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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 24, 2013   #61
nnjjohn
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I like to post pictures of my mess before i tiller it in hopes of getting the best advice to avoid waisting the dirty $$$ I been into trying to get my tomato garden growing better each season.. it it has been the case so far.. I bought a cheap electric green earth electric tiller a few seasons ago and started adding free horse stable mix of horse manure and wood chips from a local horse stable.. I have to learn to post pics here first..bbl
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Old March 24, 2013   #62
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IMG_0494.jpg

IMG_0495.jpg

IMG_0496.jpg

IMG_0501.jpg

IMG_0500.jpg

IMG_0497.jpg notice the shaded garden side.. i never had enough sun there lol.. gonna put the cucbers there as well as the chard.. the left one in the backyard doesn't get much all day sun either perhaps six hrs .. the long one on the right does fine for matos ,, yes the deer fence is needed too.. front house gets good sun and grow too..
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Last edited by nnjjohn; March 24, 2013 at 11:20 AM. Reason: explain photos
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Old March 24, 2013   #63
bughunter99
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Definitely keep the cukes to the sunniest part of that bed. I've tried cukes in less than full sun a few times and they seem to need all day sun for any health and productivity. Melons are like that too.

Chard, lettuce, fennel, parsley, beets and celery all do OK in high filtered shade for me. (Tree's thinned)
You can make the situation a bit better by thinning the trees causing the shade. It doesn't have to be a major production either. Just thinning out the smaller diameter branches coming off the big ones can make a big difference.

Oh and I would plant that whole slope behind the fenced area with cukes and melons and zucchini and interplant them with some pretty tansies and marigolds! To deter some of the pests. The bambi's around here ignore my cucumbers so no need to fence. Plus that slope is probably annoying to mow. I wouldn't even worry about tilling the whole thing. Just chop some 2x2 holes in the sod, make some mounds and plant!

Stacy (aka she who is slowing removing lawn and planting other stuff)

Last edited by bughunter99; March 24, 2013 at 11:43 AM.
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Old March 24, 2013   #64
Tracydr
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark0820 View Post
Here is what I did to convert my clay garden.

1. I found some local horse stables on Craigslist that offer free aged horse manure. If it is a large stable, you can haul as many truck loads as you want, and some places will even load your truck for you. They desperately want to get rid of it.

2. I mixed in as much aged horse manure as I could.

3. Then when I planted tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, etc., I would dig a fairly deep (at least 12 ") hole and mix in a lot of the aged horse manure with the clay soil so it was loose. This allows your plants to be in the best possible soil short term while you improve the entire garden long term. It takes longer to plant this way, but it was well worth it.

4. For beans, peas, etc., I would dig a row instead of a hole and use the method from point 3 above.

It works well as long as you have the patience to put more effort into the planting process. Do this for 3 or 4 years, and you will be amazed at what your garden soil will become.

Also mulching with straw and adding other types of compost (grass clippings, composted leaves, veggie scraps, etc.) will speed up the process. I primarily focused on the horse manure because it was available in large quantities for free.
This is pretty much what I did to my entire 5 acres in OK when I purchased a property with slick mud and not so much as a weed growing on it.
Within a year I had gorgeous, sturdy pasture, which I never even seeded, my planted trees were thriving and a nice, raised "berm" garden. I planted the trees on manure " berms, too.
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Old March 24, 2013   #65
nnjjohn
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bughunter99 View Post
Definitely keep the cukes to the sunniest part of that bed. I've tried cukes in less than full sun a few times and they seem to need all day sun for any health and productivity. Melons are like that too.

Chard, lettuce, fennel, parsley, beets and celery all do OK in high filtered shade for me. (Tree's thinned)
You can make the situation a bit better by thinning the trees causing the shade. It doesn't have to be a major production either. Just thinning out the smaller diameter branches coming off the big ones can make a big difference.

Oh and I would plant that whole slope behind the fenced area with cukes and melons and zucchini and interplant them with some pretty tansies and marigolds! To deter some of the pests. The bambi's around here ignore my cucumbers so no need to fence. Plus that slope is probably annoying to mow. I wouldn't even worry about tilling the whole thing. Just chop some 2x2 holes in the sod, make some mounds and plant!

Stacy (aka she who is slowing removing lawn and planting other stuff)
that is cool with me I hate mowing that steep slope to the left,, that cedar tree has always falling needles.. should I cut that down? Or is that cedar tree okay? thanks a bunch, John
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Old March 24, 2013   #66
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tracydr View Post
This is pretty much what I did to my entire 5 acres in OK when I purchased a property with slick mud and not so much as a weed growing on it.
Within a year I had gorgeous, sturdy pasture, which I never even seeded, my planted trees were thriving and a nice, raised "berm" garden. I planted the trees on manure " berms, too.
They certainly like for me to take as much as possible.. these horses are pampered with the best oats feed money can buy.. this horse stable is right smack in the middle of millionairsville this manure has to be quality as the man in charge said when I asked.. he said it is like gold so I take it , it has no herbicides and if it does, it worked for me anyway last three seasons. I just keep adding more during the winter months.. by springtime, I tiller it in a few weeks in advance of planting
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Old March 24, 2013   #67
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Heavy clay needs heavy equipment:

http://www.tractorbynet.com/forums/a...8198-row2s.jpg

http://wisdomoftheradish.com/2011/02...egetable-farm/
(Notice that they did not till until *after* they made the raised
rows. I think the flat top beds would be unnecessary if you are
hand-planting. That is for planting with seeding equipment.)

Hence the suggestion to build the rows up on top out of organic
matter instead and just shovel some dirt on top to hold it in place.
I simply suspect that the ambition to amend a big, gooey, clay
garden with organic matter with a hand tiller is a bit quixotic
and will leave you with the same problem you had before,
just higher fertility mud. You need the thing to be able to
drain end-to-end rather than downward.

One approach to keeping the raised rows raised even after
a heavy rain:
http://www.blueroseweb.com/misc_imag...s-not-done.jpg
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Old March 24, 2013   #68
nnjjohn
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I tilled a little today,, Sure looks better and should grow Tomato plants better this season should we have decent climate conditions .. been doing this last four season using local horse stable mix. I just don't get full day sun on the hill.. sun goes down on the hill in the back with those tall trees.. right side gets enough but the left side shades and so I see it in comparison every year but hey! this season i'm going to plant swiss chard where the tomato plants don't get that sun!
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Old March 26, 2013   #69
dice
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Here is a good FAO document on ridge and furrow cultivation and
planting. The emphasis is on furrows for irrigation, but the principles
of how to shape the furrows and where exactly to plant on the ridges
would be useful where the furrows primarily provide rainfall runoff,
too. (You want your ridges and furrows to run downslope, even if it
is only a very slight grade.)

http://www.fao.org/docrep/S8684E/s8684e04.htm

(Once your soil has been improved with organic matter for a few
years, maybe you want to change your method. I am imagining
"year one" here, how to get a garden to work in heavy clay soil
without bringing in heavy equipment to break it up and amend it
or a lot of materials to build raised beds.)
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Old March 26, 2013   #70
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It took awhile but my soil is rich,, the only thing I did wrong was using soil and manure I got for free ,, soil from the town and local horse stable manure mix bedding ,, drainage is not an issue.. At best , I'm hoping what I used for compost is herbicide free and I'm only in need of nitrogen fertilizer like fish and or blood meal
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Old May 8, 2013   #71
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Good news. It has been a dry, sunny and warm 9 days. The clay dried out and we were able to bring out shamu (rototiller) to mix the clay. I have a ton of newspaper saved up and 3 big compost bins with hundreds of pounds of grass/leafs that haven't composted yet, but are steaming hot and composting nicely.

The only problem now is all the darn weeds and grass that were growing in the garden were tilled back into it! Should I lay newspaper into the paths and cover them up with grass/leave mix that is partially composted and super hot or save it until it is composted?
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Old May 8, 2013   #72
dice
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Well, it depends. If that is the only thing you have to hold the newspaper
down with, then you need to sacrifice it for that, else you will have weeds
from hell. If you can find something else to hold down the newspaper,
then you can let it steam and make compost.

You could make your rows far enough apart to fit a lawnmower
in between them. Then mow the weeds as they grow, and keep
your compost piles for compost.
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Old May 8, 2013   #73
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Here is how I turned ohio glacial clay into a good garden soil.

1-- Drainage --unless you are on an actual clay deposit from a river or lake bed, the common soil horizon structure around here (Ohio soils formed after glacial retreat) has a clay layer that is generally 6"-12" thick with a sandy or loam soil horizon below it. You just have to trench through that clay in a couple of places. Secondarily, dig a trench/ditch around the garden and pile the dirt up to make a raised bed. You have a hill so just just open the dich on the down hill side.


2-- Soil improvement. A lot of semi composted wood chips -- compost with a lot of nitrogen until the are chocolate brown. I did this over one winter. I got my brush chipped in December, had garden planted in May-June. I can get municiple wood chips, which they call compost too.


The lignin in wood turns to long lasting humic compounds. Grass-hay based materials do not have as much lignin in the fibers (more cellulose) and the quality is not as good as tht of hardwoods for long term humic molecules. The nitrogen locks into the chemical structure of the lignin-humics.

Till in equal parts chips to clay, i.e five to inches of chip compost in all.


Fungi will feed on the half composted chips once they are in the soil and help the soil texture even further.


My clay is yellow/red because of the sandstone mixed with it (from iron I guess), but there are veins of pure blue clay in it. Some is too thick to trench through because it was pilled up when the house's basement was dug

Now some four years later, when I till the soil it is still dark brown, darker than the natural medium brown of the native top soil. It still had clay marbles in it, but considering it started out as huge clods of clay I had to shatter by hitting with a shovel once they dried on the surface, I'm very happy with it.


I wish I had a tiller back then!
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