toddheft
Newly Registered
Posts: 5
Joined: Fri Sep 30, 2011 8:12 pm
Location: Pennsylvania

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
Full Member
Posts: 17
Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2010 7:42 am
Location: Nashville, Tn

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

tomc
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 2661
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2011 2:52 am
Location: SE-OH USA Zone 6-A

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.
Think like a tree
© 2016 Invisable Inc.

Billed
Full Member
Posts: 17
Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2010 7:42 am
Location: Nashville, Tn

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

User avatar
farmerlon
Green Thumb
Posts: 671
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 11:42 am
Location: middle Tennessee

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

Billed
Full Member
Posts: 17
Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2010 7:42 am
Location: Nashville, Tn

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

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25279
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 6:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

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.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

User avatar
farmerlon
Green Thumb
Posts: 671
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 11:42 am
Location: middle Tennessee

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!

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25279
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 6:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

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.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

User avatar
!potatoes!
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1911
Joined: Tue Apr 14, 2009 2:13 pm
Location: wnc - zones 6/7 line

a few branches on top do wonders for keeping the leafmulch there.

Billed
Full Member
Posts: 17
Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2010 7:42 am
Location: Nashville, Tn

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.

User avatar
Runningtrails
Senior Member
Posts: 184
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2010 10:52 am
Location: Barrie, Ontario,Canada

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.

User avatar
soil
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1855
Joined: Thu Jan 22, 2009 8:40 pm
Location: N. California

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.
For all things come from earth, and all things end by becoming earth.



Return to “Organic Gardening Forum”