This thread's theme is Maximizing Vegetable Yields in Raised Bed gardens, using "Square Foot" and "Intensive Gardening" methods. Please post your expertise, experience, and questions regarding growing veggies in raised beds using these methods here.
And, though we love you all, as a courtesy to others, let's try to stay as "on topic" as we can, and take our sidebar discussions to the dmail. Thanks!
I like doing the French Intensive beds, but rather than doing all that digging I get the raised bed kit from Gardener's Supply and fill it with organic potting soil and compost and manure. It takes a lot of bags, my beds are 10 inches deep x6'x 3' but it sure beats digging in this awful soil. I have unlimited free manure available so I feel I can spend a bit more on the potting soil. It also gives me better drainage without having to add tons of vermiculite/coire or peatmoss. fall leaves are mounded up in the beds and left. They mulch the leeks and kale that I leave in the garden. During the winter I just dump my kitchen scraps into the beds and leave it til the spring when I turn over the whole thing. Most of it has freeze dried so it just crumbles away and mixes right in.
I haven't used companion planting previously to this, but after being driven buggy by the cabbage worms last year I'm going for the BT and every companion plant I can find. I'm also going to really ramp up the succession plantings. My goal is to grow all our veggies this year. I'm sick of paying $2/lb for potatoes and almost $3 for a bunch of kale and (quell horor) $1.99/lb for cabbage. Its enough to drive one to anorexia.
My friend's husband intensively gardens in an area smaller than a suburban developement driveway and has to give most of it away as he produces way more than they can eat, can, freeze or dry. My friend gives me lettuce by the shopping bagful. My daughter is a cucumber fiend, and by the end of the summer she couldn't bear to look at another one. He spends maybe $100 a year on seeds and plants. He doesn't put a dime into fertilizer or pestisides, just companion plantings and compost or manure.
So, that said I'm in the process of turning over and covering my beds. Next week I'll be planting peas and maybe radishes($3/bunch) and onions. I'll keep everything undercover untill the weather straightens out.
Hi---I just found this new forum. I'm so glad you raised bed gardeners started this great new place to read up on this type of planting. I have 10 raised beds with cedar plank sides and paths between. I have been gardening in them for 5-6 years now and can't say enough good things about them.
There are only two of us, so small plantings are best for us. We are really getting up there in age, now, so the raised bed concept is much better and much easier for us to maintain and work our beds.
I raise almost all of my veggies from seed, then transplant to the garden beds. That way I can place them exactly where I want them. Even lettuce and spinach and beets. Not carrots or parsnips, though. And, I have a much harder time germinating them, too.
Getting ready to start my tomato and pepper plants soon. I like to go with the moon signs when I plant seeds. So, I think it will be the 28th of this month.
This new forum will be so much fun to read and reply to. Thanks for getting it going.
This is a great thread. I feel for you with the cabbage worms. I fixed them this last fall by putting that row cover over them, nary a worm in sight, hallelujah! I just got the book square foot gardening, and have been sharing it with my friends. Where do you usually find that vermiculite stuff?
Yehudith--The spray or even the powder really works. They get on any of the brassicas. As soon as I see the white butterfly, I start applying BT. For some reason, last year wasn't so bad for them, but the years before...OMG. Hate those things.
So here we go- I'm going to put up 4 photos of my raised/intensive,etc gardens. I have been doing it this way for about 40 years- modifying things each season-hopefully to improve my yields-not always! At the moment it is empty except for my garlic planted in Nov., some Caraflex cabbages in the cinder blocks that survived the winter, strawberries, and some odds n ends. I keep it ready so that when spring flies on in, I'm in business!
This first photo is a long view of my cinder blocks which will be full soon.
This one shows the cabbage and some of the vertical structures, which I use for anything that will climb! That really maximizes production, since my garden area is very small. My first year I grew things too close to the cedar fence, and they suffered from lack of sun and air, and were difficult to harvest. This year I have made the closest 15" to the fence a non growing area- I just pulled soil away and laid down roofing shingles. For those who would be concerned about chemicals possibly in the shingles, they are on top of plastic, and are lower than the roots of the plants.(the 4th photo was a repeat- not necessary!)
Pew, yes they can be moved. They are actually 3 separate levels. I built them so that the upper tiers sit on supports on the lower level. That way there is no sinking as the soil settles. I just add more soil. In the one that holds beets & carrots, the beets are at the lower level, and the carrots in the two upper tiers. That gives deep soil for carrots to grow long and straight. Some people plant carrots in compacted shallow beds and wonder why the carrots are derormed. My carrots are perfect, if I may brag. Hurry, Spring !!!
I used to get it from Worms Way http://www.wormsway.com/product_cat.aspx?cat=SOIL along with all my organic supplies. I love the Ocean Forest pottingsoil. I used to mix it 1:2 apx with the perlite for my pots and everything just shot up. They also have a great organic lawn fertilizer made from chicken poop that smells awful but boy does it work. Just put it in the lawn spreader and off you go.
JoParrott - I like your pyramid idea for growing carrots. I usually grow "short 'n sweet" because my beds are 6" deep. You said you use supports to hold up the tiers. What are the supports made of, please?
Honeybee, the pyramid is made of 1x6" cedar boards-(fence boards could be used, but are not quite as thick. I believe the wood was actually what was called 5/4" , which is an inch. Cedar fence boards are closer to 3/4". I think the bottom is about 48" square. Then I added braces corner to corner (of fence boards) for the next tier to sit on. It makes 3 simple pieces that can easily be moved if needed. When I filled it I cheated and added some rocks in the very center for fill to cut down on the volume of soil. This gives you a deep root area for carrots or anything that need the depth. Here's an early photo of the strawberry pyramid-
I just started with SFG in a community garden last July. I have never gardened before and after some research decided that the SFG would work for my needs to have a fully organic vegetable garden. I built four 4x4 cedar raised beds, one 4x4 by 3 layered pyramid for deep growers (i.e carrots), and a 2x6 with trellises for tomatoes. I used Mel's mix (1/3 sphagnum, 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 mixed organic composts (lobster, manure, mushroom, etc). Besides starting quite late in the summer (plants got in the ground beginning of August) I had a great yield of peppers, broccoli, lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, basil, etc. I am starting from seeds this year and learning all about indoor grow lights. Looks like I can only post one image here... if you want to see more pictures I started a blog http://y9fvg.blogspot.com/ last fall. I haven't updated lately but will try now that I am starting with the seeds.
I am trying to pick apart each of your comments to formulate a plan for my raised beds which are 4' x 8' x 16", plus some extra depth from digging down. Due to our short season I figure the best I can accomplish is three successive plantings for the brassicas group. Since the beds run lengthwise north to south I thought I would start with a center third and divide that into thirds again for cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. I plan to start the seeds for the first transplants in a couple of weeks which would allow me to start planting out in May, approximately four to six weeks before the last frost free date. Since I am covering the beds with old window panes I thought I would line the outer thirds with something like black plastic to hold down the weeds and add the extra warmth needed for the early transplants. Since the afternoon sun is the warmest I would start the second set of transplants on the east side of the raised bed and save the west side for last. The thing I am really uncertain about at this point is how many transplants of each I can place in each 1-1/3' x 2-2/3' square area. Any thoughts on this plan would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you again yehudith, I will add that to my list of research on the subject. Unfortunately I have dial-up internet and have to rely on my kids to assist me in viewing tutorials. I realize I am way behind the curve here on the subject, however this came up so late in the season I will not have time to thoroughly research the subject. But my next year I will be up to speed with the rest of you, Promise.,
Thanks for posting your pics. I'm in the market for design ideas for my "virgin" back yard, and I like what I see in your setup. It's clean, orderly, and I like the interspersed flowers and the pathways between the beds. I'll make mine a bit taller, at least 14" for most of the beds, and I'm hoping to used cedar, too. It will be a work in progress, over time.
I have spent a ridiculous amount of time this week trying to figure out how to start my seeds. This is my first full season with my organic garden and given our short growing season in Boston I will need to start most of my garden indoors. I had no equipment and no space for the seeds I ambitiously purchased at the end of last season. After much salivating over the all in one systems at Gardener's http://www.gardeners.com/T-5-Jumpstart-3Tier/IndoorGardening_LightGardens,39-356,default,cp.html I finally settled on a cheap makeshift solution. I bought a 5 shelf (3 ft x 2 ft x 6 ft) utility cart, multiple cheap closet fluorescent lights (the shop lights only came in 4 ft and the grow lamps were expensive), and full spectrum T8 fluorescent bulbs. I will buy a few of the Hydrofarm JSV2 2-Foot Jump Start T5 Grow Light System when I save up, but in the meantime my system is 1/5th the price. I am using an all organic seedstarting system with dot pots and organic seedstarting mix. I got my plan all together so I know exactly how many seedlings I will need using the garden planner from growveg at http://www.growveg.com. Turns out I'm a few weeks late for starting my broc, cauliflower, and cabbage. Hopefully, they'll germinate quickly.
HoneybeeNC wrote:Garden_Healing - thanks for sharing your photo. It gives a good idea on the SFG method. I like the pvc arches - are they attached to the beds in some way?
I made my interlocking cedar beds with a pin system at the edges. A wooden dowel dropped into a hole drilled through the interlocking ends allows the beds to be taken apart easily and also provides an attachment site for the PVC tubes. I had a problem with some of the dowels breaking off when they got wet and the PVC tubes with them. I didn't want the PVC tubes to be on the inside of the beds in case the PVC leached into the soil. I will pound metal dowels in when the snow melts for next season. The PVC will fit over the exposed metal dowel. I used the PVC hoods covered with a quilt to extend the Boston growing season until mid November.
You might be interested in this low cost shelf system, before you go out and spend more $$$$. I built mine myself using the concrete blocks, pine boards for the shelves (the box stores will cut your length of wood to your desired measurements), and the fluorescent shop light kits from HD/Lowes. The light kits (2 bulbs each) are $10/per. You can buy a case of cool lights for $12, and get regular lights for $1/per at your local Habitat for Humananities ReStore outlet.
Rebar DOES rust, but it's insignificant in this case. Using it as a dowel in the interlocking system won't harm anything, cause you're covering it with the PVC. Rebar is what Qinx used in his design...
Thanks, Gymgirl, I thought rebar did rust. Hubby said it didn't.
I don't think I'll be able to add PVC tunnels this year. Since losing my job last September, I'm having to count the pennies :(
I did buy some 10" boards and have now completed four beds, and have enough lumber to complete two more. It has been warmer this past week, so if the weather stays like this, we should save enough on our heating bill to be able to purchase lumber for another two beds.
The rest will have to wait until next year.
The garlic is looking great. I had to cover the beet transplants, 'cause the birds started pecking at them!
Well, you are all getting ahead of me and I am in a warmer state.
We completed these hoops yesterday on an existing raised bed. The soil was double dug twice, thrown in the air during digging and then during the second double dig some new organic soil was added.
I am behind because my DH has been ill. But I got 2 young backs to help me. The hoops are on rebar. I want them tall because I can also use sun screen material to keep the tomatoes and peppers from getting burned.
I used to wrap each tomato cage but now I am going to wrap by section. Probably 3 hoops per section. I just think that will be easier for me. The area is protected so wind should not be a problem.
We are having a cold spell over the weekend so I am going to lay down some black garbage bags to try and warm the soil and then next Tuesday I will plant the seeds for lettuce and such and plants for the tomato and peppers. Plants are in a friends greenhouses. He does it for a living so he takes care of them for me. One less thing to worry about.
We also have a short growing season but ours is because of the heat. LOL.
Gymgirl: Thanks for the link. I don't have space for the 4 ft fixtures that are the easily available and inexpensive shop fixtures. I live in an urban condo (i.e small) with no south facing windows. My outside space is a community garden 15 minutes away (and currently under 3 ft of accumulated snow and ice). I'm setting up the lights and shelving in my bedroom and can only fit something with a 3 ft footprint. I ended up with a high system that is narrower. Unfortunately that means the fixtures are more expensive. Going the home depot and repurposing route I managed to create a 5 layer system for about $100 using hook and chain suspended cheap T8 closet fixtures (I removed the plastic casing over the light tube) and Phillips Natural Sunshine full spectrum T8 fluorescent lights. I wish I had the space to use the cheaper shop lights with good reflective properties. The 4 ft foot print was not manageable in my bedroom.
HoneybeeNC: Rebar is an excellent choice if you are going to stick them in the ground outside of the raised beds and then just pop the PVC over them. I am using a dowel system just because it is what holds my raised beds together. A dowel can be made from wood or metal; it is basically a pin that goes into a drilled hole. The PVC is 1/2 inch by 10 ft and I bought two for each of my 4x4 raised beds. They were about $3.50 each. The picture below is them covered at night with a blanket. This year I think I am going to have to come up with an elasticized version of the covers that will hug the boxes and I think move to a covered wagon position of the PVC instead of the x system I have now since I found the irregular shape of my system difficult to attach the covers regularly.
>> In the fall/spring I plan on making a hoop house over the beds and I can use the exposed rebar to anchor the hoops.
Me too, one of these years!
I'm growing a bamboo in a small, shallow raised bed, Fargesia rufa, in the hopes that it will provide hoops some year. And if I find room, I'll start an F. robusta for bigger hoops or stakes.
My plan is to span the hoop OVER the bed and OVER the walls, leaving an air gap, so that it will keep their feet warm also. That way, sun will pass through the plastic and fall on the walls of the bed, warming the soil deeper and holding the heat in.
Also, it will serve as an umbrella in the three seasons per year we have rain almost every day!
WOW! You all are really getting ambitious with the hoops and plastic! That should give quite an extended season. Just keep in mind that when the air flow and circulation is cut down, it creates an inviting climate for insects and diseases- I don't want to rain on anyone's plans!
I'm sure you're right. My first concern was re-inventing the Wright brother's early experiments in unpowered flight, and my second concern was then going to be breeding more and better insects and diseases.
Early spring plastic covers could hardly make things much more humid than "rain every day".
That thought was for starting things like tomatoes and peppers earlier, or for getting trays of seedlings out of the dark house if I started them too early. (A cold frame, or solar-heated "warm frame:" if there is such a name might be better but the4n I would have to buy materialss and build it, rather than wing it with bamboo and a roll of plastic film (or non-woven row covers).
I was thinking about plastic tents in the fall for gettign tomatoes and peppers enoguh heat to ripen.
The tomatoe-pepper plan is more like a dream for some imaginary future when I run out of urgent garden tasks to have fallen far behind on.
"Never end a sentance with a preposition"?!?
That, Sir, is a form of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put!"
Corey, I read somewhere that they did away with the rule do not end a sentence in a preposition. SO, sometime I do just that, but still feel guilty about it.
In Las Vegas, I wrapped by square tomato cages with painter plastic drop clothes. I would make them longer than the cage, cut each corner and then place tomato cage around plant, and bury each edge. This enclosed the tomato in its own little greenhouse, tied off at the top, and kept the wind from beating them to death. Here we have very little humidity so that was not a problem. When it got warm, I would open the top and gold it over. Then when it got to warm, I removed it. I watered once a week by hose by just slipping the hose under a corner I created when the cover was made and filled the well around the tomato.
This year I am using the hoops because I can cover more than just the tomatoes and I can use them for shade cloth when it gets to hot. And I avoid wrapping the cages during a "high" wind storm. Which is most of March. I am planting tomatoes next week and lettuce, peppers and etc. I am really excited and I will keep you posted. I got a large amount of my info from you wonderful people and I appreciate it.
I like the idea of a wire cage supporting a plasitc wrap. Like putting a robe on.
Someone in the PNW talked about covering with plastic in the spring for an early start and early warmth, then again in late summer/fall for enough warmth to ripen. Your "cage" setup sounds ideal for that.
You can make hoops tall enough to enclose tomatoes? Impressive! That sounds like PVC popes, not bamboo.
I anchor one side of each cage with a 7' piece of rebar covered with a five foot 3/4-inch of PVC. This way the cage can be lifted if need be to either cultivate or work in some additional compost or fertilizer. Once the plant has reached a size where the branches start to touch the cage wire it's time to remove the plastic covers. Heavy winds here require an additional two pieces of rebar pounded in at 120 degrees around the outside of the cages, but not attached. These can be removed as well as the covers when the plants begin to attach themselves to the welded wire. In the fall the plants are trimmed back so the covers can be replaced for an extra 45 days or so. I remove all flower buds from tomato plants in early August. For top covers on these two foot diameter cages I use a 55-gallon barrel, clear plastic cover which looks like a large hair net. U. S. Plastics sell these. Although they come with a bungee cord around the base, I use paracord to fasten these top covers as well as the side covers of opaque 14ml plastic sheeting (painter’s drop cloth). Welded wire cages have opening of 2" x 4" and can be made as tall as six feet. Mine are only three feet tall which are basically for determinates, however I plan to raise mostly Stupice tomato plants this season. Although they are indeterminates, they usually don't grow a whole lot over the tops of the cages by August and at that point I have to trim the tops anyway.
I have lots of rebar of various lengths which I poke into the ground up to two feet max depth. I make deer fence trellises, and individual stakes for planting determinate tomatoes. They can be removed and stored in the shed with the cages over winter. Garden is then cleared for fall applications of manure and tilling. Spring gets another tilling before planting. Nice feature about those cages is you can store them inside each other by removing the three plastic ties which holds them together.
Has anyone created a popup cover for their 4x4s? Gardener's sells them in 3x3 and I so want these easy covers for my 4x4s. I think I could make them with formed wire and sewing 4 panels with tunnels for the wire and sewing them all together with a roof. What do you say? Worth the effort? I got frustrated with my PVC hoops and ill fitting blankets last fall.
Gymgirl: It wasn't the hoops that discouraged me it was the difficulty in finding blankets that were the right width and length to put over the hoops. Most row covers sold are just that ROW covers so they are in 6 ft or 12 ft widths and one is too small and the other is too big. I would like something that is easy to pull on and off and looks neat. The other idea I had was to cut a proper circle that would fit well over the hoops and sew elastic along the bottom. I'll need shade cloths, frost cloths, and insect cloths. Seems daunting.
I just bought row cover from Gardener's Supply its 12X20. I had the same problem when I bougt the 6'x whatever. I just cut the length I needed and then put 2 sheets on my serger to get the width I needed. Worked fine. You know, that's something else that would work, the lightweight Pelon interfacing or the non-woven pattern tracing fabric. For light weight summer protection the polyester organza would work too and at the end of prom season its real cheap and you could stitch a casing at either end and put a draw string through to avoid all the clamps and all or even better. velcro. Just cut to the width you need, then cut 2 half circles of the height and width of either end. Cut the half circles in half down the center, then stitch the velcro strips to the cut edges and stick them together. Stitch the velcroed half circles to either end of the long strip. That will make your tunnel. Slip it over your hoops and you can then unhook the velcro to get in or let air in, you know, like a tent flap. If you wanted to get fancy you could add flaps to the bottom of the long ends to bury under mulch to keep the wind from blowing the covers off. I'm going to give that one a try.
The attached pic is of the stored welded wire cages. The foreground picture has 14 cages inside one another and held together with a large rubber stretch cord. The broom handle serves as a means for two people to carry the cages from storage to the work area where they will be reassembled in the spring. To the right in the background is a stack of rebar which will be used to hold the wrapped cages in place. These 7 ft pieces of rebar have a 3/4-inch piece of PVC piping slipped over the rebar once it is pounded two feet into the garden. The cages are then attached top and bottom to this rebar/PVC stake with heavy duty plastic ties to help keep the cages in place during frequent high winds which exceed 50 mph.
This picture is of a tomato cage wrapped in 14ml plastic cut from a painter’s drop cloth. The painter’s drop cloth was chosen for its thickness. This material was chosen as a cover due to frequent hard frosts in May as well as late August through November when this picture was taken. The cover is held on using several paracord wraps. Previous attempts to use various types of tape and even Velcro strips were unsuccessful. The top cover is a 55-gallon barrel drum cover from U.S. Plactics which looks a lot like a Sasquatch hairnet. Although the top cover has a sewn in bungi cord this was found to be inadequate for high winds. An addition piece of paracord is used to fasten the top cover in place, however the paracord is made short of the circumference and two loops are tied into each end. The two loops are then connected with a short bungi cord to hold it tight, thus allowing easy access to the top opening for harvesting or opening on sunny afternoons during the cooler months when the cover is in place. Typically these covers can be removed around June 15th and back on around mid-August. The tomato plants are trimmed, removing all growth outside the cages and any growth over the tops of the three foot cages before recovering in the fall. Also, all flowers are removed from the plants at the first of August, allowing only the larger fruits to finish ripening.
The third picture is of two rows of tomato cages in the garden taken last November. There are a total of 14 cages in each of the 60 foot rows. Of note is the drip feed irrigation system which is designed for both tomato and pepper plants. The 1/2-inch flexible plastic piping has attached a piece of 2 ft 1/4-inch plastic piping connected to a spiked drip feeder for each cage. The 1/2-inch plastic piping is tied to a stake on either end to keep it from snaking or coiling on hot summer days. The half inch plastic flexible piping comes in several thichnesses. I prefer the heavier piping which is also used in the underground feeder for my 20 risers. The heavier flexible piping does not tend to coil as badly on hot days as the thinner walled, and it’s easier to punch holes in without going clear through the pipe to the other side. I would also recommend punching the holes for attachment pieces when pipe is cold.
Not shown in this picture are the two extra pieces of five foot long rebar used to hold the cages in place during the early spring. Until the plants have had the opportunity to fill out the cages, the cages are susceptible to frequent high winds, sometimes exceeding 50 mph. The extra rebar is placed at 120 degrees around the outside of the cages but not attached to the cage. The two extra pieces of rebar are typically removed about mid-June when the covers come off and the plants have filled their cages.
I use the sewer paper from home depot to make patterns with. It's half the cost of what pattern paper cost me wholesale and seems to be a lot stronger. haven't used it outside but if it lasts for years wrapped around sewage pipes it should hold up for a while.
it probably does have another name we just call it sewer paper or cloth. it's a white fiber/paper/cloth type "fabric" thats real similar to the cheaper black weed block fabric. down here where the soil is sandy and drains fast we use about a 6" corrigated black plastic pipe with holes in it coming out of our septic tanks for the drain field. the "fabric" is laid over or wrapped around the pipe to keep the sand and or gravel from falling into the holes in the pipe. it's really thin and lightweight but its's pretty strong. i had to pull pretty hard to get it to tear. it comes in several widths, i got the 48" because it's easier to work with making swimwear patterns and i paid 8 cent a foot. pattern fabric was costing me 65 cent a yard wholesale and this stuff is a better quality. i'll check at home depot this weekend and get the name of it.
... velcro. Just cut to the width you need, then cut 2 half circles of the height and width of either end. Cut the half circles in half down the center, then stitch the velcro strips to the cut edges and stick them together. Stitch the velcroed half circles to either end of the long strip. That will make your tunnel. Slip it over your hoops and you can then unhook the velcro to get in or let air in, you know, like a tent flap. If you wanted to get fancy you could add flaps to the bottom of the long ends to bury under mulch to keep the wind from blowing the covers off. I'm going to give that one a try.
I love this idea. Since I don't have a sewing machine I think I'll buy the adhesive velcro and see if that sticks to the garden fabric. If not I'll have to borrow a sewing machine since I need 5 lightweight summer insect covers and 5 garden quilts. Will not be doing that by hand since sewing on a button feels onerous.
Shoe, how big should I make the bag? Never done the tea. Warm? It's getting hot here, speaking of which, I was gonna post a question on the other forum, but seeing your here, I set out 9 cabbage about a month ago that haven't started to head yet. with temps in 80's the last 2 weeks and climbing will they do ok or should I pull them and plant something else?
Ladies, I'll try a 4x4 cover too if I don't get swamped with orders this weekend. Unfortunately beach season run's with gardening season. Guess I better be glad I have a job and not complain.
I'd make it according to whatever size bucket/container you'll be making the tea in. If you use a five gallon bucket you might want to use about a shovelful of compost/manure so make the bag to fit that. If you are going to make aerated tea (with a bubbler/pump) you can use as little as a couple handfuls so make your bag that size.
As for cabbage, they tend to frown at high temps, 75º air temperature would be fine though, 80's is pushing it. However, if your nights are still getting cool I'd be tempted to leave them alone and see how they do. I would for sure mulch around them, keeping the soil cooler will certainly help. And by the way, some cabbages have leaves that are delicious so if they don't head up you can always eat the leaves like you would cook collards.
Ok, since ya'll are raring to go, I've been carrying this idea in my head for how to construct a better hoop tunnel cover. Here goes. I'll try to explain it with an illustration, and those of you who can see it have my permission to run with the ball.
Let's start with a napkin and a straw. Fold the napkin in half over and sew a seam to create a "pocket" that the straw will fit through. Now, slip the straw through the pocket, and unfold the napkin.
Let's carry the concept forward. Make a series of "pockets" down the length of your hoop cover material (whatever that might be). Make the pockets 12" apart. Lay the cover out and slip your pvc tubes through at the 12" intervals. Now, turn it over and slip the ends of the PVC tubes either: 1) over your rebar pieces pounded into the ground, or 2) into 2" pieces of PVC you have pre-cut and pounded into the ground at 12" intervals.
The hoop fabric could be the Remay, or the organza netting from the bridal shower, or even the 6 mil plastic (I'd probably sew a double seam for the pocket to reinforcement so it doesn't rip too easily)...
The airy, breezy fabric would allow light, air, AND water to go through and the whole thing wouldn't collapse. Also, it might keep out the stinkbugs, since they wouldn't be able to get to the plants to lay eggs for nymphs. And the mature stinkbugs wouldn't be able to light on the fruits and poke them. Well, a few might find their way in if the ends of the tunnel were open, but far less than an average infestation.
Here's a possible variation for people too clumsy to sew.
Fold the fabric over a PVC pipe as above, but then roll it 1/2 turn or 3/4 turn, so the fabric is triple-thick along some part of the pipe.
Now glue that triple-thick seam to the pipe with some water-resistant glue.
That's just a thought, I haven't tried it out. But I roll filter fabric around a thin bamboo pole to keep the edges of short row covers in place and not blowing away when I lay them flat over seeds and seedlings.
For hoop tunels, I was thinking along the lines of some day just draping plastic over one set of hoops, and holding it down with another set of hoops OVER the plastic. (Or securing it with clamps or chicken wire.)
No kidding Honeybee, but not all of Montana is the same. I truly believe we have about the harshest and most variable weather patterns of all of the state right here in the center of the valley. Some areas have actually ideal conditions for growing things like seed potatoes for Idaho; however they too had their problems last season with early hard freezes which destroyed much of the seed potato crop. But I do like the challenges weather permits because I believe the trend in adverse weather patterns will continue for several more years thus making home gardens properly set up to combat these conditions extremely valuable.
Linda, I am not sure how to answer that question about indeterminates. Some in the past such as the Opalaka variety would grow over the tops of 6ft cages and the Big Mouth plants grown from seed sent to me from twiggybuds were planted by error in determinate cages or the 3ft tall cages and only grew out a foot or so from the top. When fall comes in early August as I mentioned I trimmed any growth growing outside of the cages or over the tops before recovering, and as long as all the buds are pinched off the fruits continue to ripen at a fairly consistent rate to make it worth the effort. The Stupice indeterminates typically don't grow much over 4 to 5 feet at best and trimming the top foot or two did not seem to affect the further ripening of the remaining fruits. I do not rewrap all the cages however, just the ones which appear to have enough large green tomatoes to make it worthwhile.
Sonny, I believe the sewer paper referred to is Orangeburg which was used many years ago as piping between homes and the main line. Probably well before your time my young friend. Something us old f...ts had to deal with.
Garden_Healing, we tried sewing Velcro strips to plastic sheeting once and almost ruined the sewing machine. We spent hours cleaning the melted wax off needles and various parts of the machine before it would work again. When I tried gluing with Gorilla glue the strips held for the most part but next season some started coming apart again and I had a difficult time matching the covers to the cages even though they were constructed the same. Welded wire cages can be reshaped to form a near circle however they are not perfect by any means. So now I overlap one section and just tie the covers on them. Pretty simple really, and not the fuss of taping or Velcro strips.
These "drip sacks" fit a five gallon bucket, you can reuse these for manure, alfalfa tea over & over so a pack of 25 would probably last for decades. We use them at wastewater plants to dewater grit that comes to the plant, so they area pretty tough and they allow only the finest of material to escape into your tea.
Wouldn't an old panty hose also work to hold the compost while making worm wine? I haven't tried it yet as I obtained my worm bin last Sunday and I am looking for ideas from those who have. Can anything be done to speed up the worms' production or do they just work at their own pace?
drthor is either really really old or really really young. Panty hose are hard to purchase any more because the younger generation no longer wears hosiery. LOL.
Today we were 73 and I had a blast in the garden. Still rehabbing irrigation. One more line to go. Tomato plants are in the garage ready to be planted Monday and painter plastic drop in the back of the SUV.
If you hear a little ol lady in Las Vegas robbed a bank, do not turn me in. I just have to pay the bill I am expecting from the landscape company for my rehab of my irrigation system.
But the worst news is the irrigation mechanics moved 20 identification labels on some of my iris. But I am of the mind, do not sweat the small stuff. So now I have some NOID iris.
Tomorrow is a day of rest from the garden. House get back in order day. Have a great day.
I have used panty hose in my garden for a couple of purposes. I use strips to tie tall plants to a stake and since the nylon in them is very strong but very soft it won't damage the plant. And I use panty hose to make a sling for my vertically grown cantualopes to support them and hold them off of the ground. I am sure there are other uses if you use your imagination. I just asked my wife and shes says that she has no problem finding panty hose in stores. I depend on it so much that even if I wasn't married and had no source for panty hose I would not hessitate going into a store and buying a pair. I consider panty hose to be the "ultimate" gardening accessory.
I use the panty hoses around my eggplants. I have a huge problem with flee beetles.
I just tye the panty hose when the fruit is little and the eggplant will grow inside it.
So far so good, but my girlfriends laugh at me a lot ...
Was very cold in the winter in Italy and I used lot of panty hoses.
When I moved to teh USA, I took a bag full of them with me.
I never used them while I was living n Florida, but I use them for one or two month of the year here in TX. Off course they break all the time ... which is a yeeahhhh for my eggplants and for making tyes.
I think of MacGyver when I think of panty hose. Those things have more uses than duct tape and bailing wire put together. Years ago when women went through half a dozen a week I collected them from every source I could find. I still have a hug box of them which I use frequently for all sorts of things. No one I know wears them anymore but I'm fairly certain my stash will outlast me. Has anyone used them for tomato seed saving?
Not tomato seed saving but when I had several bee hives panty hose were great for straining raw honey. As long as the wife was here I had a good supply. When she was gone store clerks gave me strange looks when I bought a pair.
I'm so glad to hear I'm not the only one!!! I think my daughter is about the only 10 year old around here who wears full slips as well. My mother would roll over in her grave at the thought of us going out "undressed".
Very funny Linda. It's been more than 35 years since I made my collection of wasted panty hose and I have used them for possibly a hundred or more different uses. It amazed me that my wife could virtually go through as many as five pairs a week. Do they still make panty hoses so flimsy these days???
Well ,mraider3, if she worked...Yah, probably 5 pair a week isn't too far off the mark. I think I was a bit more careful of mine, but any little thing, you know, just ruins them.
So glad I am a" kind-of hoarder". I saved all of my ruined panyhose (no longer wear them) and now they live in my GH in a special bag just for pantyhose. I love the idea that the money I spent on them is not totally a loss. I use them all the time for lots of things in the garden. Mostly, though, for tying up heavy tomato vines. I like the idea of using them for straining. Had not thought of that.
>> Now, guys who live in the north and are smart will own their own pantyhose.
Yeah, and I blush every time I buy a pair. (I'm a traditional kind of guy.) So I don't replace them until they go past the "fishnet" stage and get to the point where the holes are so large that my foot goes through. Maybe I should cut my toenails shorter!
No clerk has asked what kind of fetish I have ... yet.
Here's a tip for anyone who has to wear medical 'compression stockings' and has trouble pulling them on and getting the painful circulation-stopping wrinkles out:
Putting on a pair of thigh-high 'nylons' before struggling with the darn compression stockings makes it five times easier.
Second tip: dishwashing gloves also help you to pull on the compression stockings and drag or rub wrinkles out. But not all have good friction, and all wear out fast. I used to haunt hardware, painting and dishwashing supply shelves looking for better ones.
Then I found a pair of (cotton?) gloves with a kind of rubbery coating on the palm and fingers. That doesn't abrade and tear the way dishwashing gloves do, and gives GREAT friction to pull and drag the compression stockings on!
But here is where I draw the line: I do NOT wear a slip! (Not that I'll admit to, anyway.)
I think podster and Corey are right, probably more men wear them then women around here, but don't admit it. Some of our women are Paul Bunion size and don't even bother to shave much less wear panty hose. For years I used these panty hose to hold aquarium filtering media, and still do. Someone mentioned using them like a poltus in making compost tea. I'm not sure why thought. I think it would work better allowing the solids to freely circulate and then let them settle out for a few minutes before applying the tea.
Just found out, my friend's a lawyer and she took our HOA bylaws manual to bits word by word. Seems I can do a raised bed garden in the front (that's where I get 90% of my sun) without their permission! I have this big front yard with nothing in it and it seems like such a waste. Anyway, I'm not supposed to have a veggie garden, but it says nothing about "edible landscaping" and I can have raised beds up to 12" high which is good. They have this thing for flowering trees, so I'm going to put in some dwarf peaches, apples, and cherries and maybe an apricot on the north side. I'm just going to have to be careful to make it super ornamental. My landscape architect says its a piece of cake. We'll just do a cottage garden and they'll never know. So... right now or after lunch that is, hubby and I are back to ripping out the forsythia hedge that goes around the deck and along the south side of the house. I'm going to use the space to grow vining veggies and an asparagus bed and along the side of the house will go tomatoes and eggplants. Later I plan to espalier either some grapes or a fig tree we'll see. These by the way will be all raised beds.
Oh Sunny!!!!!! Thank you soooooo much! WOW!!!! Inspired ain't the word! One thing at a time, one thing at a time... focus on the goats, focus on the goats. My daughter and I have been watching the Bekman Boys on the green channel. Two gay men with a farm in upstate New York. Occaisionally they get mildly affectionate and my daughter was a little surprised so I keep saying "focus on the goats Malki, focus on the goats" (the goats are adorable) so now that's become our basic house mantra when trying to stay out of trouble, aka buying a bunch of new plants or gardening equipment because you see it, "focus on the goats Mummy, focus on the goats". Oh WoW I'm trying but all I can see is the whole north side of my front yard planted to an orchard! Oh Sunny!!!
Earlier in this posting, yehudith mentioned French intensive gardening. After reading her posts in this and another forum I have decided to adjust my raised bed planning for this season starting with a cardboard layer; a layer of wood chips; a layer of fresh horse manure; and finally the growing mix. Since our temperatures are still dipping below freezing the beds will be covered at night and during the day unless the sun shines and temperatures climb into the 50's F. I have given thought to a bottom watering system constructed of soaker hoses which can be fed warm water using a timer at night to add heat to the beds if a severe cold spell hits which is more than likely up until mid-June. The soaker hose would be laid out on the cardboard layer and covered with the wood chips. One bed is devoted to lettuce, spinach and bok choi, while the other is broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. The transplants will be ready in four weeks. Does the subsurface watering ability make sense and does this idea have any flaws which need to be corrected?
Make sure your manure is nice and thick and after everything is together push a stick down into it and leave it. Give it a week or so and pull the stick out and feel it. If its nice and warm your off and running. Also, if you can find an old shower door that fits or something similar, put it on top of the bed and it will help it to warm up and you can grow your plants under it until the weather warms up. Why are you putting in the wood chips?
I just moved my babies out to the cold frame to harden up yesterday. They made it through the night OK. I was abit early, they just got their 1st set of leaves but I need the space for the next set. I'll give them a few days, then under the row cover they go. Atleast this way they won't get leggy and week. Now they start getting the seaweed/fish emulsion. I use a concentrate, 1tbs to the gallon of H2O, ooo it looks yicky but does it work.
Wow. This is a group of the most ambitious, energetic, focused group of people that I have ever encountered, and I am a MasterGardener for many years, so I have met a few new excited energetic gardeners in my time. God bless those of you lucky enough to be able to direct a landscape architect. They will rarely tell a cash paying customer that it cant be done! And with a few goats in the yard no less...who needs a lawnmower? Grow it, weed it mulch it fertilize it water it... not too much! Check your rain gauge first! Sew those row covers! Take the row covers off, the flowers need the bees! or fertilize by hand! Check for pests! Dig up those potatoes! Careful pulling up the beets! harvest it, cook it, clean the kitchen, wash your children, preserve it, put it up...donate excess to the needy...check i allt for pests...dont forget to stay organic!...add amendments...compost compost compost...turn it..do not forget your ratio of .browns to greens...havent yet talked about sustainable yards yet ...have chickens? best eggs on earth..who knows where those store eggs come from? .Chickens will keep the gardens free of many pests...and then there are ducks! no more slugs! research! dont forget to compost their hot, hot manure...sheep are even better... great manure for compost...harvest their wool...clean it, spin it, knit with it...you go kids!!!!!! !Yahoooo!
Fair question on the wood chips yehudith. The best explanation I can give you is possibly for drainage, but primarily for bottom watering. The soaker hose would be burried in a layer of wood chips no more than four inches deep in wood chips. The soaker hose would be used primarily for adding warm water from an out door hot water tap. In the event of a cold snap I could use a timer to add water every two hours for roughly five minutes. We stil get some sever freezes at night right into May. Other than that I can't really give you a good explanation.
I have old heavy window panes which I use a covers for each of the 4' x 8' beds. These will be left on at night until the middle of June when it is safe to remove them completely. I made some covers of plastic sheeting and 1" x 4" pine lumber frames, but even with 2-inch bricks on each corner of the frame they would blow off tossing the brick as much as twenty feet into my main garden. One frame I never found after a 70 mph wind. Mother N sometimes hits the mid-valley with a fury.
I like your stick idea for testing heat, and I have been giving some thought to how much fresh horse manure to apply. I am in the process of digging down four of my beds to gain at least an extra food below the bottom of the twelve inch above ground frames, The ground is primarly rock and clay. I have sifted out the rock using a quarter inch screen made with 1' x 4" lumber. The remaining clay I have been using to build up the sides and walkways around the six beds. The intenet is to cover about ten inches of the outsides of the frame to maintain warmth. The other thing I do for added warmth is to lay four large, black, heavy duty trash bags over the surface of the completed beds. These sheets can be rolled back or removed individually when transplanting. Otherwose they stay in place to inhibit weed growth and provide addition warmth as mentioned.
The growing layer I mentioned will be made up with a large quantity of well aged cow manure and straw which is residing in one of the deeper beds. I have added both European and Canadian night crawlers to this bed and hopefully there will be plenty of worms to work at composting and aerating the new beds. This concept of intensive gardening came along at just the right time. I had made an earlier decision to maximize my efforts with these six raised beds this season, and I am trying to incorporate ideas from square foot gardening, French intensive garden, and vermiculturing into the plan. I have not had a chance to thoroughly study the first two concepts, so I'm sure I will be making mistakes, but your fresh manure tips are very helpful here yehudity.
My hope is to double a typicaal three to four month growing season, thus allowing a succession of crops which normally get just one planting. None of the crops which I will be planting in these raised beds will be stored. The idea is to go straight from the beds to the table. The main garden serves for stored crops which are either stored dry, canned, or frozen.
I forget if you've mentioned this in the past, but if you use poly film draped over beds to stretch the growing season both ways, be sure to drape it down OVER the south and east facing walls of the bed, especially in spring. In the spring, you don't even need hoops.
I think that giving the soil a solar hotfoot is even better than keeping the surface warm. Like wearing wool socks as well as a hat.
Well you got that right Corey. I didn't think about removing the plastic sheeting when I take the bed covers off during the day, but that should be easy to do. There are only four plastic trash bags per raised bed and they should be gone in about a month after the initial plantings. I am still toying with a proper mixture for the growing media. The more I read in various forums the more ideas keep occurring to me. Gymgirl had a posting in another forum about this which suggested using only about twenty percent of organic material and I had this number flip flopped with about a twenty percent mix of garden soil and at least fifty percent cow manure which has been well aged. My soil originally was mostly clay and over the past few years I have incorporated copious amounts of horse manure in the fall tilling. I thought about using some of the sandy looking material that I have extracted from digging down the raised beds, however I have done this in the past and have noticed this material somehow worked its way to the bottom of the raised beds when I used it last season. I don't really understand that migration, but there was about a two inch layer of pure clay on top of the cardboard I laid down at the base of the raised beds. I had to chisel out this material which had virtually turned into brick.
I don't know what yehudith would say to this, but I have been giving thought to adding wood chips to the growing media as well. I just recently have been viewing the container gardening forum and the information about growing media has been exhaustive. Too many thoughts going through my head to make a clear decision on what I plan to do, but I would like to avoid purchasing large amounts of material to add to my growing mix and stick to whets readily available.
Quoting: I don't really understand that migration, but there was about a two inch layer of pure clay on top of the cardboard I laid down at the base of the raised beds. I had to chisel out this material which had virtually turned into brick.
Yes... that was caused by mixing your soil base with the sand. The road construction crews here used to till sand in with the local red clay soil and the country roads that had given them problems in the past set up like concrete.
What you discovered might be worth keeping in mind for other applications besides gardening.
We use huge amounts of wood shavings in our compost and I have added fresh wood shavings to the garden from time to time. They take a lot of nitrogen to decompose. The grub worms from the rhinocerous beetle love them and turn them into worm castings. I added them mainly to help reduce the pH.
Ours come from a woodmill, all hardwoods, no walnut and no treated lumber.
I asked, and Tapla just posted a raised bed soil recipe for me, for filling the new RBs I'll be building soon. All our discussions (and what Calalilly just posted) speak to the soundness of his concept that starting with larger mineral fractions (that don't break down) and adding the smaller organics to that makes for a very durable growing medium.
Like Lady Lily who uses
Quoting:huge amounts of wood shavings in our compost and I have added fresh wood shavings to the garden from time to time. They take a lot of nitrogen to decompose. The grub worms from the rhinocerous beetle love them and turn them into worm castings. I added them mainly to help reduce the pH. Ours come from a woodmill, all hardwoods
Tapla recommends the following: (this is an exerpt from the Soils and Composting forum thread entitled, "Miracle Grow Garden Soil: Problem?"
Quoting:RAISED BED SOIL RECIPE
5 parts pine bark fines
2 parts builders sand
1-2 parts Turface Pro League (or save the fines screened from MVP if you use the gritty mix)
1-2 parts vermiculite
1 part compost or reed/sedge peat
The BEST part about his container and RB recipes that incorporate the Pine Bark Fines (PBFs) is that the mixes are turning out to be VERY cost effective.
I'm using his 5:1:1 container mix for all my eBuckets, self-watering, and free-draining veggie containers. I purchased 1/2 yard of PBFs (double grind pine bark) for $18, one 2.65 cu ft. bag of MG potting mix for $12.50, and one huge bag of course perlite for $20. To date I've filled 18 containers and still have PB and perlite left.
The mixes Al puts together have excellent soil aeration (because the "chunky" pine bark pieces create air pockets), excellent drainage (the perlite), and moisture retention (the peat component - in my case MG potting mix). You may need to water a little more frequently, and fertilization is absolutely necessary on a very regular basis. The recipe can be "tweeked" by adding more of the peat component to retain more water, but there's a small tradeoff for that convenience...
If you'll notice, his RB soil recipe contains no "dirt" or topsoil. I asked him why, and his reply was,
Quoting:"The Turface/builders sand/vermiculite serves as the mineral fraction, taking the place of the topsoil. You could use screened topsoil in place of the builders sand if you want, but none of the stuff I've seen in bags has been very good, in my experience. You'll only need to replenish the OM yearly or every 2 years with enough PBFs to bring the volume back to what it was previously."
Al's soil recipes are designed with a large mineral fraction to provide structure and to minimize "shrinkage" of the soil platform. He recommends the addition of only 20% organic material to the mineral component.
My plants are going crazy in his container mix. And, my purse is VERY, VERY happy!
Hope this helps maximize your yields. It's my contribution for the day!
Here's the link to the entire discussion. Reading it through will give you a clearer understanding of his forumla. And, Al is readily available to answer any questions you may have about his recipes.
Here's a picture of the PBFs I use in the container mix, after I've sifted it. The PB for his 5:1:1 container mix (PBF:peat:perlite) should ideally be from dust size to no more than nickel-size. It almost looks just like the MG potting mix, but without the moisture retaining, "spongey-ness" to it.
I use a 1/2" wire screen to sift out the chunky pieces for my containers. Most of the sifted bark is from dust to slices averaging the size of a nickel.
Per Al's recommendation, I customized his 5:1:1 container mix recipe to a 3:1:1 for my eBuckets, and self-watering containers, to increase the peat to PB ratio for more of a "wicking" action from the peat. The self-watering containers have the built in reservoirs in the containers. (His 5:1:1 recipe is design for use in free draining containers.) I use Miracle Grow (MG) potting mix as my peat component, per Al's suggestion (and because I already had loads of it on hand), but you can go with sphagnum peat as well. I can also go with a 4:1:1 mix, depending on how good my "wicking" action works.
Al actually located that DG PBFs for me here in Houston. I'd been searching for over 4 months. The PBFs I located on my own had too much of the "pulpy" "wet sticks" part of the tree, and was not a high percentage of actual pine bark slivers.
Evidently, Al spoke a language the dirt yard folks understand, cause he brought me right to the product I needed, an it's close to my house, too! Here's the info. I'll be checking with them for the finished compost for my raised beds...
Timber Solutions - Jimmy Quinn
14022 S. Gessner @ Beltway 8
Missouri City, Texas 77479
281-208-2373 (South side location)
936-321-8111 (far north Houston location - almost to Conroe)
Open 8a-5p weekdays, 7a-3p Saturdays.
Double Grind Pine Bark = $30/yard.
You can pick it up in small increments, but you must order at least 1/2 yard.
I lined the bed of my pickup with 5-gallon buckets and they caught most of the PB, so I didn't have a lot of shoveling to do when I got home. 1/2 yard filled twenty-two 5-gallon buckets... Best to take a tarp to cover the bed, though, cause the dusty "fines" blow down the highway!
We are cutting millions of lodgepole pine trees here in northwestern Colorado due to a massive pine beetle infestation. I wonder if they have thought of grading & baging the bark? I will check.
No worries about bringing home unwanted guests as the grubs only inhabit the cambium layer of the tree and the tree is quite dead by the time they cut it down which means no pine beetles & no grubs. I will call around and post later.
Thanks for the recipe for raised beds as we are about to assemble 40- 16'L X 4'W X 16"D, raised beds during phase-I in our new community garden. We have such a sweet deal on rough faced cinder blocks from a local supplier that it is cheaper than treated lumber!
Sonny, the mix is not like anything you've encountered! Al says it took awhile to convince traditional "gotta have dirt" growers that you could grow something amongst pine bark and what looks like gravel!
How about conducting a little experiment with one or two of those 40 new beds? Fill 'em with Al's mix, and compare the yields against those filled with a traditional garden soil mix.
I'm not sure that a raised bed NEEDS drainage as fast and sharp as a smaller container does, so I've been content to use all the fibers and small stuff that come in a bag of "fine pine mulch" ... and even "fine bark mulch" from a dirt yard. Plus the chunkier bark chunks, which i agree with Al DOES add valuable drainage to heavy soil, even in raised beds.
I bought a nice bag of higher-quality "small bark mulch" from a pricey nursery nearby. That had more uniform size, and less powdery stuff than the dirt yard mulch, and I screen it for use in contianers. I have also bought some tiny bags of "Small Orchid Bark" for small containers, and it is great but expensive.
The mulch sold in Home Depot and Lowes around where I live is real garbage - in fact, I would rather have garbage. My compost heap would be delighted to get some good garbage! HD's "fine" mulch is coarse, wet, smelly, and full of wood chips. They should call it "lumber mill waste".
I think it was Al / Tapla who pointed out that wet bark, stored compressed, would ferment and become both acid and toxic from anerobic waste products. (Very unsuitable for containers or starting seeds ... too coarse and woody for mixing into raised bed soil.) I put the Home Depot mulch I bought into my compost heap, which sniffed disdainfully but is eating it.
I started out with pure clay and large stones, not even any noticable sand or grit. I'm cheap, so my aim is to amend the soil in my RBs to the point of "usability", not replace it all with something "optimum".
I think that bark fibers and dust and grit serve to hold clay in place better than sand (though I added coarse sand or crushed rock also, on the theory that good soil has "some of everything".
I expect that clay particles are migrating into the pine bark and between the fibers, especially as it decomposes. I hope that, by the time the bark has fully decomposed (several years), I will have added enough compost that what remians won't separate into a clay layer and a sand layer. But I will turn the beds occasionally to get the compost down deep, and will be able to tell when I need to add more bark.
Maybe having some clay in WELL draining soil encourages the clay to wash out or elluviuate. My soil ain't that good yet! I'll learn from Mraider and avoid adding too much sand.
Regarding drainage and moisture in the raised bed recipe, I had asked Al about it. He said that in raised beds (and, I guess on the ground, too), the earth acts like a giant wick, pulling moisture downward. It's the Turface Pro League that serves to absorb and hold the moisture in the beds, even though there's fast drainage allowed by the pine bark...
I'm always impressed by how VARIED the conditions are under which we garden ... and our goals and preferences.
But Al is great, inpart because he explains WHY he makes the sugegstions he does. That way, I know what has what effect, and can apply it to my circumstances.
He started out talking about optimium, extrmeely fast-draining mixes (mostly soil-less) for small containers.
And yet, because he explains WHY, I can directly apply his advice to totally different circumstances and goals: barely adequate, minimum-cost minimum-work amending of fairly large voumes of clay soil in outdoor rasied beds.
The first time I bought and used shredded or chunked pine bark, I went "AHHHH!" .
And he's sparked much thought about soil structure.
>> in raised beds (and, I guess on the ground, too), the earth acts like a giant wick, pulling moisture downward.
On the other hand, when the underlying clay or heavy soil is compacted too much, and the rain is too heavy, impervious soil under the bed acts like a big plastic pot with no drainage hole. You have to "drill holes in the side of the container" - - - i.e. raise the soil above grade and let it drain out through cracks or holes in the RB walls.
"...let it drain out through cracks or holes in the RB walls..."
Maybe you can help me here. On two occasions, I've had the 3:1:1 (a modified 5:1:1) mix "float" above water that's pooled in the bottom of the container and wouldn't drain out until I poked a hole. These are free-draining containers, not self-watering with a reservoir. I lined the bottom of these pots with a paper towel to keep the mix from running out of the drain holes. Is it that my paper towels work too well and are too strong? It's not a problem to poke the holes. I just might forget a time or two, and don't wanna end up with drowned roots.
I discovered this when I poked a planting hole down the middle and my finger went clean through the mix and ended up in a pool of water below. I worked my whole hand underneath and, sure enough, the potting mix was floating above the pooled water like a donut!
Was it a peat-rich mix? "3:1:1" doesn't sound like that.
I don't like peat, and would suspect it of drying out, shrinking, and floating. I assumne one should NEVER let pet dry all they way, and yet it seems waterlogged as soon as I add any water.
But if a pool of water was able to "stand" in the bottom of the pot, I think the paper towel may have been the culprit. It could plug a hole, especially if it dried so that salts caked in the paper.
If I was more worried about soil coming out the bottom hole, I would use a bit of window screen. Or some narrow twigs or bark shreds, criss-crossed. Mostly, I'm willing to let pots leak soil, and just gartefullt hat I had some soil loose enough TOO leak out.
Al's talk of "perched water" scared me, and I'm looking for rayon yarn or fabric for capillary wicks and mats. Maybe a very LOOSE and OPEN layer of that on top of a pot-hiole would kepp soil in, but let weater and air pass freely. As freely as possible, especially air.
Another random thoguht: when my soil surface gets dry, I try to rehydrate it as gradually as I can. Why? Dunno, it just seems better. Often if the whole root ball got dry, it would shrink away from the pot walls. Added water would run down the sides, leaving soil dry.
Anyway, if that much water "got away from your soil", and pooled in the bottom of the pot, maybe it would have helped to start watering by adding ONLY as much as the top layer could absorb. Give it a few minutes to work its way in. Then add more water, but try to avoid "runoff". It might take several passes.
For me, keeping the soil or mix moist seems the same as over-watering. I'm still working toward a mix I like. The only source of "pine bark chunks the size of BBs or Coco Puffs" is Orchid Bark, and that is as expensive as it sounds.
"Anyway, if that much water "got away from your soil", and pooled in the bottom of the pot, maybe it would have helped to start watering by adding ONLY as much as the top layer could absorb. Give it a few minutes to work its way in. Then add more water, but try to avoid "runoff". It might take several passes."
Corey, I think the statement above fits the bill. I think I watered the top too fast to allow the peat (MG potting mix) to absorb the water. So, it just ran off and pooled in the bottom of the pot that was plugged by the paper towel.
I am one of those individuals that come up to you in the nursery and ask, "Do you k now what you are doing". 95% of the time they say "NO". Then I tell them, what ever you purchase, fill a large container with water and submerge your plants until the bubbles stop. They do not water correctly here in the nursery and if you just spray water at the plant, it will just go around the root ball and drain out the hole or the into the bed. In the Southwest many plants come totally dried out. I purchased a maxi flat, 24 plants of light blue/lavender pansies. Each root ball was surrounded by this white matter. Looked like roots and it may have been roots but I do not think so. Anyway, I had to strip each side, all four, to get the water to penetrate the root ball. For a novice, they would have lived maybe two weeks.
Sorry, off thread. I have never used bark. I have two very large planters for herbs and vegetables that are 60' long. I cannot afford orchid bark. In Las Vegas there is no bark except from tumbling tumble weeds. LOL. I am going to Oregon and Washington in May. Maybe I should take an extra large suitcase...
Actually, my front landscape is very large beds formed by very large boulders, buried more than 2/3rd under ground to form beds. I have a small amount of "grass", which is clover and dichrondra. The majority of my landscape is either in raised beds or containers. I compost so I have great soil but I think I need the bark for drainage.
I appreciate and love all your input. Thank you very much. Sharon. Also Mother Winter...
I just wanted to mention that I bought a bag of pine mulch recently and noticed that the smaller pieces had sifted to the bottom on the bag. So now if I'm filling a container with mix, I paw down to the bottom of the bag, and throw the top of the bag into the RB or garden bed. I just wish there were more "bottom of the bag" bits. Maybe if we run over the bag with a car? LOL.
I also will mention that here in Texas, I've found what seems like a good product at the local super grocery store (Super HEB) and it's cheap. It's a storebrand, a plain gray bag, $1.98 for 40lb bag. Called "Outdoor Solutions" Potting soil - "Good for indoor and outdoor plants." It's organic and lists
"Ingredients: formulated with compost, indigenous wood fiber, perlite and sand."
I still like to monkey with it to lighten it up further (especially for containers), but prior to this, I was buying cheap topsoil at $1.98 for 40 pounds, but then having to add SO much other stuff in it, it seemed like most of my time was spent hauling, sifting and mixing and I was always running out of one ingredient or another. This stuff is "almost there," and as good or better than namebrand planting mix that I've bought for 2 or 3 times the price. It doesn't have sticks in it, but actually does seem to have wood fiber that seems to be light and helpful for drainage.
Anyway, for Texans, maybe that tip is helpful. As a more general comment, thanks to what I'm learning on these threads, I'm learning to evaluate stuff by looking at or sticking my hands into the product itself, rather than buying simply because of brand name, which I used to do. It's progress!
Tapla's containner soil mixes have a basic building block - start with at least 50% of the LARGER, pine bark fines (from dime size on down to dust for container mixes) then add no more than 25% peat component (for moisture retention) + 25% perlite (for drainage).
The illustration he used to explain what he's doing, that finally unlocked my understanding, was this one:
Start with a bucket of mud. How many pearls would you need to add to that bucket to achieve good aeration and drainage? Answer: you're not gonna make it happen, cause all that mud is the same size particles that have closed in on the system. The mud is occupying all the available space.
Now, start with a bucket of pearls. You can add perlIte and compost (or peat) to those pearls and have a GREAT chance of achieving excellent drainage and soil oxygenation, facilitated by the spaces created by the pearls. Which, BTW, are never , ever going to collapse on itself OR become compressed/compacted.
It takes some getting used to, planting a seedling in a container of what looks like wood chips. You keep trying to find the "dirt," that isn't quite there. But, the aerated mix drains super fast, and there is a measure of moisture control based on the peat ratio you add.
The ratio of peat-perlite can be adjusted long as the ratio of larger material (the pine bark fines-PBFs) remains at least 50-75%. Al's basic container mix is 5:1:1, PBFs:peat:perlite. I adjusted my container mix to a 3:1:1 ratio, to get more "wicking" from the peat for my self- watering containers with built-in reservoirs.
Hope I explained this well. But, not to worry. Al is usually rIght behind me, and will jump in and straighten out any parts I got wrong...
Good analogy! Thanks for the recap, it makes so much sense. I do remember something like that, having to do with pudding, I think, and it did get me thinking.
Anyway I'm not quite there, where you and Al are on this -- I do still tend to think "dirt" -- but the stuff I'm mixing is getting looser and looser at least. I read if you can plunge your hand in up to your wrist, you're on a good path, so that's where I've been headed.
I haven't located any actual pine bark fines, so I've been using common pine bark mulch -- as a consequence, the variation in size is probably from quarter-sized on down (well, there's larger stuff too, but I try to break that down).
Anyway, it's been great to start to understand the general principles and then try to apply them with what's available and within budget.
Sorry to break up the soil discussion but I was wondering if any of you have any thermometer advice for me. I am going to put a cold frame on top of one of my raised beds so I can start moving some of my seedlings out. I need to know what the high/low temps are inside the cold frame and outside. I would like a thermometer with a wireless sensor and a memory for min/max that I can put in my cold frame and with a sensor outside so I know what the temp differential is between the two. Any suggestions? I don't want to spend a lot of money but I don't want to waste money buying a poorly functional product.
As it happens, I wrote that, then went off to Lowe's for something else and lo and behold - a bag of pine mulch that actually looks a lot smaller than the last bag I bought. So I picked that up. But I'll remember your suggestion!
Hey, Lise & TRock!,
I'm gonna run my "too-large-for-the- container-mix" PBF pieces through a wood chipper, so I won't lose anything.
Per Al's raised bed recipe above, I won't have to sift the batches of pine bark I'm getting from my source. That'll be great. Just have to figure out the volumes of each material I'll need to fill my beds. That's where the trusty on-line volume converter will come in handy!
I tell you, Al is stretching my mathematical skills for sure!
Linda, I missed something here on peat-pearlite. Exactly what is this and how does it differ from the bagged pearlite I purchase from the local hardware stores. I am still trying to work out the growing media recipe for my raised beds using your postings. I would like to stay with locally available resources such as wood chips, alfalfa hay or grass, and well aged and vermicomposted cow manure/hay. I am leery of sand mix from the sand and gravel operations, but I will check and see what is available. The builders sand mix is probably what I should be asking for, but is cutters sand another option, or are they the same thing?
Garden_Healing. I use a simple meat thermometer with a digital readout purchased from Ace Hardware. Since soil temperatures do not vary like air temperatures, especially in a closed system like a cold frame or covered raised bed, all I do is check the temperatures daily at 9:00 AM, and keep a record of the results. When it's safe I transplant or use an empty covered raised bed to harden transplants off.
Hi guys! Linda turned me on to your conversation & I'll join it if it's ok? I didn't read the whole thread, but I went upthread quite a few posts & I'll make a few comments that will probably generate additional exchanges - all happy ones, I hope. ;o)
On the 18th @ 1:22 Corey quoted me as saying " in raised beds (and, I guess on the ground, too), the earth acts like a giant wick, pulling moisture downward.
then offered his own comment "On the other hand, when the underlying clay or heavy soil is compacted too much, and the rain is too heavy, impervious soil under the bed acts like a big plastic pot with no drainage hole. You have to "drill holes in the side of the container" - - - i.e. raise the soil above grade and let it drain out through cracks or holes in the RB walls."
I'd like to point out that this is only true to a minor degree, and I'll use an example to illustrate: Lets say you have a fully saturated sponge representing a raised bed and it's resting on a counter top. If we add ANY water at all to the sponge, what happens? It flows laterally across the counter top, right? The more water you pour on the sponges, the more water comes out and moves laterally - yes? That's because the weight of the water column - the water pushing down on the water already IN the sponge is enough to overcome the capillary attraction of the water in the sponge, so the sponge 'seeks a level' that is pretty constant. OK - that would seem like that's all there is too it, but the counter top is not a good comparison to a real raised bed situation. If the soil below is permeable, water continues to percolate downward & right out of the bed, but let's say it is clay, like Corey alluded to. How can we better illustrate what actually happens in clay? Well, lets set that sponge on a newspaper or a paper towel, which does offer a favorable comparison to clay soils because you have the impermeable counter top right underneath. The newspaper or paper towel will continue to 'pull' moisture from the sponge until they are saturated or until the sponge is just damp. The same thing happens in a raised bed over clay.
The FIRST part of a clay soil to dry is the upper surface. The water in the raised bed either FLOWS out of the bed over the surface of the clay, or it is absorbed by the surface of the clay as the surface dries. In either case, water usually exits a raised bed over clay quickly because of a combination of lateral flow AND evaporation from the surrounding surface. If you unfold 1 sheet of newsprint to represent the soil surrounding a raised bed, and set a saturated sponge in the middle, the newspaper soon pulls all the excess water from the sponge. Because the evaporative surface of the newsprint is far, far larger than the sponge, evaporation occurs very quickly.
IF, though, you double dig and AMEND beneath your clay beds, you create the bathtub effect which in large part negates the lateral flow AND evaporation, causing problems related to the the soil beneath the bed remaining wet for extended periods because you now have to depend on extremely slow percolation through the clay for the water to move out of the soil.
Linda's analogy of pearls & mud is a good way to understand that you cannot start with a heavy container soil and amend it to reduce the ht of the PWT, improve drainage (flow through rates or improve aeration. It is only AFTER you have added much greater than a 50% fraction of the larger particles that these areas begin to improve. At that point, because you have more than 50% larger particles, you/re actually amending the LARGE particles with a lesser fraction of peat/compost/ or other fine amendments. That's a very important concept - good job, Linda!
As you saw, though, raised beds and containers are very different insofar as how water behaves. Raised beds are almost the same as growing in the ground, where container culture is much closer to hydroponics than conventional 'in-ground' gardening.
Great thread & a good discussion Linda and the rest of the participants. Lots of good info being exchanged!!
The FIRST part of a clay soil to dry is the upper surface. The water in the raised bed either FLOWS out of the bed over the surface of the clay, or it is absorbed by the surface of the clay as the surface dries. In either case, water usually exits a raised bed over clay quickly because of a combination of lateral flow AND evaporation from the surrounding surface.
I find this topic of clay soil interesting and have considered your suggestions on the mixing of the various materials for the raised beds. My experience in the garden was to first hand dig the ground and remove the rock before tilling in large quantities of horse manure in the fall. After several tillings there were still visible 'biscuits' and I repeated the tilling process again in the spring before planting. Accordin to my lab reports I was over the limits on PKN but I chose to plant anyway. There were no side effects and crops were excellent. I have continued to follow the procedure of adding manure in the fall and perform both fall and spring tillings with no absolutedly side effects.
I would prefer not to purchase raw materials for making up the raised beds growing media and have decided to go with what is locally available and mix with the exising garden soil. As a chemist I hate to admit this but I don't have a formula for what I intend to do, prefferring to use my best judgement on mixing the materials at hand. The growing mix will include well aged cow manure/straw, twice gound wood chips, ground alfalfa hay or grass, and either garden soil or recycled soil from the raised beds. Builders sand is available, however I am not certain I wish to add this to the mix. My delima is that I will probably opt for a greater mix of organic material than is called for in the above references relying on soil texture rather than a formula.
I find this topic of clay soil interesting and have considered your suggestions on the mixing of the various materials for the raised beds. My experience in the garden was to first hand dig the ground and remove the rock before tilling in large quantities of horse manure in the fall. After several tillings there were still visible 'biscuits' and I repeated the tilling process again in the spring before planting. According to my lab reports I was over the limits on PKN but I chose to plant anyway. There were no side effects and crops were excellent. I have continued to follow the procedure of adding manure in the fall and perform both fall and spring tillings with absolutely no side effects.
I would prefer not to purchase raw materials for making up the raised beds growing media and have decided to go with what is locally available and mix with the existing garden soil. As a chemist I hate to admit this but I don't have a formula for what I intend to do, preferring to use my best judgment on mixing the materials at hand. The growing mix will include well aged cow manure/straw, twice ground wood chips, ground alfalfa hay or grass, and either garden soil or recycled soil from the raised beds. Builder’s sand is available; however I am not certain I wish to add this to the mix. My dilemma is that I will probably opt for a greater mix of organic material than is called for in the above references relying on soil texture rather than a formula.
These raised beds are now dug down an additional foot or so to give me an overall two foot depth. The bottom of the bed will be lined with cardboard followed by a layer of wood chips. I am including a soaker hose in this layer of wood chips for the purpose of bottom watering with warm water if necessary. The next layer will be some fresh horse manure to complete the bottom foot. The top layer will be the growing mix as discussed above. These beds are covered with old window panes to maintain warmth during the early spring and fall. Typically we can have as much as a 40 to 50 degree swing in temperatures over a 24 hour period; therefore it is necessary to keep the lid on at night so to speak. The goal here is to extend the growing season from four to eight months.
I have had no problems in the past growing lettuce in these beds but direct seeding of cole crops last year did not work. This season I am growing broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower which will be transplanted starting in less than a month with the intent of regular harvests over the next eight months. Following what I have learned so far I will experiment with a third bed using the 'square foot' gardening principals I have read about here in DG.
As I have stated before, I have no prior experience with intensive gardening in raised beds and the plan mentioned above is work in progress and put together based on comments here in DG. If there are flaws in this plan I would appreciate any feedback you could give me.
These raised beds are now dug down an additional foot or so to give me an overall two foot depth. The bottom of the bed will be lined with cardboard followed by a layer of wood chips. I am including a soaker hose in this layer of wood chips for the purpose of bottom watering with warm water if necessary. The next layer will be some fresh horse manure to complete the bottom foot. The top layer will be a foot of growing mix as discussed above. These beds are covered with old window panes to maintain warmth during the early spring and fall. Typically we can have as much as a 40 to 50 degree swing in temperatures over a 24 hour period, therefore it is necessary to keep the lid on at night so to speak. The goal here is to extend the growing season from four to eight months.
I have had no problems in the past growing lettuce in these beds but direct seeding of cole crops last year did not work. This season I am growing brocolli, cabbage and cauliflower which will be transplanted in starging in less than a month, with the intent of a regular harvests over the next eight months. Following what I have learned so far I will experiment with a third bed using the 'square foot' gardening principals I have read about here in DG.
As I have stated before, I have no prior experienc with intensive gardening in raised beds and the plan mentioned is just put together based on comments here in DG. If there are flaws in this plan I would appreciate any feed back you could give me.
Don't know exactly how to "rate" my success or lack of, but I used some gypsum in one perennial bed and couldn't really tell that it had any effect. But in one spot where I failed to mix it in well, it sorta harden up (clumped).
I like the sound of "adding more and more manure". Probably, if there is enough organic matter, soil "structure" will develop even without added coarse fractions like sand. And you are adding wood chips, which should break down into woody chunks that should last for a while, providing the "coarser fraction" that I like to see in soil.
That is just my uninformed prejudice - the belief that "good soil has some of everything" - coarse mineral, fine mineral, soluble minerals (nutrients), clay, organic matter, water, air and living things.
Maybe the improvement that I see when I add coarse things is just compensation for the fact that I don't have much compost and have been putting off paying for it to be delivered by the yard. (bags of steer manure compost in my trunk has been more my speed.)
If it were me, I might let any fresh manure age for 6-12 months before tilling it in, but I know there are many who add all kinds of orgaincs on top of the soil, and plant right into it. I've read that some kinds of fresh manure are "hot" and may burn roots, but I think you are burying any fresh poo pretty deep.
And I know one guy who just shoveled raw poo onto the top of his garden, and nothing burst into flame.
TX_gardener, I recall someone making a comment in another thread about using gypsum in a container soil mix. I didn't connect this with the clay however. I do have a supply of gypsum in the shed and could very well include some in the mix. I would like to know more about this. I am a complete novice at this square foot garden and have not had sufficient time to really get into it. The use of a third bed constructed in a similar manner as the lettuce and cole crop beds was intended to be for mini-cucumbers which I have decided to place in containers instead. At this point I don't have a clue as to what I will be planting in this third bed or if it will be on the square foot basis.
Gymgirl, as to shrinkage I would say roughly 50% overall. The growing material I removed was initially about eight inches in depth, with approximately three to four inches of soil plus another two of whitish clay which had turned to almost brick. Now I need to ask you what the reason is for you question. Please let me know what your thoughts is here Linda.
Corey, when I first started adding horse manure to the garden, most of it was pretty well aged. I think the fact that I tilled it multiple times in the fall made a difference. I failed to mention that I did follow up tillings in the fall after a rain to the extent that there were no clumps or biscuits remaining. Before planting in the spring I sent a ten part composite from the top six inches to a soils lab and received the results as too high on all accounts, so I went back and did multiple tillings before planting. The reason for this was based on tests performed involving Biosolids application of domestic wastewater sludges where with repeated tillings the ammoniac levels would drop significantly with each tilling. My conclusion was that ammonia is the guilty party for most plant problems involving the addition of fresh manures. I figured if I tilled enough times I could bring the ammonia nitrogen concentration down to a safe level. Fortunately I have a pull behind tiller for my Sears 26hp tractor/mower and it was actually fun.
There were parts of my garden which actually received up to a foot of horse manure at a single application. The only problem was I kept bogging down the tractor/tiller. My future manure applications will be well aged cow manure with straw mixed in. I have a small mountain of this material available just up the road a bit. My intent is to apply several inches in areas where I grow corn and only lightly in other areas if at all. I rotate crops on a five year plan so I don't see any need to continue applying manure at as heavy a rate as before. Besides I dig holes a foot or two in diameter and close to two feet deep for tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkins and squash. and refill these holes with about a 50:50 mix of this aged cow manure and soil from the top six inches of the garden.
One other point I should mention is the addition of worms. For the holes I add a couple of hands full of red wigglers from my indoor compost bins, and the raised beds will receive European or Canadian night crawlers from an outdoor cow manure/garden scrap compost bin which is also a raised bed dug down to a total depth of about five feet.
No kidding Corey, I have been extremely fortunate in the raw material resources available to me. Yesterday I picked up my first pickup load of pine fines at the mill down the road a bit. They had several hoppers with wood chips to fines and all free if you self loaded. I have another load of fresh horse manure to retrieve today and possibly a load of pine needs this week if this fantastic weather holds.
I'm not saying that I disagree with the formulas for making the various growing mixes which I have been reading about but I am probably going to stick with available resources which means a much higher level of organics than what most people have been discussing in this and several related postings. Since I have had good success in my garden with heavy manure applications I'm hoping the same will be true for the modifications to the raised beds and container gardening as well. Like most of us in DG we are subject to budgets and purchasing MG potting mix, which is my personal choice, can get expensive. So for my container and raised bed growing mixes I plan to go with what is available and affordable. My conclusions are that if the material drains well and does not burn or in other ways affect the crops being planted, then the greater volume of organics should be acceptable. The inorganics containing the micronutrients from the sandy clay (rock dust) in my extracted soils from digging down the beds or garden holes seems to be adequate as long as they don't inhibit drainage in the beds or containers. I wish I could be more quantifiable in describing how these mixes are put together but I think this is only relative to my particular situation. I go pretty much by visually mixing each wheel barrel load and then by feel, so no two loads are exactly alike but close enough.
I know I'm not saying anything of importance here, but I'm hoping to get some feedback or constructive criticism on what I am attempting to do here.
I've been using either the MG organic or preferably Ocean Forest organic potting soil as my base. I add tons of worm casting, kelp, kitchen scraps (I don't bother composting them, I just bury them in the beds after dinner and let the worms do the work, big heavy thins I'll run through the cuisinart first),crab shell, manure (unlimited free supply) and bat guano (type depends on what I'm growing) etc. In my pots I use lots and lots of perlite with it. You don't even need a shovel or a spade to plant, I just scoop out a hole with my hand. Water retention and drainage is great. It warms up super fast in the spring and doesn't pack down and the plants grow. I get the minerals from the kelp and crabshells. The kelp also provides all of the amino acids. Oh and the kelp helps fight mildew and bothrytis blight. The crab shells help fight fungi and nematodes. I remember reading an article in one of my hydroponics magazines about research they're doing with sea products used as plant fertilizers. I'll have to see if I can find it, but it was very very interesting. Rather than peat I prefer to use coconut coire because its sustainable. In the fall I rake up all the leaves and bury the beds in them and let them rot down. What hasn't gone by the spring is dug in and buried when I do my spring over haul.
I'm with you, I don't worry about proportions, no 2 beds have the exact same mix, I just work with it untill it looks right. I figure if the plants grow and I don't have any diseases I'm doing fine. I did have a horrible problem with the cabbage worms last year, but this year I've already laid in my supply of BT so they better watch out.
Hey all. I've been lurking here 'n there and just love this forum!! I think there is a good soil discussion going on so I will try not to derail it. I really need to reread many of these posts too, cause what I have been doing is using the $1.69 composted cow manure bags from Lowe's for my raised beds (I used the square/ ft method as well.) I have been pleased with the results but I have no basis for comparison so maybe I should try a different soil mixture to experiment.
I planted about 5 sq/ ft of "short and sweet" carrots late last October and harvested them just yesterday. Yeah, you read right. They are 70 day carrots and were in the ground about 150 days. I just broadcast the seeds in the sq/ ft plots and thinned them out as they grew. I did not fertilize at all recently for various reasons...
Now yehudith that's what I call using available resources. I got a load of Western Red Cedar fines from the mill two days ago and mixed some with a pickup load of fresh horse manure and bedding. I place the mix in a compost bin and watered it down well with warm water. In a couple of days I will mix it all again with a pitch fork and add a about a gallon of my vermiculture mix (several thousand worms- give or take). When I cleared this bin out I still had about 65 gallons of composted horse manure from last year which was fine and powdery in consistency. That is the thing I like about the horse manure when well composted. The cow manure from last year with the night crawlers in the deep raised bed is pretty compacted, but I haven't tried mixing it with the cedar fines which I will do this year.
I plan to get a pickup load of wood chips from the mill today and place about four inches in the bottom of the two foot deep raised beds for drainage or bottom watering. So far I am very impressed with how the easily the fines mix with some different materials I have been working with and the texture thereafter. If a mill is unavailable in your area, many cities have their own forestry crews or privatized firms which will offer wood chips to the public free of charge if you load your own. I would recommend calling the Public Works or Forestry department in your area to see if this service is available to you.
Besides the expense, one reason I don’t' purchase commercially bagged compost is because many of these are now including a percentage of Biosolids or municipal wastewater sludge. The contents labels are required to give you this information as well as the percentage; however they might be in the fine print. This material in my opinion is suitable for lawns and flower beds, but should never be used in growing one’s own food.
Updating on my SFG planting here in 6a. I got carrots, beets, greens, and peas sowed. I transplanted the brassicas. Indoors I have tomatoes, peppers, basil, fennel awaiting May weather. I updated my blog http://y9fvg.blogspot.com/ if you want pics.
I used Mels Mix (1/3 peat, 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 mixed compost (5 different sources)) in my boxes when I started last summer. To get ready for spring planting I added a handful of compost to each square.
Thanks yehudith for the input and vote of confidence. I have, as instructed reread all of Al's postings on media for containers and raised beds. Al’s comments and analogies on the physics of water movement and aeration of the growing media are excellent. Once I down loaded as much information as possible and began reviewing what I had skimmed over previously, things began making much better sense to me.
I still don't have a complete plan in place on how to prepare all the aspects of the raised bed but I have made several new decisions. I still plan to use about six inches of the larger wood chips in the bottom of the bed. The layer above that will be the horse manure with some straw and bedding mixed in as well as about 50% wood chip fines. I have completed the mix of horse manure and wood chip fines which are setting in a bin beneath my deck. I have been adding warm water every five or six days and mixing this with a pitch fork. In a couple of weeks this material should be ready for the next layer in the raised beds.
For the growing mix I have well aged cow manure and wood chip fines so far. My search for Turface MVP was fruitless. Local nurseries and garden shops didn't have a clue what this material was which is not too surprising. I have a source for 24# bags of perlite and I am thinking of vermiculite as a substitute for the Turface MVP. Ratios are undecided at this point as well as and minor additions such as micro-nutrients, Dolomite, etc.
I am excluding the addition of old top soil to this equation and the idea of bottom watering capabilities is still floating around in my mind. I dumped the idea of using sections of soaker hose and decided to possibly use a two foot piece of 4" diameter PVC pipe inserted vertically in the corner of each bin. Pop the garden hose in the PVC pipe and water as necessary. The purpose for bottom watering is: (1) to add warm water when a cold snap is predicted and (2) watering possibly once a week when the weather warms and the bed covers can be removed. I still plan to surface water as necessary depending on the conditions of the surface growing media.
And lots of worms, my Euro population in the five foot deep raised bed with aged cow manure and composted garden scraps from last season is flourishing. The addition of worms to each of the raised beds should help with aeration as well as further decomposition of the horse manure mix in the bottom of the raised beds.
Garden_Healing wrote:I used Mels Mix (1/3 peat, 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 mixed compost (5 different sources)) in my boxes when I started last summer. To get ready for spring planting I added a handful of compost to each square.
Can you elaborate on the "5 different sources" please? Different brands or what? I'd read Mel's description but haven't searched for the explanation of "different sources"
TX_gardener: The reason for the 5 different types of compost is so there is a good mix of different nutrients as well as not being overwhelmed by one brands "problems". I used organic composts only. It is not easy to find sources of compost in the city but this is what I got...
I started making compost as well and the key is to use lots of different items in the composter in order to get a good blend of different nutrients. I'm still trying to figure out what I can use to keep it organic. Anything from my garden is fine but I don't want raked leaves from someone else where inorganic methods were used (residual pesticides?). Egg shells ok. People say spent coffee grounds (however I don't use organic coffee). Still thinking the homemade compost thing through.
That thought had run through my mind too Linda but our athletic stores are very simple. I thought about ordering on line, however the expense for shipping will probably outweigh the cost of vermiculite which is mined here in Montana and readily available at decent prices. I will continue checking sources as Corey has mentioned however I'm not opposed to using vermiculite and perlite as my principal inorganics if it comes to that. Sand...well maybe.
I think that vermiculite might crumble quickly, but it sure does hold water. I assume Perlite lasts as long as sand, and assume it holds zero water.
I finally found "#2 chicken grit", which seems coarse enough for mighty big chickens! It must have been crushed from granite that cooled slowly and formed big crystals, because the grains have the most irregular shapes I can imagine.
Funny - the Coop in Snphomish (WA) is right in the middle of the farm-iest land I've seen in five+ years here, but of course condos are crowding in all around that valley. The front store has lots of cutesy-yuppie-chatchkas, like a pretty little five pound bag of chiken grit for $8.90. But ask the clerk what's in the warehouse, and you can get a 20 KG bag for $10 (it doesnt have the pretty full-cover graphics and reasealble lip like a bag of beef jerky). Ten or 12 times cheaper for "the real thing". But at $10 for around 1 cubic fit, a bit pricey for RB amendment.
I'll know I've found a REAL farm store when they have urea by the skid. Does anyone still sell ammonium nitrate, or did Kansas City put an end to that? One place I asked, they gave me the hairy eyeball for about ten seconds then told me to wait outside whle they checked. It took quite afew minutes to decide "we're out", and I still wonder if they sent my license plate to BATF.
Corey, you say vermiculite holds water. The plan was to try and reduce water retention and inprove aeration. If that is the case I should probably limit the amount of vermiculite I add or elimate it all together and just go with the Perlite. Chicken grit sounds interesting. I don't recall seeing that in any of the formulas, but I will check again.
Chicken grit is just very clean, very uniform-size crushed granite (although fine grades may be crushed oyster shells instead). Good for drainage & aeration, not water retention, supplies little or no mineral nutrient.
"Crushed stone" might supply more minerals, depending on what it was crushed from. I like the idea of crushed volcanic rocks, especially if they were porous to start with, but those might break down in fewer decades than other crushed rocks.
Crushed stone that isn't screened will have a wide variety of sizes.
If it isn't washed, it will also have rock dust - great for minerals, but tending to reduce drianage if you use lots.
(Some of this is from reading or theory, not expeience.)
Pine bark will improve drainage for some years (2-6?), but crushed stone is forever unless it came from really soft minerals, and even then I would expect it to outlast me!
I think we're all enjoying your beds and available materials vicariously.
"The addition of the "chunky" inorganic stuff is what creates the great soil aeration. In Tapla's recipe, this would be the Pine Bark Fines"
Pine bark is "organic" material. The items Corey mentioned above would be the 'inorganic" material, i.e., chicken grit, crushed stone, ground rock, etc.
However, the pine bark does act to aerate the soil in Al's mixes (and hold a bit of moisture) but will break down (to repeat Corey again) in a year or so while the inorganic stays.
Morgan, you're correct to eliminate the vermiculite if you want more drainage. You could even go with pea gravel if you can't find chicken or turkey grit (turkey grit being a bit larger than chicken grit). Pea gravel is most likely less expensive but I have no idea if that is a common product in your area. It is usually used for walkways, driveways, etc and can be purchased at rock yards by the truckload.
I have a raised bed full of the red cedar fines which I have been adding to horse manure in one of my compost bins. Texture looks great and it's holding moisture well. Although there isn't a great deal of bark in this material I think it's a good addition to the mix. I lined the bottom of two deep dug raised beds (2-ft depth) with the red cedar chunks which are up to two inches long. Didn't have enough left over to mix in the growing media. The wood chips and fines are not pine bark as such but hopefully they will accomplish the same thing. tapla does not recommend the addition of a drainage layer in containers, however if I understand the physics of water movement correctly as Al states this, the chucks in the bottoms of these beds will help to wick excess moisture away from the growing media.
According to Garden_Healing's post on Vermiculite vs. Perlite, the addition of Vermiculite can hold potassium, calcium, magnesium and ammonium needed for growing plants. Al states that the pine bark fines tend to take up nitrogen and it may be necessary to add a nitrogen based fertilizer to offset this. So I'm back to the combination of both Perlite and Vermiculite in the growing medium.
Although I like the idea of using pine bark in containers I prefer to go with the addition of something like the Turkey grit or #2 Chicken grit (if available) as a substitute for the inorganics. I figure enough nitrogen will be removed with the addition of wood chip fines and drainage will be improved with the addition of the grit. I am still uncertain about using the raised bed soil from the previous year.
Something which concerns me is crop rotation. Although the intent here is to create a soil mix which will only require the addition of some composted manure each year thereafter, I feel that replanting the same crops in these raised beds each year is not an option. Rotating out two of the four beds each year with something other than lettuce and cole crops is an option, but what to do with the rotated beds is open. I thought about just making them worm beds and composting in them with manure and fall garden refuse, and possibly a green crop of some sort in the fall.
I have heard that covering a bed with plastic or even a permeable floating row cover may encourage some pests by raising humidity and excluding pest-control-predators. And over-fertilizing or poor drainage might enocurage some pests.
My understanding is that most soil pests are specific to related species, or genera-specific.
Thus you should not raise Brassicas / cole / mustard / Bok Choy / rutabaga / turnips / kohlrabi / cabbage / brussels sprouts / cauliflower / broccoli in the same spot two years in a row.
If you can find 2-3 unrelated things you like, you could rotate them. Carrots? Tomatoes? Peppers? Cukes? I think you already have two groups: lettuce and cole.
Or you might "have to" grow some cut flowers.
Like the movie where some stoner taught a group of parnets and teachers about p o t so they could relate to their kids. "Don't Bogart that joint" meant to take just one hit and then pass it along to someone else.
So the principle and the lawyer thought about it, and sat next to each other.
They would each take a hit at the same time, and then exchange joints, so neither one was "Bogarting" his joint.
Corey, I do not use row covers as such and the old glass window panes are for night time protection. We can get as much as a forty degree swing in temperatures in early spring or late fall, so in order to extend the gardening season by up to four months the covers are used primarily at night until the weather warms around mid-June, and back again in mid-August. I don't know how it is possible, but I had some leaf lettuce growing in one of the beds I cleaned out several weeks ago so who knows how long the season can be extended for this crop. I agree with you Corey on the rotation and figured four years would be best. I think I will Bogart with baby cukes and baby carrots!
Well fortunately for me I do have the luxury of being able to monitor my garden full time. You are correct about baking plants however. At the end of the season I leave the covers on and that is exactly what happens in spite of the cool weather. Snow peas are a great idea for a fall green crop Corey. I really like that idea. I have some seed saved from last year and may even do one of the beds this spring if I have the time and resources to finish the last two beds. I am not certain about how to compost the vines in a raised bed but I guess they could be pulled, ground and returned to the bed or compost pile. I have read that the roots of pea and bean plants are the real source of the nitrogen fixation and leaving that portion of the spent plant in the soil will benefit the garden. I have never done this, preferring to remove all refuse before adding manure and fall tilling it, then tilling again in the spring. I tried once to till some bean plants and it didn't work. Snow peas vines and roots left in a raised bed...I can see that working.
Morgan, love reading your progress on your garden beds. You're really going to town on them, eh?
A quick aside so you won't be too disappointed, peas are definitely a great legume, an edible one at that, but don't tend to flower well in the fall of the year, you'll get your best harvest from spring planting.
A fantastic grow-out for edible legumes would be to so pea seeds broadcast, like you would grass seed, especially if you like the lower growing varieties. Although they are not snow peas or sugar snaps, a pea like Laxton's Progress #9 or Little Marvel produce in abundance and due to their short growing habits and the closer spacing they'll support themselves, no staking needed.
After you harvest your hundreds of peas, turn them under, much easier than tilling under vines. (You can also mow them first, making it even more easy.) On the same day broadcast bush snap beans, close spacing. Harvest your beans then mow and till those plants under. By now you've incorporated lots of plant matter, helping the tilth and friability of your soil as well as added N. Here in my area I still have time to plant Brassica in that area, no fertilizer needed. With your raised beds and your system of coverings I would think you could do the same, eh?
There ya go, two legume crops back to back: two crops that produce a harvest/food source, N for successive plants, and plant matter for the soil and soil life. It's a win-win-win situation, eh?
I agree that roots are around half of the organic content of most cover crops, and for nitrogen fixers, probably more than half of the N content. Plus, they have already turned themselves under!
>> I am not certain about how to compost the vines in a raised bed
Yesterday I would have said "yank the vines and toss on a compost heap, which they will greatly enrich and accelerate. "
Hmm, "mow and till". That sounds really efficient.
I'm senselessly biased towards cutting down above-ground parts and piling them in a compost heap, then returning that to the bed AFTER they have composted. The feel and smell of a finished compost heap is so great, I almost want to wallow in it before spreading it and its wonderful biota where they are most needed.
But the near-universal consensus seems to be towards efficiently composting green things "in place", either by sheet composting, lasagna method, turning under whole, or what now sounds great to me: "mow and till".
Are peas sensitive to soil disease organisms, meaning, should we rotate the location of peas from year to year? That is one I have not worried about yet. I mostly re-plant my snow peas where they'll be easiest to browse on. This year I started "bush" varieties instead of "pole".
*IF* we should worry about pea plants encouraging pea soil diseases, that MIGHT be a reason to compost before recycling them into the soil. I've heard about "rusts" afflciting pea leaves ... no idea, really.
I am seeing the word organic being thrown around a lot, but two meanings are being used. just wanted to clarify; there is the posh trendy organic and then the scientific organic. posh trendy organic is the practice of growing foods with out the used of chemical fertilizers, hormones or genetically modified organisms. then there is the scientific meaning which simply means that it contains carbon atoms. please note when growing organically (posh) you may still use inorganic (scientific) materials so long as they are not treated with chemicals, hormones or genetically modified. saying that an organic (posh) farm can not use inorganic (scientific) materials is ludicrous. Are you trying to tell me that my farm cant be considered organic because the barn is built on a concrete foundation????? or that an organic fish farm isn't organic because the pond is created with a pond liner???
In Nevada we plant out peas at the end of October. They germinate and grow roots but little vine. They just sit there and fill out the roots all winter. Then when the heat hits, to go gang buster. Same with the flowering sweet peas. Just info for thought. Morgan you would probably have to plant in August. I am in Las Vegas but my parents lived in the mountains (Pioche, NV) above a mile high and they planted their peas the same way. Sharon
Thanks for being the first to play Devil's Advocate. If bullets start flying, I'm ducking behind you!
I've often wondered about the "carbon footprint" of biorganic gardening. As I understand it, they suggest adding a 6" layer of compost to an entire garden or farm every year.
However, aerated soil won't hold more than 5-10% organic matter for long - maybe 15% in cool climates - the rest is digested and oxidized to CO2.
Just considering "steady state" suggests that if you add 6" of copmpost every year, the soil biota will eventually convert 6" of compost to CO2 in the course of a year.
That may produce slightly higher quality vegetables without using "chemical" fertilizer, which I am told is the goal, (not doctrinaire purity and adherance to dogmatic principles), but whatever the reason, how sustainable is it to collect compostable organic matter from 10 acres, and spread it all on 1 acre, so that it can all burn off in a year or two?
I consider myself "organic" because I do not spread poison or spray chemicals for insects. I do compost and have my worm beds but a few years ago Miracle Gro was bad mouthed and now it appears to be OK. I use a lot of cottonseed mill and now I cannot find it.
So, I figure if I do not kill the birds and my friendly insects with poison, I am a step ahead. And I do consider myself organic. But I sure the "pure" would think I was a fake. Sharon.
If I were smarter, I would just say "be balanced and moderate" instead of knocking someone else's system (especially since I agree with everything about it except taking it to extremes).
Don't go overboard with fertilizer.
Don't go overboard tilling.
Only do them as needed, anmd work toward needing less.
Don't over-work the soil.
Rotate and rest it, instead of maximising profit each quarter.
Don't use anything too toxic or too persistent, and only if REALLY needed, minimaly.
Try to reduce the need for 'cides by being smart and managing for sustainability.
If there's two ways to do somthing, and one involves burning gasoline, try the other way.
Don't even use TOO much compost unecessarily, whatever that level is, or at least give some thought to the balance between breakdown and re-supply.
Corey, I remember when we were kids playing in the front yard and our dad would be spraying the weeds and grasshoppers with DDT over our heads. We would sneeze as it settled on our heads. And we are all in our 60s and still alive. Sharon.
lol Sharon thats a great statement! very humorous, yet true. Each generation has stories like that. i think my equivalent would be having been fed quick fix medicines as a kid that the pharmaceutical companies only tested on ten people before releasing it on their second test group... the general public. Can't say we will all be alive in our sixties i'll let you know if we make it there. (lets not get side tracked with this topic though.)
Corey and Sharon, i totally agree with you guys that mild use of pesticides and non organic fertilizers is ok. i am the type of gardener that uses them as a last resort (especially pesticides). i will try every thing i can think of to avoid pesticide but if the little buggers resist for too long i am not afraid to nuke them. one day last summer i came out onto my patio to find my Epi had been attacked. 50% of its foliage had been eaten. i didn't even bother with organics i went straight for the Ortho. What can i say? i'm an American. I have the right to bear arms! Especially when at war and especially when those buggers violated my peace agreement.
Corey~ I don't believe that transferring 10 acres of organic material to one acre is necessarily sustainable. i think sustainable is creating the necessary organic matter on your one acre plot for your one acre plot. Having said that and contrary to that statement, i think in todays society it would be quite easy to achieve. that is to say if your using the scientific meaning of organic. i have worked as a chef for 14 years and have been at a few places that had separate trash cans for vegetable waste. The restaurants would fill a 55gal can and every day a non profit would come by and empty it into a pick up truck. they did exactly what you were talking about. but if your picky and using the posh term good luck because no restaurants use organic produce. the oyster recover program in MD does the same thing with oyster shells. they build reefs with them. i also had a friend who worked at starbux who had a lady that came by once a week for a trash bag full of coffee grounds. she used them for her worm bins. ... Quite frankly, thats your answer to the sustainability of that practice. if you use methods like these (in my opinion), it would be sustainable because every pound that you take is one less pound that is land filled and completely wasted. playing devils advocate again. if your buying that compost, then your fueling an industry that most likely isn't recycling nutrients and is actually harming the environment more.
Guess I inherited the organic approach from my dad. He would hand me one of his three tools, a screw driver, and told me to go dig dandelions. But I'm still trying to figure out why organic seed is better???
What great topics in this thread. I love all the perspectives. They appear to be different but yet I see a big part of them seem to merge all back to nearly just one. Bottom line is "moderation in all things" regarding "organics" and "non-organics", eh?
Morgan, "But I'm still trying to figure out why organic seed is better???" I'm not convinced organic seed is better than non-organic with the exception that Government-certified organic growers are not allowed to use seeds coated with fungicide or rodenticides, etc. Supposedly their seed stock should come from "organically grown plants" but there is a loophole there, too, i.e., 'if there is no organic seed available they can use non-organic in its place".
As for me, I tend to save most of my seeds and am happy with that.
Corey, yes, peas can get diseases from constant planting in the same area, some of them soil-borne. I haven't witnessed any (yet!) and feel it is due to the peas having such a short season here. And following the peas with beans won't contribute to pea foliage problems. Some areas may harbor fusarium more-so than in my area but there is a whole list of fusarium resistant peas nowadays. I'm sure I have a list around here somewhere.
I sure do hear ya on pulling up plants, composting them, bringing the compost back to the garden. Sounds like going around the block to get next door, doesn't it. But I like having a few compost piles here and there as well as turning under plants/debris, etc. I think it was you above who posted there's no "best way" (or only way?) so I have a whole gamut of techniques I use. I love it! :>)
By the way, love your posts! Your humor and wit has made me smile several times. Thanks!
Michael/SpaceCase, I think this is the first I've come across you and see you are a new member. WELCOME to DG. Hope to see you around the site!
Shoe (back to the greenhouse potting up entirely too many tomato plants)
Thanks Shoe for the pea and bean tip. I have an electric grinder which can grind the stems and return them to the raised beds. I still have a couple of weeks to go before I plan to start my transplants and I'm still working on the growing media. I went to Murdock’s looking for some turnkey or #2 chicken grit for some inorgaics and they only had small bags at a ridiculous price. I ended up purchasing 200 lbs of oyster shell (calcium carbonate) instead. I had heard this mentioned in one of the discussions either here or in a related thread as an alternative to some other inorganic options. I am not sure if there are any recommendations as to how much of this material should be added to the mix so I will go sparingly for the time being. From a chemical standpoint I don't see a problem but that’s just conjecture on y part.
>> Corey, I remember when we were kids playing in the front yard and our dad would be spraying the weeds and grasshoppers with DDT over our heads. We would sneeze as it settled on our heads.
In my case, the town flew a little plane overhead and misted the whole town. It was "recommeneded" that we go insde if we saw the low-flying plane.
>> mild use of pesticides and non organic fertilizers is ok. i am the type of gardener that uses them as a last resort (especially pesticides).
That sounds good to me - in fact that's my policy also. I haven't had to use insecticides, but will
occasionally go after persistent weeds with a little non-persistent herbicides. And I use iron phosphate slug bait when they get bad.
>> i think sustainable is creating the necessary organic matter on your one acre plot for your one acre plot ...
>> separate trash cans for vegetable waste
>> trash bag full of coffee grounds.
>> every pound that you take is one less pound that is land filled and completely wasted
Those I agree with 100%.
>> if your buying that compost, then your fueling an industry that most likely isn't recycling nutrients and is actually harming the environment more.
Can you explain more about that? I have two sources of compost: bags of composted steer manure, and bulk compost from biosolids plus sawdust and lumbering waste. I don't really want more swadust in my soil, but at least lumbering is a local induistry in WA. I don't know how far they have to haul steer manure, but the least sustainable thing I know about that is that "red meat" uses more resources than lentils and beans.
Nothing is more sustainable than garbage-to-compost, or sewage-to-compost, or grow-your-own green manure. I wish I had more square feet with sun to grow cover crops, but my little manufactured-home-park lot is pretty small, and the spots with sun are really small.
>> if your buying that compost, then your fueling an industry that most likely isn't recycling nutrients and is actually harming the environment more.
I wrote a paper a few years back on the sustainability of ethanol vs. gasoline. The deeper i researched the more apparent i became that ethanol as a fuel source was actually worse than the gas. The reason for that was not the alcohol it's self which is far cleaner to burn than gas but its production. 95% of all farm land in the us would have to be converted to corn grown solely for ethanol production. That corn would then have to be transported to the production facility using millions of gallons of gas along the way. once at the production facility it is boiled and distilled this process requires an immense amount of heat. heat is derived from burning coal. coal is the most toxic of out fossil fuels it produces more co2 than any other, it produces soot, and radio active particulates. we now have our alcohol. unlike gas alcohol cant be pipped to its location. it absorbs water in the pipelines. so it must once again be shipped using more gas. furthermore the entire fuel infrastructure could have to be changed.
my statement: "if your buying that compost, then your fueling an industry that most likely isn't recycling nutrients and is actually harming the environment more." is based on similar thought processes as my ethanol argument. where did your mulch/compost come from? How far did it travel? is it recycled materials or did the company level a forest to obtain them? ... unless your spending insane amounts for your compost/mulch from a company who built their product around those questions (there are a few), then the answer to those questions is you don't know. If you don't know then there is a high probability that my statement is true. this is because most wood chips used for mulch and compost are by products of the lumber industry. at least we are using those byproducts.
>> By the way, love your posts! Your humor and wit has made me smile several times.
Thanks very much! I try to lean towards the humor and away from being cranky and grumpy.
>> ... pulling up plants, composting them, bringing the compost back to the garden. Sounds like going around the block to get next door, doesn't it.
True. Fortunately, I got over having to make sense or seem rational. If it feels good, I'll do it, until the downside is big enough to change my mind. Right now, turning green stuff under my little raised beds would feel like turning clippings into a 4" pot. "That's just wrong!" Probably not,
My sources of compostable things are so tiny that approximatekly zero effort is involved moving them to the pile, and I love stirring it. As to the effort of moving those few shovelsfull of finshed compost back to a raised bed ... I could save some effort if I skipped the dancing, processional incense and celebratory chanting while I do that, but I'll probably keep doing that, too. ;-)
I think I'm going to stop putting anything hard in the pile, since I'm still digesting some stems over a year later. I may have to screen it to get "the good stuff" out.
The worm population finally reached the point where there's too many of them to give each their own name, but that's a good thing.
Thanks, I see. Biosolids go from Everett (a few miles away from me) to some unknown location where "Cedar Grove" adds sawdust and other wood products. They bag that and sell that, but If I buy it, I plan to get cubic yards from the "dirt yard" accross the street from me.
The only reason I have to think that they might be relatively sustainable is my firm conviction that this company is CHEAP. I doubt they would pay for anything they can get free. They take free or nearly free biosolids (free to them, not to the Town of Everett), add huge amounts of lumbering waste, and then charge $30-35 per cubic yard delivered.
Of course, "cheap" doesn't guarantee "green". As you say, I don't know. But so far all the baristas have siad they dump their grounds into their trash, and all the Starbucks but one have "a service" that takes all their grounds. Someone sugegsted that I call every lawn and tree service for miles aorund, and ask them if they would dump their wastes in my driveway ... and I would do that if I had infinite time, risking weed seeds and herbicides.
Check out the Seed Trading forum, "Free Seeds for New Bees" thread. Robin would love to send you a "Welcome to DG" housewarming present. And if you already have so many seeds that more would break your floor beams, you could send her some, instead!
In Seattle and surrounding neighborhoods, alongside the trash and recycle bins, we have yard waste bins. In addition to regular yard waste, people are supposed to also add food waste and other compostable materials in there as well, unless you are making your own compost. This is picked up twice a month and taken to one of the Cedar Grove sites for large scale composting. They are not leveling forests in order to make their compost.
>> In Seattle and surrounding neighborhoods, alongside the trash and recycle bins, we have yard waste bins.
I'm going to have to find some of those neghborhoods and raid their bins! Or pay Cedar Grove and the "Dirt Yard Guys" for a couple yards of the stuff.
I was turned off by their pamphlet describing how many times they added sawdust and other wood products. First the biosolids plant adds sawdust and does some digesting. Then CG adds more and composts for a while. Then, they add yet MORE wood to the finshed compost "for your convenience".
I'm thinking of colelcting 5 gallon pails, lining my trunk with a tarp, and try sweet-talking the Everett biosolids guy into letting me take home some straight poop-juice. He said it was "Class A, tested for heavy metals and pathogens", and that's good enough for me.
Whoa Corey, Class A wastewater sludge may be tested for the ten heavy metals, 52 priority pollutants (volatile organics) and pathogens, but I would never use this stuff on anything. Cities all across the country are incorporating up to 20 percent or more of this stuff into commercial composts. I have worked in this industry for more than forty years and the one word which I use to support my decision not to use this stuff in the vegetable garden is synergy. We can't test for everything people decide to pour down their drains and even two seemingly harmless substances can combine in a wastewater flow to produce something which may be toxic even to humans, so why take the risk. I am in total agreement with SpaceCase on the use of readily available resources where possible, but that is one product I have no use for.
My understanding is that Class A and even Class B biosolids are sold to farmers grwowing edible crops.
Not to say "that proves it's safe", but maybe my Bok Choy will be no more dangerous than store-bought.
And I'm growing on top of "whatever" the park builders left behind - I've found chunks of concrete under bushes, and these geniuses "drained" the yard with a pipe that runs UPHILL to go over tree roots. And 2-3 nearby busy roads and highways spew commuter VOCs and you-name-it into the air and drizzle. I think I was already living dangerously.
My father was also hedles of adivce, smoking cigars and a pipe, eating fatty food with lots of salt, drinking martinis, and it cut him down at only 94. During one operation after he wa 90, Mom tried to convince the doctor to tell him to change his ways, but I like the way that doctor thought. "It's gotten him this far, so I wouldn't make any sudden changes now."
I agree with you that we are exposed to a WIDE variety of things every day for which we never evolved coping mechanisms. It may be a perverse use of the term "synergy", like a "serendipity" where the discovery is greeted with four-letter words of dismay. But I know what you mean.
I first heard that concept in the context of chemical pollutants that shared or were thoguht to share "estrogen-like" effects. Hit me with 100 pollutants, each diluted to 1/10th their individual toxic levels, and I might have 10 times the total dose needed to suffer the effect, if they share a common pathway internally.
BTW, there is some industry or USDA or FDA threshold for the concentration of aflatoxins in peanuts being sold for human consumption - say 25 nanograms per grams. (This story comes from early 1970's chit-chat at the graduate department of Nutrition and Food Science's picnic.) When a company tested a silo of peanuts at, say, 30 mg/Kg, they mixed that silo with 1-2 clean silos, so that all three would pass inspection at 10-15 mg/Kg.
I have posted this for many folks several times and hope everyone can or would find it useful as well . while i no longer have to buy any of the things to make it ( as i now grow them ) my last batch was last fall and mulled through the winter 33 gallon that is here is the recipe .
It can be stored and simply needs straining before use Remember it is concentrated and needs to be diluted.
The Sarge & Family
BUG B GONE AND CRITTER GITTER FROM YOUR GARDEN SPRAY
THE NATURAL WAY: THE SARGE.
4 Cloves of Garlic
1 Yellow (Hot) Onion
1 Cup of Ground /Crushed Red Pepper
*Grind all ingredients in blender let set.
* Boil 4 Quarts of water to raging boil.
Put Ingredients in one (1) Gallon (Wide Mouth) Jug or Equivalent.
Pour Hot water in on top, **** (Let stand 48 hours) To Ferment. (Very Important)
Strain mix through panty hose.(NOT the Wife’s Good Ones! Ya could get hurt)
Mix will yield one gallon that can be mixed in 2 ½ Gal. sprayer. (Add cool water to fill line)
***Spray New and growing plants. Can be sprayed on any Flowers, Veggies, Trees and Bushes With Or Without Fruit bearing. DO NOT SPRAY IN HEAT OF DAY !
There is not a bug or critter around that will bother you garden.
*** The Bees Do Not Care****
with peppers ,garlic, onions, and cinnamon you hit all but a few critters . the only thing i can't grow is the cinnamon and it is so cheep i can buy it and not be hurt while producing the mix . like I said i made 33 gallon last fall and it has brewed all winter long with little effort other than a bit of mixing to keep things mulling . by smell alone i can tell if the mix needs more of the other .
it is an awesome mix that i have developed and nursed to fit my area and the bugs that make a buffet of my garden . i have yet to find a varmint,critter, animal, or bug that loves it due to the diversity of the Natural mix . ( i might also add it acts like a food source for most plants ... that is to say it feeds the plants and they grow quite well .
any one may also visit "The Front Porch " http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1167060/ (current thread ) located in the Parking Lot forum for further discussion, D-mail me, or find me there for any questions about the Bug Be Gone Spray i will help you all I can .
it has proven time after time against most all bugs and critters ! it is my own mix and something that i have developed so i do not need to spray chemicals or pesticides on my garden .
if I want to eat straight from the garden i can / washing the dirt from the veggies and that is it and i do all the time . i have only notice the good bugs and bees that tend my plants so for me it defiantly works. i don't have any problems with pill bugs or any type as far as that goes.
That sounds like a worthy mix. Is the two day ferment an exact science or does it become more potent if you let it go longer before filtering out the particulates? Also, based on my culinary experience i'm guessing that it becomes more potent with age. Is it best to use it right away or age it?
i make a killer habanero infusion that is the base heat in a lot of my spicy dishes. i heat it to 200 degrees for six hours until there is very little or no moisture left in the peppers and then i seal it and leave it for six months. its 100% flavorful and then 30 seconds later your on fire (the delay is the best part). I imagine your spray is similar.
Also, do you spray it full strength or dilute it? if so what is your ratio?
The pepper spray sarge gave above closely resembles Howard Garrett's pepper spray. As for dilution rates and other additives here is the original taken from his site: http://www.dirtdoctor.com/organic/garden/view_question/id/204/
Garlic Pepper Tea Insect Repellent
In a blender with water, liquefy two bulbs of garlic and two cayenne or habanero peppers. Strain away the solids. Pour the garlic-pepper juice into a one gallon container. Fill the remaining volume with water to make one gallon of concentrate. Shake well before using and add 1/4 cup of the concentrate to each gallon of water in the sprayer. To make garlic tea, simply omit the pepper and add another bulb of garlic. For additional power, add one tablespoon of seaweed and molasses to each gallon. Always use plastic containers with loose fitting lids for storage.
Sarge, unless you add something like kelp or fish emulsion your recipe has no nutrients in it that will benefit the plants. I have no doubt it'll repel lots of bugs though.
First in defense of My version of the Bug-B Gone it was originally posted about 2 years ago in the beginners garden forum well before I become a member of DG . My sign up date for joining DG was May 10 2010 And at that time I had no idea that there was anything of the sorts out there . I created mine out of the need to fight bugs and critters that were eating my garden plants. No I did not patten it or market it in any way other than sharing it with folks on DG and my other sites that I was chatting on .
I don’t know who’s recipe came first mine or the dirt doctor’s as this is the first I have seen his site mentioned. I have studied and used many types of sprays to defend my garden from critters and bugs though . The simple combination that I created was just that my own recipe to suit my needs .
You would be correct on the fermenting process as it does / will become stronger over time . Like I stated I have a 33 gal batch that has weathered over winter and it is Very strong . Just as the small batch it must be diluted just the same I general use 2 cups of the “Sauce” to a 2 ½ gal sprayer , however on batches that have not been aloud to ferment ,mull, or set long enough that mix would not quite be strong enough so 3 cups would be needed .
This year I have added Cinnamon to the batch that was mulling for use this year to combat ants and a few other No See-ums that seem to hate the cinnamon. Again out of need to stop a new bug issue . With lil seedlings in the ground and new plants also it was added to get rid of the ants and lil Gnat like things that had found my new plants to their liking.
You can feel free to make your own from the recipe that I posted it can be cut in half to make a smaller batch . The recipe is for one gal that would make 2 ½ gallon of spray it does keep very well for later use.
As I said I have never seen the Doc Dirt site until today when I opened up this thread . Thank you for sharing at least I can say someone else confirms my thought process and recipe even though it is a bit different. As for the Nutrient value of the spray it would appear that the plants in my garden do thrive on it as well . The why I can not answer, however as you also stated there is another “Juice” that I do add during the year and that is Fish Mill, Fish Oil, ground dried corn / or cracked corn mill this is made out side in a large cast iron Kettle due to the smell of course . The batch is mixed and some water added to bring it to a boil so the two mills can expand and mull with the fish oils . It is let to cool be for I plant or replant any plants as a booster for growth of the plants .
If I have a roll of plants I make a V in the dirt next to the plants and add the slurry then cover it up . If I just want to feed one plant to make it grow much larger it put it toward the outer drip line so the plants roots will “Hunt” for the mix . Last year I singled out 3 mater plants to test it on they grew 8 foot and the base or trunk of the mater plants were like small trees at 2 ½ inches round , I might also note they produced some very large maters late in to November until the first snow wiped them out .
I do not use any type of seven dust or store bought chemicals on my garden to expensive and I don’t like them last year when folks were having issues with the stink bugs and the new lil one that showed up ( red and black with an unusual markings ) I sprayed as usual with my spray and did not have any issues . Even the hook worms green caterpillars did not enjoy munching on my garden or mater plants.
Sarge, no need to feel defensive. Pepper sprays and the like have been around for decades, much longer than H. Garrett I'd say. Peppers were even experimented with by the military long ago (possibly the 40's?) for potential chem warfare ingredients; I can only imagine when when they discovered their chemical ammo was also great as a fertilizer they found out pepper worked great in the gardens/farms, too, eh?
There is no doubt in my mind pepper solutions work. There are even commercial products now with that as the main ingredient. Personally, I'm with you, why buy it when you can easily make it?
Cough, gag...I can just smell your fish "mill" (fish meal?) you're cooking up! I am a religious user of fish emulsion and find it to be of great benefit. I can't imagine having a garden w/out it. However, it is so inexpensive I think I'll leave the boiling pot recipe to you and stick with buying the ready-to-use stuff. *grin (And yes, I have no doubt that is what is feeding your plants, not the peppers/onions.)
Shoe---off to spray fish emulsion and Epsom Salts on some plants. Happy Gardening.
Sarge - they like the seeds from Maple trees for some reason! My daughter has two maple trees in her front yard, and box elder bugs almost cover the front of her house when the seeds start winging their way to the ground!
they tried to attack my maters poking holes in them . GRRR i sprayed them with my juice and did a little recovery of the damage and the maters recovered well . this year i am ready for them with a larger batch of my bug-b-gone no waiting this time as i will be spraying and watching closely.
Thnaks for lerttin g me know about Scotts "topsoil". I never would have looked at it, since even "potting soil" I've tried has been heavy, heavy "dirt" soil. Those ingredients look like a light soiless mix!
>> p.s. When I worked in a nursery that raised wetland plants, we made our own mix and it was 2:1 PBF to sand.
How coarse was the sand? I'm guessing very coarse, more like grit, grains bigger than 1 mm or bigger than 1/16", maybe 1/8"?
Also, how fine were the bark fines? Powdery-fibrous, or chips and chunks?
I've started working with PBF, screening my own from $8 / 2 cubic foot "beauty bark", and found that many bags have a lot of powdery fine stuff that partly defeats the purpose of "very fast draining".
But Home Depot "fine bark mulch" was chunky, dirty, woody and wet.
Hi - love the Scott's product. Couldn't believe it when I opened that first bag.
I have been reading the posts regarding eBuckets and raised beds trying to decide how best to proceed. I am going to use the concrete driveway as my growing pad. I'm thinking when I move (we are renting) it will be easier to remove buckets than it will be to move raised beds. :/
About the nursery - I had no particular soil skills then. Still learning. I know not to mix sand in clay here in NC! I couldn't say the size of the sand grains, but it wasn't like the powdery sugary sand on Topsail or Tigertail beach. :D
About the pbf - it was very coarse. We would remove chunks of wood by hand - often they were sticking straight up out of our containers when we were sowing or transplanting. We had a bin with a mixing thingee that brought the soil up and into the potting shed on a conveyor belt overhead. We also mixed in Osmocote, though I don't remember proportions.
The trays were placed in raised beds lined with black plastic and filled with water. Some more delicate seeds were placed in raised beds inside the glass greenhouses. Most others placed in long hoop houses/cold frames.
Anywho. Thanks for all the information. I am not growing much, but I have to start somewhere. I am thinking of using eBuckets and then placing a bamboo teepee over each one to keep everything vertical. I garden mostly for wildlife, and they repaid me by eating my sugar baby watermelons before they even ripened on the ground. Figure if I go vertical that might be less prone to happen. Working with jelly bean hybrid tomatoes, large cherry peppers, bush green beans from seed right now. I have zuchinni, long neck squash, and cucumber plants.
I am going to start my Waltham butternut squash asap too. Injured my right hand (dominant) at work, and now I am pathetically incapacitated. So much so that I am wearing a brace on my GOOD hand too to keep me from screwing that one up too by overdoing everything wiht one hand.
>> I'm thinking when I move (we are renting) it will be easier to remove buckets than it will be to move raised beds. :/
I understand! No such thing as light-weight concrete. Too bad you won't be able to move your soil with you ... hmmm, e-buckets are buckets, buckets hold soil ... maybe just let it get good and dry, and move it in the buckets ... you'll have instant soil: just add water.
>> About the pbf - it was very coarse.
Cool! I finally bought a cubic yard, and some was too fine and some was too coarse ... but I use it all.
>> I couldn't say the size of the sand grains, but it wasn't like the powdery sugary sand
I came to the same conclusion: the coarser the better. And "crushed rock" or coarse chicken grit is better than sand: more irregular shapes. But even medium sand (maybe 1/2 mm?) seemed to help my particular clay-plus-not-enough-compost to be more friable: fall into clumps when raked or forked, rather than stick and ooze.
>> We had a bin with a mixing thingee that brought the soil up and into the potting shed on a conveyor belt overhead.
I want one! I want one! I've thought about renting a concrete mixer, but the effort is more in moving things around than mixing them.
I knew someone who had huge amounts of soil delivered. I forget his name for the delivery system: something like a "flinger". He said it was more like a rotary impeller than a catapult, but it THREW soil at high speed, for long distances. Of course, it crushed everything in its tragectory, and embedded soil in every crevice so they needed to be power-washed.
But a conveyor belt: that's what I'm TALKIN' about!!
forgot to mention that I learned to drive the giant New Holland tractor with the scoop and the mix was 2 scoops of pbf and one scoop of sand dumped into the mixing bin. LOL.
The conveyor belt was cool, except the soil poured out overhead from chutes on the sides of the belt onto this giant table. You could set the speed, but it always came raining down fast. 6 or 8 people had to stand there and rake soil around the table to keep it from piling up too high in one place and/or falling onto the floor.
Quite a workout! I don't recommend that you try this at home. :D
I've been trying to find an app for gardening the square foot method for a while now and I think I might have found something pretty useful. Smartgardener.com just came out with a new "add on" to its online application that lets you map out your garden with suggested square foot spacings and even has cool little structures for trellises, cages and other types of support.
It's also a plus that the website generates personalized reminders of my garden tasks and has a huge database of all the growing info I would ever want about the plants I'm growing right down to the variety level. I'm going to give this a try this summer and then reply back with my experience with it and I'd like to hear some feedback from others about this app and other apps that are useful for growing a lot of food quickly in small spaces.
Can't wait to trellis my Pumpkins and Melons and hang them in their slings!
I'm not doing the standard SF mix because Peat has to be mined from Wetlands that are the most crucial ecosystems on the planet - they are the kidneys of the earth - specifically peatlands and peat bogs are huge carbon sinks and also provide critical habitat since they are the median between terrestrial and aquatic life. Some gardeners use cocofiber as a substitute but I find that this mix gets too compact, so i just used standard potting mix and amended with good ol' garden compost and I've had amazing results.
>> i just used standard potting mix and amended with good ol' garden compost and I've had amazing results.
If you find that that mashes down or becomes too water-retaining over several years, consider adding sc reened pine bark from medium or colarse mulch. If it passes through 1/2" mesh, it is plentyh fine. You might even want some bigger bark chunks, to add "loft" that won't break down and become compact after 1-2 years.
I'm sure the compost helps maintain your structure and tilth, but the potting mix components are probably breaking down a little each year.
And pimne bark mulch is cheap: for adding to raised beds, you coluld use generic Home Depot qualio9ty around $3.50 per 2 cubic feet.