Gardening soil amendments

Here since I just put the pictures together. This is the results of my no-tlll, no-weed gardening experiment with grass clippings. Literally I just piled up a few grass clippings, and dumped them on the garden and threw on some obligatory lime. Then planted 3" tomato seedlings in the back part of the photo. I tilled the upper part where there weren’t clippings and planted various squash. Then kept adding them throughout the summer. I think it did okay, where the clippings were there, or they were added early, the middle section is where clippings were added late, and didn’t do all that hot. I also lost a war to the white fungus that gets on squash, and there was some wildlife damage. But otherwise I only spent about 15-20 minutes weeding all year in this whole section, so I am chalking it up as a win. The question if there is one, is should I just try to no-till it again and leave what is there undisturbed or not, and I may have to till to get the corn planter in there. There is an unpictured section of the garden ready to for next year already.

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Sean I do that with straw. But be careful with root crops they will just grow around the straw then you find it in side your potatoes.

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Yeah i don’t know why I didn’t think it wouldn’t work without tilling it.

Right now the only root crops I do are groundhog radishes, which I am using to try and break up the compacted zone, and as a cover crop to keep the wind from blowing the topsoil away. It is a pretty heavy, depleted clay soil, which gets extremely hard, and it is hard to dig up. Root crops don’t actually do that well. I am trying to straighten the soil around. The other end of the garden has had more organic matter on it as it has been treated longer, but I usually try to till it in.

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Hi Sean,
I’ve had the same problem on my zucchini and I tried this. It works, but you have to keep at it once it appears. Recommend it every couple of days. I used the baking soda treatment.

Remove the badly infected leaves and those that are clearly dead. Don’t put them on your compost pile, as the mold spores could survive in the soil and infect the next year’s crop.
Mix 1 part skim milk with 1 part water. Spray the mixture on the all the zucchini leaves and let it dry.
You can also use a mixture of 1 oz. baking soda in 1 gallon water. Another recipe recommends the use of 4 tbsp. baking soda, mixed with 1 gallon of water and 2 1/2 tbsp. horticultural oil.
Repeat the treatment every few days. Keep it up even after the mold is gone to keep it from coming back. It can also be used as a preventative measure.

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Oddly enough, the zuccini were pretty resistant. The pumpkins and cukes were hit the hardest. I typically use neem oil or vinegar. But I didn’t catch it early enough this year. I might try wood vinegar this year. It will be back. There is too much brush and marsh land that has all sorts of fungus growing surrounding the area.

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Sean clay is pretty cheap to improve get some sand and mix it in. Clay is an over abundance of organic material that decomposed without enough sand to keep drainage required then it bakes down wicked hard because there is no corse sand to keep the air in the soil. People always think it is crazy but good soil needs some sand.

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I would need a couple of yards and I wasn’t excited about paying for it. It is a decent sized garden, like 4000 sqft. The whole thing is essentially an experiment to see if I can improve the soil and come up with an easier, cheaper way to manage it. The emphasis isn’t exactly on yields. :slight_smile:

The other thing I forgot to mention, is with the no-till system, I can plant a lot earlier. I don’t have to wait for the soil to dry out before tilling then planting it. I need a no till planter for the corn though to skip tilling altogether though.

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You might try a little sand corner to test it out then you wouldn’t have to buy much…

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It would help. I think the bottom part had some added to it like 40 years ago. It works up nicer. However, the radishes really improved the workability. I only took one pass with the big rototiller before planting the last two years, and it is drying off faster in the spring.

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Mortar sand or fine sand is only a few dollars a yard, a truck will come and dump it for maybe 60 bucks. It’s well worth it. If you look at a soil triangle, the ideal soil is a sandy loam, certain percentage of clay, certain percentage of silt, and sand, and organic matter (and possibly biochar). Soil can be built. Although to reap the full effect also requires time for the microbiome to adapt, just the physical effects on the soil are beneficial, instead of worrying about compaction, or wearing snowshoes of clay, the soil will perform better.

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HAHAHA Never heard it called that, but it is appropriate. I still get clay on the boots, but it isn’t the boot stealing sticky clay anymore. With the mulching, I might not have to worry about the dirt anymore to be honest.

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ROFL Yup sand doesn’t have a short lifespan for how long it will improve your soil if your soil is missing it. I wish lime would last like that I have to add a lot each year. That and cow poop will really help with the micro life if your soil isn’t healthy it doesn’t take much if you got a 5 gallon bucket of it and composted your clipping in it them put it all onto the garden you would find your healthy microbes would go through the roof.

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Me too. I add a lot of lime probably over 100lbs/yr and like 20lbs of 12-12-12 for fertilizer. However, I am trying to figure out how to incorporate wood ash to replace lime since it is a strong base.

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I put alot of wood ash on the garden my garden is 75 by 50 feet something like that I expanded it alot to have more room for squash. There has been a garden where I have mine for about 100 years. I tend it the same way my grandfather taught me put alot of cow manure on it about 4 inches deep till that in. Then with a 5 gallon pail dust the entire garden with wood ash till that in repeat with with lime. I usually put about 4 five gallon pails of wood ash. I sift the first to make sure there are no nail as there are always barn boards to burn on a farm. Lime I think I buy about 6 bags a year. When you till the garden the first time for the summer watch to see if you turn up white ash or lime form the year before if you do skip the lime. Here that works good people can’t believe how well the garden does. One of the blessing in life here the soil is really good.
The last house I live in was different gray river silt was hauled in by the contractor who built that house for fill. It was the worst stuff I ever say Grey quicksand slippery mess in the spring once summer came it was harder the cement. The only solution there was sheet mulch. If you want low mantance look up sheet mulch and permaculture. I still need to setup my perennial garden vegetables. It is amazing how much good food you can get off a small plot with permaculture and perennial plants. But for now i will just stick to annual vegetables i don’t have to plan so far ahead to work with annuals.
Sean if I was looking at clay I think I would skip the 12 12 12 and lime for one year. Put on all the wood ash you have and spend the money on sand this year. I believe you would get more bang for your buck that way.

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How are you spreading the ash to dust it? I dumped some on in the vicinity of the pumpkins and they didn’t do so well. it was probably 1 5 gallon bucket in a 200sqft area. I probably put it on a bit thick. I didn’t tll it in either. I hosed it in.

Some old German diary farmers I know used to use the same technique for their garden. They had a -really- nice garden.

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I sift the ashes through a old kitchen strainer with maybe 1/8" holes after that the ashes are smooth and fine. I simply take a bucket about 2/3 Full and walk to the garden with the wind to my back and a slight breeze hold the pail at a slight angle in one hand reach in with the other hand and just scope some ashes and throw them across the garden. The ashes are about waste high so the wind spreads then for you. I probably take 2 steps between scopes basically just trying to get an even gray cover of the ground. I till it is because I have a case ingersoll 448 with a tiller it is easy and my fertilizer doesn’t blow away. Nothing fancy but it opens the ground and gets air into it. No till is really focused on erosion control in big fields. For my garden I don’t worry about that it doesn’t get so dry as to blow dust off in the summer and it doesn’t flood. I figure I need the air in the soil more then I care if a little fertility gets lost. I also put alot of manure on it as I have cows. If you use alot of manure you need to bring the pH back to nurtal. Ph should really be tested I don’t only because my grandfather treated this same ground the same way so I know I have decades of proven management if I was on different ground I would pay to get the soil tested. There are alot of groups tied to ag which will test soil for free or a small fee. I also only use 10 10 10 for fertilizer if I use it at all. The higher the numbers the more chance you will burn the plant roots. But I try to avoid the artificial fertilizers. Basically because they are tied to the oil industry.

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I usually use a cup instead of the hand, but i didn’t think it worked that well with ashes. I thought the wind may have kept half of them, and it wasn’t that even. I usually use a coffee cup to spread it, so you can just kind of more evenly shake it out the top. Probably in the morning with no wind and dew, would be the best time. Because you can see the ash coating, I may have just been a bit OCD about it, because the pelletized fertilizer doesn’t spread that evenly either, but you don’t see the trail of dust as well. :slight_smile:

yes and no. It helps with erosion control. but it also focuses on soil health by not disturbing the layers of soil, and reducing compaction with fewer costly trips across the field. It usually takes a couple of years to get the soil biome established. It is a different management technique.

It has a lot to do with the type of nitrogen you are applying and in some cases like corn, how you apply it.
http://www.greenhouse.cornell.edu/crops/factsheets/nitrogen_form.pdf

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I just don’t worry about how even it goes on I guess I get a lot of ash over a winter so I just put it on as much as I think I should. I also think the tiller helps to mix it in more even.
Don’t get me wrong I think no till is good just that this is how my garden has been handled for decades and I figure it is a case of if it isn’t broken don’t fix it. For my fields I don’t want to turn the ground too much risk of damage in the flood plane.

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It is the nitrates that leach into the groundwater you have to be careful of. There was also an issue with well contamination especially with shallow wells. They discovered it like 50 years ago.

The most successful no till operations I have seen usually involve grazing or silage because you can more easily make use of crops that are beneficial that don’t have commodity markets.

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Moved to a new thread. Please continue!

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