rosiegirl
Cool Member
Posts: 83
Joined: Sat Mar 13, 2010 2:15 pm
Location: New York

Fallow period for garden?

Hi, I've had a raised vegetable garden that we built in the backyard for about 6 years now. Things didn't grow very well last summer and I'm thinking I should leave the garden fallow for the summer to let it regain its strength. I will be away for a few weeks over the summer so it seems like a good time to do it. Over the winter, I put a few layers of leaves to protect the soil and keep the worms happy. I've been composting in the backyard so I have some good soil I can use as topsoil. Should I just cover the dirt to stop it from drying out and leave it alone for the season? Should I plant cover crop? Something else?

PaulF
Greener Thumb
Posts: 787
Joined: Tue Nov 09, 2010 10:34 pm
Location: Brownville, Ne

Re: Fallow period for garden?

Have you tested your soil sent in to a reputable lab, either through your State Extension or a private lab? As long as everything is in balance there is no need to lay fallow for an entire growing season. My soil gets a test done every two or three years and it really makes a difference if you know exactly what to do.

Leaves and compost are good for any garden. All the other questions will be answered by doing a soil test. It is a little late now to really make a difference for this season so I would till in the leaves and as much compost as you have. If you have gardening friends in the area you might see what they do for soil prep. It may just have been the year...we all have those. See what you county extension agent or Master Gardeners typically do in their gardens while you are waiting for results. Good Luck.
Paul F

bri80
Senior Member
Posts: 282
Joined: Sat Nov 19, 2016 10:12 pm
Location: Portland, OR

Re: Fallow period for garden?

Sowing a cover crop is a much better method than leaving soil bare. Even covered with mulch is not as ideal as cover-cropped.

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Re: Fallow period for garden?

You are obviously not tilling a raised bed, but you can turn the leaves and compost under with a shovel. They will break down faster that way. But then do either another layer of mulch or the cover crop, so that you don't leave your soil bare.
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

imafan26
Mod
Posts: 11275
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:32 pm
Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: Fallow period for garden?

I would do a cover crop since it does add organic matter and depending on the crop you choose you could also sequestor some nitrogen.

Since the garden is less productive, and you probably did not rotate crops in the garden, the pH and the nutrients may be high, low or just out of balance with each other. I would do a soil test after your last crop, or now so you can get your results before you leave. You can add the fertilizer recommendations later, but you could make the pH correction if you had to before you leave. Changing pH takes about 6 months, so you will need a head start on that. Depending on your compost source, compost and chicken manures are very alkaline, also if you have been adding wood ashes for the potassium, or you have been liming just for BER or just because some people assume the garden only gets acidic over time and add lime without checking pH, you could end up with a high pH. P.S. I am guilty of doing the latter, I limed every two years until, after 8 years, I could not get okra to grow anymore, only cabbages. Most plants like pH between 5.5-7.5, but few plants (most desert plants) tolerate very alkaline conditions. Some plants like blueberries (pH 3 - 5) and baby's breath 7.5-8.0) like the extreme ends better.

If there isn't going to be anyone to water the garden or you don't have an automated system while you are away, you could solarize the garden instead. July and August are the best months to solarize.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

rosiegirl
Cool Member
Posts: 83
Joined: Sat Mar 13, 2010 2:15 pm
Location: New York

Re: Fallow period for garden?

Thanks everyone! I think it's more a matter of the soil just being depleted of nutrients over the years than anything worse. That's why I figured a nice replenishing period would be good.

What cover crop is best and easiest for a raised garden in the southern New York region? Exactly how do i "use" it?


To answer the questions:
1. I haven't done any specific fertilization for the garden over the years, just adding compost each year and rotating the crops as much as I can within the confines of my garden. This mostly was switching the location of the tomatoes and cucumbers each year so not really much of a rotation.

2. I will bring in the soil for a test just so I know for next year.

3. I will consider the solarization but I'm not sure I need it. I don't think there is disease so I think my best bet might be folding in some old leaves and planting a cover crop.

imafan26
Mod
Posts: 11275
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:32 pm
Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: Fallow period for garden?

I would add some fertilyzer. Bonide Plant or Vegetable tone will probably help.

When you till in your compost, add some composted manure as well.

Tomatoes and cucumbers are heavy feeders. If you want a replenishing crop, try a legume like beans or peas. The trick to making it richer in nitrogen is to inoculate the seeds first and to till in the crop when it blooms. Once the beans and peas form, energy is transferred to them and if you eat the beans, that energy is not returned to the soil. Cowpeas and vetch are the most common legumes. Soybeans can be used as well.

There are different cover crops for different purposes and different times of the year.

https://covercrops.cals.cornell.edu/early-summer.php
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

Return to “Organic Gardening Forum”