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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 1 Week Ago   #1
Kazedwards
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Default Starting a garden

So this year we are putting in an actual garden and I’m trying to figure out the best way to start. It will be in an area that has only been mowed for the last 10 years. Before that I think they just had cows on it. It has really decent top soil that is about a foot or more deep and is clay based. It is really a step up from the last home we had. As far as weeds my biggest challenge will be the crab grass or whatever has those think white roots. I’m not really wanting to till but not opposed to renting one to get started. My plan in the long run is to build up raised rows and mulch heavily. I plan on using wood chips in between the rows and leaves or straw on them along with compost. Right now I just I just have a few rows done that will be reworked at the end of the season. Those I double dug after removing the grass. So here are my thoughts.

I could rent a tiller and till it all up and go from there with the rows and mulch.

My other thought was that I have about 9” of very used bedding in our chicken coop(I know I should have cleaned it out already) and 10 bags of leaves. I was thinking might be able to spread those out over the grass about 4” and in about a month plant straight into it. The rows I would form over the next year. The tomato rows I would just build up as I can and halfway plant them deep throughout the year. The others would just have to wait until this fall. The bedding material is pine shavings so would worry about them leaching nitrogen. The remaining part if the garden I would just keep double digging until the area was done.

I also thought about just digging the rows and mulching the paths with the bedding directly over the grass. My problem with that would be that I wouldn’t be able to mow between the rows because my mower deck is too wide. This fall I would build up the rows with soil from the paths.

Hers a picture of the area. It’s the area mowed really short.


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Old 1 Week Ago   #2
Kazedwards
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Also I plan on basically using a no till method after I get the garden started. Cover crops in fall and over the winter the mulching during the growing season. I also don’t want to put in raised beds


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Old 1 Week Ago   #3
Cole_Robbie
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You could tarp the area for 2 to 3 weeks before planting. That will kill a lot of the grass and soften the soil.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #4
Kazedwards
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I did that last fall with tarps. It worked pretty well. I spread the bedding under the tarp first then just let it sit for a while. I didn’t think about that this spring. Might try it. Thanks for the reply!


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Old 1 Week Ago   #5
PlainJane
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Getting the sod off is the harder part. I’ve always done it the old-fashioned way; cutting it out piece by piece with a shovel, shaking off soil and worms, composting the rest in an out-of-the-way place.
A sod cutter would speed things up or you could do tarps over several weeks ... or a combination.
There may have been chemical lawn treatments put down so that’s something to consider in the near term.
You could leave the grass on the paths but cover with heavy cardboard and then lots of straw. Next year the paths can be turned over as garden space and new paths laid out. That’s how I rotated and rested my New England garden. There were always a zillion worms in the area where the straw was so I gently hand-turned the soil; never mechanically tilled. Here in Florida for many reasons I use grow bags for veggies and reserve in-ground for fruit trees.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #6
bower
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My dad taught me to use potatoes to convert grass areas into garden beds.
We would lay the seed potatoes out on top of the grass, then take spadefuls of sod/earth from the sides just to cover them. Part way through the season we would trench again from the sides, usually with some small fish laid out first for fertilizer, and cover that up. Whatever weeds or grass appeared in the trench area they were just turned over for trenching and added to the green manure effect, which also suppressed anything coming up in the potato bed..
The potatoes by end of season were dense enough to completely suppress any weeds around them and no grass made it up from beneath them. All the green manure from the grass had been incorporated over the season. So after digging the crop, you were left with a lovely bed to work with the next year.
That is in clay soil here, as well.

I have an area I tarped over last fall, and hoping to get that back into garden space this spring.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #7
Kazedwards
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Cutting the sod has been the most time consuming for sure. That is what I did for the first 2 beds this year. Basically took a shovel full and shook as much soil out as I could. I have a nice berm going of it now. Plan on working it into a U shape and composting in the middle. I might end up just digging out the grass I guess. The soil is very healthy for what it is. Tons of worms. One reason I don’t want to till.

As far as the potatoes go I have read that before somewhere. Wish I had thought of that before I planted my small bed of them. Might do that next year to for some more beds we are planning but I’m really anxious this year to get a full garden in! Thanks for the help so far guys


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Old 1 Week Ago   #8
rockman
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I like our 50'x30 " raised beds. I have 30" of grass in-between each row I push-mow. Here is a couple pics.
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Old 1 Week Ago   #9
bad.kelpie
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This is how I started my garden. This was winter off 2016/2017. It was long grass, and rabbit poop, covered in snow. I covered the snow with cardboard and then alfalfa hay. When it got closer to planting time, I added another layer of hay. After that, I only added grass clippings. I used hay instead of straw for 2 reasons. First, it has more nitrogen, second, Basil, that bunny there, likes hay, and will eat it and poop in it and eat any plants that grew out of it. When it came time to plant, I fenced it in, and when I dug the holes for planting, the grass was gone, and worm poop was everywhere. My tomatoes did very well, and again last year. Last year, I just added grass clippings whenever weeds tried to come up, worked great.

Now I'm moving, but it worked so well that I'll probably just do that again.
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Old 5 Days Ago   #10
Kazedwards
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Today I cleaned out the coop. Mixed several bags of leaves in with the bedding into a large compost pile. I also spread about 2” on top of the grass I have removed already. Hope that breaks down well enough that I will be able to plant something into it maybe bush bean? By next year I expect it to be a decent bed. The other area I started to dig the grass out by hand. What I did was dug down about 3” and lifted it up a bit. Then moved back a few inches and did it again. That goes pretty quick. After a few days the grass is easy to just lift up a toss. It takes the top 3 or so inches with it but I’ll pile it up and compost on top of it over the next year to make a new bed.


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Old 5 Days Ago   #11
greenthumbomaha
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This may not apply to the current project (very pretty area, yours too rockman!), but if you are trying to remove grass in an area from sod that was installed in the past few years, do not jump right in and start to till. Sod in my area comes with a plastic net backing. What a mess to try and remove from a tiller.



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Old 4 Days Ago   #12
Kazedwards
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Thank you. We love the area. The garden and back of the house actually face a great view of active pasture land. The house in the background is actually the only neighbor to the east.

I dealt with the plastic netting at our last house. Total pain in the butt! Only thing worse was the solid clay fill that was our backyard. Luckily this is just native grass that isn’t very thick. Deep strong root system though. I’m taking about 3” off after shaking as much soil off as I can.


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Old 4 Days Ago   #13
xellos99
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I would talk to a local small farmer about making a big patch.

Nothing beats some heavy duty machinery.
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Old 3 Days Ago   #14
bower
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xellos99 View Post
I would talk to a local small farmer about making a big patch.

Nothing beats some heavy duty machinery.

That gave me a chuckle. Back in the day I was so proud to do everything with a shovel and wheelbarrow. Now I just dream of a day with a mini backhoe. I am looking forward to that, whenever I manage to get my hands on one. I wouldn't say no to a tractor either but even my old garden I've been told is too rocky for a tiller. I need something to get the big rocks out first.
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Old 3 Days Ago   #15
xellos99
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bower View Post
That gave me a chuckle. Back in the day I was so proud to do everything with a shovel and wheelbarrow. Now I just dream of a day with a mini backhoe. I am looking forward to that, whenever I manage to get my hands on one. I wouldn't say no to a tractor either but even my old garden I've been told is too rocky for a tiller. I need something to get the big rocks out first.

Rocks is a killer. Nothing worse, I have many a memory of digging rocky ground
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