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Breaking Ground

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Breaking Ground

Postby Dumbo » Apr 07, 2012 5:17 am

Sometime this week I'll be taking a rototiller and making a garden at this new place. Rock solid grey clay. After thumbing through many things I have the following questions:

1. Do people really "solarize" their garden for a month? Taking either black or clear plastic to cover what they just turned over in order to "heat the earth"? I've never done this, and don't know anyone who has.

Worth it? If so, black or clear plastic and why? Different people say different things.

2. Fertilizer/Compost. Which would you put? Cow? Horse? Sheep? A mix of two? One better than the other? I'm not into fish compost or shrimp compost, so we can stick to land animal poop.

I have a friend who goes to some mushroom place in the area and comes back with a trailer full of "mushroom compost" every year to dump on his garden. 30$ for an 8-foot trailer completely full. Pretty cheap. But, I have read some things about this saying it isn't worth it. Actually, it was on the Discovery Channel on the show "How it is Made" that said mushroom compost is the most nutrient-less and useless thing there is. The web says different. I'm not surprised, nor do I tend to believe the voodoo on the net.

So what's your take on this?

If the "solarize" thing is going to be done, do you toss the fertilizer/compost on it before or after?

Also, how deep should I mix this in? 6 inches or so? Do you put some at the root ball or is sheep, cow or horse poop too strong for that?

My city gives away "free compost". I won't go near it. About 15 years ago it was all over the news how Montreal's (or it might have been St. Hubert just outside Montreal) free compost was contaminated with lead at high levels. Plus we learned about how all cities toss in sewage sludge in regards to "free compost", so don't bother mentioning free compost, or free city compost. It's not going to happen. Thanks :lol:

3. Soil confuses the heck out of me. Black soil, Top soil, Black earth, Garden soil. Meh. I never cared before and always used black earth, but I'm open to trying something different. I'll be going by trailer load so I won't be buying bags. Worth it to fill up on these garden places that sell black earth by the trailer load? Or should it be top soil? Or other? Or a mix?

What's your take on this?

Depth? Should I mix it in with the clay down to about a foot or so? Normally I mixed it in to around 2 feet with the rototiller when I started a new garden off, then i turned the soil every year after that to about a foot or less. What's best? Is there reasoning or is it just a matter of cost? If it's just cost then I don't care about adding an extra trailer load of earth.

TY for your input.
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Re: Breaking Ground

Postby CdnChelsea » Apr 07, 2012 8:30 am


When I was confronted with terrible soil conditions when we moved into this home, I knew I had to figure out a way to make good soil for the many gardens I wanted.
So, instead of digging into the ground, I made raised beds with rocks collected at constructions sites. Lucky for me, they didn't mind me taking the rocks.
You could also purchase a dump-truck load of 'shot rock' from your local quarry. Shot rock is relatively inexpensive and makes good garden borders.

First, I mapped out with a garden hose the shape and size of the garden I wanted. After laying down and overlapping lots of cardboard to kill the grass, I placed the rocks around the edge and left one end of the garden open so I could wheelbarrow the soil into the garden.

The soil was purchased from a local landscaper. It was called 'triple mix', a combination of good top soil, manure and sand. Dark, rich soil.


Right now I have around 18 large gardens which are mostly raised beds.

Here is the newest one:
IMG_0015.JPG



"Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth
are never alone or weary of life" ~ Rachel Carson
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Re: Breaking Ground

Postby MareE » Apr 07, 2012 8:51 am

If I had CdnChelsea's property, I'd definitely go for a few raised beds, too!

What size will your veggie garden be, Dumbo?

In my first year of community gardening I was allotted almost solid clay 10' X 20' plot and it was perfect size for a newbie getting his/her hands and feet tilthy. Best to start out smallish and simplest or one could get overwhelmed! At least, that is what I learned pdq.

Pick the brains of gardeners on your street for invaluable info. You might consider tilling in straw now and again after Harvest. It breaks up heavy clay quite effectively.

Followed the tragic Montreal incident on the news. Your own home compost will most likely be the best choice for you. :lol:
Good luck and don't forget to have FUN!! ;o}

PS Call me old-fashioned but I turn to my gardening books before I do the web.


~do not make tragedies of trifles ~ do not shoot butterflies with rifles~author unknown~
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Re: Breaking Ground

Postby kelly_m » Apr 07, 2012 10:00 am

Unless you are doing raised gardens, don't use triple mix. Sand and clay...then some water, what do you get????? Ceeement....well, ron might dispute that, can't ever remember which one contains aggregate....ceement or concrete....


Forget the Solarizing.....unless you want to wait the month. Waste of time IMHO

Lasagne gardening won't work, though probably your best idea, because it should sit for a season from what I have learned.

Got leaves????? Use them. Till the leaves (mulched of course would be best) into the area....Let sit, then add your fertilizer. Doesn't really matter which one, everybody has their own faves. Basically what clay soil needs is compost to break it up. lots of compsot. Clay soil actually contains plenty of nutrients, they just can't get out to the plants. Not to mention because it is so dense, no chance of oxygen getting to them either. and Water retention??? never going to happen! Peat Moss is also good to add as a base if you don't have leaves.

6 - 8 inches is probably enough....you might be surprised and find a layer of sand underneath the clay and that is a good thing.

Unfortunately clay tends to take years to break up....I have been in this house for 4 years and my one fron garden was solid clay as well. When I re-designed it last year, I was happy to FINALLY see results of my amending! More loamy soil being turned up than clay...whoohoo!

Unless you dig up and remove all the clay, replacing with "good" soil. You'll still want amending, but not so much!
Kelly
Zone 5a/b


OLD GARDENERS NEVER DIE. THEY JUST SPADE AWAY
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Re: Breaking Ground

Postby MareE » Apr 07, 2012 10:10 am

kelly_m wrote:Ceeement....well, ron might dispute that, can't ever remember which one contains aggregate....ceement or concrete....

Seeeement©ron requires an aggregate to create Concrete, K.

Signed
Current Fictionariess;o}
~do not make tragedies of trifles ~ do not shoot butterflies with rifles~author unknown~
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Re: Breaking Ground

Postby Dumbo » Apr 07, 2012 10:14 am

18 Gardens!

Yes, I was going to go raised garden. But, after making a plan with my wife, who wants the backyard patio redone, new edging around the pool, and a new stone surface around the pool, along with a new fence and a new shed, we said forget it for now.

So we will put the garden in as is, and if time and $ permits, then in the fall we can fix that up, or next spring. I wanted it raised, but her vote counts for 2 for some reason, so I lost.

I'll show her that pic you posted. I like it. It's something I wanted in the front yard for a flower garden. But that's a next year project. This year is back yard.

Not much room left over after a the 40-ft pool .

Pool, Patio, BBQ area, Shed, play area for kids, Veg Garden. Somewhere in there will be flowers/flower garden.

Veg Garden is a rough guesstimate of 50'x30'. Staking it out later today so the exact measurements I will have by the end of the day when I get to it.

BTW, CdnChelsea, Do you live in Chelsea by chance? Nice area. Came close to buying a house there instead of this one. Lots are huge. Very huge. The type of area where I can seen 18 gardens fitting in easy. But the extra travel time to work and back was a killer.

Gotta run, wife is yelling I made her get ready for fence shopping and I'm sitting here playing on the computer...
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Re: Breaking Ground

Postby davefrombc » Apr 07, 2012 11:22 am

Aged manure of all types is fine to till in; but be careful of chicken manure because it can be very "hot" if it is fresh . Mushroom manure is great. It may not be high in NPK values, but it does help breakup the clay soil and help retain moisture.
Lawn clippings also make good compost tilled right into the soil, or dried as mulch between rows... as long as you aren't using any pesticides on your lawn . As Kelly mentioned, peat moss also helps break up the clay and retain moisture,even though it adds nearly nothing in the way of nutrients itself. Rotted sawdust is ok , but fresh sawdust will pull nitrogen out of the soil as it rots. You can use it as mulch and till it in at the end of the season . Nutrient value of it is also near nil to negative in respect to nitrogen , but it is another good addition to amend clay soils .
BC Fraser Valley zone 7/8
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Re: Breaking Ground

Postby Dumbo » Apr 07, 2012 1:32 pm

davefrombc wrote:Mushroom manure is great. It may not be high in NPK values, but it does help breakup the clay soil

True. That's a good point.
MareE wrote:PS Call me old-fashioned but I turn to my gardening books before I do the web.

That's exactly what I've done. I prefer book. I wiped out 3/4's of the gardening section at the library.

But it still left me with those questions...

The books say to double-dig with my soil type. So that's 2 spades deep. Roughly 2-feet (give or take).

All the books also say not to rototill to excess in that clay type (think it's something to do with the nutrient rich clay and losing it all). But I've done this before with good results.

As Kelly said here:
kelly_m wrote:Unfortunately clay tends to take years to break up....
I've done it in a season by over-tilling until it's like dry dirt (or close to it) with black earth mixed in.

Guess I have a few days to come up with an action plan.

But it won't be raised. At least, not for now.
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Re: Breaking Ground

Postby kelly_m » Apr 07, 2012 1:52 pm

Essentially I have done that too...only by hand...fork in, turn over, break up clay clumps, work in mulch/compost/whatever.

last year was the first year I basically did not have to do step 3.

But then, I guess I am cheap....never went out to get any bags of Black Earth.

I will get my 10 bag quota though when they have topsoil for 99cents a bag...mostly compost but heck...thats what I need.

I got nice Georgian Bay clay.
Unlike most clay soils, mine is actual clay. Grey clay that I can mold stuff out of!
(it has been done! LOL)

On top of lovely Georgian bay sand.

doesn't make for a pleasant combination if you don't take the right steps!
Kelly
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Re: Breaking Ground

Postby Dumbo » Apr 07, 2012 2:14 pm

kelly_m wrote:Essentially I have done that too...only by hand...fork in


Wow, I never met a girl who has her own pitch-fork. ;)

You rock!

But seriously, by hand, I couldn't do it. Takes a rototiller to get it like that, and not one of those cheap 120$ ones.
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