about everything I plant - it all seems to thrive. So I assume it's good soil. I'd just like to keep it that way. I know I've probably stripped it of a lot of nutrients over the past few years.

And about the compost pile, thanks for the advice! I was looking online at those barels that have cranks you turn. Is that the easiet to start you think? I'm not lazy, just limited on time. I work full time and have a 1 yr old at home :)
~Lisa

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applestar
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Personally I think compost pile on the ground is the easiest. Even if you're not tending it, someone else is: Even if you don't water it, rain waters it, even if you don't turn it, worms and other soil organisms aerate it and process it. A tumbling system is completely isolated and it's up to you to maintain the proper microcosm. If you do nothing, as long as your initial mix was good, the pile on the ground will turn into compost in 1~2 yrs time.

As for the grass and new beds, search the forum for "sheet mulching".

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rainbowgardener
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Agree with AppleStar (as usual! :) ) re the compost tumbler. Another thing you should bear in mind about the tumbler is that it is for doing batch composting. That is you accumulate compostable materials til you have a batch then you load it up. Then you let it sit and tumble for a few weeks. While that is happening you can't keep adding more stuff, because if you did the raw materials would get all tumbled up with the partly composted and finished compost and you could never get your finished compost out. So that means you basically have to have a compost pile somewhere else, to put stuff while you are waiting for one batch to finish. To me that makes it not worth it.

I like my simple wire bin enclosed compost pile on the ground.

Here's a site with a variety of plans for homemade compost bins:

https://www3.uwm.edu/Dept/shwec/publications/cabinet/html/compost/Bin%20Plans.htm
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Lmcirig wrote:I did read that tilling isn't good for the soil, but I expanded the garden size this year by 8 feet. So I have to get rid of all that grass, unless there's a better way to do it that I don't know about.
Yes, I agree, tilling/plowing is the only practical way that I know of to "turn over" new ground. Some people claim to do the job with a shovel and hoe... but, whew, what a lot of work that would be.

I agree that tilling should be used minimally (only when you have to).

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I strip turf from a new area first even if I do decide to till (including all those grass roots is just planting your first weed crop). You can rent a sod cutter, but I usually just do it with my trusty King Of Spades...

This years new bed was six bales of hay in a square (two bales on the north and south, with bales inside those to east and west sides form a nice four by four square), filled halfway with my unfinished compost and topped with store bought compost. Planted the Three Sisters and some taters and we'll see what else goes in, but this six by six area ( I am planting IN the bales as well) should yield a lot of food, no tilling at all, minimal labor and inputs to establish, and the hay will continually add to the soil (covered the top with a mulch of hay to keep down weeds as well, so it will stay labor saving too... no weeding!)

As the hay rots down (a few years at least) I will turn these into mounded rows, but in the interim, easily done in an afternoon, no tilling so no carbon loss from the soil (maintaining fertility), and no need to turf; I set this all up on a few sheets of cardboard to facilitate keeping the grass out.

Work smarter, not harder.... the hay bales can make great compost heaps, too...

HG
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Lmcirig
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Thanks for all the tips! I (my husband) ended up tilling. :oops: I got a yard of this "sweet peet" organic compost & we tilled it into the soil. It would have just been way too much to do otherwise. But I wont need to do it again.

I'm off to check on compost bins next :)
~Lisa

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Wow! This sounds like a great way to go! I'm gonna have to try this when we get a little more land area!
The Helpful Gardener wrote:I strip turf from a new area first even if I do decide to till (including all those grass roots is just planting your first weed crop). You can rent a sod cutter, but I usually just do it with my trusty King Of Spades...




This years new bed was six bales of hay in a square (two bales on the north and south, with bales inside those to east and west sides form a nice four by four square), filled halfway with my unfinished compost and topped with store bought compost. Planted the Three Sisters and some taters and we'll see what else goes in, but this six by six area ( I am planting IN the bales as well) should yield a lot of food, no tilling at all, minimal labor and inputs to establish, and the hay will continually add to the soil (covered the top with a mulch of hay to keep down weeds as well, so it will stay labor saving too... no weeding!)

As the hay rots down (a few years at least) I will turn these into mounded rows, but in the interim, easily done in an afternoon, no tilling so no carbon loss from the soil (maintaining fertility), and no need to turf; I set this all up on a few sheets of cardboard to facilitate keeping the grass out.

Work smarter, not harder.... the hay bales can make great compost heaps, too...

HG

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You need six feet by six feet to do the bale garden, Joe; not really space intensive ... I have eighteen corn, eighteen scarlet runner beans and eight squash plants in the soil, and about eighteen potato starts right in the bales...and I think I have room for some cosmos and maters in there as well! So space well used, if you are thoughtful about how you do it...

HG
Scott Reil

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i use dairy doo from morgan composting, avail all over the state..check www.dairydoo.com for a location near you

we pay just under $100 for a pick up load, it is organic and has no weed seeds...unless of course they blew in after the process was done.

one truckload will cover about 40x40 garden or nearly so (i don't do my paths)..a couple inches thick..but you can get it by the scoop at about $30 a scoop or by the bag for around $5 a bag
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One way to easily not have to till or dig your garden ever is to divide your garden up into sections that you don't have to step on in order to tend the plants. This way you don't compact the soil in those sections, which makes weeding about 100 times easier. You also don't ever have to till or even dig your soil again because the soil never gets compacted, the only compaction is in whatever paths you plan between these sections. Just mulch and add compost to the sections every year and you'll start to grow some good fertile mounds of soil.

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Decado wrote:One way to easily not have to till or dig your garden ever is to divide your garden up into sections that you don't have to step on in order to tend the plants. This way you don't compact the soil in those sections, which makes weeding about 100 times easier. You also don't ever have to till or even dig your soil again because the soil never gets compacted, the only compaction is in whatever paths you plan between these sections. Just mulch and add compost to the sections every year and you'll start to grow some good fertile mounds of soil.
This is the basic idea of raised beds, whether or not you box them in. The boxes are for small backyard gardeners. If you have lots of garden space, you just pile. Dig the good topsoil out of the paths and pile it on top of the garden sections. Instant raised bed!
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My raised beds aren't boxed, so I can plant the sides with lettuce, onions, and such. The extra space is making a big difference in crops this year....

HG
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The Helpful Gardener wrote:My raised beds aren't boxed, so I can plant the sides with lettuce, onions, and such. The extra space is making a big difference in crops this year....

HG
This is exactly why I would prefer mounds over boxed in, because the curvature gives you that extra space.

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Yeah, Dec, lots more surface area with the mounds, whilel boxing just raises the same amount of surface up some...

HG
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rainbowgardener
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I take the point (not adaptable to my boxes sitting on my concrete patio, unless I want the patio covered in mud, but in general makes sense). But don't the mounds tend to wash away and flatten out over time? Entropy always works to turn a peaks and valleys system into a flat system. But planting the sides too, would help to hold all the soil/compost/etc in place, so that's a win-win.
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rainbowgardener wrote:I take the point (not adaptable to my boxes sitting on my concrete patio, unless I want the patio covered in mud, but in general makes sense). But don't the mounds tend to wash away and flatten out over time? Entropy always works to turn a peaks and valleys system into a flat system. But planting the sides too, would help to hold all the soil/compost/etc in place, so that's a win-win.
This is my first year mounding so I can't really say if they wash away or not, but I imagine with planting and mulching it doesn't wash away too much.

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Do it properly and they will solidify to a certain degree. Yes there will be some washing away but its hardly a big deal when you have plants dumping nitrogen or phosphorus into your mound at the optimal surface area rate. Correct me if I am wrong. ...
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Sage is right; fungal hyphae and bacterial polysaccharides will knit and stick the mound together as long as we aren't tilling it. A mulch of hay stops erosive conditions. Gravity is still in effect and there will be some downward motion as we water, but if we are building with hay and compost every season it will not be even noticeable...

And if we are using annuals like lettuce, purselane, lambsquarters, chard, marigolds etc. (just naming my cast of characters but it can go on and on) and leaving the roots in we will add yet more anti-erosive holding power, and more carbon throughout the mound. Our soil improves instead of dissapating...

HG
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I have to go back and watch the [url=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQmPT6jfttc]video[/url] again.


Was wondering where everything should be placed exactly (where do I place marigolds vs onions top bottom middle? I would just assume it matters only slightly.) Right now I have only my 10 foot experimental bed and its all raspberries for now. Its working its wonders and I don't have a problem with the hay blowing away anymore. After I took the sticks off the top and it rained a few times it matted down. Its really a remarkable bed. One thing though I could hear some type of rodents inside the cardboard. I need a cat or something.
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I have moles and occasionally chipmunks inside mine. I don't worry since neither of them typically cause any significant damage.

I would position the marigolds and onions based on height and light requirements. I think EH usually put hers along the edges. It seemed like she sectioned her beds in what I call the argyle pattern, and planted the main crops inside the diamonds and "edge" crops in the low flat equilateral triangles along the sides.

I just finished planting all my leek seedlings (late I know, but they were just too puny to plant any earlier). I'm hoping since they can be overwintered under mulch, that they'll be OK. I put some between tomatoes along the outside edge and some between hot/sw peppers along the outside edge, and some between the last of the lettuces that are in PM shade/bottom of the sloping bed & moist location and has lasted into the heat. My celery are planted there too so that should be a good combination.

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All of the ones I just listed are side of the mound dwellers for me; the tops are reserved for more cherished veg like tomatoes, peppers, squash and cukes...

Onions grow srtight up no matter where you plant them, as do most of the rest. My secondary cast of characters are not finicky about growing condtions and will do with a bit more shade (from the primary cast of characters) and are all pretty short rooted so not competitive for root space...


And indeed in rbg's situation sitting on concrete it wouldn't work, but my bale gardens would...

:mrgreen:

HG
Last edited by The Helpful Gardener on Sat Jun 19, 2010 4:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Scott Reil

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I've found that mulches do help a mound to stay together better than just bare soil.
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