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Plants Plant-related topics that do not have a dedicated board.

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  #1  
Old 06-08-2011, 07:06 PM
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DavidOH Male DavidOH is offline
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Cool Garden Reclamation

This year I have given up my attempt to grow a garden in this poor soil.
Some things did OK, but nothing ever did very well.
I have decided to give it a cover instead.

I am sure the area before houses were built was filled in from the local tile mill. That's why there are ponds behind my property. Clay Pits!
So there was never much topsoil in the mix.

A local U-Pick farm had last year's straw bales to give away. I got two loads of 8 bales. All that my toy truck could haul since they were well aged and soaked!
Looks like I could use a couple more.

Thinking that it could use some more organic matter, I covered the garden area. If I can keep the weeds out this will be tilled under this fall or maybe next spring.
Gardening is an ongoing process. It never ends. This is just another stage.
Like getting rid of the tree stump in my front yard, this process will take years. I am hoping if I leave it fallow this year and keep adding to it, next year will show a big improvement.

For those who are attempting some agricultural independence,
maybe if you needed a second location for your garden you are already getting it built up, or perhaps you should be considering building up another plot for future use.

Has anyone had to reclaim a garden plot that has been run down or just not able to grow anything?

Please share some ideas with me here.
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Last edited by DavidOH; 06-08-2011 at 07:37 PM.
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  #2  
Old 06-08-2011, 07:14 PM
kfander Male kfander is offline
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My house in Millinocket, Maine is built on coal ash from the paper mill that founded the town. An old map shows a pond where my house sits, and many of the houses on my street. The mill was built before the town and the mill owners filled in ponds and wet areas with coal ash, which were waste products from the paper mill operations.

If I dig down four inches anywhere in my yard, I hit coal ash. I had three cherry trees that grew to be reasonably large, then fell over, probably because their roots didn't penetrate the coal ash.

Fortunately, the town maintains a compost area, where it constantly produces compost from leaves, grass, shredded brush, and other yard waste that people bring, and makes the compost free for the taking by anyone who lives in town, so I've hauled truckload after truckload of compost to build up the topsoil in my yard. Meanwhile, I have grown potatoes in compost bags, which actually worked quite well.
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  #3  
Old 06-08-2011, 07:35 PM
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DavidOH Male DavidOH is offline
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Thanks, that's just the kind of ideas I was looking for.
Before I picked up this load, I was thinking of growing potatoes in straw bales at $3 a bale!
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  #4  
Old 06-08-2011, 08:29 PM
MtnChix MtnChix is offline
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My soil is solid clay. My neighbor used his tractor to dig me 15-18" trenches for deep beds. I found a source of old horse manure on craigslist (free, just paid for gas to use a neighbor's truck). Put about half manure and half clay in the holes. The manure was for soil conditioning, not fertilizer as it was so old. I would do it again but use more manure and less clay. My soil is getting better every year now, as I add aged, wet straw; leaves in the fall; compost as fast as I can make it(never enough compost).

the tractor blade was too wide to make the width of deep beds we wanted, so we just stomped down the extra width, till it was a manageable 40" or so wide. far better than digging by hand, and i have nice double dug, french intensive garden beds now.

Also, if you are looking to start a new area for a garden, find free used carpet on craigslist, and put that over the area for 1 yr. It kills out the grass and weeds and makes it easier to dig the area by hand (or tiller, I suppose... I don't use tillers myself). If the color is toooooo ugly to look at for the year, put the color side down and the brown under coating up.

In your situation, I might consider trying this: putting your old straw, leaves, whatever down on top of the garden and THEN putting old carpet on top of that to help the straw decay and keep it from blowing away, and holding the moisture in.
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  #5  
Old 06-08-2011, 08:42 PM
Aamylf Aamylf is offline
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Instead of clay, I have sand. I mean, our "soil" is sort of pale brown or gray there's so much sand. When I first moved here, I tried planting blackberries and blueberries all along the property line. They died. I planted many different things and they all died. I finally decided that must be where all the gunk from building the house went. I finally gave up on the piece of land and let the wild palmetto grow.

Other places I've spent the last 10 years adding yard/house compost, grass clippings, anything I possibly could and the soil is now barely reasonable. My two food garden areas are landscape timbers 3 high dug down a foot and then with top soil on top of that. It's the only way I can get anything to grow. I have done a lot of container gardening here because what I really need is a couple hundred dump trucks of top soil and manure!

Good luck.
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  #6  
Old 06-08-2011, 10:55 PM
bacpacker1513 bacpacker1513 is offline
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Here is something else to try. In the summer between crops or in an area I've left unplanted I plant Buckwheat, let it grow till it blooms and the turn it under. Takes about 6-10 weeks depending on temps. I can do this 3-4 times during the year, usually 3. Then shortly after Labor day I plant annual Ryegarass to over winter then turn it in the spring. Clover is another good crop that will help build the soil. It adds a lot of organic material to the ground and over time will build your soil up. Like has been mentioned leaves are also a good way to build the soil as well.
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  #7  
Old 06-08-2011, 11:24 PM
MtnChix MtnChix is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bacpacker1513 View Post
Here is something else to try. In the summer between crops or in an area I've left unplanted I plant Buckwheat, let it grow till it blooms and the turn it under. Takes about 6-10 weeks depending on temps. I can do this 3-4 times during the year, usually 3. Then shortly after Labor day I plant annual Ryegarass to over winter then turn it in the spring. Clover is another good crop that will help build the soil. It adds a lot of organic material to the ground and over time will build your soil up. Like has been mentioned leaves are also a good way to build the soil as well.
do these live manures seed down and cause years of problems as 'weeds' in the future? I've always worried that once planted they'd be there forever. Just curious
Thanks
njl
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  #8  
Old 06-09-2011, 06:00 AM
BonnyLake BonnyLake is offline
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I have a 10'x12' raised bed area in my yard that is about 20 years old, but was probably only used a few times during those decades. It was filled with sandy soil and had generations of weeds in it, but nothing had really broken down into the soil. So for the past year I have been adding all my lawn clippings, leaves and branches that are under 3/4" think and just keep piling it on - I have never turned the soil because it is way too dense. I recently put heavy black plastic over the area and it is finally composting underneath - you can really smell it and there is a lot of red worm activity around the edges.

I think that all of my amendments are what will become the 'new' soil laying on top of the old dirt and I'm planning on putting blueberry bushes in there next spring.
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Old 06-09-2011, 10:44 AM
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leera leera is offline
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Our soil was/is so bad here that we built raised beds and brought in soil/compost to fill the beds....very labor intensive(cinder block sides)but so far so good,everything seems to be doing well.


In a spot where we ran out of cinder blocks I have started a compost pile,and will continue to add grass clippings/leaves etc as the season goes along.When we get more blocks I will build my bed around where I've had the compost piles,doing a sort of sheet composting thing.I'm thinking since I plan to have four beds,that each year I will choose one to add all the compost fixings to and let it sit empty for that one year while the compost does it's thing.
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  #10  
Old 06-09-2011, 12:45 PM
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KarenBC Female KarenBC is offline
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Don't forget leaves & pumpkins in the fall! Last fall I put many (about 100) bags of leaves onto a patch and then added a couple of medium sized pigs and then 2 or 3 pickup loads of pumpkins after Halloween. This spring, I couldn't believe the soil - it's dark and rich.

Last week we had half of the front lawn tilled, and it's horrible sand, we planted 108 hills of potatoes anyhow, and have been watering the heck out of it. This fall it will get the leaf treatment. I don't think we'll be able to put pigs in it (no fences and I don't want to fuss with hot wire).
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  #11  
Old 06-09-2011, 01:41 PM
kfander Male kfander is offline
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Besides hauling compost from the municipal compost yard, I compost everything that is in any way reasonably compostable, including leaves, table scraps, junk mail, newspapers, cardboard, and even cat litter. As for the latter, I have three active compost areas, giving it three years to compost, which is plenty enough time to kill whatever pathogens might exist in cat litter, especially since I'm not using it directly on food crops, anyhow. I have gotten fanatical about composting, cutting the amount of stuff that has to be hauled to the transfer station by nearly two-thirds, and building up my lawn in the process.
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  #12  
Old 06-10-2011, 02:04 AM
Mad_Professor Mad_Professor is offline
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Start out with a good test of the soil and go from there.
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  #13  
Old 06-10-2011, 03:24 AM
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I have similarly poor soil but it will grow certain things well. Rather than work on the soil, I'm searching for good recipes for briars, grass burrs, grapevines and a few other plants that seem to grow with very little effort.
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  #14  
Old 06-10-2011, 02:44 PM
MooseToo MooseToo is offline
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I have similarly poor soil but it will grow certain things well. Rather than work on the soil, I'm searching for good recipes for briars, grass burrs, grapevines and a few other plants that seem to grow with very little effort.
EXCELLENT suggestion - if you are a goat !
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  #15  
Old 06-11-2011, 01:38 AM
bacpacker1513 bacpacker1513 is offline
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Default Soil

I've never had problems with the annual rye reseeding, but I always cut it and turn it in early spring.

The buckwheat can and will reseed itself if left too long,it's happened to me before. Like I mentioned before, I cut it just after it blooms, within 2 weeks or so. I never let it go to seed and don't have to worry.

The year I let it go too long it reseeded and I cut it after the second growth bloomed. I still had some come back the next year, not real bad but it was there.

There is some work involved in this, but you get the benifit of green material going into the soil and it tends to grow thick enough to help choke out weeds.
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  #16  
Old 06-11-2011, 02:12 AM
AlchemyAcres AlchemyAcres is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bacpacker1513 View Post
I've never had problems with the annual rye reseeding, but I always cut it and turn it in early spring.

The buckwheat can and will reseed itself if left too long,it's happened to me before. Like I mentioned before, I cut it just after it blooms, within 2 weeks or so. I never let it go to seed and don't have to worry.

The year I let it go too long it reseeded and I cut it after the second growth bloomed. I still had some come back the next year, not real bad but it was there.

There is some work involved in this, but you get the benifit of green material going into the soil and it tends to grow thick enough to help choke out weeds.
Rye or almost any of the "green manures" need to be worked into the soil while quite young and allowed to break down before planting or they become counter-productive.

As far as purchased so called soil improvers goes...be it municipal compost...top soil...hay or straw....i've come to the point where I don't like to bring in any of that stuff. Too many bad experiences bringing in nasties like Japanese knotweed, wild mint, etc. in the topsoil....bindweed or other uncontollable weeds in hay or straw...and other disasters in nasty municipal compost.
Imported leaf mulch is usually harmless! Usually!
YMMV!

~Martin
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  #17  
Old 06-11-2011, 04:18 PM
bacpacker1513 bacpacker1513 is offline
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Default garden

Your right it does need to be turned under when young to get the max benifit, plus they breakdown much quicker. Buckwheat usually breaks down fast as well. But it will go to seed quickly.

Leaves are the best if you have or can get them.
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