Pearl Sutton wrote:Hi Heather, welcome to Permies!!
A thought: if you have a tractor, does it have a PTO? If you can run a post hole digger to make holes, then add your mulch on the surface and in the holes, then add a bunch of worms, the worms will do a LOT for the area. The post holes will let water, nutrients, and worms down into the subsoil. Worms are nature's excavators and soil aerators, and will get some depth going. If you can't post hole, rip as deep as you can before adding mulch and worms. I took a ripper to a welder and got them to put an extension on it, kind of made it a subsoiler or a keyline plow, cheap version. Once the worms and mulch are in you won't want to dig that deep again, this is a one time thing to jump start the process.
I'm sure people will chime in with the best order to put your mulches. :)
And incidentally, rereading what you wrote, tilling probably will turn the subsoil to hardpan, if you till, do only the top layers, stir things in, don't dig down. Dig down with a post hole, or ripper, and worms. The shape of tiller blades generally packs the clay tighter.
Mike Barkley wrote:Dr. Redhawk's soil series
Leaves, cow pies, & chicken straw are certainly good ingredients. The articles above might help decide which methods to use.
Asparagus does require deep loose soils. Well worth the effort. Asparagus also needs a dormant period in winter. If it doesn't freeze just cut the stalks down late fall/early winter.
Lon Anders wrote:First:
Looks like you will have good drainage since you are on a slope. However you are going to deal with a run off problem from ground above the retaining wall. I'd ditch it somewhere to funnel the water away vs trying to deal with it. Your greenhouse will mainly be in use in the wet winter months.
The "beds" in the greenhouse:
I'd dig out the beds just like you were digging out for a footer, maybe 18"-24" deep. I'd take the soil that was removed (or better soil you saved during making your pad) and I'd amend it with compost/composted manure. Even if you have to go buy a few truck loads of good soil or compost it will be worth the effort to start with good soil. Then I'd fill my trenches I dug back up with good amended soil.
I started with rocky heavy clay on my 3K sq ft "traditional garden". I deep tilled over 2 years and threw all the amendments at it that I could...loads of composted manure, compost I make here, mushroom compost, etc. I then threw all that stuff at it again by the truckloads for 3 more years but only tilled lightly. I also cut a small 8" ditch on the back of the garden to get rid of so much runoff. My entire garden has a slope above it and there was just too much runoff entering my garden, so I ditched it and funnelled the water away from the garden.
Hindsight is always 20/20. I should have done things entirely different. With all the effort I put into it I wish I would have just excavated down to 18" or so over the entire garden, tilled it, then hauled in dump truck loads of compost and manure to fill the 18" of depth back up. It took a lot of effort and money over 6-7 years to turn this clay into acceptable soil for gardening.
Treat your planting areas like raised beds:
I put in 800 sq ft of raised beds around my place. I was not going to extend my regular garden but wanted/needed more growing space. I built my raised beds out of cedar, they are roughly 3.5 ft x 7.5ft x 20" tall. I made a pad for the ones I put right out our back door for "salads" and specialty stuff. I then marked out the area that each bed would sit on. I then dug down 12-18" and used that nasty stuff as fill around my place. I then went back in my woods where I had something that resembled topsoil. I hand dug it by the wheelbarrow loads, hauled it down to the house and mixed it 50/50 with composted wood chips /chicken litter I had accumulated over a year + about 50 bags of compost I bought at Home depot ($1.80/bag) and 10-15 bags of masonry sand. I placed a single layer of wood that started to rot that I had originally split for firewood in the bottom of the trenches, placed the raised beds I had built over the trenches, then filled them to to the top with the new amended soil.
Here's a pic of those 4 raised beds:
The soil in these raised beds is perfect...I wish I would have done my entire 3K sq ft garden like this from the start.
I'd pick a place outside of the greenhouse. Asparagus needs to be viewed as a long term crop like apples, grapes, blueberries, brambles, etc. It will produce for years and will be perfectly content somewhere outside in your climate. Save your greenhouse space.
Do it right from the start and moving forward you will be able to spend more time growing and tending to things vs spending all that time trying to get your soil up to what you consider acceptable.
Heather Ulrich wrote:
Thank you for your post! The asparagus will definitely not go in the GH. It will go outside in the garden rows.. I had to go double check my post to make sure I specified that! LOL
In regards to the run-off from the ground above the retaining wall, so far (and we've had a good bit of rain lately) the yard design is working as intended and water is running off away from the wall. It's very hard to tell from the pic I posted, but we planned for that when building. The pad is very flat and slopes about 4' at the back (again, can't really see that in the pic) so the pad itself is not draining well. I've attached another pic, which is the best one I have but still not great. . Important to note that the dirt used to build the pad was the dirt already there - it was just moved by digging down in the front, putting in retaining wall and adding the dirt up in the back to level the pad. The pic will help describe this, I think.
I like your idea for the beds in the GH. That will definitely be the quickest way to guarantee good soil, ready for immediate use. I think I like that idea for the outside rows, as well. I want to stay away from building more raised beds, as this is where I intend to grow tomatoes (along with another large ground area, for rotation) My cages are 6' tall and I used raised beds last year and found it difficult to reach everything without stepping inside them or on the edges. I had one plant over 14' tall last year and it was very difficult to train it when I couldn't get in the middle of the beds. The good news is that I have an excavator attachment and can dig down those beds easily.
Your beds are very beautiful, btw!