I'm taking out parts of my summer garden now. Yesterday I took out the bush bean plants, fertilized and tilled that area, and planted beets. I have another section with old melon vines to take out, and will soon harvest fall corn and take those cornstalks out too.
As those areas become open, I'd like to till, fertilize, and plant a nitrogen-fixing cover crop. We've got 5 or 6 weeks before hard frost, and that should be enough time to get something up. I'd let it stand all fall and winter, till it under about March, and plant veggies there again in May.
I did this with winter rye one time, but I don't think that accomplished much except putting organic material in the soil. What could I plant now that would do better, and would maybe add some nitrogen when I plow it under?
I've got a good farm supply store nearby and could probably get most any kind of seed. I'm looking for suggestions. Thanks.
Down here they use rape seed. I think you can also use fava beans.
I think you can also use clover, but there are specialized types.
Your local seed source should know, especially if you have a farmer's coop. Otherwise, check with your state extension office.
Previous owners added a deck with swimming pool to the property I now own. The potter's clay that they dug out was dumped right where I want my flower garden! How inconsiderate!!!
Please tell me what to add to heavy clay to make it something in which plants will thrive.
esgroonly: some people recommend adding gypsum to clay to improve the soil structure. I think the best thing to do is to build raised lasagna beds. The more humus you add, the better your soil will be.
For larger areas you can cover crop with buckwheat. Buckwheat has hollow straws so it takes air into the soil. But any cover crop will add humus and that's what you want to improve clay soil. Ask your local extension agent about good winter crops for your area.
I picked up 2.4 lbs. of buckwheat seed yesterday. What a deal - it only cost $1.47.
Buckwheat's not what you'd think of as wheat at all. The seeds are black and triangular, they kinda look like little Brazil nuts. Pictures of the buckwheat plant show that it's more like clover - with a spreading habit, broad leaves, and blooms. I'm going to try it and see what happens.
Hi from the Pacific Northwest.
I have used buckwheat with excellent results, and another that was great for my clay is Crimson Clover. We don't normally get extreme winter temps, so it does overwinter, albeit, looking a bit haggardly by February. It is very easy to till under & for the stray seedlings that come up later, easy to pull.
Favas work well, but for earlier plantings. Vetch made nice soil, but ditto to Gloria's comment.
As an aside - are you all ready for winter? We had such a cool/wet summer that many of us are in radical denial here...Hope it's not a repeat of Winter 2006.
We are so hung up on "global warming" that we forget it is also extreme winters. I understand there have been frost warnings already in Michigan. Here, it was mid-September before it was fit to be outside because of the heat. I don't think its going to make for a mild winter. We are finally getting some rain because of the tropical storms in the gulf.
Here, we're in the zone between real cold winters and warmer temps. That's bad in a way, because we get ice storms. That happens when the clouds up above are warmer and raining, and the rain falls into sub-freezing temps at ground level.
Last year an ice storm here broke so many trees down that some people were without power for weeks. I don't like cold winters, but I think up north where it's really cold they don't get so much of that.
I don't think that it is a non renewlable resourse. Apparent;y it is regenerating faster in the wilds of Canada than we are using it. I think that the arguments start with the disruption of the native purity and such like issues
Again, my peat came from a local Indiana bog with little transportation.
GM - how was it to work with? I had heard about using coir, but since peat moss is "known" to most people, the stores don't stock it.
I'm sure it's available at one of the specialty nursuries. Will check out.
I find coir easier to work with than peat moss. We buy the large size dried blocks from stores that carry hydroponic supplies (yes, your friend and neighbors *will* wonder what you intend to grow when you inquire about hydroponic supplies! LOL!).
The dried coir bricks expand A LOT! So break up the bigger blocks or be sure to put them into a really large container when you rehydrate them.
I think I'm going to like buckwheat as a green manure crop.
In my garden, I've taken out everything but the tomatoes and peppers around the outside fence. I planted a couple of rows of beets, but I've tilled and fertilized the rest of the garden and planted buckwheat.
The buckwheat came up four days after planting. It's a big plant with a big seed, and it's growing fast. In spite of the name, it's not a grass like wheat. It looks more like clover.
The blue pellets between the buckwheat seedlings are a slow-release fertilizer I scattered, it's pretty weak stuff.
Gloria - "have bees" as in keeping them or as visitors?
I don't keep any, but they seem to love my property. We are very concerned about the diminishing Honeybee population. I was getting worried last Spring - the numbers were way down. But about the beginning of July they were all over the place. The Varoa mite & CCD have taken their toll.
If buckwheat is as useful as I think it is, it's got me thinking about another project.
We live on a six-acre place. About half of it is woods and the rest is "pasture", though I don't have any animals on it. It's just grass I mow 4 or 5 times a season with a tractor and brushhog.
About half an acre of that is "bottomland" at the bottom of our hill. It's a natural drainage with black clay silt instead of the poor red rocky stuff on the hillside. The grass always grows a lot higher in that area.
I'm thinking about poisoning out the fescue and Johnson grass down there, plowing it under, then planting buckwheat. I'd keep turning the buckwheat under and maybe build some good soil in time. Also a friend already keeps beehives on our place, so maybe we'd get more good honey.
Yeah, I know, Johnson grass is tough to get rid of. With my tractor and turning plow, though, I ought to be able to keep ahead of it. The idea is to plant buckwheat for the bees and also make a new patch for melons, which now take up so much room in my vegetable garden.
katye: they keep bees and grow buckwheat because the bees love it when it blooms. I think most people try to turn under the buckwheat before it blooms if they are just growing it for soil improvement purposes.
Ozark: I wonder if you couldn't just cut that johnson and fescue grass and plant buckwheat on top of it, using the buckwheat to crowd out the other grasses?
"Ozark: I wonder if you couldn't just cut that johnson and fescue grass and plant buckwheat on top of it, using the buckwheat to crowd out the other grasses?"
I doubt it. Fescue grass puts a toxin in the soil that keeps other plants from growing. Fescue has to be dead before that toxin starts to diminish.
Johnson grass spreads with side roots in the soil as big around as a pencil. It comes back over and over again after spraying it with herbicide, and I doubt there's anything that can crowd it out.
Ozark, my extension officer said to keep cutting the Johnson grass as low as you can - if it gets no leaves, it produces no energy to keep the *&*@#$^ root alive, and that's the best way of killing it that she knew of.
I planted buckwheat on the first corn growing space in my garden about 6 weeks ago. It is in bloom now and I will have my fellow mow it today and leave it in place to decompose over winter. I have used buckwheat whenever I had space for it for many years. i used to till it in but now I don't till the soil very much, just dig my trench or whatever to plant seeds in the spring . That way I don't kill the very helpful worms, or dig out a toad. that method has worked pretty well for me now for several years. the rest of the corn bed has had the shreds from my own shredder spread about 2 " deep on the area. There is still some corn stalks standing with good ears. As soon as they are harvested the stalks will be cut down to ground level. My fellow takes the stalks home to feed his horses. Then the area will have more shreds spread over.
The fellow who works for me drives 15 miles from their place to here and has worked for me when he has the time and I have the money for about 20 years now. With my angina problem, I would have to give up even more of my garden if I didn't have him to help. Pulling big weeds and carrying anything heavier than 10 lb. is my greatest problem now. You can borrow him but might be a bit of a drive from his place to yours.
My biggest problem is keeping my labels in place. Charles is not real careful no matter how often I remind him to find the label before he pulls or cut something down. After all these years he pretty much knows the weed from the good plants.
That buckwheat is great as a green manure crop - I'm impressed.
Here's my vegetable garden only 3 weeks after planting buckwheat. The buckwheat has buds and it's about to bloom already. We have at least another week of non-freezing weather in our forecast, so maybe it'll bloom before the big chill.
Question - should I till it in this fall after it freezes, or should I let it stand dead all winter and till it under in the spring? Are there any advantages or disadvantages to doing it either way? Thanks.
Ozark - I usually till mine in, and then get another sprouting of seeds; you know - the lazy ones that didn't bother the first time around!
But we don't freeze here, so I don't know what the outcome would be for your zone.
To prepare for fall, would you remove pole beans, or turn them under?
Remove them, for sure.
Many things we grow carry fungus diseases over in the soil from season to season, and beans are among the worst about that. I not only remove the plants, but I make sure I pull the roots up and remove as much plant debris as possible. Bean plants don't go in the compost pile, either - they go in the burn pile. Same thing for cucumbers, melons, anything in the squash family, and tomatoes.
I till other plants under, the ones which (as far as I know) don't carry disease. Those include corn stalks and debris, anything in the cabbage family, okra, beet tops, etc. - most anything that's not a bean, a squash, or a tomato is OK to plow under.
I agree that organic matter, compost, and cover crops are great for improving clay. It really needs lots of organic matter, humus, call it what you will.
I believe that it also benefits from adding some long-lasting coarse stuff, to provide mechanical "structure" while the clay is mellowing enough to form clods and clumps and maintain open air spaces and good drainage pores.
Someone mentioned Turface, but isn't that expensive?
I really like shredded or chipped pine bark. Mulch can be cheap, but you might want to screen out the very biggest pieces and chip them down to 1/8 - 1/2" for maximum drainage benefit. It lasts much longer than peat, and is coarser than peat or coir - all good things. I think that all sizes of bark help some, especially long fibers, chips & shreds.
Bark "powder" mixes intimately with the clay and encourages some penetration of air into small clods, while larger bark pieces prop things up so that air and water have a chance to perk between clods (unless the clay is still so plastic and goopy that it just squeezes into all the gaps).
You really do need "enough" OM for soil to work at all, but while that's marginal, I think that grit & bark help, too.
I also like very very coarse crushed rock or grit, like 2-3 mm or 1/8th inch. Sand is "rounder" than crushed rock so it doesn't help open up soil structure as much as crushed rock..
Many will say that adding coarse stuff doesn't help unless you can add ENOUGH of it that the gooey clay can't just ooze into all the gaps. They are probably right. You might need up to 40% coarse stuff to get much drainage benefit from that ALONE.
But it seems to me that AS you are improvng the OM content of the clay with cover crops and compost, say for the first 2-3 years, ALSO adding as much coarse structure as you can afford does help SOME with improving drainage and aeration.
I've had clay with insufficient OM revert to soupy pudding the second year (some of the compost was digested, and there just was never enough in the first place). Bark and grit kept it usable so I could grow in it while continuing to add OM.
Does anyone know about pH requirements for buckwheat? My backyard seems to be a sandy which I believe is just ground up rock. It's about 6" deep and then there is a layer of red clay. I had the sandy stuff soil tested by the state ag school people (sampled about 10 or 12 places) and it range from pH of 4.2 to 4.6 - pretty acid. They told me how many tons (or some big measure) of dolomite to add to the soil per acre to get to neutral pH or grow fescue - I forget. I don't think I can spread that much lime. with my lawn spreader.
I think the buckwheat would really improve the "sandy soil". It's all sloping so it tends to either run off or drain over the red clay bottom.
Help! I planted buckwheat as a cover crop this Summer and then went back to school in addition to working full time, so left everything in the garden to go to seed, Will all that buckwheat seed sprout again next year if left to fall to the earth or should I try to collect some of it to dry inside?
mauryhillfarm - I've always tilled my buckwheat under while it's in bloom to prevent it forming seeds. I'm sure you'll be seeing a bunch of buckwheat come up in the spring, now that it's gone to seed. That shouldn't be a problem - just let the buckwheat seedlings sprout then till them under before planting your garden.
So far as saving buckwheat seeds, I wouldn't bother. $3.85 worth of seeds from the farm supply is enough to sow my whole 35' x 50' garden.
We planted field peas and green beans in our garden to harvest and also to plow under as a cover crop. I have read the message here which says you should remove all the beans lest they harbor disease. Another message says to plow them under. What do you all recommnd and why?
Kitazawa Seeds has #103 "Minowase Summer Cross Hybrid", distinct from their #091 "Mino Early". They say each veriety would form roots 10-16" long.
I'm assuming that the problem is that even the soil I have improved the most is still heavier than what most people think of as "heavy clay soil". But several people suggested Daikon raidishes for "busting" or "drilling" "heavy clay".
And yet, Bok Choy, some other brassicas, and flowers have grown in it - very vigorously, last year and fairly vigorously this year. Snow Peas grew very vigorously in it this year, after they got past the very slow, cold spring.
From the tall stalks and profuse flowers, I thought they were doing wonderfully, until I pulled a few.
Maybe "profuse flowers and seeds but no roots" are radish's version of "bolting", but I never heard of radishes bolting. Do they need heat to be happy? My summers are cool, especially this last summer!
I might have guessed that the roots were drowning, and yet the "skinny tail" went down quite deep and the soil was fairly loose (by my yard's standards).
Also, these were planted within 8" of the 16" tall wall of a raised bed - loosely fitting concrete pavers stood on end, so both drainage and aeration were assured.
Maybe Dailkon needed lots more compost, and this bed hasn't had much compost added in a year.
I might have thought that skimpy roots meant OVER-fertilization, where the plant didn't NEED any more roots to get mineral nutrients ... but this bed has had even less fertilizer added than it has compost, like 1 light sprinkle in early spring. .
BTW - my Bok Choy in this bed was much less vigorous this year than last year, and bolted MUCH sooner than last year, until I started one batch of Bok Choy in mid-summer. Too cold?
It could be the timing for a good root cover/manure crop. I planted at the end of August and some more in early September. These will not go to seed here at that time of year, but will winter kill. If yours went to seed, they were planted too early in the season for maximum root development.
Mine were raphanus sativus var. niger from Fedco Seed and were called forage radishes [daikon].