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  1. #1
    Gold Member RedDirt's Avatar
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    Default New garden - When to add amendments

    I am starting a new garden plot on previously uncultivated conifer forest ground. Our dirt is red clay with 6-12 inches of natural forest topsoil. Wife jokes if you add one cup of our red dirt to a yard of compost and come back in a weed you'll have...red dirt .

    I'd like to till and add amendments now to get a head start for next spring planting. The small 30' x 60' plot is for household vegetables. I will be adding one to two yards of each of aged oak sawdust (stump grind residue), pine planer shavings (3-8 yrs old), power line clearing chippings (2yrs old, mostly conifer), 50/50 compost/topsoil from the nursery and aged steer manure. Goal is to add some humus to the soil.

    Tillage equipment is single bottom plow, single disc and lightweight framed fence-wire harrow.

    My question is: During the preparation process when do I add the amendments and at what stage do I leave the ground to over-winter? We get a few inches of snow a few times a year.

    My intuition says: plow, add amendments, harrow to spread and mix amendments then disc lightly (one or two passes) and leave that way until spring.

    I know the conifer amendments will take a lot of nitrogen to break down so in the spring I'll soil test and add more manure as needed.

    Does the tractor sequence seem right to you knowledgeable gardeners? And is the overall plan good or should I just wait until spring to add amendments?

    If good, should I cover the plot this winter with 4-6 inches of this fall's oak leaves?

    Thanks for any input.

    Ray

  2. #2
    New Member wupham's Avatar
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    Default Re: New garden - When to add amendments

    RedDirt,

    Your plan to add the amendments now is fine. I would also add some of your manure to give the microorganisms that break down the sawdust and shavings some nitrogen. I'm assuming that it isn't completely broken down. If it is, then forget the manure until spring.

    I would also add the leaves. However, you will want to remove them in the spring to allow the soil to warm up before planting.

    Ward
    Kubota BX24, Landpride Box Blade, King Kutter Landscape Rake

  3. #3
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    Default Re: New garden - When to add amendments


  4. #4
    Super Member bp fick's Avatar
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    Default Re: New garden - When to add amendments

    Don't wish to sound overly "all expert", kind of thing, but I have been truck farming, now its called gardening, for all of my 57 years.

    Fall is the BEST time to do all things. I have been very buy this past month doing just what you're doing. I have plowed up an 1/2 acre area which will be next year's expansion. NOW is the time to plow, allowing the sod to rot down. It has been amazing how much rotting has occurred since I plowed on Labor Day and again this past week. This was, as yours is, virgin soil. Work it, work it, work it. I use a middle buster and disk. Now, I am at the stage where I am furrowing, that is building up long, straight furrows. Being up north here, I want the high furrows, rather than everything flat, because this will allow for quicker warming in spring, much like raised bed gardeners do.

    Now is the time for lime applications to help with the acidity of conifer soils. Again, my soil is ancient pine and oak ground, so it is plenty acid. It takes a month for it to work, so if you wait until late spring, it wouldn't have time to work and your germination rate will be whacked out.

    Manure would be fantastic, but I would almost wait until spring to spread it. I would get it now and make a pile. I would want it HOT, and try to kill the seeds that are in it. Keep it in a pile and add your own grass for green and leaves for brown, and keep it hot. Manure tends to import a ton of grasses and such. But you must have compost as that soil will likely be quite weak without it. Manure is worth the hassle. Pig or chicken would be superior and contains fewer seeds. Spread you aged compost in spring and rework your patch.

    Wow, I have babbled on, but I love this stuff, and I know you will too!!
    BP


    "Some chickens, some gardens and a Kubota."

  5. #5
    Super Member bp fick's Avatar
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    Default Re: New garden - When to add amendments

    Oak

    It is my understanding that the Mennonite farmers, NEVER till in oak leaves, and they pretty much wrote the book on soil improvement. Oak sawdust and oak leaves are very acidic. The would drive your ph ever more to that end. If you choose to compost oak, you will increase the need for lime even more.

    Maple leaves, which, sadly, I do not have, are far superior for garden compost making.

    I wouldn''t say don't use them, I am not personally going to do so, but if you do, buy more lime.
    BP


    "Some chickens, some gardens and a Kubota."

  6. #6
    Member Eaglebait Ranch's Avatar
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    Default Re: New garden - When to add amendments

    We use llama poop. It is very high in nitrogen and can go straight into the garden. So, if you find anyone with llamas, you might ask if you can take the poop. Llamas poop in piles, so it is really easy to 1) find it and 2) collect it.
    Chuck
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  7. #7
    Super Member bp fick's Avatar
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    Default Re: New garden - When to add amendments

    Quote Originally Posted by Eaglebait Ranch View Post
    We use llama poop. It is very high in nitrogen and can go straight into the garden. So, if you find anyone with llamas, you might ask if you can take the poop. Llamas poop in piles, so it is really easy to 1) find it and 2) collect it.
    I have a llama lady in my neighborhood. She has offered me all I want. Unfortunately, she beds them on gravel. Two or three applications of that would turn my gardens into driveways
    BP


    "Some chickens, some gardens and a Kubota."

  8. #8
    Gold Member RedDirt's Avatar
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    Default Re: New garden - When to add amendments

    Thanks for all the advice so far, keep it coming. Still want to hear if my tractor sequencing is fairly correct.

    Throughout 80's we had a half acre (+) vegie garden, raised goats, couple head beef, pig, some rabbits and chickens. The manure source was endless and the garden was great. Between fresh and canned/frozen we rarely bought veg, meat or fruit.

    But we didn't have any tractors to speak of except an old Gibson without many implements, all done by hand, four adults, two young kids. A tad bit older now and don't want to work that hard. I'm not familiar with tractor methods of gardening thus my sequencing question and if I'm using the right tool for the right job.

    Fred, I certainly appreciate your experience though I was thinking similar to Ward that adding the manure now would help break down the conifer amendments over the winter. My original post stated I thought to add what I've got now, about 1 1/2yds, and then test and probably add more in the spring. The pine shavings and tree line chippings are not very broke down despite their age. These have been in uncovered piles the past few years and I hope some of the initial acidity has leached out. None the less they will take a good jolt of nitrogen the break down better.

    Wish I had some of that rabbit and chicken stuff again but we're making due with whats available locally, need to do some shopping around for something hotter. A family in the valley raise llamas but that's a two hour round trip drive and I don't get that way often. Only a few families around here with horses and they garden too and are not giving up their gold.

    So Fred, in light of what I've said do you still think to hold the manure until spring? I understand the weed problem but this is reportedly relatively weed free...we'll see. Also there is no initial sod here to speak of. This ground has been raked fairly clean for ten years for fire protection so there is just a thin layer of short native grass.

    A winter project will be building a hiller. I've thought to have taller than "normal" rows too. For the ground warming you mention but also not quite so far to bend over doing the hand work. For this winter though the ground will just be disc level.

    Odd you advise to not put in oak leaves. I've always thought they were pretty good. They surely break down quicker and easier than pine needles, our only other abundant compost makings. I'll need to do some checking on that and maybe someone else will chime in. In Oregon we had maples but not here.

    Hey this is a tractor chat. What about that sequence?

    Winter project may make the hiller into a hiller/cultivator combo tool and I want to build a heavier harrow. Then there's the FEL quick connect, BH thumb....on and on. Again I won't get it all done .

    Ray

  9. #9
    Super Member bp fick's Avatar
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    Default Re: New garden - When to add amendments

    Ray

    By all means, manure your garden now. That's not a problem if you have access to a large amount of manure. Lime is ultimately important to balance the ph for decomposition. You really want/need decomposition during the 5 wintering, fallow months.

    Use your tractor, as you seem anxious to do, aren't we all, to fluff that clay based soil. At this point, there is little to be gained by turning so deep that your lime and your manure end up 12" down. I would break the tension of the soil 12" down, but I would keep my manure and lime at the 6-8 inch level by disking. Does that makes sense? I have witnessed guys apply their enhancements on the surface, then mold board plow those enhancements down to the 12" level, bringing up somewhat sterile soil from the lower level to the surface. This just isn't wise.

    The manure application plus the lime, will enhance the bio-mechanics through the winter. This is the level at which micro organism and larger organisms, ie earth worms and the like begin to establish an ecosystem typical of healthy soil.

    I would still build a compost pile and compost the rest of the manure, lime, sawdust, leaves etc apart from the garden. If you overload the soil with more than can be effective now, it is simply going to lay on the surface. Composting heat cannot be created if the organic material is not in a proper compost pile. Organic material spread onto rather sterile soil will mostly just lay there through the winter. It doesn't have the bio-mechanic in place to do anything with it?

    You mentioned earlier the thought to spread leaves over the garden, which sounded like something akin to 8" deep.

    This would create a suffocating blanket brown organics, but without the means by which that brown would be broken down. My experience shows that brown leaves are still brown leaves in spring. Plus, as mentioned by another poster, that blanket can delay spring warmup.

    Winter bio-mechanics are slow, slower and almost dead because of reduced temperatures. Things go rather inactive. I have seen corn stubble and vegatable stalks endure winter with almost zero decomposition when left spread in the garden. Winter temperatures slow degrading of hard matter.

    Please do some research on oak leaves. Make your own decision as to using them, not using them, or using them with lime.

    Best Wishes
    BP


    "Some chickens, some gardens and a Kubota."

  10. #10
    Super Member bp fick's Avatar
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    Default Re: New garden - When to add amendments

    Ray

    A middle buster, which is a Dutch plow, potato plow, sub-soiler with blade, whatever. I strongly recommend not leaving your soil flat for the winter.

    Think of it this way. The square footage of a area is let's say 10,000 sq ft.

    By running high furrows through it, that area, exposed to sun, frost, rain, and oxygen, is doubled by having the corrugated effect of having deep furrow and high ridges. Perhaps, even 3 X the square footage.

    Sequence? Plow. Apply organic material. Disk in to mix. Two weeks later? Disk again. Then plow up those furrows. is that enough seat time?

    A middle buster is dirt cheap, pun intended. BrianR, a fellow TBN member, recently posted these photos of his furrowing of his garden, all for the same reasons. My furrows are even much more pronounced. I'll get some photo's if the rain lets up.
    Last edited by bp fick; 10-21-2009 at 06:39 AM.
    BP


    "Some chickens, some gardens and a Kubota."

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