Prepareing an organic garden

Discussion in 'Random Ramblings' started by muddstopper, Nov 12, 2010.

  1. muddstopper

    muddstopper Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Recently I have noticed a lot of posts about organic gardening, prepareing a garden pot, raised, beds ect.
    So I thought why not have a thread just for that purpose. I am not an expert on organics so i wont have all the answers anyone might be seeking, but I am sure there are enough of you out there that can share some knowledge on the subject. I will share my on going experiment in my personal garden.

    Due to some new road construction a couple of years ago, my garden was buried under tons of waste fill dirt. This dirt was cut out of the side of the mountain and deposited on my property. Since my land was very steep, the fill dirt is over 60-90 ft deep in places. Now this dirt is nothing more than the groundup slate rock that the dozers crushed under their tracks and is very poor to be trying to raise a crop in, but it did make realitivly flat ground out of a otherwise untillable steep rock bluff. So this is what I had to work with.

    My firt year of trying to raise a garden in this junk dirt meant heavy soil amendments. I started with a soil test to find out what I had. Of course, everything was low nutrient wise and extremely rocky to boot. I measured out a spot of 2000sqft, this to be my primary garden. I then dug up the area to a depth of 2ft and removed tons of big boulders. I then filled the hole with semi compost horse manure/shaveing from my brothers horse barn. Since my soil test said i was very deficinet in calcium, magnesium, phosphate, I added 400lbs of pulverized dolomitic limestone and 100lbs of 18/46/0 diammonium phosphate. Now the fertilizer isnt considerd organic, but as one Dr. of agriculture once said, if it isnt in the soil and you dont put it there, it isnt magicly going to appear on its own. I figure, adding the phosphate now was much better than trying to get it into the soil during growing season.

    I then tilled everything together makeing the soil vey fluffy. Once every amendment was added, and tilled in, I planted annual ryegrass at a very high seed rate. The ryegrass wont come back if not allowed to make seed heads and the growing plant would useup the manures and fertilizers as it grew. Once the grass was about knee high and very thick, I moved my chicken tractors over the plot and let them eat it until the soil was again bare. Since the fertilizers had been converted to a grass, then consumed by my chickens and redeposited as manure, I figured I now had a totally organic garden. In spring, I tilled and planted, tomatoes, okra, potatoes, squash, green beans and a few pumkins. I didnt add any fertilizers at all, just used what was in the soil. In between the rows, I mulched heavly with double ground hardwood mulch I had left over from the last years landscapeing, as well as used more chips from the horse stalls. The chips and mulch helped conserve moisture and provided extra nutrients. I harvested more than I expected in crops, (pretty good actually), and had very little weeding to do all season long.

    For season 2, I pretty much repeated garden prep as I did in season one. The bark mulch and wood chips where tilled under along with more lime, planted in rye grass and finished off with letting my chickens again eating and pooping their manure on the site. Crops where planted and mulched similar to the first year. Again I had excellent results without any additional fertilizer. This fall, I noticed a big difference in the soil texture and color. Instead of a sticky claylike soil, I am now seeing a darker, almost loam like soil. I attribute this to the carbon added thur the use of barkmulch and sawdust. I have tilled the soil and planted a covercrop of barley for this winter, but added non composted wood chips to the soil in an attempt to raise the carbon levels even higher. To speedup the decomposition of the larger wood chips, I also added some more 18/46/0 to the soil before tilling. The nitrogen in the fertilizer should speedup the microbial activity and help break down the chips faster. Not organic, but neccessary since my soil is very low in P2O5 and I dont have a good source for organic Phosphate.

    I have also gotten the power company to dump several loads of wood chips from their rightaway cleaning this fall. I am in the process of pileing and composting that material into a usable product for next year. I can only guess to the number of loads they have dumped. I told them I would take a 100 loads and I think they have pretty much dumped about that many already. I'll let them dump until I run out of room or they quit dumping, which ever come first. For those reading do a search for Ramail wood chips to see the benefits of using wood chips.

    Alright, lets hear what others have done or are doing to get their gardens ready for next year.
     
  2. Buttercup Chillin

    Buttercup Chillin Chillin' With My Peeps

    Oct 27, 2008
    SouthEast TX
    Not much.

    I have 4 basically 3.5'x25' beds slightly raised. I tilled when I set them up many years ago, now I never till. I do have a Mulch pile with whatever goes into it (leaves, grass cuttings, old mulch, and the chicken,quail, duck clean outs). I pitch fork that to stir it up from time to time and the chickens help, too. Dumping in a different area each month. I top dress each bed with this aged compost as the beds empty then rake it in and replant. I raise something in those beds 12 months out of the year.

    Though summer is skimpy at times, like this hot dry past summer. Not many people watered their gardens here this year, me included. I still had okra, hot peppers and southern beans and peas, though.

    Right now I have beets, carrots, chard, chinese cabbage, and half a bed of Kale, collards, spinach and various lettuces planted in one bed. This weekend I will plant another bed with more collards, beets spinach, lettuces, and whatever I think of. And we just keep going.
     
  3. mom'sfolly

    mom'sfolly Overrun With Chickens

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    I have horrible central Texas not soil...so I have raised beds. I used my own compost, composted cow manure and turkey manure, peat, vermiculite, top soil, sand, hardwood mulch and blood and bone meal. I made each bed a slightly different mix, so I could see what worked best. I have 3 raised beds each 4x8. They've been planted once and will soon have snow peas beans and lettuce planted. I'm just getting back in to vegetable gardening, and its harder here in Texas than anywhere else I lived. In NY I barely had to water my garden, and I had great soil.
     
  4. halo

    halo Got The Blues

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    My Coop
    Great post, muddstopper. Being in Florida, I am very lucky to actually have dirt where I live, not sand, but it still drains very well, so raised beds are not a good idea. I havent yet tilled in amendmends, Ive just layered them on top as mulch (horse and chicken manure, shavings, old hay), but Im thinking of maybe trying tilling it in this year and see how it does. Cant decide if that would work better, or if tilling would destroy all the good little fungis underground.
     
  5. Organics North

    Organics North Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:[​IMG]
    Great!

    Here is a book I live by for organic gardening.
    http://www.amazon.com/Teaming-Microbes-Organic-Gardeners-Revised/dp/1604691131

    Think about what you add to the soil is not to feed the plants, but to feed the microscopic life which in turn feeds the plants. Microbes prefer additives that keep the NPK numbers down below 10/10/10 Adding things with high NPK numbers may actually retard or slow down the microbes.

    Muddstopper, how about rock phosphate? Or I would think the wood chips will be a good source of future P.[​IMG]

    --
    OK my "soil" [​IMG] is awesome rich in everything but Nitrogen.... Only one slight problem......it is about 1/4" deep.....! Under it is a little sand and lots and lots of rocks.. It is what the last glacier left us... So I use raised beds and slowly improve the ground level beds with tons of organic matter... Rotted trees (lots of them), leaves, chicken poo, alfalfa, fish guts, many yards of horse manure, anything I can get my hands on I COMPOST.. (Heck when I die I want my spouse to compost me..)
    The other thing I like to add is char coal. Not wood ash but the black chunks.... It is my understanding it is good for the microbes and helps soil hold nutrients...

    Do not know if anyone has heard of Amazon dark earth.? There are plots created by the Indians before the spaniards came that are still rich and productive... Where normally when you clear jungle you can grow a crop one or two years and the soil is depleted. The only thing that really is unique about the ancient plots is that it has lots of char coal.
    If any one wants to read on it here is a link.
    http://www.css.cornell.edu/faculty/lehmann/research/terra preta/terrapretamain.html

    Be well
    ON
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2010
  6. Organics North

    Organics North Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:It is my understanding that tilling hurts the micro life.. Especially the mycorrhizal fungi. (I am trying to break the habit of tilling and turning the soil...) Old habits are hard to break..[​IMG]
    ON
     
  7. crazy goose lover

    crazy goose lover Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Rabbits are my secret weapon. I have 20 rabbits and I call their daily deposits hopper gold. I compost their waste along with grass clippings and mulched leaves. My neighbors say my biggest hobby is stiring sh--- because I am always out turning my compost pile. They all line up for the produce though. LOL
     
  8. muddstopper

    muddstopper Chillin' With My Peeps

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    ON, I had read about the TerraPreta several years ago. The char you refer to is usually made by the burning of wood in a non- oxgenated enviroment. Basicly setting fire to the wood and burying it under the dirt to smolter. This process has also been duplicated by heating the wood in vessel. This heating process removes all the gasses, nitrogen, hydrogen,etc, etc, but leaves all the minerals. Most importantly, it retains the carbon that is lost in an open flame. Carbon is lost thru the attachment of the carbon molecule to the gasses, most notably in the forms of Carbon dioxide and Carbon monoxide. This is the reason the char is much better to use than wood ashes. Wood and wood products are a very poor source of Phosphate, now the nuts of the tree on the other hand, are a very good source of P as well as sulfur. Gather up all the acorns fallen from the trees and compost them for a P source and now you have got something.

    On the subject of the RockPhospate, yes it would be a good choice, if I didnt have to import it. But first lets look at what the difference is between rock Phosphate and DAP, 18/46/0. Rock phosphate is actually the remains of little sea animals deposited for centuries in the bottm of the oceans. As the land masses shift, thes deposits are gradually brought up on dry land. These deposits are then mined as Phosphate. This phosphate is then groundup into fine particles, heated and exposed to Ammonium to form Monoammonium Phophate, MAP. This process removes impurities in the phosphate. These impurites are actually other essensial nutrients such as Calcium and Sulfur. The MAP is then again treated with Potassium Hydroxide to futher remove the leftover sulfur to produce, tripple super Phosphate, 0/40/0. It is again treaded with Ammonia to form Dap, 18/46/0. Now lets look at what happens to the tripplesuper P after it has been applied to the soil. Reseach shows that in a good growing season, the Phophate from the tripple super can remain available for plant uptake for a period of about 8 wks and in a poor growing season for as little as 4 wks. What happens to all the dap that has been applied, well due to the tripple negative anion charge of the P, it readily attaches to the other positive chared cations and reverts back to tricalcium phosphate, rock phosphate. This conversion takes place in about 2 months time during the best of growing seasons. Now, whats the difference in using Rock Phosphate and tripple phosphate, about 8 wks in the soil.

    Now lets talk about nutrient availability in the soil, Rock phosphate, unless very finely ground, wont showup as a available nutrient for about 3 years in the soil. Some is readily available, but most the plants cant use until after it has been exposed to the Mychorizia fungi and the plant root exudates and broken down into a usable form. Mycor, is very important for that very function. mycor attaches to plant roots and forms a symbioctic relationship with the plant that proves benefitual to the fungi as well as the plant. The fungi exchangeing nutrients (P being the biggy) to the plant for the sugars and starches the plant produces. Mycor fungi have been found to actually exchange nutrients from one tree to another tree as far as a mile away. It takes centuries for mycor to extend hypnea that far, but it does happen. Tilling the soil breaksup that hypnea and prevents such exchanges from occuring. There are also more than one from of Mycor. The endo associating more with grassy plants and the ecto more so with woody plants, In your garden, you would want to use the EctoMycorrhizia more so than the Endo type. The endo is what is usually sold most often to those wanting an extra green lawn, but also works well for growing corn, a grassy plant. Tomatoes, beans, squah, work better with Ecto. Cabbage, Broccli dont form Mycor associations.

    I add mycor to my garden and you can you can also buy seed treatments to apply when you plant, just make sure you get the proper seed treatment for the type plants you will be growing.
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2010
  9. Organics North

    Organics North Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Quote:Muddstopper, you are an interesting individual... I find we clash but have lots in common at the same time..

    You are talkin my language here.....[​IMG]

    Yep, on the char I have been making it for years, filling a barrel with wood scrap and placing that barrel in a fire. The barrel has a vent and the gasses in the wood burn off. Actually flame shooting burn off.. What is left in the barrel is char. I also get lazy and just light a big fire on a rainy day or with snow cover, and extinguish it at a certain time when the most of the wood is burned through but not ash yet.

    Thanks for the detailed explanation on the making of the fert... I knew about the rock phosphate release characteristics... Interesting you are saying tomatoes, beans, squash do better with an ecto???? I have never heard that.. I was under the simple assumption endo is for the garden and ecto for the trees.
    Can you point me in the direction of some reading material on that>>?

    I also use bacteria inoculant in my soil matrix's. I use a product called Biozome.. I really like it it will make things just disappear. I used to use COCO in potting mixes, the biozome just makes it disappear... Neat stuff really makes the humus fast..

    I know you did not ask for it, but I will say it one last time.. If it were me I would find a way to move away from the 18/46/0 stuff... I do believe it sets back soil life in an organic system... Feed the microbes not the plants I stay below 10/10/10..
    Thanks for the good info!
    Be well
    ON
     
  10. muddstopper

    muddstopper Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Murphy NC
    While you are making your char, why not capture the gas and use it for fuel. The gas has enough power to run your lawn mower. Just something to think about.

    Interesting you are saying tomatoes, beans, squash do better with an ecto???? I have never heard that.. I was under the simple assumption endo is for the garden and ecto for the trees.

    Hold that thought for a minute, In the garden, you are growing a varitity of plants, and a blend of different Mycor Fungi will work better than just using one species. Not all trees will form associations with Ecto Mycor nor will all trees form associtation with endo Mycor. I have a study guide written by Dr. Don Marx when I attended one of his organic seminars a few years back. In that guide it list a few different plant species and the types of Mycor fungi they most closely associate with. I'll have to look it up when i have more time and I will have to type the info in, but I will try to do so one evening next week. As for additional info, you can try the mycorrhizia Exchange for studies. You might also try contacting Dr. Michael Amanarantus at Mycor Applications. He will usually talk to you on the phone if hes available. Another person to look up would be Dr. Michael Melendrez of SoilSecrets. He has been doing a lot of research on this subject for a long time. He and I have had many of interesting exchanges over the years and dont always agree, but I think I have him coming around to my way of thinking, yea right lol.

    Back to the P. My soil test show 6ppm P levels, thats just 12 lbs per acre. Considering a 150 bushelacre corn crop will use 80lbs of P, you might say My soils are a little light on this nutrient. As Dr. William Albrecth once said, if it isnt in the soil, and you dont put it there, then it isnt going to magically appear on its own. With that thought in mind, I am building my soil levels using the chemical ferts until I have the P levels to a point that they are more sustainable. If you read my first post, you will note that my soil isnt a top soil by any stretch of the imagination. Its all deep subsoil from the bottom of a 200ft cut in the side of a mountain. Everytime you harvest a crop from your soil, you are also taking away the nutrients. Effectivly mineing your soil. These nutrients must be replaced if you are going to continue to grow a crop there. Other than using chemical ferts to obtain my P, there arent very many good organic sources available. The Acorns from the oaks, Corn and other grains and trace amounts in other organic materials, bone meal, rotten fruit, ect. all are not cost effective unless you have a free source for these products. Once I build my P levels to around 250ppm, I'll quit using the 18/46/0 until soil test results show I have a need for it.

    The product Biozome that you refered to, I havent heard of it and will do a little research to see what it is supposed to do. From your description, it sounds like it is some sort of digestive bacteria to speed up the decomposition of organic matter. I believe it was the University of Mich, ( I could be wrong), that was doing some research on a product to use to reduce the waste in landfields. Basicly letting the bacteria consume the garbage before burying it, therefore reduceing the amount of garbage actually buried. As long as the bacteria doesnt produce toxins, it should work well in a compost pile. Dr. Paul Siltie (sp), invented a product that actually would increase organic matter in the soil by stimulating the fungi breaking down the crop residues and releaseing the stored up nutrients to the plants growing there. Problem was, the benefits where short lived as the increased crop production used up all the readily available nutrients and after a year or two, crop production would again decline. Since all crop residues where also usedup, the product was no longer effective. You cant increase microbial activity without maintaing a food source for the microbes. Which is why compost teas have a very limited usefullness.​
     

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