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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 April 21, 2015   #1
AZGardener
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Default How to BETTER my soil in raised beds

Hi guys- I have 5 raised beds and 1 really huge in the ground bed. Tomatoes are growing in all of the beds except for 2. My question is, I see everyone rotating their crops (I cant) and adding things to the soil to help build it. There is a small window between Spring/Fall (I plant those fall plants in Aug and Spring plants usually wont make it past July though I'm going to try to help extend them). What can I do to help add nutrients, strengthen the depleted soil, and also since I cant rotate, just help make the soil just as good as when I first added it?

Thanks in advance

Also- I have a part time job at a coffee shop where I could literally bring home 15lbs of coffee grounds a week. When/how much coffee grounds would you add to your garden? Directly to where tomatoes/veggies are growing or add a composter? Thanks!
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Old April 21, 2015   #2
PaulF
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I gardened using raised beds for about ten years and the best thing for them was starting a compost pile and incorporating compost into the raised beds every year. Some may say just go ahead and add organic material directly to the beds, like your coffee grounds, but would compost everything first for a good mixture of greens and browns.

So far as rotation is concerned, a good mulching program and good sanitation will take care of a lot of that problem. A professional soil test every few years will let you know how the soil is doing and what nutrients need to be added.
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Old April 21, 2015   #3
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Thanks PaulF! That's what I was thinking... I like to add stuff to the soil whenever but I can obviously do that when I have plants growing. I need to make a good composter... Next project!!
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Old April 21, 2015   #4
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Agree that finished compost is the best garden amendment. Building great garden soil is a gradual process. Adding a whole lot of even good things all at once can result in problems and so I would recommend adding a nice layer of your own good compost and clean mulch every spring and fall well...forever.
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Old April 21, 2015   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AZGardener View Post
Hi guys- I have 5 raised beds and 1 really huge in the ground bed. Tomatoes are growing in all of the beds except for 2. My question is, I see everyone rotating their crops (I cant) and adding things to the soil to help build it. There is a small window between Spring/Fall (I plant those fall plants in Aug and Spring plants usually wont make it past July though I'm going to try to help extend them). What can I do to help add nutrients, strengthen the depleted soil, and also since I cant rotate, just help make the soil just as good as when I first added it?

Thanks in advance

Also- I have a part time job at a coffee shop where I could literally bring home 15lbs of coffee grounds a week. When/how much coffee grounds would you add to your garden? Directly to where tomatoes/veggies are growing or add a composter? Thanks!
I say definitely grab all the coffee grounds you can get your hands on. Not knowing how much area we are talking about, but I would guess the beds could easily handle 15 pounds a week spread out. My understanding is that coffee grounds range from 1 to 2% Nitrogen. So thats about 1/4 pound N per week.
Someone chime in if they think thats excessive.
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Old April 21, 2015   #6
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Do you have a 4-h club close to you? any children raising rabbits? rabbit manure is a great addition to the garden beds. I put my rabbits in the high tunnel every winter to poop all the way down the row I plant in. I just move the cages once a week to make fresh deposits into the beds.
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Old April 21, 2015   #7
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Lots you can do:

Protect the soil by never allowing it be bare. Top dress with organic materials like finely chopped leaves to help keep it in good shape.

As other have said, mix in compost. <--This one is #1

Sprinkle a bit of rock phosphate on the bed every few years. A little goes a long way. Don't over do it.

Fertilize only with organic fertilizers. Chemical fertilizers are not good for your soil.

Consider growing a cover crop of rye. It grows fast, then you chop it up and mix it in. You don't have to dedicate a whole bed to it. You can rotate your cover crop through your beds, half a bed at a time until each has been replenished, then start over.

Shade unplanted areas to protect your soil from your sun.
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Old April 25, 2015   #8
Tracydr
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AZGardener View Post
Hi guys- I have 5 raised beds and 1 really huge in the ground bed. Tomatoes are growing in all of the beds except for 2. My question is, I see everyone rotating their crops (I cant) and adding things to the soil to help build it. There is a small window between Spring/Fall (I plant those fall plants in Aug and Spring plants usually wont make it past July though I'm going to try to help extend them). What can I do to help add nutrients, strengthen the depleted soil, and also since I cant rotate, just help make the soil just as good as when I first added it?

Thanks in advance

Also- I have a part time job at a coffee shop where I could literally bring home 15lbs of coffee grounds a week. When/how much coffee grounds would you add to your garden? Directly to where tomatoes/veggies are growing or add a composter? Thanks!
You can quickly grow amaranth,okra,corn or cowpeas/yardlongs in the heat of summer and shred/add to the soil. You can also get aged manure with wood shavings from the local horse farms. In AZ, I always mulched with pine needles,straw or wood shavings. I then tilled that into the soil after the tomatoes were done. Great stuff!
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Old April 25, 2015   #9
Tracydr
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AZGardener View Post
Hi guys- I have 5 raised beds and 1 really huge in the ground bed. Tomatoes are growing in all of the beds except for 2. My question is, I see everyone rotating their crops (I cant) and adding things to the soil to help build it. There is a small window between Spring/Fall (I plant those fall plants in Aug and Spring plants usually wont make it past July though I'm going to try to help extend them). What can I do to help add nutrients, strengthen the depleted soil, and also since I cant rotate, just help make the soil just as good as when I first added it?

Thanks in advance

Also- I have a part time job at a coffee shop where I could literally bring home 15lbs of coffee grounds a week. When/how much coffee grounds would you add to your garden? Directly to where tomatoes/veggies are growing or add a composter? Thanks!
I always side dressed each plant with a handful of coffee. If I got huge quantities, than I let it compost until I could till it in between plantings.
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Old April 25, 2015   #10
AZGardener
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Default Why Amaranth, Okra, or Corn?

TracyDr- Thanks for that info! Why those guys specifically? Do they add N to the soil or?? I plan on getting aged manure from my Uncle but since I live on a city lot with close neighbors, I'm afraid they wouldn't be so happy with me... Lol!!!

And this is where my 'farm dreams" come in... One day....!!!


Quote:
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You can quickly grow amaranth,okra,corn or cowpeas/yardlongs in the heat of summer and shred/add to the soil. You can also get aged manure with wood shavings from the local horse farms. In AZ, I always mulched with pine needles,straw or wood shavings. I then tilled that into the soil after the tomatoes were done. Great stuff!
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Old April 25, 2015   #11
Tracydr
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They make a ton of organic matter. They grow quickly. Easy to grow in the heat of summer. Yard long beans and cowpeas add nitrogen. They're some of the few things that you can plant in AZ at that time of year,too.
Amaranth,corn and okra would need to be shredded with a shredder as the stalks get huge,unless you get some small amaranth or chop everything early. Hyacinth beans (lab lab) would be another hot weather option.
The amaranth also provides greens and the other plants provide food,too.
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