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Vegetable Garden Soil - Tips?

Old 03-09-2009, 07:54 AM
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Default Vegetable Garden Soil - Tips?

I purchaced a new tiller off Craigslist last week and commenced tilling up a 35' x 50' section of my back yard yesterday. The area was lawn grass sod with some crabgrass roots running pretty deep. Soil is a little sandy/granular with good drainage and a light brown color. A combo of 3 to 4 in. of top soil with backfill from the basement dugout underneath...Any tips for ammending the soil for a veggie garden? Plan to raise tomatoes, bell peps, cukes, squash, zukes, jalapenos, habaneros maybe string beans, couple melons if space allows.
Any tips for ammending the soil? I was thinking @ 8 or 10 bales of peet moss to add some humus and keep the soil light. We have a chicken farm nearby. Is chicken waste too rich for gardening? We also have a cow farm nearby but I hear cow manure causes weeds. Anything else we can add to ammend the soil? Fertilizer? Maybe a 10-10-10 combo fertilizer tilled in?
Old 03-09-2009, 08:14 AM
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I would buy one of those cheap soil analist kits this will tell you what to add with out guiessing
Old 03-09-2009, 08:55 AM
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The chicken compost would work very well.
Old 03-09-2009, 09:09 AM
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go easy on the chicken manure...it's very high in nitrogen. don't use it at all unless it has been composted. any composted manure will work

depending on your soils analysis, you may need other minerals, but generally speaking any organic amendment (humus, loam, peat, compost, leaf mold, etc...) can only help
Old 03-09-2009, 09:30 AM
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Ditto what has already been said; composted organic/vegetable matter, the more the merrier, work it into the existing soil as deep as you can. Formula: 1/3 existing soil, 1/3 composted organic stuff, 1/3 wood shaving/sawdust. If your tiller goes 6-in deep, put down 2-inched of composted organic stuff + 2-in of wood shavings or dead leaves on top of that, or just 4-in of comp organic stuff, and have at it. Till one direction (up/down)m then the other (left/right). Won't need any manure/fertilizers. If you do decide to use chicken or cow manure, it must be composted/cooked before using.
Old 03-09-2009, 09:51 AM
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We are using only (raised bed) growing beds now. The 4 'x 10 ' by 6 inch bed is perfect. We will never till again. Get all the chicken stuff you can and compost it with whatever other organic material you can. fill your beds with it and Grow grow grow... Intensive farming like this produces 10 times the produce that a till system can. I am a believer. If you want I can send some pics. Laird
Old 03-09-2009, 09:55 AM
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Fresh chicken manure will burn your plant roots; get all you can and let it rot. Chicken manure is about the best manure you can get. Does your town compost leaves and let you take back the mulch? If so till it in about 30% of your tillable soil.
Old 03-09-2009, 10:01 AM
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don't waste money guessing, get your soil analysis, you can get a kit at your local extension office, or numerous other vendors (john deere landscapes comes to mind).
Old 03-09-2009, 11:51 AM
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Great advice all, thanks. Keep it coming - I went to the nursery a bit ago and picked up a few diy soil analysis kits that test for pH, nitrogen, phosphorous and potash. Hopefully the test will produce decent results. Love all the ideas for compost but i am a day late and dollar short as I do not keep a compost pile up until now. I will going forward 4 sure. Composting is a bit of an art form no? Do you all go by taste? Ha!
So - ONeill, your saying raised beds full of a mix of soil and compost will produce a summer full of produce? Are there some tricks to timing the maturity of the plants? What's the deal?
Old 03-09-2009, 11:54 AM
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If you plant squash, don't plant too many plants. We plant 2-3 plants and those things produce so much that we can't hardly use all of it.
Old 03-09-2009, 12:25 PM
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Your biggest problem this year is going to be grass growing back. I sprayed all the grass and then let it die and then tilled it over. Two weeks later grass started popping up again so I sprayed it again and then tilled it after the grass died again. I did this three times and still had grass popping up all summer. My point is you might want to get ideas on how to stop the grass from coming back. Also if you use grass killer read the directions about growing a garden and how long you need to wait after spraying.
Old 03-09-2009, 01:01 PM
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RoundUp, follow the directions. Ironically, RoundUp does not work as well if you over do it. Follow the directions. It breaks down in the soil, no problem using it to clear land before planting vegetables.

Raised beds are easier to manage, easier to keep pests out of, easier to keep weeds out of. A 4-ft wide bed allows you to reach in 2-ft from either side.

The worlds best tomato cages: 5-ft wide with 6-in-squares concrete reinforcing wire, used in driveways. Buy it at Home Depot, anywhere. Cut it in 10-ft length, wrap around and tie the ends together -- makes a 3-ft cage with 6-in holes you can reach into. Let the tomatoes go wild inside the cage. Anything that creeps out of the cage, just push back in. In 10-yrs you will still be using the same cages, rusty, but fully functional.

You can grow squash/melons vertically. Easier to harvest, too. For heavier melons, slide on old nylon stocking over the fruit to support it while it grows. Lettuce can also be grown in a vertical rack, like strawberries, to save ground space.

Composting: it's all about heat. Cooking the material breaks it down and kills the seeds. Fastest way to compost: get yourself a CLEAN recycled 55-gal steel drum ($20-$25) with bung nuts, not the kind where the whole top comes off. It's not rocket science, cut an access hole in the side, use hinges and latch to close it. Drill vent holes all over. Paint flat black, load up with veggies and let it cook in the sun. Roll it every day to keep mixed, diff side up every day.



Here's a pic of someone doing it with a plastic drum. Forget it, you want HEAT -- use a metal drum, paint it flat black.
The pic gives you the idea of what you want to end up with.


Last edited by Eyeball; 03-09-2009 at 01:10 PM.
Old 03-09-2009, 02:07 PM
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Starmonk, no tricks. Plant successive crops based on maturity and keep track of what you plant in each bed. Google crop rotation and you will get all the info you need. We do beds in series of 4 just to make rotation easy. The nice thing about raised beds is that they get better each year. Good luck. Laird
Old 03-09-2009, 02:47 PM
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Starmonk,

Your garden plot is .04 of an acre. Don't know where you're located but I'm guessing you're going to need about 1 ton of dolomitic limestone per acre. That's 80 lbs on your little plot. Till it in along with your fertilizer.

If you go with a 10-10-10 you'll need somewhere between 800 lb/Acre to 1,000 lb per acre of that formula. That comes out to 32 to 40 lbs per your garden size. Till it in as well. You can side dress your rows later with calcium nitrate. I'd avoid the manure or chicken litter unless you're prepared for the onslaught of weeds that will follow (unless its composted).

Roundup's a good idea but it will take at least a week to work. Sounds like you're already into it.

Let me know when my 'maters are ready

Hal
yep, I'm an aggie

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Old 03-10-2009, 08:01 AM
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Let me know when my 'maters are ready

I'tl be 3rd week of May! HaHa...

Thanks for the excellent advice all.

Eyeball - saw one of those at the nursery for $200...You should start a biz.

Hblac - thanks for the chem application calc's. Is there something online that shows the application rates? I am DE where there is still a little open space left but going fast....

Fishingfun - I think you are dead on about the grass. I probably did it backwards but i tilled it up already and did not hit it with Round-up first. I got a little too geeked with the new tiller and the 80* weather this past weekend not to fire the power hoe up.
Right now I just want to get the soil preparred and enriched. Probably put the first plants in 1st or second week of April.
Old 03-12-2009, 02:10 PM
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Hal is right on the money..............where did you learn that stuff?
Old 03-12-2009, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by starmonk View Post
Let me know when my 'maters are ready

I'tl be 3rd week of May! HaHa...

Thanks for the excellent advice all.

Eyeball - saw one of those at the nursery for $200...You should start a biz.

Hblac - thanks for the chem application calc's. Is there something online that shows the application rates? I am DE where there is still a little open space left but going fast....

Fishingfun - I think you are dead on about the grass. I probably did it backwards but i tilled it up already and did not hit it with Round-up first. I got a little too geeked with the new tiller and the 80* weather this past weekend not to fire the power hoe up.
Right now I just want to get the soil preparred and enriched. Probably put the first plants in 1st or second week of April.
How do you think I learned about killing the grass real good before starting to till. It actual works best if you start toward the end of the prior summer before the grass goes dormaint. You will have some grass issue but after this year you should be good and grass does not hurt that much.
Old 03-13-2009, 05:16 AM
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I don't know what kind of soil that was you had from your basement, but if it is anything like the dirt I dug out of my last home's basement, that soil is as dead as dead gets! My soil was so dead that not a single weed grew in it for 3 1/2 yrs when I put it outside at the end of my property. I fertilized that soil a number of times with good stuff along with pounds of grass seed and nothing grew. I ended up top dressing the soil with compost. Compost was the only thing that brought it back to life.

After the fact and after much research what I found out was the soil was lacking base mineral elements. Apparently base mineral elements are essential for all plant life, without those elements Nothing will grow in it. Leaves, dried grass, compost all supply base mineral elements. I know up here one should Never use Oak leaves in their soil, it is toxic. Your area might have other plant leaves that should not be used to enrich soils, ask your local garden centers. Given what I now know I would not have used that soil from your basement. But since you have I would work that soil in REALLY well disbursing it Extremely well into the other soil. I’d be raking up as much leaves as I could from last fall to be adding to your garden plot as well. I’d even go to a forest to get the leaves if I couldn’t get enough from around home.....plus I'd still add compost.

Oh, your soil testing kit you bought, it does not test for base elements. Co-op, ArgoMart or any other farm supply retailer should be able to refer you to who properly test soils. Maybe Hal could refer you to who to contact in the States?

Lime (dolomitic limestone). I know up here in these parts farmers figure on a 1 ½ tons per acre as a general rule of thumb, but then again a farmer is doing crop rotation which would deplete the soil. So maybe a ton per acre would be fine, but it is said that in Most cases you can not put to much lime on a plot of land. Again I’m referring to up in these parts, I know coniferous trees add acid to soils and therefore more lime would be needed to balance out a soil. Maybe in your area other trees contribute heavily in unbalancing a soil?

Just a little heads up on spreading that lime, you can pretty much figure on spreading it by hand regardless of the volume you spread out (80 - 120 lbs.). A regular fertilizer spreader will not spread lime out, it acts more like a solid mass than granular. One almost needs some sort of chain driven spreader to deal with it’s weight and solid mass characteristics.
Old 03-13-2009, 06:37 AM
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Thx, Garett. The basement soil has been sitting below the top soil for 12 years since we built the house so I think it has had a chance to neutralize with the top soil to some extent. It maybe constituted 1 - 2 " of what I tilled up. Overall the soil has a decent brown color and sustains a good population of earthworms which I think is a good sign.
The local nursery is having a bunch of U of D students do soil testing this weekend so i will take a sample in for a full analysis.

On an interesting note, I have 3rd grade twins who got little potted cabbage plants from school. The one who grows the biggest cabbage gets a $1000 scholarship. So this is all going to be a fun learning experience for all of us.

Thanks for the replies all! What are y'all planting this spring? Can't wait to taste some of those red beauties sliced along side with a couple scrambled with peppers and onions. Yum! Have you all tried the heirlooms in your gardens? They are so sweet and hearty...
Old 03-13-2009, 07:46 AM
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Be careful with cow manure. The cows eat grass that has seeds. The seeds will pass undigested through their system and grow quite well in your garden. I figured this out last year after a non-native grass started growing prolifically in my little 20x30 garden. If this is your first venture you will be amazed at how much you can grow in a garden like that. When everything starts producing you will be able to feed your neighbors and co workers. I plant things I don't even eat just to get the satisfaction of giving it to those who enjoy it.

Funny story. I had brought some cucumbers in to work one day. One of the "green" type colleagues comes in and a gets a cucumber. He rinsed it in the sink and started eating it. He asked me if the produce was purely organic or if it had been grown using chemicals. I said "completely organic, I grew it in my own schidt." The place erupted with laughter.


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