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Planting a vegetable garden...a few questions....
Old 04-17-2009, 08:26 PM   #1
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Planting a vegetable garden...a few questions....

I used to have a green thumb for all the wrong reasons, so no I'm going to appease my wife and help build a 150 sf veggie garden.

Our soil is CLAY, and needs amended. So far, i tilled the sod and soil about 6 deep and then tilled in 2 cubic yards of leaf compost (well done). My visual guess is that I'm now at 80% compost and only 20% soil due to adding top much compost before tilling it in. I'm thinking of adding about 1 cubic yard of 'super soil' from the garden center (1/3 topsoil, 1/3 peat, 1/3 sand) and tilling into the top 4 -6 inches. The reason being, I suspect i have too much compost and dont know if veggies will like it!

Any ideas, suggestions? I've read and read and keep getting conflicting info...so confuse me some more!
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Old 04-17-2009, 08:31 PM   #2
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Quote:
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I used to have a green thumb for all the wrong reasons, so no I'm going to appease my wife and help build a 150 sf veggie garden.

Our soil is CLAY, and needs amended. So far, i tilled the sod and soil about 6 deep and then tilled in 2 cubic yards of leaf compost (well done). My visual guess is that I'm now at 80% compost and only 20% soil due to adding top much compost before tilling it in. I'm thinking of adding about 1 cubic yard of 'super soil' from the garden center (1/3 topsoil, 1/3 peat, 1/3 sand) and tilling into the top 4 -6 inches. The reason being, I suspect i have too much compost and dont know if veggies will like it!

Any ideas, suggestions? I've read and read and keep getting conflicting info...so confuse me some more!
Start small! You seem to have a tendency to over do things.

Welcome To My Garden! | Square Foot Gardening

Also start composting.
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Old 04-17-2009, 09:13 PM   #3
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In my experience, it takes a few years to truly amend a clay soil to the point where it becomes suitable for vegetable gardening. I think that your best shot is to build raised beds. Fill them up with good garden soil and thoroughly mix the garden soil, loose clay and compost within each bed. It should give a good enough soil to plant your veggies. Also check for pH and add lime as needed (it will help break down the clay).
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Old 04-17-2009, 09:21 PM   #4
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I agree with the raised beds, it will make your life so much easier.

Clay is a pita. Clay is very fine so mixing in coarse sand is a good idea. Don't over till the clay, it makes it worse. The compost will break down fairly quickly. The supersoil is good stuff.
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Old 04-17-2009, 09:22 PM   #5
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Well, you've put 4.3 inches of compost on your garden. If you used another yard, it will be another 2.15 inches, total 6.45 inches. Si if you till 4-6 inches, you won't even be getting into the clay. If I were you (and I have done this with my own clay soil after adding lots of compost), I would probably just add a little sand, not much, 1/4 yard or so. Then till as deeply as you can with the tiller. If you can't get down 8 inches, then get out your pick and shovel and do it by hand. 150 sq ft should only take a couple hrs to turn over to a depth of 8 in. If you can get dolomite, a little of that spread out before turning the soil will also help to loosen clay soil. I can't recommend an amount. Check your garden supply store.

The compost will decompose this year largely, leaving you with better soil. Add your supersoil next year, along with a little more dolomite. Or, add just a little compost and a little sand along with the dolomite and till deeply again.

Let us know how it turns out. Mine did really well when I did the above....in the first and subsequent years.

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Old 04-17-2009, 09:22 PM   #6
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Khan,

I too am easing into gardening for the 1st time. Thanks for the link.

Free
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Old 04-17-2009, 09:28 PM   #7
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Fed,
Let me save you a whole lot of time and money.
Next time the wife is away for the day; do the following.
Go to the store and buy vegetables in glass jars.
Or buy them in cans but, but the cans in something so they don't rust.
Next plant the "vegetables"
Put up those little signs saying what is planted in the rows.
Grap a beer and water them - do this for about 2 weeks.
Then chose a day and tell the wife and kids it is time to harvest the crop.
Dig the stuff up and enjoy.
Repeat next year.
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Old 04-17-2009, 09:35 PM   #8
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To clarify, i basically AM making a raised bed by adding these things...but was told that incorporating some of the existing clay would actually be good for the soil mix. I made this plot at the base of a small (5 ft? ) hill...and will use some wood at the bottom edge to keep the soil in.

Thanks for the advice...keep it comin!
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Old 04-17-2009, 09:48 PM   #9
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Having a bit clay in your mix is not a bad thing. Clay helps retain water and nutrients. But what your mix is missing right now is some good garden soil. I had never heard of that "supersoil" stuff, but it sounds like what you need.
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Old 04-17-2009, 10:54 PM   #10
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Take a sample of what it is now to the Agricultural Extension Service which is available at most State Universities or County Services. Let them give you a free analysis and some guidance for what to plant and how to improve what you've got.
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Old 04-18-2009, 05:52 AM   #11
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In addition to amending your soil with compost, you need to fertilize before you plant. I use composted pelleted chicken manure because it's easy and already composted....so there is no burn to the plant if you fertilize the same day as planting.

You can also use fresher chicken manure in the bags, but it needs to be added to the soil 1 - 2 weeks before planting. We supplement this way every time we plant a new garden, and we have both a summer and winter garden.

I have been running a 800 sq foot demonstration garden to teach the public how to grow vegetables, for the past 3 years. We found this form of fertilizer added just the right amount of nitrogen to the soil. Mulching with straw works great since it helps keep the moisture in the soil and keeps the weed seeds from sprouting. It also breaks down and gets added to the soil. You do need to supplement occasionally.

Have fun gardening and make sure to check below the surface to see the moisture level in the soil.

Your local extension office might have some suggestions on when and what to plant..
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Old 04-18-2009, 08:47 AM   #12
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...and will use some wood at the bottom edge to keep the soil in.

Thanks for the advice...keep it comin!
Tip: Don't use pressure treated wood, especially the stuff from a couple of years ago. The arsenic in it leaches into the veggies, which is not good.

I'm thinking about growing some stuff in containers this year. It's a very lazy way to garden--the containers hold water in a reservoir in the bottom and the plastic on top reduces water loss. The pre-made soil takes all the mystery out of getting the dirt right. I'll admit it's not exactly a "back-to-the-earth" approach, but tinkering with the watering systems and the containers appeals to my pseudo-engineer side. Plus, I think I can probably put the containers inside a small screened enclosure to maybe thwart the bugs without resorting to chemical warfare.

There's a bit of a science to getting the containers and soil right, the soil mixture wicks the water up from below and you need the right soil and container setup. This is available commercially as an "Earthbox" (which are pricey) or you can build your own out of nested cheap Rubbermaid containers like this guy did. It looks like fun. There are also plans available to modify the good-looking containers available at Lowes, etc so they can do this same self-watering thing.

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Old 04-18-2009, 11:03 AM   #13
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Tip: Don't use pressure treated wood, especially the stuff from a couple of years ago. The arsenic in it leaches into the veggies, which is not good.

I'm thinking about growing some stuff in containers this year. It's a very lazy way to garden--the containers hold water in a reservoir in the bottom and the plastic on top reduces water loss. The pre-made soil takes all the mystery out of getting the dirt right. I'll admit it's not exactly a "back-to-the-earth" approach, but tinkering with the watering systems and the containers appeals to my pseudo-engineer side. Plus, I think I can probably put the containers inside a small screened enclosure to maybe thwart the bugs without resorting to chemical warfare.

There's a bit of a science to getting the containers and soil right, the soil mixture wicks the water up from below and you need the right soil and container setup. This is available commercially as an "Earthbox" (which are pricey) or you can build your own out of nested cheap Rubbermaid containers like this guy did. It looks like fun. There are also plans available to modify the good-looking containers available at Lowes, etc so they can do this same self-watering thing.
I decided to give container gardening a try this year. My house is is the woods and the soil around here is unworkable (entanglement of roots and rocks). Deep raised bed were out of the question too, because my lot is very steep. So, I bought 10 of those commercially available "self-watering" pots and set up a container garden on my back patio.

So far I planted swiss chard, mesclun salad mix, strawberries, herbs, peppers, carrots, tomatoes, radishes, beets and turnips.

I have already harvested some herbs and swiss chard (growing like weeds!). The salad mix and radish should be ready to eat in about 2 weeks. The radishes are not looking as good as expected but they are looking even worse in my MIL's in-ground garden. Maybe it's the weather this year...

Of course, living in the woods, my main problem is getting enough sunlight. I get a good amount of filtered sunlight in the morning and only about 3 hours of direct sun light in the afternoon. So I created a couple of reflector panels that I use to capture as much sun light as I can. I also placed the warmth-loving vegetable against a brick wall which absorbs the heat during the day and releases it at night. This is a bit of a scientific experiment, right up my alley.
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Old 04-18-2009, 02:04 PM   #14
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Is there any significance to the fact that this thread on gardening began shortly after another gardening is mentioned here

Coincidence? Hmmmmm
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Old 04-18-2009, 03:42 PM   #15
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Allow me to share my all time favorite gardening site...
Explore Cornell - Home Gardening - Introduction
these folks are the recognized horticulture experts, this side of the Missisippi
I will be boring you all with my gardening adventures in about 2 weeks.

As far as fertilizing goes,this is my current favorite to use. Plant seeds, sprinkle this on the bed, and no worries, mate.
http://www.scotts.com/smg/catalog/pr...16&id=cat50020
A little goes along way. I buy it at end of season when it is greatly reduced in price to move it off the shelves to make room for christmas junk.
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Old 04-18-2009, 07:42 PM   #16
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I've got 3 weeks till planting time, and would like to ensure this compost is fully 'done'. would it expedite the maturing of the compost if i cover the plot with a tarp for the next 3 weeks? I figure this could also help with the weeds
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Old 04-18-2009, 08:42 PM   #17
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Hand and Knees Gardening: The Green Way to Sterilize Garden Soil
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