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New garden fertilizer question

 
pollinator
Posts: 255
Location: The Arkansas Ozarks
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I am in the process of expanding my vegetable garden beds in preparation for planting.  As the expansion has progressed, I dug out the expanded portion of my main bed and put about a foot and a half of logs in the bottom.  Then layered in lots of leaves and covered them with well composted cow manure/hay from my local farmer.  I call it black gold.

Finally topped everything of with a mix of  about 60/40,  2 year old composted wood chips/black gold-cow manure.  I am going to put down a layer of cardboard and then 6 +/- inches of about 6 to 8 month old wood chips.

My question is what would anyone suggest I do to amend the soil and aerate it in a bit with a fork prior to the cardboard and the wood chips?  Any organic fertilizer, epsom salts, wood ash, etc.?

I am showing some photos of the bed expansion and progress.

You can see the top of a 5 gallon pail which will be used to feed the worms which I will inoculate into the garden once I complete it.  I have two worm bins going in my garage, one with about 5,000 red wigglers, and the other with about 300+ European night crawlers.

I also have a bunch of comfrey plants which I purchased in the past 2-3 months.  Some of them are sizable plants, 2 yrs old, and should generate a substantial amount of comfrey leaves this year for compost production.

Sincerely,

Ralph
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Newly expanded bed
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Top of the buried hugel prior to final dirt cover
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One black gold pile
 
gardener
Posts: 3053
Location: Central Texas zone 8a
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I would question the need for cardboard. Thats generally used to smother out a problem like bermuda grass. Considering this is a new bed, any weed that comes up can be easily pulled through the loose soil. Its also ergonomically easy to do it. I don't see a need at all.

I would also NOT plant comfrey in there. You mentioned it but didnt say where you are planting it. Raised beds get filled up quick with plants. No reason to add chop and drop to a bed that is already close to 100% organic matter. If anything i think you left out soil. I'd rather see you skip the woodchips and add 4 " of soil  in there and do your best to mix it in that top layer. If you do this, i would use hay instead of chips as the mulch. Easier to plant in, decomposes quicker. Actually i would use hay over chips either way. Thats just me though.

You are 99.9% there. Plant it out and enjoy the harvest!
 
Ralph Kettell
pollinator
Posts: 255
Location: The Arkansas Ozarks
41
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wayne fajkus wrote:I would question the need for cardboard. Thats generally used to smother out a problem like bermuda grass.

/Hi Wayne,

Boy you hit the nail on the head.  Ya gotta love Bermida grass, the virtual unkillable WEED.  The Bermuda grass seeds are everywhere.  Probably some survived in the manure as it is a major part off the diet of these cows.  

Considering this is a new bed, any weed that comes up can be steadily pulled through the loose soil. Its also ergonomically easy to do it. I don't see a need at all.

/Only the back 60% off the bed is new.  It has been expanded and the expanded portion has a base of logs, surrounded by dirt.

I would also NOT plant comfrey in there.

/I was not specific about the whole area nor the comfrey.  The whole area of which this bed is the bottom left 500 sf, is roughly 5,000sf.  It is going to have a substantial fence with electric also around the perimeter.  There will be three large raised bed areas, similar to this one, and a lot of area which is at grade.  I was planning on planting comfrey and flowers around the walkways and corners.  Thus I would use the comfrey for chop and drop in the less disturbed, read amended with organic material, areas.

You mentioned it but didnt say where you are planting it.

Raised beds get filled up quick with plants. No reason to add chop and drop to a bed that is already close to 100% organic matter.

/Amen

If anything i think you left out soil.

The soul you see around the logs is what we dug out less the rocks.  Here in the heart of the Ozarks, we have more than our blessing of rocks.  I used up all my dirt covering the hugel logs as I did not want it turn into a buried compost pile.  I am ordering a load of topsoil as we don't have any.  All we have is rocks, rocks, and more rocks.

I'd rather see you skip the woodchips and add 4 " of soil  in there and do your best to mix it in that top layer.

/another great catch, Wayne.  I am going to mix in some more soil on top, once it gets dropped of.

If you do this, i would use hay instead of chips as the mulch. Easier to plant in, decomposes quicker.

/I am getting some hay delivered as I am going to put a Ruth Stout style potato bed in the at grade area of the garden plot, but I got so much free wood chips (around 100 yds, now decomposed to about 60% of that) back in August that I feel compelled to use them.  They are already beginning to decompose nicely.  Perhaps I will later the hay and wood chips over the top of the beds.

Actually i would use hay over chips either way. Thats just me though.

You are 99.9% there. Plant it out and enjoy the harvest!



Thanks for your inputs Wayne!   I would have given more info with my original post but I was somewhat pressed for time.  Thanks again.

Sincerely,

Ralph
 
steward
Posts: 4047
Location: West Tennessee
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Ralph I think that's a great bed you've got going! There's a lot of fertility in there and I think any sort of "fertilizer" is unnecessary. If it were my bed, the one thing I would add some is some kelp. A few handfuls of kelp scattered in will add all kinds of micronutrients, feeding both the plants you choose to grow and the microbial life. Nice work!
 
Posts: 97
Location: South Mississippi
18
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The only other thing I might add to your soil mix besides the kelp/sea weed and straw mentioned by the others would be possibly nitrogen as depending on HOW the cow manure was aged and how much straw was in it, it could possibly be low in nitrogen as some people let it age outside, allowing rain and sun to leach out the (N) in it. They didn't allow the cattle to urinate on it, this is where most of the (N) urea comes from, or adding to much high carbon materials such as straw will also lower the (N). I would add (N) especially if you are planting heavy feeding plants in there. But the good news is usually its easy to spot (N) deficiency. If you spot (especially on heavy feeders) that the old leaves are turning yellow you can side dress or even feed them with a drench. I would use a compost tea and/or blood meal but be careful w/ blood meal as it can burn plants if it touches the plant directly. Some other organic (N) sources include alfalfa meal, cotton seed meal, manure tea, compost tea, rice hulls, blood meal etc...
 
gardener
Posts: 2774
Location: Southern Illinois
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Ralph,

I have to agree with others here, I think you have an abundance of fertility already, what with all that black gold.  If you are so inclined, I would suggest getting something in there to break down the wood.

You probably already have an abundance of bacteria willing to do their share of decomposing wood.  Another approach you could try (no harm done) would be to encourage some fungal growth.

Nice little garden plot there!

Eric
 
Ralph Kettell
pollinator
Posts: 255
Location: The Arkansas Ozarks
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Thanks both C Rogers and Eric!

Interestingly, this was my post from last year at garden prep time, albeit a bit late.  I have a couple of posts about this year which are different from last year in many ways.

The pile of black gold I have this year is a 50/50 mix of last year's composted cow manure (black gold) mixed with fairly well composted wood chips which have sat and composted together for another 9 months and been moved a few times by tractor and piled in a new location.  The initial mixing was by Roto tiller.  I don't use a Roto tiller on the garden just as a giant mix master for soil and breaking up our horrible dirt as a precursor to digging it and moving it.

The soil mix is ready to use, but I think I will l inoculated it with some fungus when I layer it on the garden.  This year the garden will be at least 4 times the size of the bed which I pictured in the build photos from last year.  We did ok last year, but I expect it to be much better this year.  The buried hugel beds need some more time to decompose a bit and when I finish the lasagna layers on them this winter, they should be ready to rock and roll.

I will have lots and lots (read about a cubic yard of worm castings) during the spring and summer.  This is a new addition since last year and my chimney should be producing chop and drop a few times this year.  So it is beginning to come together.

We had great productivity last year in peppers, squash, beets, cabbage, green beans, but not so great with the tomatoes.  This was largely because it was a brand new bed and it  two feet deep of logs buried under it.  There was lots of manure around the logs but I think it needed d some more seasoning.  This year we well be sitting a lot more compost tea and worm castings tea and Comfrey tea.  I am hoping for a significant increase in tomato production.  Time will tell.

Sincerely,

Ralph
 
Eric Hanson
gardener
Posts: 2774
Location: Southern Illinois
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That is an impressive volume of worm castings.  Right there you have perhaps the best possible fertilizer available!

Good work with garden plot.

Eric
 
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