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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 July 23, 2015   #1
Carriehelene
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Default Please help plan my fall/spring soil plan

So I'm looking ahead towards fall. My 4000 square foot garden is mostly sandy. The veggies do alright, but the soils Eco system is very poor. Not many worms, or bug life. There used to be a decent Eco system in there, but over the last 3 years, we've pretty much wiped that out thru tilling, religious weeding, etc. So it's time to start correcting that.

My plan is, spreading horse manure, shredding the leaves from our trees and adding them also, then planting annual ryegrass as a cover crop. Then in the spring, I'm thinking Redbaron laying down cardboard and hay, and just plant my transplants right thru it.

Still working out how to do the areas where direct seeding will happen.

So how's my plan looking so far? Will this work? It's all just so confusing lol.
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Old July 23, 2015   #2
Redbaron
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So I'm looking ahead towards fall. My 4000 square foot garden is mostly sandy. The veggies do alright, but the soils Eco system is very poor. Not many worms, or bug life. There used to be a decent Eco system in there, but over the last 3 years, we've pretty much wiped that out thru tilling, religious weeding, etc. So it's time to start correcting that.

My plan is, spreading horse manure, shredding the leaves from our trees and adding them also, then planting annual ryegrass as a cover crop. Then in the spring, I'm thinking Redbaron laying down cardboard and hay, and just plant my transplants right thru it.

Still working out how to do the areas where direct seeding will happen.

So how's my plan looking so far? Will this work? It's all just so confusing lol.
Ok for starters annual ryegrass is more for warm season and winter cereal rye is more for winter. Both are good cover crops but it is important to understand the purposes for each. With winter rye a good mixture would include winter peas or alpine peas. For ryegrass a good mixture might include a clover. With the winter cover crop you then grow tomatoes in the summer on the same spot. With ryegrass/clover you would plant that inbetween rows in isleways and walkways.

Here is a video with a guy who uses both a winter cereal rye, and a summer ryegrass/clover blend. The only difference is he uses black plastic instead of sheet mulching for his tomatoes:



His way is awesome, but remember, with black plastic you need to grow alfalfa or clover (or some other good cover crop blend) 3 years with no crops first. Then finally you can plant your tomatoes. That's fine for a big farmer with lots of land, but not so good for a gardener. A gardener would have to fertilise pretty heavily to grow tomatoes every year with his system. You'll run into problems with leaching away what ever you added. The soil gradually will get worse and worse and need more and more input. It's a downward spiral. Not as bad as plowing or tilling every year, but it still happens. That's why you need a 3 year fallow.

So think of what he does, and add a sheet mulch bed or a lasagna style bed instead of black plastic. This way you get the best of both systems. And sounds like you need it, because in sandy soil it really is critical to get both humus and glomalin in that soil for structure. Otherwise everything you add just leaches away. Decaying organic matter like mulches, manure, compost, etc.....will eventually help with the humus as they decay. Living mulches like grasses are great adding glomalin through symbiosis with mycorrhizal fungi. Legumes are great at fixing nitrogen in symbiosis with rhizobium bacteria. So this concept is addressing all your needs at once, every year, without the need for years of fallow. This means it is an upward spiral towards more fertile soil.

Now for direct seed I have had luck doing it a bit differently. One way is to solarise the soil first. Then plant. After the plants sprout, paper and mulch between the rows. I also have just pulled away a small circle of mulch and filled the circle with compost, planting a seed in each circle. I also have done it by not growing a winter cover crop on that section, instead put a very very thick mulch down (no paper) to last all winter. In the spring rake away all the mulch and plant. Add mulch between rows after they get tall enough. Or just rake away the mulch in narrow rows. Lastly I am even experimenting with pasture cropping. But that's a pretty advanced method. So for you I would start with the proven methods first. Probably best is a thick winter mulch and rake it away in spring. (for those sections that need direct seeded)

Hope that helps.
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Old July 23, 2015   #3
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I am very interested in this thread. I've had a long day with doctors and x rays... and possible Walking Pneumonia, etc. This post/reply is to remind me to read it tomorrow.
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Old July 28, 2015   #4
Carriehelene
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Redbaron, sorry it took me so long to respond and thank you (I think lol) for your reply. To be honest, I had to look up half of what you were talking about. And your video sucked me into YouTube hell. Who knew there are so many videos about cover cropping and half of them conflicting.

So when we spread the manure, do we dig it into the soil before planting the grass?
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Old July 28, 2015   #5
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Redbaron, sorry it took me so long to respond and thank you (I think lol) for your reply. To be honest, I had to look up half of what you were talking about. And your video sucked me into YouTube hell. Who knew there are so many videos about cover cropping and half of them conflicting.

So when we spread the manure, do we dig it into the soil before planting the grass?
I personally compost all manure first. I use the hot composting method if I need it quickly. But yes it is possible to just spread composted manure on the surface and plant a (cover) crop right into it. No tillage required.

I am working out a system that uses animals in the field and requires no composting of manure. (a permaculture method), but that's for the future. Right now just on paper and in my mind on how to integrate it into a crop and/or garden system.

This inspired it though:
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Old July 28, 2015   #6
Rairdog
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I am going with brasica's for a change. There are some study's about how the can fix the soil of wilts, fungi's, soil borne pests....etc. Especailly after a wet season like some of us had. With diakon radishes you can reach down and bring up the nute's. Leave them in to die off with frost and the organic matter is already in the soil to avoid tilling. I am new to this theory but it seems logical. I can get a lot of seeds from spring plants that I let flower and go to seed by late July. Harvest them, rake them in and they pop up in a few days. No buying seed. I have also found they make great trap plants and draw the bugs when interspersed among my toms and peppers. They also shade the ground which keeps it cooler and requires less water.

Here is a link

http://www.sare.org/Learning-Center/...s-and-Mustards

RB, let me know if you have any input on this please.
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Old July 28, 2015   #7
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RB, let me know if you have any input on this please.
I am a firm believer in mixed cover crops, and many brassicas can double as a regular food crop and an overwinter cover crop at the same time here in Oklahoma. So I use them absolutely. Also by organic standards you are supposed to rotate crops. It's part of the OMRI GAP requirements. So if you are growing tomatoes every year in the same place and consider yourself organic, you need a way to show crop rotation. One way to do this is with a fall/winter/spring rotation cover crop. Me personally, I like double duty cover crops. So why not instead of a forage radish, a market radish? Why not instead of a alpine pea, a winter sugar snap pea? Whenever I can, I add something like this. But that's because I am a very small scale right now. Once I get bigger, I suppose more conventional cover crops instead. But even if I use a market variety, I still mix the seed and grow them like a mixed cover crop.
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Old September 3, 2015   #8
greenthumbomaha
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Scott, can I get some advise please? Carriehelene and I have the same dilema, that is, a sandy soil and not many worms. I am growing in large 4 X 10 raised beds, almost 2 feet deep. Added tons of composted (bagged) organic cow manure and leaves when I can get them. I do not have a source of herbicide free grass clippings. I planted a spring cover crop mixture in one bed and some went to seed which is an ordeal! I'm growing fall peas and will start radishes soon. Its that time of the year. What should be the next step?

- Lisa
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Old September 14, 2015   #9
greenthumbomaha
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Bumping ... need help please! I dug down in the raised bed today and there were no worms to be had anywhere.

It seems more people in my neighborhood are using lawn cutting services and I may not be able to pick up as many bags of leaves as a result.

- Lisa
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Old September 16, 2015   #10
Redbaron
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Bumping ... need help please! I dug down in the raised bed today and there were no worms to be had anywhere.

It seems more people in my neighborhood are using lawn cutting services and I may not be able to pick up as many bags of leaves as a result.

- Lisa
You can always grow a high biomass cover crop. Use that for your mulch.
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Bill Mollison
co-founder of permaculture
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Old September 16, 2015   #11
greenthumbomaha
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You can always grow a high biomass cover crop. Use that for your mulch.
That was somewhat of a disaster for me as a first time cover cropper. Whatever seed I sowed in fall grew three feet high by spring and in the raised bed knocking it down was difficult. The crimper didn't kill the darn crop. I eventually had to smother it and had a difficult time planting in the tough roots that were left behind. Is there something that can still be planted that will grow and die off and improve the soil just laying on top?

In another bed I have the dakon or similar radish just starting to grow back from seeds dropped in spring.

- Lisa

Last edited by greenthumbomaha; September 16, 2015 at 08:41 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old September 17, 2015   #12
Redbaron
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Originally Posted by greenthumbomaha View Post
That was somewhat of a disaster for me as a first time cover cropper. Whatever seed I sowed in fall grew three feet high by spring and in the raised bed knocking it down was difficult. The crimper didn't kill the darn crop. I eventually had to smother it and had a difficult time planting in the tough roots that were left behind. Is there something that can still be planted that will grow and die off and improve the soil just laying on top?

In another bed I have the dakon or similar radish just starting to grow back from seeds dropped in spring.

- Lisa
I am a fan of blends, but if you want a single thing maybe try winter peas?
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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."
Bill Mollison
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Old September 17, 2015   #13
greenthumbomaha
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I am a fan of blends, but if you want a single thing maybe try winter peas?

I did plant a commercial cover crop "blend"( can't remember the brand but it came with a copper cow bell!) and one variety clearly and prolifically dominated. My spring crop was a wonderful local mix. I do have peas growing so there is hope

- Lisa
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