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Inherited unhealthy garden. Need ideas.  RSS feed

 
Jason Long
Posts: 153
Location: Davie, Fl
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A garden that we inherited moving in here had a few herbs and veggies growing, slowly. For starters, the garden wasn't placed in the most wise place ever, however it does get a decent amount of direct sun during the day.

When observing the plants that are growing:
Basil: Leaf Blight
Radishes: Growing slow, not thinned, healthy looking green tops
Peppers: Growing slow (if it all), not many leaves, barely flowering
Bush beans: TINY bushes, maybe 3 sprigs with leaves growing  on best plant. Barely no more growth since living here for 2 months. Leaves look like they are being eaten by something, light brown/white "flecks" across several leaves, similar to bean rust without the yellow color.
Parsley:Making slower, less than average growth
Clover has volunteered into the garden to help repair this soil

My plans:
I am going to change this bed into a keyhole to make it more accessible, also I plan to use lasagna method in rehabilitating the soil.

Should some of the soil be removed before stacking OM on top to prevent the blight being in the soil, or do you think after rebuilding and planting with a variety of legume, insectaries ,green manure and vegetables should create enough diversity to maintain healthy life without blight?


 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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i wouldn't remove the soil, just pile your organic matter over the top..you might remove any blighted plants though and burn them.

when you replant that area plant other types of plants that aren't going to be affected by the diseases that were there..and plant the type of plants that might, somewhere else.
 
Jason Long
Posts: 153
Location: Davie, Fl
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Yes, removing the soil seemed extreme however I wasn't sure if there would be an issue in the long term if I did not.

After noticing the blight last month I removed and burned them.

How long do you think that area could be a problem to blight "prone" species?
 
Mike Dayton
Posts: 149
Location: sw pa zone 5
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I sounds to me that you have a Good Plan not only as to what you want to do,  but also how you are going to do it.  I think you are on the right track.  I might suggest that you do a soil test to actually see what you are starting with there.  I would also dig down to see how deep the top soil is in your garden and what kind of sub-soil you have.  Many plants put down very deep roots.  If the sub-soil is a problem you may want to double dig and loosen it a bit to allow the plants to set deep roots.  All in all though,  your plan of building the soil with organic matter and making the garden easier to get around sounds like you are on the right track.  Dont worry about making a few mistakes along the way.  We all make mistakes.  The only people who never make mistakes are those people who never do anything.  Good Luck
 
                          
Posts: 25
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I have a hunch the issue with your inherited garden is simply that the previous gardeners used a bunch of chemicals, killed the soil life thereby weakening the plants making them susceptible to whatever blows by.  Rather than there being any toxicity in the soil to be removed, it's more likely it is just starving to death.  I agree with the others who posted, and what I would do is just pile on the organics however you can...... bet you see huge improvements by spring.  I bet with enough and varied enough organic material added, it will balance itself nicely.  You might want to spring some bucks for a jar or package of those myccho rizzins (I will NEVER learn how to remember how to spell that word!) -- the soil micro-organisms.  They can be a bit pricey but worth it in that kind of situation.  Get them started reproducing and things will balance out.

Last place I lived was like that, except not so apparent because the chemical applications to keep the pests away had been recent....... but the soil was so lifeless that it took way more amending than I thought it would, to get things going properly.  (And then I moved away before being able really to do enough.....)
 
Jason Long
Posts: 153
Location: Davie, Fl
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PA: The subsoil here is a light sand mix ,as I am in south florida. Any plants with some nice big tap roots will be able to dig down quite well. However, there can often be lots of coral about 16"+ deep. So that is a good point to bring me to.

Kyla: This inherited garden is definitely a recently build garden. I am pretty sure that there is some not so good chemicals in the garden as there are not many volunteers growing, besides the clover and one other plant that I've recently seen that needs to be identified. Also, the landlord loves to use fertilizer, however I am teaching him the harmful effects of petroleum/chemical fertilizers. So he is hopefully turning away from them. I gratefully have almost full control of this yard, so I have got him to back off with doing anything.
 
Kate Fortesque-McPeake
Posts: 29
Location: PA, zone 6b
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One thing I'd recommend is to plant some Bocking comfrey, and when you do so treat the roots with a mycorhizal root dip.    Of course, you should choose the site for comfrey planting very carefully, keeping in mind that removal will be nigh on impossible once it's established.  The Bocking varieties will not spread, although the plants get quite large - figure at least a 4' diameter per plant, with heavy shade under that 4' circle.  Comfrey is one of the most useful plants in an organic garden, and by establishing it with a mycorhizal colony on its roots, you'll be doing great things for the soil.  After the first year, you can cut the leaves repeatedly for green manure, or compost activation, or livestock feed, or medicinal use.
 
Scott Reil
Posts: 179
Location: Colchester, CT
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Hey Jason,

Knowing your weeds helps to detrmine issues in your soil; clover and not much else usually means nitrogen starved soil. If they were bombing in the chemical ferts and you are not, you are probably going way short on N. ALL your issues could be attributed to low N.

Nature pushes nitrogen by way of bacteria, the highest nitrogen critter on the globe. Problem is you need to release the N from these critters, and predations is the only good way to do that. Luckily we have such a tool that provides all the above; Compost.

In a lasagna set-up you apply the compost to the top, and let gravity and watering to migrate your biologies down through the soil profile. Hmmm. Slow... if you work it in you destroy fungal hyphae that benefit our plants. Bummer.

What if we had a way to not only provide a ready transport through the soil profile without harm to existing soil denizens, but to multiply the exsisting biologies in our compost ten fold? That would be great, right?

It's called compost tea, and it works great. I think it is the answer to a lot of your issues. Check it out.

s
 
Paula Edwards
Posts: 411
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I wouldn't be too much worried about chemicals, all what you buy in the whops is far worse. I wouldn't change the layout of the beds if it is not too bad to work, keyholes are not more productive that usual bed systems.
I would maybe hoe the whole thing and then plant a green manure crop (in theory in practice I can never wait to plant my crop), slash it add some compost muck or what ever you find and plant. If the beds have a reasonable size I would build (get husband to build) a chicken tractor which you mover over the  beds to fertilize them. Even we put the chicken with the sheep I still want to have such a chicken tractor and it might be an option to raise the little ones.
I would maybe make a list of blight crops and plant them elsewhere.
 
Mr. Wright
Posts: 6
Location: Murfreesboro TN
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If it were me, I would do three things:

Get up all that blighted vegetable matter, compost it thoroughly, and return it to the soil. I would say to use the J. Jenkins method of composting though, if you can  . This is all about Biodiversity and is a little extra work yes, however you are 'priming' the soil with good 'ole compost microbes. The spores, eggs, and seeds of undesirables will be purged while the compost does its magic.  Apply it lasagna method, or any old method you deem necessary.

If you clean up any woody plants, go ahead and pyrolyze them, Mix that compost 50/50 with some charcoal you just made let it set for a couple of weeks and then you have Bio-char.

Mulch, mulch, mulch. Mulch under the soil (hugelkultur) Mulch over the soil. Mulch as it breaks down over the years brings nutrients, retains water, provides humus, and beneficial fungi love to munch on lignin (the collagen like substance of the plant world).

Yes you can spot check the soil with this or that technique, but in a good permaculture system, just like in a working ecosystem, Soil is the Key. If your soil retains water, everything gets a hell of a lot easier. Biologically active Charcoal and Rotted Wood are great, low impact ways to get the soils starting to hold water. Once the soil is healthy, you will find that the plant diseases will be reduced to an acceptable level. 
 
Jason Long
Posts: 153
Location: Davie, Fl
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Kate: Comfrey is in my design plan, thanks for the tip to dip it in the micorhizal root dip!

Scott: My plans were to plant it out in more clover, and pigeon pea. When I came here all the veggies were already here. I decided to hold off on a minute in that area and put my energy towards creating a hugel/lasagna bed. I am working on compost tea, and that will definitely be going onto my bed areas! I hope that in the future the will not be a need, however as for now thanks for the encouragement!

Ediblecities: The bed is 20ft (N/S) by 10ft(E/W). I feel as if there will be the ability to plant more by using a keyhole, since I would have to have some sort of path to get the food out. Less path = more food . I don't have chickens, nor do I plan to keep them here since I will only be here for a couple years. I recently just gave the turkeys (neighbors) another 1000sqft of roaming to do just that.

Mr.Wright: I definitely need to do a bunch of research on BioChar. I am not convinced nor do I deny that biochar is the answer quite yet. Tis the truth, the key is the healthy soil and my plan is to make it!

 
Scott Reil
Posts: 179
Location: Colchester, CT
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Hey Jason,

Clover and pigeon pea are both great ideas for building natural nitrogen into yoursoils, but don't forget the plant needs to die back for good notrogen release to the soil, so mowing/scything/burning or some such should figure in. These plant/bacterial symbiotes don't make nitrogen out of the goodness of their little green hearts; they make it for themselves and can be stingy...

Good on ya about the tea; it can be as easy as a good aquarium pump and a five gallon bucket, or a fancy commercial unit, but adding biology is the name of the game, whether we talk hugelkultur, bio-char (it ain't bio-char until you add bio) or compost.

Speaking of hugelkultur and bio-char, they are really just spokes of the same wheel; adding carbon to soil to provide food and home for soil biologies. Straight up char without the biological additions (think tea or compost again) can create a nutrient sink that gobbles and holds your nutrition indefinitely (as the carbon source is so much longer lived and less available to the biology). The wood will rot and release, but keeps the carbon in the soil for less time. Different tools for the same job, but both effective in their own ways. Why not use both tools?
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