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burn the garden

 
Posts: 18
Location: South Ala 30' Latitude zone 8b
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I am planning on burning my garden and would like advice or insights.  I have a back yard garden that I have growing for 10-15 years. I now have some bad disease problems with Root-knot nematodes and some wilts, bacterial and fungal. There is also blights, rusts, leafspots, aphids, every crop seems to develop some disease or bug.
 I am hopping for a "Great Reset" by burning the garden.  I am not talking about a controlled burn of a field.  My garden is 9 permanent rows that are 35 feet long with pine straw walkways.
 I want to remove the mulch layer down to the topsoil, pile sticks and limbs the length of the row about 2 ft, high and burn for at least an hour.  Then remulch with fresh leaves about 6 inches deep, to recolonize the soil with hopefully mainly beneficial organisms, adding any mulch or tea that I have at the time.
  This will all have to be done over a few months time.
  Does anyone use fire in their garden like this for disease control, Or does anyone have any insights, am I missing anything or misunderstanding something???
 
master gardener
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Location: southern Illinois.
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Hi Bruce

Before I went to raised beds, I would burn off my garden every year.  This was more for weed control.  I cant recall it creating any problems.
 
Posts: 79
Location: Málaga, Spain
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Could your terrain be too humid? If so, maybe what it needs is just some sort of drainage.
Maybe a nitrogen excess? In that case, letting it wallow with wild plants would solve most of its problems.

When a potting mix is spoiled, one thing we do is to spread it on the ground so it dries out and exposed to the sun. Usually this recovers the mix. But doing this on your soil could require working on small lots each time.
Another thing you could try is to plant onions and garlics and the likes, since those are natural pest controllers.
 
Bruce Fisher
Posts: 18
Location: South Ala 30' Latitude zone 8b
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Thank you John.
Abraham, My soil is very sandy, over the last 10-12 years I have added a lot of leaves to the soil. I "gutter shop" for bags of leave and grass clipping, I also throw rotting wood on rows.  My soil drains very well and never stays soggy, even though we get over 60 inches of rain a year. Over the years I have done a bad job with crop rotation.  The nematode attack tomatoes and okra.  I also have a very bad problem with "wilts" , I don't know how to tell the difference between a bacterial or fungal wilt.   Anyway, I hope kill the top 2-3 of the topsoil. Then cover with half composted leaves about six inches deep to recolonize the soil with hopefully more friendly organisms.  Nature will grow what is best for the soil, and I can get a few years without disease issues
   if pictures load, 2 are of nematode damage on okra and 1 is just a general view my garden. Right now I have onions, garlic, collards, kale, carrots, cilantro, arugula, and snap peas, growing, I will have to wait till theses crops come out before I start burning.
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Bruce Fisher
Posts: 18
Location: South Ala 30' Latitude zone 8b
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I am embarrassed, I sent a bad picture of my garden.  These are a different angle/side of the garden.  I my have too much nitrogen in my soil, but I only add a small amount on the rows, usually when growing brassicas or corn. Never manures.
 
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Abraham Palma
Posts: 79
Location: Málaga, Spain
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Do you have any aromatic herbs? In agroecology they use them around the main crops to deal with infestations.
Persil, lavanda, basil, mint, rosemary, even nettles. Not as a separate crop, but mixed with your crop.

The way you have planted them, yes, crop rotation is a must.
 
Bruce Fisher
Posts: 18
Location: South Ala 30' Latitude zone 8b
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Only aromatic herb is the cilantro, I let it stay in the garden to go to seed,  The flowers are nice for insects of many type. I plant a few different flowers in and around the garden in the spring and summer, later this winter the brassicas, arugulas, and some carrot tops i have planted will bloom.
 
Abraham Palma
Posts: 79
Location: Málaga, Spain
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Well, it looks like it is as you said, your rotation strategy wasn't good enough.

Usually pests attack only one kind of species. For example, heterodera latipons franklin only attack grains such as wheat and barley. Remove any grain herb for a whole year and their pest will starve. It will not dissapear completely, though, that's why you have to keep on rotating crops so you plant wheat/barley again in three or four years. But there are a few nematodes that prey on a wide variety of crops, like xiphinema divesicaudatum, trichodorus cylindricus, and the traditional way to deal with them was to fallow every four years.
The other way is planting a diverse food forest. There you will have many different plants in the same area, making it difficult for the pest to find their food, and even when they kill something, it is just one or two plants that you can easily replace. The problem with a food forest, compared to what you have there, is that it does not give you a big yield in harvest time, making it harder for a farmer to sell the produce (who is usually producing food on demand, and very few crops are really in high demand). On the other hand, a food forest is great for your personal consumption if you are willing to adapt your diet to whatever is ready to be harvested. Best thing is that once the terrain find its balance, you won't need to do anything else but fertilize and harvest.
If you need it 'farmer style', then rotate crops, solarize your earth if it is too bad for any plant and if you want it fast (that's covering the wet and clean ground with a clear plastic for one or two months) or let it fallow if you want it cheap. I'd only use burnings in monocultures, which is not your case. Moreover, I don't see burnings listed as an effective method against these parasites.
 
Bruce Fisher
Posts: 18
Location: South Ala 30' Latitude zone 8b
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Thank you Abraham,  I had thought of solarization, but I have my doubts that it would work well. I think the only time of year to do it would be in the late, hot, dry summer. I don't think it would kill deep enough.
   I have been hearing lately a lot about the lack of fire we now have in the local eco and some of the detrimental effects. I know that there has not been a fire in this area in 18 years.
  The diseases on the tomatoes/peppers/solanaceae has gotten so bad that in the last couple of years I would plant 10-16 plants watch them get to 3-4feet tall then start dying one after another.  Last year I only had 3 plants that made a few ripe tomatoes before they died.  This fall I planted 10 and they all died no tomatoes. I plant varieties that are diseased resistant, early season, and recommended by others.  I have even expanded where I am growing and have been having the same results.  12 years ago I had a tomato forest, 5-7 foot plants, picking fruit by the box.
   Food forest is not too much an option, I have many large trees on the perimeter of the property that would be difficult to remove, so sunlight is restricted.  Where I do have sunlight I have blueberries and citrus trees.  Because of the lack of cold, apple and peach trees don't produce well. Nut trees like pecan do well, but there are lots of disease, so that would mean having to spray, and there are lots of squirrels to fight.
   If fire doesn't work, then I probably go fallow.
 
Abraham Palma
Posts: 79
Location: Málaga, Spain
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Bruce Fisher wrote:
   Food forest is not too much an option, I have many large trees on the perimeter of the property that would be difficult to remove, so sunlight is restricted.  Where I do have sunlight I have blueberries and citrus trees.  



How about a food forest using the trees you already have? Anyways, big trees are mostly used for the shade, and pumping humidity from the underground, so whatever you have in place probably will do well this function. Watch any backyard food forest and you'll see something that looks wild, no rows, just several different plants fighting for the space. Every single specie is edible or medicinal or simply beautiful.

I don't know if you can do it without solving first your parasites problem, though.
 
Posts: 8
Location: Aurora, Colorado zone 5
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Have you done a soil test? With sandy soil and high moisture and rainy place you may have some excesses and deficiencies.
 
pollinator
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Location: northern northern california
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i actually think this is a good idea, and yes i think it would work for what you are trying to do, though yes as you said it will me an epic months long, maybe year long process. but still it will help, i think its worth it.

one thing you could look into is Terra Preta  -->link for keyword terra preta
because it seems like this is basically what you are wanting to do. only this is generally made in a pit, you could do it in place, and further leave the mulch there and burn the mulch too.

the easy lazy way is to just burn a huge fire with scrap clippings and branches and random wood, keep adding "compost" more leaves and food waste and things that have some moisture, and then once it is going really well and starting to die down...pour a large amount of soil, screened native soil, or any other soil you want to sterilize some.
you can also sterilize your soil ...and solarization as mentioned above would also be something to try...but i like your idea of making terra preta in place. you would not need to remove the mulch unless you wanted too.

also maybe dont have to be that concerned about microorganism and such, yes it does set them back, but the land around it will just come back in and recolonize it as time goes by....but it does help to add fertility/finished composts/fresh mulch/compost tea or etc...at the very end to help that process.
 
leila hamaya
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on a different track, i suspect many of your issues are coming from too much water, too much humidity or too much supplemental watering. this is just my useless opinion of course =) based on little info...but that is my first thought so i will share
 
pollinator
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Location: Worcestershire, England
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Have you done a Ph test too? Perhaps its very acid because I think I see a lot of pine in the background and there seems to be a lot of needles around.  Apparently club root is reduced by liming too, so that might also suggest you soil is quite acid:ttps://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=128
 
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burning is a great redeemer. it destroys when its happening but the years afterward will have great  recovery. at least that's what seems to happen in the wild. seems like fire is part of the natural cycle of life. maybe you could try composting the leaves, pine needles and other organic matter before spreading it around in your garden. in a good productive compost pile the material will heat up killing and driving off many problem causing organisms.
just my opinion $0.02 from an old phart
 
Bruce Fisher
Posts: 18
Location: South Ala 30' Latitude zone 8b
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Wow, a lot of info and questions.  the Terra Petra sound promising. I will have to look into the biochar.
           I don't think that I supplement  too much extra water.  I try to water only when I have to, and since I have to use chlorinated water I try to use as infrequently as possible. There is a lot of humidity in this climate, can't change that but can increase space between plants.
           I have not had a soil test in years, but I think the pH and nutrients are good. I put a lot of leaves on the soil for mulch, pine needles go mainly on pathways and mulch for blueberrys. Leaves breakdown (rot) quickly in my climate. I have been told that the leaves will breakdown and buffer the soil pH to the proper range, that how nature works and I believe it.  Crops and weeds all seem to have enough vigor.  My problems seem to be in older plants.  The one thing I am wondering about is when I burn, how much will the wood ash affect the soil pH? I know it will be impossible to tell until after the burning, so I may do a test then. If it does raise the pH the options I have seen to lower pH are sulfur or acids. Neither solution I like so will probably just use mulch/time.  I use some wood ash now, but only a couple of pounds a row per year.  And sometimes after planting seeds ash on the surface deters slugs and cutworms, they don't like it
     I see the burning of the soil as the "Great Reset" then to let nature rebalance the system, ( i don't want to try and control it)
     I am trying to compost some now, but my goal has been to never have bare soil, except when germinating seeds.  This has required lots of leaves.  Usually I use 8 garbage sack per row 3 times a year, plus around dripline of citrus tree, under camellias, azaleas, and other ornamentals.  I can use up to 500 bags a year, but heck they are free, and I never buy trash bags.
    I am not familiar with clubroot, I will look into that.
    Food forest, I really don't have a clue on what advantages I could work there. I do grow elephant in my blackberry row, since the bramble are deciduous and the garlic sprouts in October it works out well.  The blueberrys should do okay under the pines and I might try that.  I don't know what to plant under the oaks except ornamentals. I have enough of them.
Thank you for your imputes.
 
Henry Jabel
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Location: Worcestershire, England
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If you are growing azaleas, blueberry and camellias in the soil they are classic acid loving plants, that suggests to me you definitely have acidic soil. Camellias I think you can get away with something slightly less acid but the other two are more acid especially the blueberries. If you want to grow something things that are not so acid loving buying a bag of hydrated lime would be best to amend it. I would still get a ph test though so you can work out how much you might need. If your soil is very sandy it might be a good idea to get some clay in your soil too while your at it.

I have a slightly acidic soil here but I have to grow blueberries in pots with an ericaceous acid soil because I am nowhere the ph range needed (they need about 5.5 or lower).
 
Bruce Fisher
Posts: 18
Location: South Ala 30' Latitude zone 8b
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Yes the soil in my yard is probably acidic, but the garden has had 10-15 years of rotting leaves with wood ash buffering the pH. Probably enough leaves to bury the garden in 6-10 feet, if all added at once.
I tend to not take pH as to dogmatic, organism live in a range of pH.  To me pH is measured in a homogeneous liquid, a solution. So in a garden you take samples here and there of non-homogeneous mixtures and expect to get a number that is the correct average for the area.  What is my body's pH? My blood is 7.2, Urine 6-8, stomach 1-8, and colon 7.5. something like that.  A plants root tip secrets carbolic acid, sap would vary, ect. to me plants, bacteria,fungi will adapt.
I bet if you took a pile of pinebark, pinestraw, and rotting leaves, Piled them up about 4 feet high, let the rot one summer and plant a blueberry in it when the fall rains come, you would have a happy blueberry.  All that said I will do a pH test after the burning. it will be interesting. thank you.
 
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