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Organic Gardening: No-Till

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dlbailey
Central Valley, CA
(Zone 9a)

March 9, 2010
8:01 AM

Post #7615714

In the past, I have only dabbled in no-till gardening with moderate success. But, this year, I want to do it for real. I'm already familiar with the basics but want to know more about the practical application. Is anyone currently practicing no-till? Can you give me some advice?

A litlle info on my situtation: My garden is located in the Central Valley on the border of zone 9a and 9b. We have a 5 month dry, hot season. The soil is a sandy loam with no hardpan. All rocks and pebbles have been removed. I have been good about applying OM to the soil a few times a year. Weeds are not a real problem, since it is a fairly small area (about 300 sq ft) and they are pulled fairly often. The only pests I have are aphids and whiteflies during the hot, dry months. No disease, ever. I did have a problem with nematodes toward the end of the season last year. I left the soil bare and cultivated it often during the Fall and Winter. So, that should no longer be a problem. The garden is too small to rotate properly.

I have continually access to OM from kitchen scraps, chicken manure and bedding (timothy hay or wheat straw) and old feed (homemade grain/seed/legume mixture). Right now, I am trying to slow compost in perferated 32 gallon plastic garbage cans. This is to save on space and cut down on rodents. I also just purchased a 3x2x4 bale of straw. This should be enough for at least a 4" layer of mulch on my beds.

My only biggest concerns are water conservation, cooling the soil in summer, maintaining/improving soil fertility and preventing a reccurance of nematodes. Water concervation is the biggest since we are in a continual drought here. Most summer days, I have to water at least everyday or every other day to prevent flowering dropping. I would like to not have to do this again this year.
msrobin
Caneyville, KY
(Zone 6b)

March 9, 2010
9:35 AM

Post #7615951

Dl, are you allowed rain barrels in your area? Even a little rain will fill a good size barrel and that is free water for the garden. I have one at every possible location to catch water off the house and shed. I know using organic mulch on my garden rows helps to retain soil moisture during droughts, plus cools the soil in the summer heat. It also repels excessive rain water during summer thunderstorms. I kind of feel like that extra rain just sheds into the walkways, where it soaks in and the plant roots still have access to the moisture. I haven't tilled my garden since the first time in 2002. By adding mulch over the summer and using a hand tool to work it into the soil in the spring, my soil is light and fluffy. (I can "dig" potatoes by hand) I think it would probably be better to work the mulch in at the end of summer, then immediately add fresh mulch on top. Yep, guess that's what I should start doing.

Curious to hear what everyone else has to add.
dlbailey
Central Valley, CA
(Zone 9a)

March 9, 2010
10:18 AM

Post #7616051

msrobin, I am pretty sure they allow rain barrows around here. They seem to allow everything else ;) The only problem is that is is so dry here for a good 5-7 months. Not a drop from mid-May (if we're lucky) until the end of October. The water in the barrel probably wouldn't last that long. How hot does the soil get for you? During the big heat waves, it can reach well over 100 degrees at the surface. Usually not a problem, though. Most plants seem to adjust. However, one year it was 105-113 degrees for two weeks. It didn't cool down to 99 until after midnight. To make it worse, the air conditioner wasn't working that well. I remember laying on the floor at 11PM watching Northern Exposure in practically my underwear trying to cool down enough to go asleep. Never again! That was the worst tomato year, ever. Only one tomato plant still bothered to produce after that heatstreak. Fortunately, those are pretty rare and all other years my garden is very productive.

I'm glad that no-till has worked so well for you. Don't plan on working in the mulch. Instead, I will just add more on top with coffee grounds as it breaks down. For fertilizer/amendment, I will probably put compost underneath it periodically throughout the year.

The one good thing about the dry weather is that I can control the amount of water during the main growing season. That's why I am considering actually putting in the drip irrigation system I bought 2 years ago. Has anyone had success with this in a semi-arid/arid climate? I am worried that it will drastically lower the humity and attract more aphids and whiteflies. Overhead watering seems to have really combated them for me.
msrobin
Caneyville, KY
(Zone 6b)

March 9, 2010
10:36 AM

Post #7616089

Sorry, didn't realize you had so little rain.

I have the opposite problem with tomatoes...too much night time dew and morning fog. I'm thinking about using a hothouse for some of my tomatoes.
dlbailey
Central Valley, CA
(Zone 9a)

March 9, 2010
10:53 AM

Post #7616123

Oh, I hope I didn't seem pretensious. Now reading it again, it does seem that way. Sorry!

Not familiar with Kentucky. Is the rain really that bad? I imagine that it pours almost year around. Tomatoes are so testy. Either the plenty of water and disease or dry heat and drop all their flowers. Last year, there was a late storm during early June. It cooled down to the mid 80s for a week. Just at the right time for some of the more difficult heirlooms to set.

msrobin
Caneyville, KY
(Zone 6b)

March 9, 2010
11:17 AM

Post #7616175

Dl, oh no...I didn't take anything you said as that way at all.

We've been here 8 years and it seems like we have several weeks of heavy rain both spring and fall, however our monthly average is around 4 1/2" to 5" per month. It's close to 10 am before the plants finally dry off completely from the morning dew or fog, about the time the sun starts beating down on them. Then the fog starts rolling back in at dusk. I've read several places that say that the excessive foliage wetness is what causes a lot of tomato problems. We're on top of a hill with a pretty steady breeze, too. Poor things don't stand a chance. I'm just proud any time we can harvest tomatoes. :)
dlbailey
Central Valley, CA
(Zone 9a)

March 9, 2010
11:28 AM

Post #7616205

4-5"!!! That is two months worth of our wettest months during a wet year. We average about 12-15" a year. So, you can see the problem.

I've been told several times that the Central Valley is no place to grow tomatoes, especially heirlooms. Too hot and dry. Yet, they seem to do fine. I'm pretty sure you have been told the same thing.
msrobin
Caneyville, KY
(Zone 6b)

March 9, 2010
2:54 PM

Post #7616666

One thing I've learned, if you want something bad enough, you'll figure out how to do it. Way to go proving the nay-sayers wrong.
dlbailey
Central Valley, CA
(Zone 9a)

March 9, 2010
3:05 PM

Post #7616687

msrobin, caught you on another post. Just read some articles I found googled under "why not to deep till?" Supposedly, I do practice a type no till since I have only used hand tools to turn in compost and organic fertilizer twice a year. Never, ever used a rotatiller. Those things seem unsafe and to defeat the purpose of tilling. My yard use to be nothing but burmuda grass. I had to dig it out by hand over the last several years to get rid of it in the garden. If I rotatilled, it would have never gone away.

Still would like to put more no-till methods into practice. So, keep the info coming.

Thanks
msrobin
Caneyville, KY
(Zone 6b)

March 9, 2010
5:28 PM

Post #7617008

I'm glad you found the info useful. I'm not that knowledgable about gardening yet, but when I read something interesting, I try to find a couple of reliable sources to back it up, ie: extension offices or university studies.

Have you heard of Ruth Stout? She was kind of a pioneer in no-till gardening, doing little more than piling hay or straw on the ground and then making openings to plant. I think she had a couple of articles in Mother Earth News many years ago.

Since I've gotten serious about gardening, I've been reading a lot about the importance of using cover crops (green manure), not only for the soil, but for the plants as well. I think that is another element that could easily be incorporated into our no-till plans.

BTW, you mentioned in your first post here, that your garden was "too small to rotate properly". There's a lot of information online on how to rotate even in the smallest gardens. One way is just to alternate above ground crops with root crops. Peas and beans play a major role in rotation.

And as long as you're this interested in improving your garden, you might as well go all out and start thinking about winter harvesting. LOL!
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

March 9, 2010
6:47 PM

Post #7617193

This doesn't relate specifically to no-till gardening...but do you have any ability to create some shade over this bed? In a hot summer climate, plants will sometimes do better if they get a bit of shade during the heat of the afternoon, and it would cut down on watering needs too. Also--on the drooping--are you noticing that during the heat of the day? Plants can wilt during the hottest part of the day even if there's enough water in the soil. Sometimes the roots just can't take up water fast enough on a hot day, so the plant will wilt as a defense mechanism, but if you look at them the next morning when it's cooler you'll find that they've perked up again even if you didn't water them. So I'd pay attention to when they're wilting and whether they perk up when the sun's off of them and temperatures cool down a bit--could be you don't need to water quite as often as you have been.
dlbailey
Central Valley, CA
(Zone 9a)

March 9, 2010
7:11 PM

Post #7617257

My garden does get some shade during the day. I have one bed that is in partial shade all of the day now. As the sun gets higher in the sky over summer it will have partial sun. This is were I am planting cool season crops to extend the season past May. Its flower droping not drooping that I am most concerned about, partically my tomatoes. Daily watering has helped to keep the soil cool and moist. In the past, when I didn't water at least every other day they would stress out and drop blossoms and young fruit like crazy. To be clear, this isn't a deep watering. I do that every 5-7 days during the summer. This is a shallow inch or so to moderate the soil. I have also been using daily overhead misting during hot, dry days as a way to combat aphids and whiteflies. They seem to thrive in low humity. So far, raising the humity on plant surfaces has worked. Homemade pepper sprays, beneficial insects, sticky traps and trap crops haven't been this successful. As you know, ecrane3, aphids and whiteflies can be a real problem in CA.

I would like to know if mulching/no-till will help me manage these problems without resorting to frequent watering.
ecrane3
Dublin, CA
(Zone 9a)

March 9, 2010
7:18 PM

Post #7617273

For whiteflies, you might consider putting down some worm castings around your plants--I don't have trouble with them so I've never tried it, but some people on the hibiscus forum swear by them (hibiscus are very prone to whitefly problems). Mulching will definitely help with watering--if you're not mulching currently I would definitely start. It will help maintain a more consistent moisture level in the soil which might also help with the flower dropping problems.
dlbailey
Central Valley, CA
(Zone 9a)

March 9, 2010
7:35 PM

Post #7617329

Hmm...worm castings? Wonder why they work?

I have stopped using fish emulsion on my plants. It seems that cutting down on nitrogen and excessive growth during July and August should also lessen the amount of aphids and whiteflies. This is the time when they are the biggest problem for me. I am hoping that improved soil fertility should also help with this, too.

For a cooler soil, the answer was right in front of me the whole time...mulch liberally. The last two years, were great tomato years. I even harvested a nice crop of brandywines. I'm hoping it will continue a third year in a row.
dlbailey
Central Valley, CA
(Zone 9a)

March 10, 2010
11:36 AM

Post #7619048

Does anyone have experience with root knot nematodes and no-till? After I pulled my tomatoes out in the beginning of Oct., I noticed knots all over my tomato plants. I cleaned up pretty well. Through out the whole plants, roots and tops. Didn't plant for Fall or Winter. The soil was left bare for 5 months to starve them out. Occassionally, turned over the soil to expose the nematodes to the air. I'm pretty sure that they were introduced by some tomato plants I bought last year. This year, I am starting everything from seeds. However, I am not sure what to do to eliminate or reduce nematodes that does not involve bare soil or tilling. For those that live in nematode prone areas, how do you keep this problem down with a no-till system?
saltmarsh
Water Valley, MS
(Zone 7a)

March 11, 2010
9:32 AM

Post #7621245

dlbailey, this is from the link below. I hope it helps.

MARIGOLDS: (Calendula): Given a lot of credit as a pest deterrent. Keeps soil free of bad nematodes; supposed to discourage many insects. Plant freely throughout the garden. The marigolds you choose must be a scented variety for them to work. One down side is that marigolds do attract spider mites and slugs.

French Marigold (T. patula) has roots that exude a substance which spreads in their immediate vicinity killing nematodes. For nematode control you want to plant dense areas of them. There have been some studies done that proved this nematode killing effect lasted for several years after the plants were These marigolds also help to deter whiteflies when planted around tomatoes and can be used in greenhouses for the same purpose. Whiteflies hate the smell of marigolds. Do not plant French marigolds next to bean plants.

Mexican marigold (T. minuta) is the most powerful of the insect repelling marigolds and may also overwhelm weed roots such as bind weed! It is said to repel the Mexican bean beetle and wild bunnies! Be careful it can have an herbicidal effect on some plants like beans and cabbage.

http://www.ghorganics.com/page2.html

Claud
msrobin
Caneyville, KY
(Zone 6b)

March 11, 2010
9:47 AM

Post #7621267

Nice explanation. I didn't realize there were different ones. Guess I just got lucky choosing the right Marigolds. I don't seem to have many problems and now I know why.
dlbailey
Central Valley, CA
(Zone 9a)

March 11, 2010
11:02 AM

Post #7621440

Thank You Saltmarsh. I already have some French Marigold seeds. Will interplant them this year with tomatoes. Really don't want to give up a gardening year to just marigolds. Wonder if I put a lot of different plants with various root systems and diverse types of OM will also help. Maybe, it will give competition to the nematodes or at least not an environment were they can thrive.
saltmarsh
Water Valley, MS
(Zone 7a)

March 11, 2010
11:14 AM

Post #7621466

You're welcome. The link below may be useful reguarding managing other pests.

http://www.gardensablaze.com/Companions/CompanionPest.htm

docgipe
NORTH CENTRAL, PA
(Zone 5a)

March 19, 2010
5:43 PM

Post #7641628

Carrots love tomatoes. Tomatoes love carrots. I only see one big mistake here. As soon as possible in the fall plant a cover crop. In as much as possible never let your soil see daylight. Keep it covered with mulch or a combination of mulch and a growing plant.

Mycorrhizae would certainly help any garden not just your's. You need the Endo Type.
evelyn_inthegarden
Sierra Foothills, CA
(Zone 8a)

July 11, 2010
9:28 PM

Post #7961565

I see we went from no-till to companion planting, but I suppose it would be best to do both. I am not quite there yet, but on my way. I have no close source of hay or straw and really do not want it quite that messy, so organic compost is the way I am going. Most of it is my own, but this year I am having to use more than I have so I am getting it from the local nursery.

Also, I had the good fortune of having a neighbor who does not live up here full time quite yet, and she has given me her ComposTumbler to use. It does not really give you "Black Gold" in 14 days, but it certainly is better than trying to turn a big compost pile. So I have both...every 14 days I empty it, well almost, and then start it anew. The compost that comes out of it goes onto my big compost pile to finish, inside the fenced garden area. It is a lot better than what we used to have as before it was quite unsightly, this way it is near done without looking like we tossed our garbage out the window, and it is near the veggie garden as well.

This year I have experimented with companion planting, some that have been recommended, and some that are neutral...what I mean they are not purported to be antagonistic, but have not shown to be recommended either. Also I have been using some interesting additions to compost as well as to the gardens directly...bio-char, azomite, greensand and rock phosphate along with blood and bone meal. I cannot find any source of hoof and horn, so I imagine it is all made in the UK now. Greenall used to distribute it, but my local feed store that carries their products did not see it on their order forms. Now I can tell you the lettuce really likes tomatoes, but I am not so sure that the tomatoes like them as well...that may not be fair as the lettuce did have a head start. I was thinking that the lettuce would be growing in the shade of the tomato, but one so close by was still quite small...you see, we had late snows in May as well as rain and hail, so I put the tomatoes out quite late and the cool-weather crops are still going...even though it is in the 80's now. It kind of went from winter to summer with a couple weeks of springtime, and I was working like a slave to try and get all the beds ready.

To start off, I cleared the 8 Square Foot Gardens, and I mean that I dug to the bottoms, and sifted weed roots and other assorted roots and clay from them as I had not cleaned them out in years due to a series of surgeries. This year I wanted to have a really nice veggie harvest. So I amended as I went on those SFG's and it was slow going as my shoulders are the last ones to have surgeries. (One rotator cuff replacement!) So I worked as long as I could each day, in between storms...as I completed each bed, I planted it, and late on the cool-weather crops as well, though I did have some peas and carrots already in February, which is when I usually have all of the cool-weather crops in. I had started some lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant indoors, under lights as I had the seeds and wanted to try and do everything from seed and not buy anything from the nursery or garden center. I did buy one six-pack of broccoli as mine did not turn out well for some reason. The peppers and eggplant now are still quite small...I must not be doing something right...maybe I did not start them early enough...

Here is a picture of some stevia that wintered over in 17 weather (on the right hand side), though they were buried in snow so I am sure that it protected them from the extreme weather...near them are some leftover seed potatoes that were ever so small last year, as well as some broccoli and beets hiding in there.

Thumbnail by evelyn_inthegarden
Click the image for an enlarged view.

docgipe
NORTH CENTRAL, PA
(Zone 5a)

July 12, 2010
6:18 AM

Post #7962028

One companion that does work nicely for me is carrots under the tomato plants. I've done this a good many years with good results.

Otherwise I can not see much that you have not already put into your program or at least considered. That rain water suggestion sounded go to me when and if you can work some of it in. Remember if you keep barrels they must be covered or managed with skeeter dunks otherwise you will hate the day you started saving water.

Underground watering is a possible consideration too. I have used it for many years. I purchased it from a real good Californina company. We found the tape good for five to seven years without maintenance ...when we could keep the shovel off of it.

I'm pretty sure you are the envy of your gardening neighborhood from what I have seen and read here. Nice work!
evelyn_inthegarden
Sierra Foothills, CA
(Zone 8a)

July 12, 2010
8:38 PM

Post #7964063

Well, I tasted the stevia and they did not taste good. Are they supposed to be better when dried? Otherwise they are taking up valuable room.
docgipe
NORTH CENTRAL, PA
(Zone 5a)

July 13, 2010
4:31 AM

Post #7964391

I found that Stevia has a sweetening that may take awhile to get used to. I use it mostly in teas. In most other regular uses I frankly have not played with it enough to give an opinion. In teas the oils get rendered out of the plant by the heat.

One of my favorite teas full of healthful goodies is oregano, spearmint dry peach and Stevia. My plants are kept in the producing of young leaves mode. This may make some difference. I have used dried older leaves but prefer new leaves right off the plants. It would take half an hour to talk about all the goodness contained in this blend. Then someone would say we are nuts so I leave the academics to others. The achients some thousands of years before Christ recorded their medical values according to their beliefs.
evelyn_inthegarden
Sierra Foothills, CA
(Zone 8a)

July 13, 2010
7:29 PM

Post #7966625

OK, this was a fresh leaf off the plant. I stuck it into my mouth to see if it was sweet, and it was barely...certainly not 100 times the sweetness of sugar...as it was barely even sweet. I was just asking if it got sweeter if it was dried. I tried the kind in the market, but it was blended with another ingredient, and had an "off" flavor to me.
docgipe
NORTH CENTRAL, PA
(Zone 5a)

July 13, 2010
8:19 PM

Post #7966744

Well do something creative...dry some leaves and try them that way. I still think the heat in cooking may be a factor in getting the sweetness out. Most folks think fresh green herbs produce the finest flavor. These are most often used in cooking.

To my way of thinking anything that reduces or eliminates white sugar or synthetic sugars is a nice discovery. I know my body can use as much Stevia as I can figure out a way to put it to use. I have over used white sugar for many years.

Next I shall play with Stevia in chocolate drinks and cookies.
evelyn_inthegarden
Sierra Foothills, CA
(Zone 8a)

July 14, 2010
4:01 PM

Post #7968778

As much as I would like to be able to grow my own sugar substitute, if it tastes this bad, maybe I should grow sugar beets!
docgipe
NORTH CENTRAL, PA
(Zone 5a)

July 14, 2010
6:56 PM

Post #7969190

It sounds to me like your mind is set. So be it. Sorry I wasted your time trying to make a few sugestions.
SusanKC
Shawnee Mission, KS
(Zone 6a)

July 15, 2010
8:14 AM

Post #7970246

We don't get as sever of water shortages and temps as what you are talking about. I do have to watch that the plants out further in the yard are heat and drought tolerant. Some suggestions. You might wander over to the Australian threads and see if anyone has some suggestions. The temps in western Australia are equal or higher in some areas and they have a water shortage inland.

Also I read The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman this last year. In it they have problems with aphids that went away when they started watering the plants. The book states that high "nitrogen levels in the soil are the main factor in Aphid multiplication" "Nitrogen levels build up when there has been no rain or irrigation to flush it". The issue was caused by the fact they did not irrigate in the winter months and went away when they started irrigating.

On the rain barrels, I saw an installation recently where they series multiple rain barrels to keep all the water that they get in rain. They were installed on multiple level racks behind a building. I've also volunteered at a place in town that has an underground water storage tank. All of the rain gutters flow into the tank. I'm not sure if either of these would be practical but thought I would mention them


SusanKC
docgipe
NORTH CENTRAL, PA
(Zone 5a)

July 15, 2010
1:17 PM

Post #7970807

Where I grew up nearly every home had a cistern. It held a few thousand gallons of rain water for cooking and eating. They had to be pumped out and cleaned. That was a late winter early spring job. Our wells were sulfur water and that is not nice. Given a choice the cattle would go to the stream for their drinks.

A few folks are returning to cistern construction to get away from treated water for as much as they can catch from the roof areas of their buildings. What goes around!
SusanKC
Shawnee Mission, KS
(Zone 6a)

July 15, 2010
1:26 PM

Post #7970834

It does and usually with some type of improvement. The place with the underground tank is a show case for modern horticulture technology at a local college. Has all the roof draings plumbed into a tank under the building, automatic louvers on the green house glass, mixers for the water/fertilizers, bypass to go to city water (if they run out of stored water) and auto temp control including blowers, etc. I'm sure I've forgotten some of the other features.

The only concerns I have for storing roof water is the one about chemicals in the run off due to the material of the shingles. I've only seen a couple of references to not using rain water from asphault or chemically treated shingles on produce that someone will be eating.
Calalily
Deep South Coastal, TX
(Zone 10a)

August 15, 2010
9:30 AM

Post #8041246

We practice no-till vegan organic and have 14,000+ sq. ft. of modified raised beds (vegetables for market) plus a high tunnel. I have two beds with nematodes (my fault, they came in on transplants). I have reduced the nematode problem by adding beneficial fungi, copious amounts of organic material, planting marigolds, using corn as a trap crop and working neem cake into the soil. I got a nice crop of tomatoes from those beds this year.

We grow year round, practice crop rotation but can't do the 2 years between crops because of the year round planting schedule. All beds are kept planted and are always mulched. We have limited rainfall, temps in the 90's from May thru Sept and alkaline soil. We have been doing this type of gardening since 2008.
Each time we plant we add alfalfa, kelp and/or cottonseed meal, dry molasses and compost. Greensand and wood shavings (hardwood to reduce pH) are added once per year. When the beds are replanted, any mulch is worked into the soil with 4 prong hoe and the bed is raked smooth. Our soil is soft and loose, I dig potatoes and sweet potatoes by hand, carrots are nice and straight and easy to pull. There are permanent beds with trellising for tomatoes/cukes/beans/peas. These crops are rotated with each other. All crops will be direct seeded this year.

We practice intensive planting. The beds are 4 x 34 and will have from 1 to 5 rows in them, depending on the crop. The lettuces, salad mixes, swiss chard (we only sell baby leaf), carrots, onions, garlic and other small crops have 5 rows. Squash, melons, cucumbers are in a single row down the center, spaced one foot between squash, 6 inches between cucumbers. Beans and peas are in single rows on each side of the trellises. Tomatoes are single row down the center, 2 ft spacing. Brassicas, peppers, potatoes and eggplants are 3 rows to a bed, from 1 ft to 18 inches between plants in the row depending on the crop (cauliflowers, eggplant and broccoli need a little more room). Kohlrabi and turnips are 4-6 inches between plants, 4 rows to a bed. Radishes are planted along the outside of the beds where large things like squash are seeded. By the time the squash gets big, the radishes are finished. I will probably rethink the eggplant spacing, I can't get down the isle between the eggplants and zucchini, it's a jungle in there! Sweet potatoes are single row down the center, one foot between plants. Plants of centennial SP are trimmed when they take over the isle. I get large harvests of these, so it doesn't hurt to trim them back from time to time. Georgia Jet is much better behaved.

Our water system is overhead, automatic, evening watering. It comes on just as the sun dips below the horizon, but the wind is still blowing so leaves dry fast. Each section is on between 5 and 20 minutes depending on the soil moisture. Usually only the top half inch to inch is dry so the beds get 5 minutes(mainly for new seeds and small seedlings), then once a week or so we go with more time if they are dry. We get heavy dew every night, so doesn't matter if leaves stay wet, we also get rain at night but once the sun comes up, the wind starts. We have very few fungus problems even on cukes and squash. Drip systems did not work for us, neither did flooding (common in the Valley where we live). We water from a resaca (wide, slow moving, man made river) which we pay a flat rate for.

We control water loss with thick mulch and remay row covers. We bag all our grass clippings (2 acres of grass) and add them to the raised beds and isles as mulch, top dress with alfalfa or cottonseed meal for more nitrogen for decomposition. Grass clippings are added green, up to 6 inches deep depending on the crop they are placed around. Lettuces and other salad greens are only mulched with clippings at the time of planting because our pickers and packers hate picking grass clippings out of the harvested baby greens.

I grow lettuces and salad mix year round with this method. Now if I could figure out how to grow tomatoes in July and August I'd be really happy. The plants are beautiful, but no fruit because of the temps (90's day 80's night). Our days are longer in winter than most of the country because of our latitude (26, same as Miami).

Hope this helps.





















docgipe
NORTH CENTRAL, PA
(Zone 5a)

August 15, 2010
11:09 AM

Post #8041381

I want to thank Calalily for taking the time to carefully and clearly explain their system. If I were close by I would surely request privilege of visitation because I really would like to see first hand the system they have worked out.

Back to cisterns...I would not worry so much about chemical errosion from a roof to cistern. My concern would more so be the day to day airborn chemicals we all get from the natural rain. This is a day to day every day affair over which we have no control. All growers deal with these types of situations. Of course in the real world there is someone always willing to be writing scare print media about the things that only can be changed by long term world wide cooperation.

A barrel on a down spout throughout the Northeast is somewhat of a joke. It fills quickly and runs much more down stream than it can possibly hold. Distribution from a single barrel is to costly to consider except for small space hand watering. The return to cisterns holding serious amounts of water is certainly a worhty consideration. With today's materials any good crafts person could build one. Hand digging with no specific finish date is no issue even at one bucket full per day.
Calalily
Deep South Coastal, TX
(Zone 10a)

August 15, 2010
5:28 PM

Post #8041989

I have a friend who has an underground "bladder" for holding rainwater. Not sure how it works, but something to look in to. All I know is the downspout drains in to it and fills it. A pump is turned on to run a hose. No worries about algae or mosquito larva.
Indy
Alexandria, IN
(Zone 6a)

August 15, 2010
7:17 PM

Post #8042181

calalily, How do you handle plant residue so that you can quickly plant another crop in a given bed?
I chop and mow them myself, but I usually plant one crop a year.
docgipe
NORTH CENTRAL, PA
(Zone 5a)

August 15, 2010
8:03 PM

Post #8042275

Your location is solidly zone five. If we go back to the first public full time continous mulch or no till person we find that she just tramped the weeds and crop residule down and added more mulch. She planted through it or pulled it aside and pushed it back into place as the new plant grew. Zone five should give you two crops with ease. Calalily has the time in their zone to get three with much practice and schedule planning. A lot of zone five first plantings are in and finished in time to plant cole plants for a late fall harvest. Lettuce is a nice season extension. The use of a row cover will usually protect you from the first or early frosty nights. I often used snow peas as a second crop to eat as well as pump some nitrogen back into the soil. The residule was real good to being nearly consumed by spring.

Calalily...I never had nematode problems but think I have read that turnnips are a good trap crop. Ask around on this. If it is it would be good here because the deer will eat all the turnips I can plant.
Calalily
Deep South Coastal, TX
(Zone 10a)

August 16, 2010
10:15 AM

Post #8043242

To quickly plant right behind another crop the plants are either pulled or cut to the ground.
Docgipe, with some beds we get 4 or more plantings per year. Squash, salad greens, beans, carrots and cucumbers are planted every 3-4 weeks for continuous harvest. Kohlrabi, cauliflower, broccoli and other cool season crops are started every 2-3 weeks. When production slows down or in the case of salad stuff, when it is too stemmy to harvest as baby greens, we pull it out.
I plant turnips anyway, so I can plant more in the two beds. I don't want to encourage the deer to come to the garden!

Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

August 16, 2010
1:07 PM

Post #8043567

I just saw one'a those "bladders" being installed underneath a raised porch on one 'a the DIY shows last Saturday!

It looks like a big rubber waterbed and just fills up with the rainwater from the downspout. It was hooked up to a hose, an overflow regulator?, and also had a pump to give it some water pressure. It was very cool, but it was also very expensive. Several thousand dollars, but I believe its capacity was several hundred gallons of water.

Docgipe,
You think Like I do. Callalily, would you give me a walking tour if I scheduled some vacation time off and came down to South Padre?
SusanKC
Shawnee Mission, KS
(Zone 6a)

August 16, 2010
5:26 PM

Post #8043964

In Zone 5 with a row cover and then a 8 mil plastic over all cover you can grow some crops through the winter. See the Winter Harvest HAndbook by Eliot Coleman. We had greens up through Thanksgiving and again starting in early March.
docgipe
NORTH CENTRAL, PA
(Zone 5a)

August 17, 2010
5:23 AM

Post #8044718

Susan KC...yes I have done that but over the years it has boiled down to what is it really worth and what does it cost in both time and money. Then too it requires a gardener with much over the years experience. I know I learned one step a time. True some may make giant strides but I think it usually starts with the first fall cole crop started in late summer.

As I grew older the extra effort and time to carry on became to much for me to be fooling with. Then too the deer population grew and the later crops always had the most damage after first frost knocked down their weed browse. I likely should have but never fenced my garden. Because of deer mostly I could not garden without fencing. They will eat anything when they are hungry.
Calalily
Deep South Coastal, TX
(Zone 10a)

August 17, 2010
8:32 AM

Post #8045044

Gymgirl, you can even stay with me if you want! Our main home is on the mainland, but it's an easy trip to the Island.
Doc, the deer will eat beans and turnips even when there's plenty other stuff to eat! Little rascals, saw two of the cutest fawns this morning with their mom. (we're in MN right now).
docgipe
NORTH CENTRAL, PA
(Zone 5a)

August 17, 2010
9:37 AM

Post #8045219

I could grow snow peas here with little if any deer problems. Note we have different deer in various parts of the country. We have one of two types of whitetail deer I know about. I believe Texas has yet another breed of whitetail. They have been raised like cattle for the hunting business. Maybe they only eat at a hunting ranch corn feeder. LOL

One time when I mixed in a bunch of garlic with turnips the result was deer with bad breath and steaks that were really wild. Used to be we could harvest a deer anytime the freezer was empty. No longer! We have to many neighbors that have them named. The neighbors back yards are now in eyesight. That's not good at all. None of the close neighbors are hunters or gardeners except one who does some container growing on his patio.

Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

August 17, 2010
9:41 AM

Post #8045232

You mean they've turned the food chain wild life into PETS?!!!

4 words come to mind: night vision sites and silencer...
Calalily
Deep South Coastal, TX
(Zone 10a)

August 17, 2010
9:48 AM

Post #8045244

LOL at Gymgirl! You would fit right in with the bunch up here!

Gymgirl

Gymgirl
SE Houston (Hobby), TX
(Zone 9a)

August 17, 2010
10:25 AM

Post #8045320

Calalily,
With today's economy as it is, people gotta do what they've gotta do to sustain...

I'm all for Bambi and Thumper and Tigger, and Dumbo and Lassie, and Trigger and Mr. Ed, too. But, when it comes to putting food on hungry peoples' plates, well...that's another horse and another color!

^^_^^
Horseshoe
Efland, NC
(Zone 7a)

August 17, 2010
11:33 AM

Post #8045472

I hear that, GG...My beloved Kandy Korn patch was raided last night/early morning by the local deer hoods! Sheesh, they seem to know how to pick out the perfect ears of corn better than most humans I know. Have the corn is trampled, lots of it eaten. And deer season is 3 months away. (I guess this winter I'll have to raise my fence higher.)

Susie/Cala, it's refreshing to read about ya'lls food gardening. I remember when I was more of a food grower and you were strictly an annual/perennial greenhouse grower. Now it seems we have changed positions somewhat; I probably grow more perennials/shrubs than I do organic produce now. I keep trying to even back out but find I keep moving slower and slower each year, especially in excessively hot weather. Course now I sure liked reading "the pickers don't like sorting grass from the lettuce" (or something like that) you posted above. I need hired hands/pickers, no doubt about it, to continue in this biz!

Doc, I hear ya on those cisterns! My collection barrels (55 gal and 350 gallon) don't go very far. I imagine a rented backhoe for the weekend would dig me a generous sized hole, eh? Then again, maybe I'll stick with soaker hoses and heavy mulch for a while longer, sounds like less work.

Shoe, escaping from yet another hot afternoon for a while.

docgipe
NORTH CENTRAL, PA
(Zone 5a)

August 17, 2010
11:59 AM

Post #8045523

I covered some nice patch territory using T-Tape from Dripworks in California. I used the type that work on gravity. My tower served two thousand square feet gardens and a couple of misc. smaller raised gardens. Here is a pix of the tower which...by the way was featured in their catalog for about eight years.
...I pumpped water to the tower and turned it loose as needed. While built for four barrels I only ever used two. That put about a inch of drip on the larger patches in about twenty minutes per each. The gravity pressure was about four pounds from the eight foot high tower. Worked fine!
...Dripworks in California owes me one heck of a bunch of coffee per one cup for each grower I sent to them. LOL The eyes must have attracted a lot of attention while the one neighbor had to move a kids bedroom because he did not like the eyes.

Thumbnail by docgipe
Click the image for an enlarged view.

Calalily
Deep South Coastal, TX
(Zone 10a)

August 17, 2010
12:17 PM

Post #8045545

Shoe, Bud told me he wouldn't make any more raised beds until I agreed to hire help! My hands still get sore, but the joints aren't as swollen as they were. During peak season we have 2 or 3 helpers part time and for heavy projects like shoveling the beds into place we hire day labor.

Doc, poor kid, probably looked out one night when there was a full moon and saw those eyes and thought a big owl was watching!
Horseshoe
Efland, NC
(Zone 7a)

August 17, 2010
12:44 PM

Post #8045583

That's hilarious about those eyeballs, Doc! Well, not so funny for the kid, eh!?

Nice tower, what didja use for the flooring, to hold all that weight? Maybe I should build one for my 350 gallon tank (350 gallons X 8# per gallon...yikes!) And I guess the higher the tower the more pressure, eh?

Calalily, I'm sure glad you have a great partner. I've been doing this by myself for so many years I'm about out of steam, only hiring a temp for the greenhouse for a few weeks during the potting season a couple of years. It sure did help though!

Maybe when Alex goes off to college in a couple years I'll pack a tent in the van and head to "Bud and Susie's Texas Asylum and Produce Farm" and happily be a migrant worker. (I'll pick up Gymgirl/Linda on the way.)

Shoe
Calalily
Deep South Coastal, TX
(Zone 10a)

August 17, 2010
1:03 PM

Post #8045613

Come on down Shoe, we have lots of room (if there's not enough here, we have over 60 acres about 3 miles away). Bud's class reunion was this year and they voted to have the next one at our house. They said most were winter Texans anyway so they might as well invite the rest of the class.
Indy
Alexandria, IN
(Zone 6a)

August 17, 2010
4:29 PM

Post #8045996

speaking of winter Texans...I have a sister and her husband that winter in McAllen.

I would think that 3 or more crops a year would be a heavy pull on the soil? How to keep up the fertility? I remember reading about the Falkand Islands where the British moved in. They found that the wind swept islands were good for something...raising sheep. Well they sent wool and mutton to Brittain for 40 years without much thought. The return ships never brought anything back to return to the soil. So there came the day that the sheep were not so healthy.
docgipe
NORTH CENTRAL, PA
(Zone 5a)

August 17, 2010
6:19 PM

Post #8046249

The floor of that tower was 2 X 10 treated. I designed for 200 gallons with 20% more than minimum suggested strength. Rule of thumb for pressure is one pound for each two feet of elevation. In my case the eight foot tower gave me four pounds. Roughly the barrels when full enabled a start to drain pressure of an additional pound. The Dripworks of California T-Tape works well at four pounds. It does not work well over ten pounds. They do have pressure reduction valves for higher pressure systems. I used a thirty five to five pound reduction valve when my source had to be using the well pump.

You design a system on paper then call for an appointment after your paper is in their hands. The telephone design help is best used to tweak your design. The catalog used to have great design tips and help.


The eyes are interesting but absolutely disprove the commercial eyes for scaring away birds. We saw the birds from sparrows to owls sitting on the barrels looking for a drink of water.
Calalily
Deep South Coastal, TX
(Zone 10a)

August 17, 2010
8:58 PM

Post #8046575

Indy, in my first post I told everyone that before each crop is planted alfalfa meal, cottonseed meal and/or kelp meal is added along with compost and dry molasses. The beds are kept mulched with huge amounts of grass clippings.
One of my customers described the texture of my soil as being like chiffon. We have earthworms and rhinocerous beetles adding castings to the soil every day.
I have soil tests run once per year, first by A&M (don't trust their results because they use a dry test, but it's free from FSA office) and then by a local soil test lab. If nitrogen tests low, I add accordingly. Phosphates are high here normally, so we have to really watch that. The only deficiency I've had was potassium which was caused by constant irrigation. Took a while to figure that one out as I had never had that sort of deficiency before and the idiot county agent said it was a virus.

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