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PunkRotten
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How do you prepare your soil for next year?

Hi,

This is kind of a dual question post since both go hand in hand. Do some of you plant same crops in same spots as previous year? I know they say you shouldn't but I was reading around and a lot of people say they do and have not had problems. So this leads to another question, how do you prepare your soil to take safe measures and also to enrich it?


I just don't feel like buying bags of soil from the store next year, hoping to cut way down in costs. I am gonna start a compost but don't know if I will have any ready by Spring next year. I was reading about some Kelp solution you spray on plants and is suppose to help with something. I also heard of growing clovers or vetch to use as a mulch? Anyway, interested in your opinions.


Thanks
Last edited by PunkRotten on Thu Sep 22, 2011 3:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

tomc
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How ever fast you've been composting, expect to compost more and faster.

It always took a few years on a new site to get a compost and or manure supply equal to my needs.
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DoubleDogFarm
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I'm trying to do less and less tilling.

This year I have brought in two of my own truck loads of Hay (island grass) and three truck loads from the neighbor. Standard pick up bed. The goal is to cover my 54ft x 72ft garden area with a thick layer. I would like 4 or more loads.

I can't say that the weeds are under control, but I have done a whole lot less weeding this year. If a weed rares it ugly head, I just pile it on.

Other benefits I've notice is the soil stays more evenly moist. The fruits, like tomatoes and squashes, stay cleaner on their beds of grass. The overhead sprinklers are not splashing soil up on the foliage. So far no powdery mildew or other diseases, fingers crossed.

I'm rethinking the whole compost pile idea. It just seem a lot of work on the small scale. Why pull the weeds, put them in a wheelbarrow and cart them to the pile. Then when finished, put the compost back in the wheelbarrow and cart back to the garden. With my heavy layer of grass mulch, I like the cut and drop design. I've been cutting / pulling the few weeds and just lay them in. I guess you can call it sheet mulching.

So my goal is to keep the soil covered, weeds suppressed and feed / build the soil all at the same time.

[img]https://i67.photobucket.com/albums/h300/eric_wa/Double%20Dog%20Farm%20%20%20Garden%20Vegetables/VegetableGardenJuly30th2011019.jpg[/img]


Eric
Last edited by DoubleDogFarm on Sat Jun 23, 2012 4:45 am, edited 2 times in total.

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rainbowgardener
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If you start composting now, you will definitely have some compost for spring. But Mg is right, in Southern Calif you don't need to wait for spring to be planting more crops. Take a look at this planting schedule for zone 9 - 10 and look at all the things you could be planting in Aug or Sept:

https://www.thevegetablegarden.info/resources/planting-schedules/zones-9-10-planting-schedule

Tomatoes will probably do better for you planted now, than growing through a hot SoCal summer.

But that does make soil prep more critical for you, because your soil doesn't have rest time. I grow in raised beds and cut everything down in the fall and mulch heavily and then my soil rests and takes in nutrients from the mulch. In the spring I bury the mulch and loosen the soil a bit and plant. Once everything is sprouted and growing, I mulch again.

Without that rest time, and with plants continuously sucking nutrients from the soil, you will need to work harder at continuously re-supplying the soil.
Once you have some compost piles going and producing that will get easier. If you have a 2 or 3 bin system, you will usually have compost available. Compost everything! Start bringing stuff home to compost (Starbucks type places give away coffee grounds; other people's yard waste, shredded office paper; do you have or know anyone with a pet guinea pig, rabbit, etc, their bedding is great). You are going to want lots to keep a year round garden growing!

In the meantime you probably will want to buy compost/ aged manure one more time for the fall planting.

Cut all the summer stuff down, leaving roots in the ground to rot away, leaving air/ water channels behind. Lay down soil amendments and turn it under... plant. Mulch again once everything is up. Mulch is really important in this system -- suppresses weeds, holds moisture, and then breaks down to help feed the soil.
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PunkRotten
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Hi,

Thanks for all the info. That link you gave me RainbowGardener, I am not sure how to read it. I am looking at zone 9 and in the box it will have 2 sets of dates on some of them. For example, it might say feb-apr, and right below it aug-sept. I am not sure what this means, does it mean plant in feb-april and again in aug-sept?

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rainbowgardener
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Yup. It means it can be either spring planted and/or fall planted.
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soil
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I'm rethinking the whole compost pile idea. It just seem a lot of work on the small scale. Why pull the weeds, put them in a wheelbarrow and cart them to the pile. Then when finished, put the compost back in the wheelbarrow and cart back to the garden. With my heavy layer of grass mulch, I like the cut and drop design. I've been cutting / pulling the few weeds and just lay them in. I guess you can call it sheet mulching.
now your starting to think like a permie. long term mulching = superior to composting
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FlowerPowerGirl
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I bury dead leaves and plants and kitchen garbage of all kinds in my garden. It works real well. I have lots of worms too.

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PunkRotten
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Is there concerns about using manure? I hear you shouldn't use it within 90 days of harvesting anything. So say I use manure, and plant lettuce that will grow before 90 days, do I have a problem?

Nature's Babe
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I do the same as double dog farm, sheet mulching really saves on weeding
and is terriffic for improving the soil texture. I do still compost my kitchen waste though and use that for planting larger seeds and potting up seedlings it saves money no need to buy in compost.
PS Avoid root crops where you apply manure or you will get forked roots. :)
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gixxerific
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soil wrote:
I'm rethinking the whole compost pile idea. It just seem a lot of work on the small scale. Why pull the weeds, put them in a wheelbarrow and cart them to the pile. Then when finished, put the compost back in the wheelbarrow and cart back to the garden. With my heavy layer of grass mulch, I like the cut and drop design. I've been cutting / pulling the few weeds and just lay them in. I guess you can call it sheet mulching.
now your starting to think like a permie. long term mulching = superior to composting
I was going to say something similar. Some things go in my compost the rest on the garden beds. Weeds with seeds definitely compost. Bad pest attracting stuf - compost. The rest is cut and drop. But than again my compost pile is right next to my garden so no wheelbarrowing here.

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Sage Hermit
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Stick some banana peels under that mulch layer. see how fast it composts.
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Tilde
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before I tore out the last beds to resod the back yard (the boxes were five years old and made of thin wood - totally dead), I would rotate my composting in the beds - two beds planting, one bed composting. Never did much more turning than needed to put in new food waste or new plants.

I started out with bagged organic soil for in-ground gardens.

It's all been haulded off as part of the re-sodding; so I'm buying bags again but intend to amend the soil as soon as i've got compost ready. Kind of hard to avoid turning since I'm doing container gardening.
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!potatoes!
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moving to a new spot, here near the end of the season...will be amending some beds in the new place with compost I'm moving, and likely adding extra leafmould...will probably use some not-yet-finished compost from the old house (which has new material from this past week - fresh), along with more leafmould (and perhaps some newspaper or corrugated cardboard) in sheet-mulching some other beds...

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I'll think i'll hit up starbucks and add some coffee grounds in there this fall.

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Re: How do you prepare your soil for next year?

PunkRotten wrote:Hi,

This is kind of a dual question post since both go hand in hand. Do some of you plant same crops in same spots as previous year? I know they say you shouldn't but I was reading around and a lot of people say they do and have not had problems. So this leads to another question, how do you prepare your soil to take safe measures and also to enrich it?


I just don't feel like buying bags of soil from the store next year, hoping to cut way down in costs. I am gonna start a compost but don't know if I will have any ready by Spring next year. I was reading about some Kelp solution you spray on plants and is suppose to help with something. I also heard of growing clovers or vetch to use as a mulch? Anyway, interested in your opinions.


Thanks
The fastest way to compost is to use the trench composting method. In Fall, dig a trench the length of your garden bed, fill it with food scraps (no meat or fat), cover it with soil, then mulch. By spring, the worms have eaten the food scraps and the soil is in much better shape. It's not as good as using a compost pile, but it's fast.
But yes, you should definitely rotate crops to avoid pest infestations and soil depletion of specific nutrients. Composting and mulching are key in between seasons. The clover and vetch can be grown as a cover crop - let it grow over the winter and till it into the bed in spring.

Billed
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mulch layer vs turn the layer into the soil

Hey garden folks,
I'm late to the discussion, but I have always wondered which is better; a layer of leaves on the garden for the winter or turn them into the soil in the fall. I'm sure they compost better as a layer on top since more air gets to them. On the other hand, does the leaf layer make a great place for harmful insects to spend the winter. What do you experienced experts think? :?:

Billed

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Re: mulch layer vs turn the layer into the soil

Billed wrote:Hey garden folks,
I'm late to the discussion, but I have always wondered which is better; a layer of leaves on the garden for the winter or turn them into the soil in the fall. I'm sure they compost better as a layer on top since more air gets to them. On the other hand, does the leaf layer make a great place for harmful insects to spend the winter. What do you experienced experts think? :?:

Billed
Billed, I expect its more a question of 'what your arms can stand', than 'which is better'.

Sheet composting works about the same as turning (tilling) yard waste into a garden (in the fall).

On a smaller suburban garden hiding compostables is I suspect the engine that drives the cart, as it were.

I like to keep as thick of a layer of mulch on my beds as I can finagle, *but* have mastic Ohioan clay to break up. So, as a result end up doing some of both.

I preffer kitchen scraps and some annoying (or seedy) yard waste to visit a compost pile before the garden.
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Billed
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Hey tomc,

I fight Tennessee clay along with tons of soft sand stone, but it is slowly getting better as I add peat moss, compost, leaves, and Turface. I get plenty of leaves in the fall from my yard, the neighbors' yards, and touring the subdivision for leaf bags. Usually end-up with 4 full composters, a layer on the garden, and a large pile that I use to mulch veggies next summer.

Last fall was the first time I didn't turn the leaves in. I seemed to be reading a lot of things that said mulch the garden for the winter. Your vote seems to be either way.

Thanks and good luck,
Billed

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farmerlon
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Re: mulch layer vs turn the layer into the soil

Billed wrote:... I have always wondered which is better; a layer of leaves on the garden for the winter or turn them into the soil in the fall. I'm sure they compost better as a layer on top since more air gets to them. ...
I can share this opinion from my own observation and experience ... if you put a layer of leaves on top of the garden in the Fall and they are gone by Spring, it is because the wind has blown them away, not because they have decomposed and "become one" with the soil.

Leaves alone are too "Brown" (carbon-rich) to effectively decompose within a few months. Plus, the wind and sun continually drys the top of the leaves [what few are not blown away], and that stops the decompostion as well.

Here's an example of what I am talking about... I had a 4'x4' (6" high) Raised Bed that I filled with leaves in the Fall (probably about a 4-5" layer of leaves in the bed). I covered the bed with floating row cover (Agribon) so the wind could not remove the leaves from the bed. The floating row cover lets water and air pass through; also, it will trap some heat, which would assist with "composting".
Guess what I had when I uncovered the bed in the Spring? ... a raised bed still full of very recognizable leaves.

Now sure, I am not saying that "zero" decomposition took place; I'm sure some worms "worked" the bottom of the leaf layer somewhat, and overall the leaves probably degraded a bit. But, don't expect "compost" from leaves that are "sheet mulched" or "sheet composted" on top of the garden. :)

I have heard people say... "I covered my garden with leaves in the Fall, and they were all gone by Spring".
I know where those leaves went! ... gone with the wind. :D

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Hey Farmerlon,

Your comments make sense! Sure the wind would strip a raised bed, and I agree with the too brown comment. Your worm comment is also interesting, turning the leaves in sure makes them more available to them.

My garden is not raised beds so the leaves do stay in place once they get rained on. In the spring I have a recognizable layer of leaves that I turned in.

The first year I gardened here (5 years ago), I tilled and sifted this plot which had been lawn for decades. The activity attracted a huge number of small flies which turned out to be adult corn maggots that attacked my Lima and green beans. I still have trouble getting beans up before the maggots get them. My understanding is that the flies are attracted to soil high in partially decomposed plant material, but isn't that what makes the soil "rich". I thought maybe turning the leaves in at planting time would minimize the maggot attraction until after the seeds have germinated. What do you think?

Gardening here in middle Tennessee sure is different than gardening in middle Michigan! The bugs and fungi aren't friendly, but the people sure are!

Thanks,
Billed

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rainbowgardener
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I cover my beds with leaves in the fall. By spring most of them are still there, recognizable. But at that point they are a bit weathered and dried out, easy to crumble. So in spring, I crunch them up a bit and bury them. Once crumbled and buried, they do break down quickly.
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farmerlon
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Billed wrote:.... In the spring I have a recognizable layer of leaves that I turned in. ...
Yes, that's what I was getting at... those leaves will still be leaves, and you're right that they will need to be turned in to the soil to get them to decompose quicker.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with keeping the leaves around as a mulch; that just takes longer for them to break down and be incorporated into the soil.

I've never had the corn maggot problem that you mentioned, so I'm sorry I can't give any meaningful advice about that.
In general, (and in theory) I would think that if you keep adding good organic matter and compost to your garden, nature will eventually balance out, and something (predator) will come along to keep the corn maggots in check.
[that's assuming that you have an organic philosophy, and are not throwing everything out of whack with chemical pesticides :) ]

Best of luck!

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rainbowgardener
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Yeah the idea of covering the beds with leaves in the fall is as a mulch. Yes the leaves would break down faster if I buried them in the fall, but that isn't what I want. Mulching with them they protect the soil from blowing away, they protect the bulbs and roots that are in the soil in the perennial beds from so much freeze/thaw cycles. Then in spring when they have finished their work as mulch, I crunch them up and bury them so they break down.
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!potatoes!
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a few branches on top do wonders for keeping the leafmulch there.

Billed
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Hey guys,
Great inputs--sounds like I'm going to bury some and and mulch too. Branches wowww what could be simpler, and always have a pile of them waiting for pick up.

Well I'm off to blow leaves from neighbors front yard.

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If you mow over the leaves and chop them up, they won't blow away. They will decompose faster and make nicer mulch. I sheet compost of top of newspapers in the empty sections in the fall.

I'm expanding my garden now, for next year and have covered the new grassy/weedy parts with cardboard and laid garden/yard waste and branches on top to keep it all there, as well as mulching with leaves and shredded paper. In the spring all things underneath should be dead and I will plant into the cardboard/paper adding a lot of manure to each hole and row dug. To save time and money, I only add manure (from the store bags) to the planting holes and rows as I dig them and add it to the veggies off and on through out the growing season. This keeps the grass and weeds from growing in the other areas. I'm not feeding those things!

I also continue to add shredded paper mulch during the growing season to keep the weeds and grass down.

Some of what I am expanding is a flowerbed which I have also covered with cardboard and fall garden cleanup. I am planting ground covers in that so it soon won't show and will mulch lightly with old manure.

Old manure is great stuff! I would not buy soil for the garden every year. I would add old manure instead. More power for the money! Buy horse and sheep, they are both better manure than cow.

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soil
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Here's an example of what I am talking about... I had a 4'x4' (6" high) Raised Bed that I filled with leaves in the Fall (probably about a 4-5" layer of leaves in the bed). I covered the bed with floating row cover (Agribon) so the wind could not remove the leaves from the bed. The floating row cover lets water and air pass through; also, it will trap some heat, which would assist with "composting".
Guess what I had when I uncovered the bed in the Spring? ... a raised bed still full of very recognizable leaves.
wow thats amazing because i can do the same thing and by spring its black wormcastings from the thousands of worms in it. an outer shell of leaves acts as mulch. very few get blown away because they are wet 90% of the time as they should be.
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