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A garden is only as good as the ground that it's planted in. Discussion forum for the many ways to improve the soil where we plant our gardens.

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Old March 20, 2018   #16
SteveP
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Thank you all for your feedback and recommendations. I have not been adding much to build up the soil in my garden. I have used Black Kow and some ProMix, mostly along the planting rows. We have a small city lot with zero trees, so I don't have leaves to mulch. I do have a close friend who has a lawn care business so grass clippings and mulched leaves in the fall should be doable. There is also a Starbucks within a mile of the house and I will see about getting some coffee grounds. I will plan on add about 6 cu ft of ProMix and tilling it into the top 6" of soil. I don't plant my garden until the end of April, so time is running out. I also bought several (smaller) bags of TomatoTone and GardenTone at the end of last fall for cheap and am considering tilling some of it in when I till in the ProMix. Will also add a few bags of BlackKow again also.

Something I have been needing to do and never seem to get done is a soil analysis by the county extension office. I think I will do that later this week and see what they recommend for Ph and nutrients. What I think I have learned is I need to focus more on building a good soil and not solely on growing the plants. Thank you again for all of your suggestions. I have a much better understanding of what I need to work on.
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Old March 23, 2018   #17
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Well, I spent a big portion of the day yesterday afternoon trying to get my Mantis tiller running. Rubbed a big blister between my fingers pulling on the gosh darn noodley thing. So I youtubed it and with some minor carborator adjustments, had it working like a champ within 5 minutes this morning. Major victory for me as I am NOT a mechanical type and usually screw things up worse.

They are calling for rain and thunderstorms moving in Sunday, so I decided to wing it as best I could. Here is what I am doing and am half way done after about 90 minutes of work and several short sit down breaks.

Tilled a row about 18" wide and 6" deep. I added about 3" of Back To Nature Cotton Burr compost and tilled that in with the soil. This left about a 5" trench. To the trench I added about 10 gallons of year old rabbit manure, a bag of Black Kow, a couple of inches of last years ProMix, some diatomaceous earth and some Garden Tone that I bought at the end of last season for $3. Worked it together with a garden for and raked the soil/ cotton burr compost back over the trench which made about a 4" mounded row.
So, I am half done and have 1 more row to duplicate the above process. Hopefully it will be a winner because last year was not good.

On the Cotton Burr Compost I read the Back to Nature (made in NW Texas) was the one to use because they don't spray their cotton to defoliate before picking. They just wait for a killing frost to defoliate. It really looked like good rich stuff and is supposed to be excellent for breaking up clay soils in the garden.
Now back to work because I also have 2 flower beds in the front that need major attention too. Thank you all again for recommendations. Even though I didn't follow anyone exact recommendations, it made me give it lots of thought and I also spoke to 2 Local master gardeners who highly recommended the Cotton compost for our local soil. I had everything on hand except the 4 bags of $8 compost.
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Old May 20, 2018   #18
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Update- my raised bed garden is doing great so far, noticeably better than the last few years. I know I winged it with amendments this spring, but it appears I sure didn't hurt anything. I know I need to do the right thing and get my soil tested by the county extension, which I will after this season. I have been very negligent in taking advantage of a very useful resource.
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Old May 20, 2018   #19
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Well, the results are what counts, Steve, and if it's looking good, that's success! Congratulations!

Nan
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Old May 20, 2018   #20
SteveP
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Well, the results are what counts, Steve, and if it's looking good, that's success! Congratulations!

Nan
Thank you Nan. I have been pretty neglectful in building a healthy soil the last 5-6 years. My laziness is my worst gardening enemy. The joys of getting older.
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Old May 20, 2018   #21
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Oh. me too. I'm going no-till partly because it's getting harder to use the tiller.

But those aches & pains really make you find ways to streamline your gardening.

I'm going to cover crop this fall, some winter-killed radishes, oats & peas. Get my nitrogen, break up the clay, with as little work as possible.

Nan
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Old May 20, 2018   #22
SteveP
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Originally Posted by Nan_PA_6b View Post
Oh. me too. I'm going no-till partly because it's getting harder to use the tiller.

But those aches & pains really make you find ways to streamline your gardening.

I'm going to cover crop this fall, some winter-killed radishes, oats & peas. Get my nitrogen, break up the clay, with as little work as possible.

Nan
I did the no till- do nothing method the last few years. It was easy, but the results suffered.

I put down weed mat like I always did planned on putting 3-4" of straw on top of that for moisture retention but the 3 bales I bought at Lowes was full of seeds. Decided to plant peppers in the bales.
I decided to buy some bales of compressed pine shavings (fine) and am using those instead. I will remove the weed mat this fall and work the pine shaving into the soil a little to help decompose. The work what's left into the soil next spring. I am really trying to break up this wad of clay I affectionately call a garden.
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Old May 20, 2018   #23
Nan_PA_6b
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Yes, my garden is heavy clay also. Hoping the tillage radishes will break it up some.

Nan
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Old May 20, 2018   #24
SteveP
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Yes, my garden is heavy clay also. Hoping the tillage radishes will break it up some.

Nan
Nan, I should have said that my concept of no till was that I basically did nothing to the soil. And that is exactly what I did to the soil, nothing. Every year I dug a hole and planted a plant. I just had no concept of what no till required. My ignorance was my problem.
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Old May 20, 2018   #25
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Dont forget to keep feeding the soil. I believe the Espoma recommends once per month for their products. Check the label for the product you have.


My next feeding is June 1st for my Greenhouse Maters. It was a little slow, kicking in, but dont want to screw it up now by forgetting to feed.
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Old May 20, 2018   #26
cjp1953
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Yes, my garden is heavy clay also. Hoping the tillage radishes will break it up some.

Nan
I also grew tillage radishes as my winter cover crop,the problem I have is the leaves all have decomposed leaving bare ground which then cracked badly and then we had all this rain yesterday.Today I put 12- 40 pound bags of composted cow manure that I spread across the surface after I took my garden fork and loosened the soil.I don't want to till it in as I have been doing no till the last couple years and have many earthworms but have a problem with clay soil.Very frustrating and I have used cover crops for many years.
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Old May 20, 2018   #27
SteveP
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Dont forget to keep feeding the soil. I believe the Espoma recommends once per month for their products. Check the label for the product you have.


My next feeding is June 1st for my Greenhouse Maters. It was a little slow, kicking in, but dont want to screw it up now by forgetting to feed.

Thanks for the reminder FourOaks. I fertilized again yesterday and today we have gotten over 2" of welcome rain. I set my plants a little over 3 weeks ago and they were about 4" showing above ground. They are now up to my waist and are heavy with blooms and small fruit. I am using a combo of fish emulsion, Lady Bug John's Recipe, liquid kelp and worm tea to fertilize every 2 weeks after putting 1/4 C of Garden Tone mixed in the bottom of each hole at planting.I sprayed for disease prevention 4 days ago and also insect control as I saw a bunch of ants around the perimeter of the raised bed. After all the rain I will re spray the fungicide. I seemed to get what I think is early blight each season so I am attempting to keep in front of it this year. At this early stage they look very happy.
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