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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 November 11, 2012   #46
clkeiper
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My son helps the neighbor do some baling and they use SALT to keep the bales dehydrated so they aren't growing mold as that would be poisonous to the cattle. Too much salt in the garden is detrimental to some plants more than others, but you still need to ask what the hay was treated with when they were baling it.
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Old November 12, 2012   #47
Redbaron
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This is an interesting thought with the brown paper. One of the things we have always considered is the blackness of the soil helping warm it up. Our subsoil is about 45 degrees.

What I usually do with the transplants is let them start growing pretty well after planting them out, 2 - 3 weeks depending on the weather, then mulch them to keep the weeds out. However if its a chilly Spring, I mulch them deeply with old hay and cover them to keep them warm. Then when the weather straightens out, pull the mulch back to warm the soil. Then the mulch gets rearranged around the plants through the season.

Does the paper itself do more mulching than the mulch, or about the same ? Does anyone recommend a source for the wide rolls of brown paper ? Would the rolls of news print paper work from the newspaper ?

I was thinking of asking my nephew who is a welder to make me a broad fork. Do you suppose the angles and such could be determined from a catalog picture ?
Thanks, Jean in Mt
I will try to address your questions.

In post 23 of this thread I put a link. but here it is again.

http://www.ecoenclose.com/Bogus_Pape...p/pbr24-50.htm

However, bogus paper is available all over from many suppliers. I like how bogus paper is thick, flexible, absorbant and cheap. I use newspapers themselves now for small scale, but generally find I need several layers thick. In trying to scale this up to something workable large scale, I had to think of a cheap material usable 1 layer thick that wouldn't shred up and make a huge mess in the wind while I tried to lay it down, walk on it to lay the hay mulch, walk on it again to plant etc etc etc.... Bogus paper seemed to foot the bill in every respect except it is grey instead of black. (some light is bound to filter through the hay and black would seem to be slightly better) I did actually think of newsprint paper first and that's what originally gave me the idea in the first place. I also thought of cardboard rolls, brown paper rolls, Craft paper rolls (they come in black), gardening landscape felt, and a bunch more possibilities. You are welcome to experiment with me on this to work out what may be best in your area. I just think bogus paper is a good place to start.

The mulch is the hay, not the paper. The paper is a barrier that prevents weeds and also a moisture barrier, insect barrier, protective skin for the soil etc. You have to always have the paper covered in hay, grass clippings etc. Never bare, not even when laying it down. Imagine a gust of wind hitting 1000 feet of paper without hay covering it? What a mess you'll have! So the hay will have to follow DIRECTLY after the paper as it is being rolled out. Then the whole thing must be dampened with water to settle it. (you have a little time to do that though)

I also have thought of your technique of using mulch now and how to adapt this into my commercially scalable prototype. Lets say for example you wanted to plant 5 rows of direct seed veggies 1 foot apart. You would buy 6 X 1 foot wide bogus paper rolls (or whatever) and some 3 foot wide round hay bales. Then you would place 3 rolls of bogus paper side by side with a couple inches between them and set up a roll of hay behind that. Unroll all 3 rolls of bogus paper at once carefully keeping the spacing followed closely by 3 foot wide hay being unrolled. repeat. You now have 6 feet 10 inches of ground covered by paper and hay with 5 X 2 inch "slits" running through it with no paper. (obviously to scale it even larger you would use machinery but we will call you mid size) Let that sit a few weeks until you are ready to plant. Pull back the mulch away from the "slits" and plant. When the seedlings have sprouted and grown large enough, pull the hay back around them or just add new loose mulch like grass clippings around them. That should work for you jeaninmt. You are welcome to join me in developing these techniques. Any input you guys come up with good or bad would be great. I am sure there is bound to be bugs to work out. But we both have the same goal. Figure out a way to scale it up.


Note to anyone reading this:

I have many years experience with till and no-till, mulching, sheet mulching, lazagne mulching and organic gardening, raising chickens, cattle, goats, rabbits etc... But all small scale. I have also worked as a paid employee for large scale conventional farmers and seed research and supply companies. (And a few mid range too) mostly in my youth.

I have more than once asked the big guys who employed me, or others I encountered over the years, why they couldn't use organic (and permaculture) techniques on their large scale operations? Almost all of them universally have stated over the years that they would if they could, but it wasn't possible, feasible or profitable. You can almost count on it as a standard answer every time. I couldn't answer because I saw no solution either. But it has been chewing at the back of my mind for over 30 years.

Then a while back I discovered "Omnivores Dilemma"- by Michael Pollan published in 2006. I of course was instantly struck by this awesome book. I did months of research. There is a 20 billion dollar a year industry doing the "impossible". And yet they really haven't truely solved the problem of scaling up organic agronomics to large scale commercial. It really isn't yet "feasible" truely large scale. Almost all of it is small scale multiplied over and over. What I did discover was a breakthrough in animal husbandry called "managed intensive rotational grazing" which will eventually make about 70% of the mass plantings of corn, soy and wheat obsolete. The writing is on the wall. All because a family farm called Polyface run by Joel Salatin discovered a way to use modern technology and apply it to permaculture and organic to develop a method and modern business management model that is easily scalable from very small to full size industrial, and everything inbetween. He is just a small farmer, but his model is usable at any scale with very minor modifications. The man is a true genius.

Here is a 3 vid playlist at YouTube that aired on TV introducing Joel Salatin and his farm and ideas to the public. (3 X 1/2 hour vids)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYWYU...=plpp_play_all

That got me to thinking. I think in the process of my research I have figured out a possible solution to the problem I have been working on for over 30 years in my head by combining parts of Salatins concepts of animal husbandry to what I know about organic agronomy.

This "Redbaron" technique heavily borrows on breakthroughs made by many people, yet it is totally untested as of yet. Each part individually I can say with confidence works. But integrated together in a real world tested and proven, flexible, scaleable model? Never been done. It is so flexible that even it can be done without the animal husbandry (but not quite as well). With very minor adjustments of proven existing equipment, I believe it can even be adapted to full scale industrial and still remain organic.

This is year zero. I found Tomatoville and quickly realised there are many many very experienced people here. You guys are even making real meaningful differences yourself with things like the Cross Hemisphere Dwarf Project™, Ray's Earthtainer, The ANATOHUM project, Tatiana's TOMATObase, Jennifer's Bridgeport Urban farm and many more. This has inspired me to get off my lazy arse and actually at least try to put this idea into a workable project.

I am dead serious. You guys really have inspired me. Even the ones I have had minor disagreements with, maybe even especially them. Nothing gets my back up more that telling me something can't be done. Why else would I be carrying it with me for 30 years and still thinking about it?
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Last edited by Redbaron; November 12, 2012 at 01:56 AM.
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Old December 17, 2012   #48
kilroyscarnival
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Scott, I remembered your advice. Yesterday I finally constructed my first raised bed, a modest 3 x 5 footer. I used 1 x 6 x 8ft cedar, double around for 12" height, cut at Lowes into 3' and 5' pieces. It was my first real wood construction project, and I should have waited for my sweetie, but I wanted to see if I could do it myself. Made a few rookie mistakes, but I still have all ten fingers and got a few splinters out.

I used your 6-7 layers of newsprint, considering I had been saving up the "community paper" they toss for free and pulling out the glossy, it took a while to accumulate that much but I don't take the paper. On top of that I spread some dry leaves from my pile, then spread out the contents of my 55-gal garbage can of compost. It wasn't perfect, but very dark and loamy, a few sticks and bits which aren't yet decomposed fully.

I then added store-bought mushroom compost, peat moss, garden soil, the last of my coarse vermiculite and some perlite, some dolomite, a small bit of organic fertilizer, the last of my Black Kow (not much), and mixed it with a shovel, and then by hand, breaking up the clumps. Put a tiny bit of water on the top and then some bucket-steeped compost tea, then threw a plastic 'tarp' over it as I saw Pixie the longhair cat think about climbing in there. (Wanting to save each from the other, and me from a grumpy-cat grooming session when she came back inside.)

Next step is buying earthworms.
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Old December 17, 2012   #49
Redbaron
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Good luck! And I betcha that it is impossible not to grow something in that! You are going to have massive happy plants!
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Old December 21, 2012   #50
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Thanks, hope so. Edgar popped by yesterday and he actually said I did a good job on the construction, but offered to put together a second one for/ with me next week, so I will take hi up on that.

Today I visited a hydroponics store, to see what they had. They have Actinovate so I got the sall package, and a rooting hormone gel I am going to try, mostly on the Cuban oregano which seems slow to root. I remembered a friend who said she used that store for supplies for her bonsai said they had wor castings, so I thought they might also sell worms. But no, they have bags of commercial worm castings. Worms who sold out... Sad. He didn't have a source on worms so I checked out a live bait place I saw on Craigslist. Got two small containers of red wigglers.

I slso stopped at this tree nursery where I got two little dwarf banana trees. They didn't have any avocado or mango trees; he said it was the wrong time of year to plant the anyway. Oh, we'll, the banana ones are cute, and fit in my car so I didn't have to rent a pickup or anything.

I didn't get any plants in the raised bed today. It is supposed to go down to 38 F or so, and the wind is kicking up, so I thought I would wait just in case I feel the need to being stuff inside. The cherry toms in the homemade SWC have humongously taken off. I added a layer of leaf lunch on top of the plastic.

Did run the mower. There was a little green stuff, but mostly leaf matter. Then walked around front to see my box from Johnny's arrived. Brussels sprouts, broccoli and raab, an orange bell pepper, Tango celery, those mini watermelons, and from the $1 sale section, Striped Cavern tomatoes, a parsnip, a Genovese basil, and picador shallot. At the hydroponics store I got some marigold seeds, and a red basil.
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Old December 21, 2012   #51
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Originally Posted by clkeiper View Post
My son helps the neighbor do some baling and they use SALT to keep the bales dehydrated so they aren't growing mold as that would be poisonous to the cattle. Too much salt in the garden is detrimental to some plants more than others, but you still need to ask what the hay was treated with when they were baling it.
I've heard of using a culture which I think is like a lactobacillus but I've never heard of using salt. I think some of the OK alfalfa farmers use a culture to put up the alfalfa a little damper without molding.
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Old December 22, 2012   #52
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I've heard of using a culture which I think is like a lactobacillus but I've never heard of using salt. I think some of the OK alfalfa farmers use a culture to put up the alfalfa a little damper without molding.
My son was the one throwing the salt on the hay....can we say you want no open sores/wounds/scratches as the "thrower". There is a liquid that the other neighbor uses, but he didn't know what it was nor did I have him ask. I wll try to remember after the weekend and Christmas is over to ask then.
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Old January 5, 2013   #53
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I came across some interesting videos featuring Helen Atthowe in Montana. She uses living mulch between rows of vegetables, and mows the mulch periodically, but does not weed. At one point she mentions that mallow -- usually considered a weed -- turns out to be a good nitrogen scavenger. When it's cut back, it adds more N than legumes or hay, about 80 pounds N per ton. Here's one of the videos:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJk4R1xpMC8&feature

She also mentioned that because of the living mulch, she gets earlier peppers and tomatoes than anyone else at the farmers market, and the plants are healthier and more vigorous.
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Old January 5, 2013   #54
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My feeling is that I have seen "no till" work well but only in soil that is already good to go. If you have crappy soil......you will need to amend and till to get it to the stage where "no till" will work. Once at that stage.........all you need is a little compost each season and good growing practice such as rotation and removing dead plants promptly. When done right....this method can save a lot of work and produce a bumper crop!
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Pretty much what I have been thinking, too. Next year half my garden will be planted in green manure/cover crops the entire season, and the other half will be our vegetables, heavily mulched with some of the cuttings of the cover crops. And to help with loosening the soil, I have purchased a fabulous looking broadfork - I guess tomorrow I will find out just how fabulous it is!
I lived in Georgia for 9+ years on hard clay. For part of the garden, I turned it over with a shovel by hand and added amendments. The clay was so hard, I had to water it first to be able to get the shovel in. When I made the garden larger, I decided that this was just too, too much work on hard Georgia clay! So I just killed the Bermuda grass, put down newspaper, and put a thick layer of wheat straw over it. Did not loosen the soil at all. The plants did very well even the first year - clay can hold a lot of nutrients due to its particle structure. This was then the only area I grew tomatoes for maybe 5 years. I grew the best tomatoes there than I have anywhere else, and many of the plants grew amazingly tall (over the support that I needed an upturned bucket to reach to top of, then cascading down again, and I'm 5' 9"). When I left, the soils was black as night with worms galore. Granted, I put the waste from our little chicken coop on it two or three times (in the fall). I hated to leave that little patch behind, and to this day, I miss growing tomatoes on Georgia clay!
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Old January 5, 2013   #55
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I miss growing tomatoes on Georgia clay!

You are welcome to it. In Atlanta, it is like gardening on top of a gigantic red brick. I have broken shovels and picks just trying to turn the soil. When I saved my pepper plants for winter, I found the ones growing on hard clay had roots that went down for one inch, then straight sideways. My raised beds are now full of leaf compost and horse manure, and the red clay is 12 inches down.

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Old January 5, 2013   #56
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I miss growing tomatoes on Georgia clay!

You are welcome to it. In Atlanta, it is like gardening on top of a gigantic red brick. I have broken shovels and picks just trying to turn the soil. When I saved my pepper plants for winter, I found the ones growing on hard clay had roots that went down for one inch, then straight sideways. My raised beds are now full of leaf compost and horse manure, and the red clay is 12 inches down.

I think we probably had the same clay - we were in Athens at the time. Not sure why we had such a different experience, but the reason I did the newspaper/wheat straw when I expanded the garden was just the reason you stated - the clay was like a gigantic brick, and I couldn't stomach the thought of turning it over any more. It really just started as an experiment to see if I could get anything to grow at all. But the worms worked the decomposing straw in so well that it improved very fast. And by the straw keeping the clay moist, it stayed soft and didn't dry and crack like the clay in the rest of the yard would. Was the area where your pepper plants grown mulched similarly? Without the straw, I think I would have had terrible results.
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Old January 5, 2013   #57
Redbaron
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Originally Posted by habitat_gardener View Post
I came across some interesting videos featuring Helen Atthowe in Montana. She uses living mulch between rows of vegetables, and mows the mulch periodically, but does not weed. At one point she mentions that mallow -- usually considered a weed -- turns out to be a good nitrogen scavenger. When it's cut back, it adds more N than legumes or hay, about 80 pounds N per ton. Here's one of the videos:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJk4R1xpMC8&feature

She also mentioned that because of the living mulch, she gets earlier peppers and tomatoes than anyone else at the farmers market, and the plants are healthier and more vigorous.

That is almost the exact same as I was proposing actually. The main differences being paper covered in mulch instead of black plastic, and the addition of the possibility of animal husbandry with the inclusion of either feathernet electric fencing or chicken (and or rabbit) tractors in a managed intensive rotational grazing model, instead of only mowing the cover between rows. It makes a second (or third) income stream on the same land simultaneously.

But if you watch both part 1 and part 2 and get that in your head. Then watch this play list:

Short version

or this play list:

long version

Then take the two methods (from Helen and Joel) and combine them, add in companion planting techniques and sheet mulching, then you should be able to get an idea of the method I eventually will try to develop.

I saw Helen Atthowe's Biodesign Farm vids on her technique last year and that is one of the inspirations I had for the Redbaron technique I am trying to develop. I also have known about Joel Salatin's PolyFace Farm for many years, and always though it was great, but missing vegetable crop production. For a few years I have been churning the thought in the back of my mind on how to properly add crop production to Salatin's model, or animal husbandry to no till sheet mulching crop production, all in a scalable commercial model.

Needless to say after watching Helen Atthowe's Biodesign Farm vids, I had my AHA moment. Now it is just to put it all together and prove it can work!

I will start small and try to add each element one by one so I don't get overwhelmed. However, in my heart of hearts, I think it will work and really increase production per acre and profit per acre of farmland WELL over anything conventional could possibly even come close to. At the same time it should maintain a sustainable ecology that actually IMPROVES over time. We will see.

PS. I am still looking for volunteers for year one. Hint Hint
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Last edited by Redbaron; January 5, 2013 at 09:09 PM. Reason: Typos and a PS
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Old January 5, 2013   #58
Redbaron
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I lived in Georgia for 9+ years on hard clay. For part of the garden, I turned it over with a shovel by hand and added amendments. The clay was so hard, I had to water it first to be able to get the shovel in. When I made the garden larger, I decided that this was just too, too much work on hard Georgia clay! So I just killed the Bermuda grass, put down newspaper, and put a thick layer of wheat straw over it. Did not loosen the soil at all. The plants did very well even the first year - clay can hold a lot of nutrients due to its particle structure. This was then the only area I grew tomatoes for maybe 5 years. I grew the best tomatoes there than I have anywhere else, and many of the plants grew amazingly tall (over the support that I needed an upturned bucket to reach to top of, then cascading down again, and I'm 5' 9"). When I left, the soils was black as night with worms galore. Granted, I put the waste from our little chicken coop on it two or three times (in the fall). I hated to leave that little patch behind, and to this day, I miss growing tomatoes on Georgia clay!
I had a similar experience here in Oklahoma. Soil so compacted I couldn't even dig it. I gave up on mine even faster though. Year one right after moving here I got 2 maybe 3 shovel widths on a 20 foot row turned and my feet hurt so much from literally jumping up and down on the shovel, that I said ..... (well I won't repeat what I said... use your imagination), and decided to just paper and mulch alone right over the sod and plant my seedlings through that. Even planting the seedlings was a pain, but after a week I finally finished. (4 days was jumping up and down on a shovel) You can imagine my surprise when the part I didn't dig did far better than the part I did dig..even with the EXACT same mulch on both. Neither was all that great first year though. It took about 3 years to really turn that soil productive.
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"Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted & thoughtless labour; & of looking at plants & animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system."
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Old January 8, 2013   #59
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I tried the no till thing on one of my two beds. Every year after pulling my tomatoes, I'd lay down my compost, cover it with leaves for about a month, then cover with "Christmas Tree" mulch (shredded Christmas trees... it breaks down by the next year). Usually, the bed that I tried my no-till thing on did a bit better than the other side. Not any more. Last year, the till side averaged 24 tomatoes per plant. The no till side averaged 3.

After pulling my plants, I tried to stick a pitchfork in the no till and it would not budge. All the compost I had been adding over the years was simply gone. I don't know if it washed away or was stolen by garden gnomes. There was nothing but the red clay crap that was there when all this started. The ground level, of course, had not raised any either. On the side that I till, the ground level has raised 12 inches and my pitchfork will push through to the end of the spines with one hand.

So, this year, I dug up all the red clay I could, about six inches down, and replaced it with several year old leaf mold, compost from my own pile (mostly rabbit manure from last year that has been picked over by worms), and, of course, Craigslist leaves. I'll put the Christmas tree mulch down when it becomes available.

Oh, and I tilled the hell out of both sides. The pitchfork goes all the way down on both sides.
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Old January 8, 2013   #60
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That is very weird. Is this the twilight zone? What makes years of composted mulch disappear into thin air? Worms all gone? Humus vanished?

In over 30 years I have never even heard of such a thing!
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Bill Mollison
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