hazelinok

Soil help

hazelinok
September 21, 2015

My soil is a mess. I have figured out a few solutions, but have a couple of questions. (This is not worded well--I'm so tired)

Everyone talks about putting grass clippings on gardens for mulch and/or composting the clippings. What if my grass isn't just grass. It's many things--all sorts of grass and all sorts of weeds and all sorts of wildflowers. If I plopped a big ol mower bag of grass/weed/flower clippings on my garden, does it not have seeds and stuff that will cause grass and weeds to grow in my garden?

We have a chicken coop/pen. It isn't exactly a chicken tractor, but it can be moved with a truck or the riding lawn mower. We move it every 3 or 4 weeks. When the garden is finished for the season, would it be a good idea to put the chickens on the garden--let them poop there, brush their bedding there. Move them around to different locations on the garden? Most of the east garden is not raised beds. I have one there and will probably build another one before winter--we have to build them gradually because who has time? We don't. And quite honestly I'm tired of not having enough time to get my stuff done.

So, in all my rambling hopefully you--Wonderful Oklahoma Garden Forum--could pick out the two questions. Thank you.

A recent observation. Our church has a playground. It is covered in "mulch" to add a cushion for safety. It's just mulch from Minicks. I was out with children a few days ago and noticed that a few weeds had popped up. They pulled up easily. Not a bit of effort. I brushed back the wood mulch and the soil under that playground is AWESOME! It is perfect. Ten years of mulch (new added each year) and especially the areas where the leaves collect and stay all winter has made the soil just beautiful. Seriously. Let's pull out all the playground equipment and plant a garden.

Comments (45)

  • chickencoupe

    1) Yes, but it would be better than leaving the ground unmulched. Other option is to hot compost and it doesn't sound like you have time. Remember, diversity is even healthier though it is a pain in the behind, sometimes.

    1. Yes. Chickens would do a lot of work and fertilize the soil and destroy weed sprouts. Rotation is key.
    2. I like the playground idea. Sounds like Back to Eden method. I think the kids would protest.

      You got this. You're doing great. Let's leave the playgrounds alone for now. A coupe needs to come first.

      bon
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  • scottcalv

    I put mulch under my daughter's swing set. I did not smooth it, but left it in piles. She said she wanted to climb the mountains. That was in the spring. It has beem pretty well played on until smooth by now! But the soil was bare, red, dry, lifeless, etc. Now it is pretty good under there. There are enough worms there now to dig for fishing. Mulch and no till are awesomely easy ways to improve soil.

  • scottcalv

    Oh! and one more thing. Our grass clippings are pretty much like yours. They go from the yard, then spend a good amount of time in the chicken houses, and then off to compost or layer on the garden. I do not get many weeds this way, but I do get a few. I suspect not nearly as bad as if I put them directly on the garden. I think the chickens pick out most of the seeds.

  • soonergrandmom

    I don't put weeds or any clippings on mine but I add compost in Spring and a deep leaf mulch in the Fall. I tilled for a few years until I got the soil in fairly good shape, then I stopped tilling (almost). I still till where I plant potatoes, but just in the rows so it is easier to dig a trench. I would love to have wood chips, but even when the electric company contractor took down two trees in my yard, they wouldn't give me the mulch, and the compost available through my county is full of junk. We bought a pickup truck load of mushroom compost last Spring and my neighbors bring me leaves in the Fall. It's a win/win for both of us because they can deliver them to my yard and dump them much faster than they can burn them. They save time, we don't have to choke on smoke every day for weeks, and I improve my soil.

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  • Okiedawn OK Zone 7

    Hazel, There are many ways to improve soil. Much depends on how much of a hurry you're in to do it quickly versus doing it more slowly over time.

    In our earliest years here, I added everything I could find or afford to buy to our garden soil, including mushroom compost, composted cow manure, peat moss (a quick way to break up clay even though peat moss is esstially sterile and lifeless), pine bark fines, larger pine bark chunks, green sand, lava sand, dry molasses, and even items like sulphur (to lower pH). I worked in lots of organic fertilizers including bone meal and blood meal. It was an expensive way to do it, hauling in and spreading bag after bag of 'imported' items purchased at organic nurseries. Still, doing that was worth it to me because we were starting out with brick red clay that was impenetrable even with most rototillers and all handtools. You wouldn't believe how many tools we broke in those first 3 to 5 years.

    Once I had the soil sort of started down the road to improvement, I brought in less and less outside ingredients and focused on using what I had. For me, that meant tons of grass clippings and autumn leaves chopped/shredded. I used them both ways----layered on top of the soil, often to a depth of 4-6", as a mulch atop gardening beds, and also layered in the compost piles. At times, I have had compost piles that were 20-30' long, 6-8' wide, and often 4-6' tall throughout the growing season. Because compost eventually breaks down to maybe 1-5% of its original volume, I had to work hard year-round, continually adding stuff on the top of compost piles in order to get even a fraction of the compost I needed to add to the soil before planting time rolled around. So, in that sense, compost piles weren't enough. I needed to do more

    Will the seeds of broadleaf and grassy weeds sprout in your mulch? Sure they will, but if you layer on thick layers of mulch instead of thin layers, the weeds don't sprout as much as you'd think, especially if you put a layer of newspaper or cardboard between the soil itself and the layer of mulch. I usually only start out with a thin layer of mulch put down on raised beds as soon as transplants are in the ground or as soon as seeds have sprouted and seedlings are growing. As the season goes on, though, I add fresh chopped/shredded leaves and fresh grass clippings to the mulch in the beds on a regular basis, often weekly. That doesn't mean every raised bed gets new mulch layered on weekly (gigantic garden, not nearly as many grass clippings as it needs) but I just do the best I can to evenly distribute grass clippings when I have them. Even when I pull a weed from the garden, I don't carry it out of the garden and put it on the compost pile. I just lay it down on top of the mulched bed. The weed will help feed the garden and enrich the soil as it decomposes.

    I'm always looking for ways to improve the soil inside the garden while getting the greatest result possible for the least amount of work. All my pathways are mulched with chopped/shredded autumn leaves and, in the pathways, I put down a heavy duty high-quality landscape fabric to keep the weeds from sprouting beneath the mulch and growing up through it. The landscape fabric doesn't do anything to keep weeds from sprouting in the mulch in the pathways, so it is my job to promptly pull them when they sprout, well before they can send down roots that grow down through the landscape fabric and into the soil beneath it. I also layer on more layers of chopped/shredded leaves and grass clippings year round. I use hay and straw when I can get it, though nowadays I don't bring in much hay because of the issues with herbicide carryover. In late winter/early spring, all the mulch in my pathways will have decomposed and turned into compost. I take a garden kneeling pad and my compost scoop out to the garden with me, and get down on my knees in the pathway, and scoop up the compost from the pathways, placing it on top of the beds directly adjacent to those pathways. If I did a good job over the course of the last year, constantly adding more mulch to the pathways, then I can get an inch or two of compost out of each pathway. Most of it is fully decomposed, but all of it is at least half-way decomposed and it all goes on top of the adjacent beds. This is my favorite way to compost nowadays because it is efficient. Why use a wheelbarrow to haul spent plants, weeds, etc out of the garden and put them on a compost pile for a few months and then use a wheelbarrow to haul finished compost back to the garden? I prefer skipping those steps and composting in place in the garden. Then, I go into the woods and gather more leaves, chopping/shredding the with leaf vac or lawn mower, and I mulch the now naked pathways. If any of my local ranching friends have gifted me with spoiled hay, I use it in the pathways as mulch that first year, and then add it to the beds as compost the next year.

    You also can grow cover crops that serve as a living mulch to reduce the amount of seeds that sprout in bare ground and you can raise green manure crops that will be harvested and used either in your compost pile or as mulch on top of your growing beds. You can grow stuff in your soil and leave it there to rot and improve the soil----fodder radishes or turnips, for example.

    There's so many ways to improve the soil.

    As you observed, even the simple act of piling bark mulch on top of the ground will greatly improve the soil beneath the mulch. When raising edible crops, though, you must be careful to avoid buying bark mulches that have been dyed colors or that smell strongly of some sorts of wood---some mulches are nothing more than ground-up wooden pallets and I'd rather not put that sort of stuff around food crops since I have no idea what was hauled on the pallets in their previous life.

    While I worked all the amendments into the soil in our early years, my preference now in the long-amended areas is just to add stuff on top of the ground. Over time, it breaks down on its own and then the compost itself that remains is carried into the soil in many ways---just by the action of me transplanting plants into the ground with a trowel or sowing seeds, for example, but it also is carried down into the soil by rainwater or irrigation water, burrowing, digging insects, earthworms, etc.

    My main goal with our soil has been to turn the brick red, brick hard clay into dark brown, rich, humusy soil filled with life. I want for our garden soil to resemble the soil in our woodland. Nobody, you know, goes into the woodland and works each year's autumn leaves and other plant debris into the soil. It all happens naturally. The leaves, limbs, dead trees, other plant matter, and even dead insects, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, etc. fall to the ground, and then lie there on the soil surface and decay on their own, thereby perpetually enriching the soil. In our early years here, we dug up tiny oak saplings from the woods and transplanted them up to the open area around our house. When we did that, I discovered that the rich, beautiful, humus-filled woodland soil only went down at most about a foot. In some areas it was only 8" deep. Beneath that? The same icky red clay we have everywhere else. It was eye-opening. That's when I figured out that I didn't have to perpetually import bagged ingredients and rototill them into the soil. Instead, I just had to pile stuff on top of the ground and, essentially, let it rot in place. So, over the years, while I did continue for some time to rototill amendments down as deeply into the ground as I could, I also just piled stuff up and let it break down on its own. Now, I don't rototill stuff into the soil so much and prefer to let it enrich the soil from the top down. It is better for the structure of the soil and for the biological creatures in the soil if I don't disturb the soil any more than I have to. This past year I hardly used m Mantis cultivator at all.

    No matter what method you use, remember that "heat eats compost" and that the biological creatures in the soil also break down the compost into components that can be used by the plant roots. So, amending the soil never stops. Every year you have to put something back into the soil to make up for what the heat and the plant roots have devoured. That something can be nothing more than adding mulch and letting it decompose in place. My friend Fred just uses his big tractor every year to plow under all the garden debris, including cornstalks, and let them decompose under ground, enriching the soil. It is the most cost-effective and least time-consuming way for him to enrich his clay.

    When people ask me what I "feed" my plants to get a garden that looks like mine, I tell them I just feed the soil and let the soil feed the plants. If they want to know what that process involves, I tell them. However, most of them don't understand the method and don't care to. They just want me to tell them the name of a fertilizer and what its N-P-K numbers are. Most folks tend to be looking for a quick, easy fix, and not a true method of improving the soil in a lasting manner. Quick fixes are not a long-term sustainable method, though, because even organic fertilizers need to be used in biologically active soil containing the microbes and other soil life needed to break down organic fertilizers into individual components that roots can take up and use. The only way to have biologically active soil like that is to continually add material that the microbes can eat and digest, hence the use of mulching from the top down.

    I should add I do not use fertilizers or chemicals of any sort on my lawn, so the grass clippings are clean and can be added to the garden. The same is true of the autumn leaves from our own place. We don't use any sort of chemicals on the trees, so I use my own leaves without fear of contamination. The whole process is more complicated if you're getting autumn leaves, grass clippings, manure, hay, or straw from a source over which you have no control. I simply won't bring in any items that might be contaminated with herbicide residue because isn't worth the risk of contaminating garden soil I've been improving since 1999. If I bring in any outside source of mulch over which I have not had control, I always test it for herbicide residue before using it.

    While the organic matter you add to the soil eventually will break down on its own into smaller components the plants can use, the process needs active, biological soil that is teeming with microbes of all kinds. These bacterial, fungi, insects, earthworms, etc. are the engines that process the fuel (organic matter) that feeds your plants and make them grow and produce.

    A quick way to get that sort of biological life in your soil is to build hugelkultur beds right there in the soil you have. Personally, I have trouble using hugelkultur beds in my garden because snakes and rodents love them. Most people, though, do not live in a remote, wildlife-infested area like I do, and are less likely to have issues with voles, field mice and the snakes that pursue them. I tend to build hugelkultur beds in the winter and then let the weeds and grass have them the first couple of years so I don't have to deal with the snakes. Once there is enough compost and soil on top of the wood, though, I then can use those beds to raise veggies, herbs, fruits and flowers. I don't mind planting pumpkins and winter squash atop new hugelkultur beds because those plants grow densely and crowd out weeds and it takes months and months before you harvest your winter squash or pumpkins. At least that means I can sort of plant them and forget them and not have to worry about the hugelkultur beds being snake-infested until it is time to harvest the winter squash and pumpkins. I'd use hugekultur beds more than I do if I didn't have such a plethora of venomous snakes.

    You can encourage biological activity in your soil by adding dry molasses (those microbes have to eat!), half-decomposed wood, leaf mold gathered from a woodland if you have one, etc. Or you can use compost tea or manure tea, liquid seaweed, liquid fish, or Garrett Juice (I make my own). If you cannot find dry molasses (feed stores and organic nurseries usually have it), you can use table sugar.

    I know people who carefully screen out all partially-decomposed bits of wood from their compost before adding it to the soil. I am the exact opposite. I like to put as much half-decomposed wood in/on the soil as possible in order to feed the biological activity. Often, people freak out when mushrooms or slime mold or other fungi sprout in their mulch or atop their soil. Ever the weirdo, I rejoice when I see items like that because that tells me I have beneficial microbes hard at work in my soil. Plants struggle in sterile, dead soil that is low in organic matter and low in biological activity, so my main goal is to have a healthy soil food web so that my plants will thrive. It sounds harder than it is. There's a great book called "Teaming With Microbes" that explains what soil needs in order to be dynamic and alive instead of being sterile and dead.

    Essentially, if you break down soil improvement into its simplest form, it just involves piling up organic (i.e. anything that once was alive) matter on top of the soil and letting it decompose right there. Anything more complicated than that is just extra steps we humans add to the process.

    Hope this helps.

    Dawn


    hazelinok thanked Okiedawn OK Zone 7
  • johnnycoleman

    I am convinced that growing a cover crop of winter (cereal) rye, hard red winter wheat, tillage radish and (inoculated) hairy vetch is the ideal start to reforming soil. We grew Dia de San Juan corn in the poorest soil I have ever seen after the above cover crop.

    I have used composted manure and sand to great effect also.

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  • authereray

    johnnycoleman,

    I like your way of thinking. If you plant cowpeas on a plot and let them get full grown you can plow them under and it will help the soil also. I have witnessed what you are saying and believe it works. Vetch is little used nowadays but was once popular for building poor soil.

  • soonergrandmom

    In some commercial farming they are changing from plowing to just rolling/crimping the cover crop and planting into it. The old crop provides mulch for the new crop while it also benefits and enriches the soil and the soil is never bare.

    Of course there are specialty pieces of heavy equipment for this purpose, but this guy came up with a method for smaller growers that was pretty interesting.

    Crimping

  • hazelinok

    Thanks, everyone. So much help and great ideas!

    I did it. Went and got free compost from the City of Norman. Well...actually it was $10 because we elected to have the big piece of equipment grab a scoop and dump it in the truck. Took all of 2 minutes--much easier than shoveling.

    That stuff is steaming! It was still so hot as we shoveled it off the truck.

    Can it be placed around plants when it's so hot? We just put it in a giant pile to use once we get some new raised beds made. And I made 3 small piles by each raised bed too.

    I KNOW. I don't know what was used on all of that yard waste. I'm tired of being scared of everything, so I just went ahead and got the compost. Hopefully it won't kill my garden (next year).

    I think it's probably still steaming right now. Should I throw my kitchen scraps into it? My own compost piles aren't so hot. They steamed a little last year but they're really not hot--bugs are living in them...or were living in them. I used all the compost from last year and my new piles aren't so tall yet.

  • johnnycoleman

    hazelinok,

    We got burned with some manure (stall muck) that contained persistent herbicides. It can even survive hot composting for some time. Our plot was toxic for two years to some broad leaf veggies.

    Someone told me to grow some bush beans in compost before applying it to a garden seed bed. If the beans grow well, it is safe to use.

    Please verify this with an expert. I'm not always right.

    Johnny

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  • Okiedawn OK Zone 7

    Yes, Johnny's absolutely correct. Herbicide carryover is a huge problem whenever you bring in organic matter from an outside source.

    Don't be scared of the possibility of herbicide carryover being an issue, but do take the time to test your new compost (let it stop steaming first!) before you use it. It is a very simple process and you can use bean or pea seeds. Legumes are very sensitive to herbicide carryover, so the time spent testing to make sure it is safe is time well-spent. If you fail to test and your compost contains herbicide residue, it can take 1 to 4 years before your soil is usable again for most plants, and to make it happen quickly you have to do your own remediation work to fix the soil. Some of these persistent herbicides can persist for years in soil, manure, mulch and compost, and the residue can kill at very low levels---like 3 to 6 parts per million.

    I want to add that the very same broadleaf weedkillers that cause herbicide carryover are commonly used on the grassy areas of city parks and on golf courses to keep broadleaf weeds out of the grass. Don't you imagine that when cities mow their parks and golf courses that they likely collect the grass clippings and compost them? I bet they do, and that is why you need to test the compost before you use it. I'll link a page below that tells you how you can easily test your compost.

    Also, don't put hot compost around living plants or it can literally cook their roots and kill them. Keep it piled away from your plants and let it cook down enough that the heat has dissipated. It shouldn't take more than a few days to a couple of weeks for the worst of the heat to dissipate. If you have a soil or compost thermometer with a probe, you can check the temperature in the center of the pile daily and track it as it falls.


    How To Conduct A Bioassay of Compost For Herbicide Carryover


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  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    Actually, the persistent herbicides used by commercial applicators (road crews, parks, golf courses) are prohibited from inclusion in commercial composting operations. Any trimmings generated by these operations using those persistent chemicals must compost onsite and reuse their own compost. Sure, it is possible that some may slip through the cracks but it is far more likely that you will get feedlot debris or animal manures including the herbicides (used by farmers to treat pastureland) that may be contaminated (as johnny's experience) included in commercial compost.

    When in doubt, make your own compost!! That way you know and can be assured that the ingredients added are uncontaminated and perfectly safe.

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  • hazelinok

    Thanks everyone again.

    I'll test the compost.

    I do make my own compost, but this is a truck load! Mine takes so long and it's so little. I'm guessing that the return customers wouldn't return if the compost was ruining their gardens, but I also know that every pile is different. I saw several trucks driving around Norman with the compost in them--everyone had an excited look on their faces. haha.

  • scottcalv

    I use it in my landscape business. I have put that compost all over the metro area. I have yet to see a problem with it for ornamentals. It is in my own personal veggie garden. All I can say is the seeds sprout and the transplants grow. Plants stay green with minimal watering. I watered once this year. I do understand about herbicide carryover so YMMV, but my experience has been good. I don't think I would use the mulch from there, though.

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  • soonergrandmom

    Interesting soil video here. Soil

  • chickencoupe

    great vids

  • johnnycoleman

    Yes, we are focused on the vertical sectors with deep roots and subsoiling, when the soil is dry, in the Fall. It will fracture then.


    There are many cultural practices like designated traffic lanes and using lighter equipment.

    We planted 10 acres of arrowleaf clover and Austrian winter peas today. Both of them were inoculated. We are planning a nutrient cycling protocol that involves live stock and crops.

    Tillage radish is part of our plan to reopen the deeper sections of our fields. Eventually, we want to evolve into no till.


  • chickencoupe

    I've had good luck with the austrian peas. I like those because even when the bunnies (or us) cut them, they spring back. Even in my soil I see some of the tillage radishes developing atop while their roots going all the way down. I suppose it'll take a few seasons. When I see that massive radish root in the soil, i suppose it'll be perfect.

  • johnnycoleman

    Bon,

    I have seen soil improvement after just one year of tillage radishes. I planted them about one every 4 inches in every direction.

    Johnny

  • chickencoupe

    This is going to sound gross as it involves dead wild animal, so don't read further if you don't want.
    +++++

    My dog killed a cotton tail last week while I was building a new hot compost pile. I remember thinking, Well, I'm hot composting, so I should put it in there.

    I promptly forgot about it until 3 days later when I was checking the pear tree nearby where it lay. I smelled a faint decay and remembered the rabbit. I saw it and that bugger was GONE, but the fur. Looked like someone threw a rabbit fur on the ground.

    Now, I keep thinking that it's a good sign of soil biology, but dang, they were hungry. 3 days? I'm thinking that's what happens with these tillage radishes as they rot, the soil microbes that are hungry get to feast for a change.

    Decaying giant mustard plants have done well for me, too. These really create a tone of biomass on the surface and roots.

  • hazelinok

    Hey Everyone.

    I'm tired, so I hope this makes sense.

    I started to do the "test" that Johnny and Dawn talked about. I got it all ready, but the compost is still really warm--not steaming-- where I took it from the pile. Is warm compost bad to put pea seeds into? I scooped out enough for the test and put it in a bag to cool off. How long should it cool before planting the peas for the "test".

    :) Thanks.

  • johnnycoleman

    Wait until the compost is normal room temp. Most seeds like to germinate in soil that temp.

    You will improve germination by pressing the soil above the seeds to provide good soil to seed contact.

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  • johnnycoleman

    I will be sifting about 1,000 pounds of compost tomorrow. The compost is 6 year old stall muck. I'll be sifting with 3/8" hardware cloth.
    I'll apply it around our young veggies to prevent weeds. I could use about 3 tons of it but I doubt my old body could handle that much work.

    Just for the record, I don't even try to keep our beds weed free. It just ain't necessary.

    Johnny

  • Okiedawn OK Zone 7

    Johnny, I agree.

    Hazel, If you're worried about the compost being too warm, you can check its temperatures with a thermometer that has a probe. For years I just used an old kitchen thermometer, but the fancier ones they sell nowadays often start at 100 degrees or higher, so this year I finally broke down and bought a soil thermometer. Room temperature is fine, as Johnny stated, and you wouldn't want the temperature up in the mid-80s or 90s because temperatures that high can slow down germination of most crop seeds.

    Johnny, I agree. I try to keep the weeds down early in the season when crop seeds are sprouting and the plants are tiny, but as time goes on, who has time for weeding (?) and it also is not strictly necessary. I prefer weed-free garden beds, but there's too many other things that take priority over weeding and I've never had such a weed issue that I thought it hurt the productivity of the desirable crop plants.

    Dawn

  • johnnycoleman

    Can you see the compost on the right side of the right row? I'm doing a side by side test with two rows of cold hardy veggies.

    One is getting compost; the other ain't.

  • haileybub(7a)

    I have really enjoyed reading all of these posts, thanks to all.

    I am wanting to plant my first ever cover crop in my small backyard garden. I estimate it's about 20 X 20. Right now I have acorn and butternut growing under row covers (I LOVE squash but the SVB and squash bugs out numbered me this summer and my harvest of zucchini and yellow squash was sad.) I also have some carrots I have left in the ground, I over planted ( or rather, under-thinned) them, being my first attempt at carrots. I figure being a root vegetable, it won't hurt them to stay in the ground until I am ready to pull them, and they are helping to break up the soil. They don't taste really good for just eating raw, but cooked and in carrot soup, they are delicious. I also have some hot wax peppers and the last of a huge cherry tomato plant left. So what I am getting at is that I want to plant a cover crop to help my terribly hard and clumpy clay soil. I have just been working on the plot for 2 years and know it will be an ongoing effort. I live in a residential neighborhood and I mow my lawn and neighbors lawn when the leaves have fallen. It's just not a lot of leaves once they are mulched! I bought a cover crop mix of Austrian Winter Peas, Winter Rye, Rapeseed, Daikon Radish, Purple Top Turnip and Hairy Vetch. This week my plan is to incorporate purchased compost into the spaces between these plants and sow my cover crop. Is it too late in the season? Will it live into the winter? I also plan to plant some garlic for the first time, I am anxious to see what all the excitement of home grown garlic is! So I will sow around that spot as well. As I harvest my other veggies, can I sow the cover crop then or will that certainly be too late?

    Well, the wind has died down and I see that the temperature has dropped below 90. It was a very good day!

    Belinda in Enid

  • johnnycoleman

    Belinda,


    Now is about as late as I would try to plant a Winter cover crop. However, we are still experiencing Summer like weather. So, do it now and cross your fingers.

    I'd guess your soil is a bit dry right now. You will get better germination if you water the entire garden with about 1/2" of water and let that soak in for a day. Plant your entire cover crop shallow, about 1/4" deep. After planting, walk on the entire area ONCE! Then do NOT walk on it for at least 14 days.

    My new favorite planting technique involves broadcasting seeds on the soil surface, then covering it with about 1/4" of mulch, then walking on it. I have seen many seeds germinate in five - seven days.

    Most cover crop mixes appropriate for Oklahoma are cold hardy. The tillage radishes Winter kill at about 15 degrees. However, they will have done their work by then.

    Johnny

  • johnnycoleman

    soonergrandmom,

    We are working toward no till. Thanks for the video on small holder crimping. We have A LOT of work to do before our place can go no till.


    Johnny

  • haileybub(7a)

    Holy smokes! I had to look for images of the tillage radish, which looks like the daikon is the same (?). Those things are huge!! So those long taproots are what helps break up the soil, as well as the fruits themselves? Amazing.

    Belinda

  • chickencoupe

    Haileybub, it's is perfectly okay to seed out your cover crops around your existing vegetable plants. I'm with Johnny. Get started now. With the temperatures we'll be having next week, it'll be perfect. You're right about the Daikon. It's the same. I use these as organic material below ground. I really like giant mustard for surface organic materials. If you can mulch around them, too, it is awesome for the microbes and bugs that till the soil.

    Note: You can harvest (scalp) the Austrian peas and they will not die and grow back when the weather is perfect. I love these peas because the wild bunnies won't decimate the crop. I like having food for them, too.

  • johnnycoleman

    Bon,

    I helped plant 10 acres of Austrian Winter peas recently. We used 300 pounds of seed. Guess where I'll be getting fresh salad greens all winter.


    Johnny

  • chickencoupe

    You'll be sick of those peas by the time spring comes around.

  • johnnycoleman

    Bon,

    I'll be eating the leaves.

    Johnny

  • haileybub(7a)

    Opinions on amending heavy clay soil with soluble gypsum? I read it improves drainage. I'm planting garlic this week and my soil is heavy clay. (I know garlic needs well drained soil.) I have amended it with compost for a couple of years now and see minimal improvement. However, it is improved which is a step in the right direction. If gypsum is the way to go, any advice on finding the right product? It can get overwhelming looking for the right product!

    Thanks, Belinda

  • johnnycoleman

    Belinda,

    I have read about a dozen of those articles. Here is my suggestion, mark a small area (one sq. yard) and do your own side by side test. Then, you can tell me the answer.

    I have had great results with composted stall muck and fill sand.

    Johnny

  • scottcalv

    I would be wary of to much sand. Seems like I have heard in passing that sandy soils encourage root knot nematodes. But I very well could be wrong. I don't have proof. Just heard it somewhere. Someone please correct me if need be. Thanks.

  • hazelinok

    Okay. My test seeds are in.

    Three pots with three seeds each of seed starting mix only.

    Three pots with three seeds each of seed starting mix combined with free compost (from the City of Norman).

    Lets see how they do...


  • Okiedawn OK Zone 7

    Root knot nematodes do thrive in too much sand. I have friends here who live closer to Thackerville (famous for its extremely sandy soil, which is mostly sand....like sugar sand or beach sand) than I do and the root knot nematodes sucked all the fun out of gardening for them and they eventually gave it up. Adding tons of organic matter is the big fix here, but that doesn't work in some of the gulf states, like Florida, where root knot nematodes are much more of a severe issue than they are here. Most people I know who garden successfully in spite of nematode-infested soil grow Elbon rye every year to help combat the nematodes. It isn't a perfect solution, but it is a pretty good one.

    Generally, if a person adds sand to their soil to lighten it up a bit, as long as the soil also has a certain component that is clay and a decent amount of organic matter, the RKNs won't be a problem. It is only when there's little clay and little organic matter and mostly sand that the RKNs can grow and spread and become such a major problem. Long ago you could buy soil fumigants that killed the RKNs in the soil, but it killed all the life in the soil and left it barren and sterile so I wouldn't use something like that today even if it was available to home gardeners. I kind of assume some of those fumigants still are available to commercial growers, but I've never researched to see if my assumption is valid.

    The successful gardeners I know of in Florida who grow tomatoes, for example, grow them in containers filled with a purchased soil-less mix, and the containers are elevated on decks or concrete blocks to ensure rainfall runoff cannot carry RKNs up from the ground into the containers via the drain holes. That's a lot harder than just amending the soil, but they have had to find what works for them, and the elevated containers are the answer. I know that commercial tomato crops are grown in some parts of Florida and I assume that they are using varieties bred to have resistance to or tolerance of nematodes (also not a 100% solution, but one that works pretty well). RKNs only bother certain kinds of crops and not all crops, so people with sandy soil often can successfully grow the kinds of crops that are not vulnerable to root knot nematodes.

    Hazel, Good luck. I hope you get good results. Please keep us posted.

    Dawn

  • hazelinok

    Goodness. I thought I posted here last night. I'm sure I did...but where is the post? I did have a glass of wine, so maybe my brain was muddled and I posted it accidentally on facebook....? Don't drink and post.

    Anyway...

    My soil test was the subject of the disappearing post.

    The "organic seed starter" seedlings are uniform in size and look healthy.

    The "organic seed starter" AND 'compost' seeds are not uniform and look a little healthy. The largest seedling and the smallest are in this group. There is some curling of leaves...but they're growing. But....seed starter mixes are specifically for starting seeds so maybe that's why they're doing so much better than the compost mix. Tell me this is so.

    I really, really want this compost to be good. What would I do with this giant heap if it's not good???

    I'm going to try to post some pics later.

  • chickencoupe

    All I'm going to say is, I think that's pretty normal. The seed starter is probably peat moss and nothing to hinder growth such as unneeded nutes. Seeds don't need nutes. And, heck, it may just mean some of your compost isn't quite ripe. You got them to grow and if they don't die, I'd call it good!

    hazelinok thanked chickencoupe
  • hazelinok

    Okay. Sorry I accidentally posted the first pic twice. The first (and second) pic is the seed starter only and the following pic is of the seeds with the free compost from the City of Norman. The last pic is a side by side comparison. The compost mix is in the white tray and the seed starter mix is in the clear tray.

  • johnnycoleman

    Looks inconclusive. More time needed. IMHO

    hazelinok thanked johnnycoleman
  • AmyinOwasso/zone 6b

    King oyster mushrooms are supposed to remediate herbicide contaminated soil. Sun flowers are also supposed to help with contaminated soil, but I think they are for heavy metal.


    Why not try a few other seeds in the compost mix. Not necessarily with the control like this test, just maybe tomato and squash to see how they do?

    hazelinok thanked AmyinOwasso/zone 6b
  • johnnycoleman

    Here is an article that shows and describes what to look for.

    Herbicide damage

    hazelinok thanked johnnycoleman
  • Okiedawn OK Zone 7

    I agree with Johnny it probably is a little too early to tell for sure. Grow them on for a couple of weeks and see if anything changes.

    Do I feel a tiny bit of concern about the cupping of the foliage of the young plants in the compost? Yes, but not a great deal of concern. Sometimes young plants will cup a little bit like that on their own if there's anything that isn't exactly what they like....could be light levels, temperatures, etc. or just the immaturity of the plants.

    If you reach a point in a few weeks where you feel like your bioassay does indicate some degree of herbicide carryover in the compost, then you'll have several choices about how to remediate it. Your compost is not going to be unusable in the long term, but you might need to grow remediative crops (mustard is one that excells at cleaning up dirty soil) in it for 6 months or a year while you wait for the herbicide level in the compost to drop a bit. You can cross that bridge when you get to it.


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