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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 October 21, 2019   #16
brownrexx
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Rather that picking up your neighbor's leaves you can do what I did one year. I put a sign at the end of my driveway that said "Bagged Leaves Wanted" and by the end of leaf season I had gotten 84 bags delivered to me!

It was a lot more than I expected but people have to pay for those paper bags and they also have to pay to have them picked up as yard waste so they were thrilled to drop them off at my house.

I ground them up with my mower and roto tilled them into my 2 gardens. I still had lots left over for mulch and compost.
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Old October 21, 2019   #17
greenthumbomaha
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My former growing partner used to take his trailer around the neighborhood and pick up tons of leaf bags too. He didn't do the cardboard, just heaped them on. The soil was wonderful. He didn't even chop them up.

Nan, last year I spread a layer of shredded leaves over the garlic bed, and I held them down by laying tomato cages over the garlic beds. The leaves were gone bu spring, either by decomposition or swept away by the wind. The first inch of soil was very crumbly. I literally had to chisel each bulb out of the heavy clay soil by getting under each bulb with the shovel. It was a ton of work.
Another amendment I used was bagged worm castings. I had purchased the bags the prior season at Walmart at a very nice price. Each planting hole got a handful of castings at the bottom, but the surrounding soil was still rock hard.

It was a great year for large sized bulbs and I have an abundance of garlic but not enough space to plant all the seed size bulbs. I may press my 4X4 raised box full of aged used potting soil and black cow into service. The dwarfs loved this spot, but I wonder if the mix is too wet for bulbs. Maybe shredded leaves mixed in to the rescue?

- Lisa

Still weighing options.

What a fun idea, Brownrex. Can't do around here with all the lawn services dumping chemicals and trees being treated for emerald ash borer.. Makes me queasy when I see little kids playing on the grass when there isn't a weed to be had on the entire yard.

Last edited by greenthumbomaha; October 21, 2019 at 06:57 PM.
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Old October 22, 2019   #18
bower
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It's too windy here for any kind of loose mulch, so I'm using chicken wire over the garlic beds to keep it from blowing away. Some animal got into my first bed before I had it mulched, and dug up a couple of cloves. Maybe squirrel? So I'm wiring over the mulch tightly to keep critters out as well. I'll remove all of it when spring comes and before the garlic comes up through, but you would probably keep your soil softer by maintaining the mulch around the garlic. Here the leaves get really matted down by the snow, so in spring it's as good as a sheet of stuff. If I left it on, I would have to poke holes for the garlic to get through.
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Old October 22, 2019   #19
brownrexx
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greenthumbomaha I do not take any grass clippings or municipal compost for the reasons that you mentioned. I have seen the lawn services dumping their treated clippings at the compost facility.

When I collected the leaves a few years ago we didn't have problems with the Emerald Ash Borer but this year people are starting to treat their trees with a systemic insecticide for the Spotted Lanternfly so I wouldn't want their leaves anymore.
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Old January 27, 2020   #20
b54red
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After years of gardening in the same raised beds my soil samples come back with low potasium readings. I have added a lot of greensand, murate of potash, and potassium sulfate to my soil over the years but heavy rains and heavy plant growth must leach it out faster than I add it back in. I did try ashes from my charcoal grill last year on everything from my cabbage, broccoli, beans, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes and peppers and the results were outstanding. My PH at the start of the season was around 6 to 6.7 and I haven't taken soil samples yet this year so I don't know how it affected the ph. The plants it did the most good for were cucumbers, cabbage, tomatoes and bell peppers. I didn't add the ashes until the plants were starting to make fruit or in the case of cabbage when they just started to head and I would sprinkle a small handful around each plant and water it in with my liquid fertilizer application. As for worms I was out today removing some mulch to plant some more broccoli plants and the soil was teeming with earth worms so I must not have added enough to bother them much.

If you need to lower the ph in your soil two of the fastest organic things you can do is add cottonseed meal and lots of peat moss. Pine bark fines will help with loosening up your soil but it can take a lot of them and they also are usually acidic enough to help lower the ph some. My soil used to have a very high ph anywhere from 7.2 up to 8.3 in one bed. I added a lot of the three items above and brought my ph down significantly over about 3 years. Bringing the ph down really helped my tomatoes absorb more iron, phosphorous and probably other elements.

I found something that I am trying this year as a soil conditioner but it would only be available where there are working cotton gins. I went to one looking for some old composted gin waste but all they had was new stuff but they did have a huge pile of old cottonseed that had been piled up and were rotting so I got a truckload of them. I talked to the a soil specialist at the state ag dept and he thought they would be a terrific addition to my garden soil but that they might lower my ph quite a bit. I added them to three beds and even added some lime for the first time in years. The plants growing in those three beds seem to be doing really well so far but only time will tell. I will be planting some tomatoes in a couple of those beds later and see how they are affected either positively or negatively. One thing I can say for sure they do make the soil lighter and more friable.

Bill
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Old January 27, 2020   #21
ScottinAtlanta
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Bill, you always teach me new things. Very interesting posts.
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Old January 27, 2020   #22
NewWestGardener
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One use of ash is to coat cut seed potatoes to prevent rotting.

That was what we did years ago. We usually selected the biggest potatoes for seeds, cut them into chunks, with eyes, then mix the cut pieces with ash before planting.
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Old January 27, 2020   #23
greenthumbomaha
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My wood ash is in the fire pit under a foot of packed snow. When spring returns, should I scoop out any residual ash to coat the potatoes or wait until some trees get trimmed and burned? Would the seasoned ash still raise the ph to a unacceptable levels?

Or maybe grow a cotton garden … Cotton burr compost is suggested in my area to condition heavy clay. Cost is way too high when sold bagged at the garden center.

- Lisa
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Old January 28, 2020   #24
brownrexx
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Before I plant my potatoes I cut them into pieces with at least one eye. I allow them to air dry before planting for a day or two to dry the cut edge. I don't have problems with rot although I do not plant them if a lot of rain is predicted either.

High pH can encourage the scab pathogen on potatoes so I would not want to raise the pH around my potatoes.
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Old January 28, 2020   #25
GrowingCoastal
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The sweetest potatoes I have ever had whether bought or grown were some that I planted into soil that had ashes added. They came out scabby but they were very good! That was in 1986. I still remember them.
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