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Using winter paddock as a garden

Posts: 5
Location: Western PA
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First--apologies if this is not the right area to post, please let me know and/or move it.

This past winter we kept our 3 heifers on one of our gardens, more or less as a sacrifice paddock. Now that they are moved to pasture, we will briefly follow them with hogs. This has left much manure and hay, as you could imagine. The soil is originally very heavy, acidic clay, so we wanted the organic matter. Our original plan was to till it in (as we did last year after hogs only), but we are wondering if that is necessary, or even desirable.

We've never had a very successful garden, and all the tilling is hard on my husband. However, using the same plot for wintering the critters and growing annuals seems to recommend itself to tilling, since the animals also cause soil compaction. I love the idea of permanent beds and walkways, and would LOVE to see less weeds. We're just not sure how to get there.

The only free mulch available in any great quantity is hardwood sawdust. Living much is appealing (it might be an opportunity to indulge my love of white Dutch clover). I refuse to buy soil or mulch in any significant amount. Although I have already decided that I will drive through town stealing people's bagged leaves this fall.
Posts: 946
Location: 6200' westen slope of colorado, zone 6
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I think that the compaction issues from heavy animals on wet clay will be insurmountable on an annual basis. Tilling would not deal with the deep compaction that would have occured, and will only create a secondary, more severe zone of compaction at the depth of the tiller.

If you let the area rest for a year, and grew some daikon radish or other taprooted plants to break up the compaction, then I would think that you would have a workable situation, for next year.

good luck!
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