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I tilled in wood chips and vegetables did not do well  RSS feed

 
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Last winter I moved a raised bed garden and had the wood chip mulch tilled in to increase organic matter content, which was low.
Last summer my vegetables were in very poor shape. 

I have learned a lot on this forum and want to go over to using compost and compost tea.  Is there anything I can do now to prepare my garden for spring? By summer I should have some compost ready and compost tea before then.

Thanks
 
pollinator
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What does your soil test reveal?

Remember it is just a guess unless you test. Not having enough organic matter is a problem, but just one of what could be many problems.
 
gardener
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One thing that occurs when wood chips are tilled into soil is the soil microbes start to break down the wood chips, and in doing so scavenge a lot of available nitrogen in the soil to do that job. It's nothing devastating, it's only temporary, but likely at least one part of why your garden did not perform well. Your soil is now much improved having done that and a year passing by. One of the best ways to utilize wood chips is to apply them to the surface as a mulch. They will decay nicely on the surface, helping prevent erosion and keeping the soil from drying out, and will add the organic matter you seek. Earthworms and other bug activity will work this decayed matter deeper into your soil.

Like Travis mentioned above, have you had a soil test done?
 
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Dennis Bangham wrote:Last winter I moved a raised bed garden and had the wood chip mulch tilled in to increase organic matter content, which was low.
Last summer my vegetables were in very poor shape. 

I have learned a lot on this forum and want to go over to using compost and compost tea.  Is there anything I can do now to prepare my garden for spring? By summer I should have some compost ready and compost tea before then.

Thanks



If the wood chip mulch had been on the bed soil for a season it should have some fungal spores present and those will begin to grow when the moisture is right.
To get the bed into better condition for spring start adding spent coffee grounds as a top dressing and I would even add more wood chips if possible.
The wonderful thing about using spent coffee grounds is: they will add nitrogen, they will add fungi and bacteria while at the same time providing foods for the organisms, they will prevent some of the bad guy organisms from wanting to come in to your soil where they have been placed.
I like to spread spent coffee grounds at a thickness of 1 inch all over the garden beds. I also use them on new straw bales that I am preparing for the spring garden, they help get nitrogen into the bales and that helps start the decomposition of the interior of the bales, allowing better water holding, nutrient availability for the plants I put into the bales when the temperatures reach planting levels.

Redhawk
 
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I did what the OP did too 2 years back now, in some raiised beds.. Last winter I added a lot of spent coffee grounds, and planted some broad beans as a chop and drop crop.

It certainly did the trick as the beds produced a good crop of courgett and peppers this year.
 
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Dennis Bangham wrote:Last winter I moved a raised bed garden and had the wood chip mulch tilled in to increase organic matter content, which was low.
Last summer my vegetables were in very poor shape. 



Dennis, out of curiosity, I wonder what variety of wood in the wood chips? and were they chipped up wood or rather chipped bark?
 
Dennis Bangham
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Here is my soil test.  The date is wrong since it was done in late 2016 not 2017. 
I asked for a soil quality test (at least that is what I think I called it).
I did add some Lowes 13-13-13 fertilizer and some hand-fulls of epsom salts around the tomatoes/peppers in the spring. 

After tilling in the old wood chips I went back over the garden with new wood chips.
In the walk ways between rows I used some cedar mulch and over the areas where I planted and had drip irrigation I used oak chips (wood not much bark).
Thank you for the help.
Filename: 17-K0034-Dennis-Bangham-Report-(2).pdf
File size: 209 Kbytes
 
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As has already been mentioned, breaking down wood chips takes a lot of nitrogen. Coffee grounds are a good source but you can only generate so much of that! I'd give it a good dose of blood meal or other source of nitrogen to really get things going. Milorganite is another easily found source. Many would scoff at the idea but plain old household ammonia is also a choice plus it's cheap and easy to get. Being a landscaper I've used it on the many piles of leaves collected during fall cleanups at customers homes to get it break them down FAST. Treat that bed like a compost pile for now, all that added nitrogen will be there in the future.
 
Dennis Bangham
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Thanks for the advice.  I can probably focus what I do to just where the drip emitters are located in order to reduce the amount of material I need to buy.   
I did look at ammonia in gardens and found that it is somewhat common.  I can try ammonia now as a broadcast and coffee grounds around the plant emitters when I get enough to worry about. 
Do you recommend several applications prior to spring?
Thanks
 
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You could just pee on it. Nitrogen and magnesium! And the price is right
 
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I do the paths with woodchips and then rake them in after a season or two.
Were on earth do you get so many coffee grounds?
 
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I don't know where Bryant get's his, but my husband usually picks me up a bag or two when he stops at Fred Meyers on his way home from work. Almost any coffee shop gives them away for free. Some places have designated areas where they put their bags for people to pick up, and other coffee shops you have to ask. I'm finding that winter is a great time to get them--a lot of gardeners go hunting for coffee grounds in the spring, but don't think to go pick them up in the winter, when they're not working in their gardens.
 
James Freyr
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Hey Dennis I looked over your soil test. While it is a good start, the test lacks some important information, one being the soils Cation Exchange Capacity or CEC. Think of CEC as a pantry, the higher the number, the bigger the pantry, and the more cations (calcium, magnesium, potassium etc.) or "food stuffs" the soil can hold. Knowing this value or the soils capacity is important as it determines what it can hold so excessive amounts aren't applied and money wasted, and helps guide you to correct ratios of some of these cations (calcium:magnesium 7:1)

Also missing from the soil test are some micronutrients which are very important to know, such as iron, copper, zinc, boron, manganese. Boron for example, think of it as kinda lining a plants capillaries, responsible for the transport of water and all other nutrients up and down a plant. Insufficient boron can really hold things back.

One thing that really stands out in your soil test is the phosphorous. At 2ppm, it's practically non-existent, that needs to come up, but how much and how far is unknown since there's no CEC on the soil test, even though phosphorous is an anion, it too has desired ratios with other elements. If we were to make a blind guess, and err heavily on the side of caution, let's pretend your soil's CEC is 5, which is pretty darn low in the world of soils, unless your growing in sand, then the value could be even lower. The phosphorous could easily go to 100ppm with no harm.

If you have any questions, I'll do my best to help.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I get coffee grounds from cafeterias, Starbucks (3), petrol stations and our house on the weekends.
Each Starbucks makes about 5 gal. per day of grounds, I have 5 gal. pails at each one.
The cafeterias put them in empty 5 gal pails their condiments come in. (again 1 5 gal. pail a day)
petrol stations require I pick up daily and I have to provide the bucket and keep it clean. about 1 bucket per week.
Home is the least amount since we only make coffee on the weekends.

If you find a store that provides coffee service, they have to make the coffee they are selling, just ask the store manager if anyone is picking up the spent grounds.
If no one is, ask if they would save them for you if  you provide a grounds bucket with a lid, a yes means you will have a steady supply of spent grounds.
We have enough that we use them in many ways; ant control, worm food in the garden beds, soil  enrichment, compost heaps, just spread on the soil surface around trees, shrubs etc.

Redhawk
 
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Yep, great idea. I have the same arrangement with a raw juice bar picking up their waste pulp. I get anywhere from 20lbs to 50lbs per day. A buddy and I split it. And I still have trouble keeping up collecting enough brown waste to balance it out. However, if you make an arrangement like this, be sure to be regular with your pickups. Or they WILL find someone else. Or worse yet deny the next person of a great opportunity to maximize their compost.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Indeed Keith, I talk to the manager or store owner and find out what sort of pickup schedule they want, then You Have To Be On Time, Every Time, they always feel like they are going out of their way to be nice so you have to do what you agree to when you agreed to or they will shut you off.
Some places will set the buckets outside near their trash bins so if you don't show, the trash pickup takes them away. My places all put them out by their back service door so I just stop by on my way home every day and put them in the back of the pickup truck, the ones where I own the buckets, I leave a clean empty bucket. I've seen the starbucks stores reach out and take the clean one inside as I start to drive away. (my truck is kind of loud and they know the sound, lol) (weekends I don't pickup, a friend does those two days for his gardens)

The cafeterias only set the buckets out on Friday and I don't have to leave any since they also use me as a way to get rid of the condiment buckets. I just add them into my Friday stops.

If they want you there at a particular time, be there, if they just want them gone by closing time, do that, it is pretty simple and they really are doing you a favor and it may or may not take some extra time for them to separate those grounds for you from their normal trash.

I wish we had some juice bars that were on my way home, My worms would love that stuff.
 
Dennis Bangham
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James Freyr wrote:Hey Dennis I looked over your soil test. While it is a good start, the test lacks some important information, one being the soils Cation Exchange Capacity or CEC. Think of CEC as a pantry, the higher the number, the bigger the pantry, and the more cations (calcium, magnesium, potassium etc.) or "food stuffs" the soil can hold. Knowing this value or the soils capacity is important as it determines what it can hold so excessive amounts aren't applied and money wasted, and helps guide you to correct ratios of some of these cations (calcium:magnesium 7:1)

Also missing from the soil test are some micronutrients which are very important to know, such as iron, copper, zinc, boron, manganese. Boron for example, think of it as kinda lining a plants capillaries, responsible for the transport of water and all other nutrients up and down a plant. Insufficient boron can really hold things back.

One thing that really stands out in your soil test is the phosphorous. At 2ppm, it's practically non-existent, that needs to come up, but how much and how far is unknown since there's no CEC on the soil test, even though phosphorous is an anion, it too has desired ratios with other elements. If we were to make a blind guess, and err heavily on the side of caution, let's pretend your soil's CEC is 5, which is pretty darn low in the world of soils, unless your growing in sand, then the value could be even lower. The phosphorous could easily go to 100ppm with no harm.

If you have any questions, I'll do my best to help.



James Freyer.  I am using my states agricultural university to do the soil test. (Auburn University)  I found online that, by asking for a soil quality test, I could get this additional detailed information.  On the regular (attached) report they provide the soil as "Clays and soils high in organic matter (CEC > 9.0 cmolckg-1)"

Attached is the regular soil report that was for other areas of my yard (0.65 acres).  My kiwi pergolas are next to the veggie garden.  The veggie garden has raised bed with wood chips the clay soil is the same.

Where can I go to get a the additional testing data that you describe?  Also for Phosphorus should I get some "Black Kow" manure?   Don't want to get shot going through some cow fields looking for the free stuff.

Thanks
Filename: December-2016-Soil-Analysis-report-banghamd.pdf
File size: 45 Kbytes
 
Dennis Bangham
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:

Dennis Bangham wrote:Last winter I moved a raised bed garden and had the wood chip mulch tilled in to increase organic matter content, which was low.
Last summer my vegetables were in very poor shape. 

I have learned a lot on this forum and want to go over to using compost and compost tea.  Is there anything I can do now to prepare my garden for spring? By summer I should have some compost ready and compost tea before then.

Thanks



If the wood chip mulch had been on the bed soil for a season it should have some fungal spores present and those will begin to grow when the moisture is right.
To get the bed into better condition for spring start adding spent coffee grounds as a top dressing and I would even add more wood chips if possible.
The wonderful thing about using spent coffee grounds is: they will add nitrogen, they will add fungi and bacteria while at the same time providing foods for the organisms, they will prevent some of the bad guy organisms from wanting to come in to your soil where they have been placed.
I like to spread spent coffee grounds at a thickness of 1 inch all over the garden beds. I also use them on new straw bales that I am preparing for the spring garden, they help get nitrogen into the bales and that helps start the decomposition of the interior of the bales, allowing better water holding, nutrient availability for the plants I put into the bales when the temperatures reach planting levels.

Redhawk



Redhawk,  Thanks for the advice.  I have a couple of drive through coffee shops nearby.  I also have a couple dozen plastic buckets.  I will go visit them this weekend and see if they like recycling. 
If that does not work, I also work in a building full of engineers so coffee is the addiction of choice. I hope management does not have a policy about buckets of coffee grounds out in the open.
 
James Freyr
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Hey Dennis I just skimmed over the other soil test report. I see where they list your soil as falling into category 3 with a CEC greater than 9.0, which is a start, but how far over 9 would be nice to know. Some clay soils can easily have CEC's of 40 or 50, and CEC's over 100 do exist.

I'm not knocking AU's extension services or soil test, as there are several different kinds of soil test extraction methods. There are many quality soil testing services out there, at universities both state run and private, and there are also many independent private labs as well. I myself use Logan Labs in Ohio for my soil testing needs. Their basic soil test provides a nice array of information including CEC, and micronutrients along with P, K Ca, and Mg. Their report sheet is easy to read and they provide simple target ranges for some of the elements based on the soils CEC. Their basic soil test costs $25, which I think is affordable considering the amount of data it provides, and they usually have pretty good turnaround which I like as well.

As far as adding phosphorous, I myself would use tennessee brown rock phosphate. It has an analysis of 0-22-0, along with nice amounts of calcium, and silicon to boot! You may be able to find it at a brick and mortar garden center, but a quick google search will yield several places to get it from. There's also the option of driving to the source in southern tennessee with a pickup truck and getting a scoop dumped in the back. There are other soft rock phosphates on the market as well.
 
Dennis Bangham
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James Freyr -

I did a little better job at searching and found that there is a more complete analysis that can be done. The testing Form is attached.

Would the S1 and S22 be the only recommended or should I go for more tests? 

S1 -- Mehlich 1 Extractable elements by ICAP,   Ca,K,Mg,P,Cu,Fe,Mn,Zn,B,Al,Cd,Cr,Pb,Ni,Na

S22 -- . CEC with S1

I have included the Special Soil Testing form.  I want to do this analysis for my veggie garden, my Asian Pears/Asian Persimmons and blueberries.

Thank you,
Filename: SoilFormRevised.pdf
File size: 671 Kbytes
 
Dennis Bangham
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James Freyr wrote:

As far as adding phosphorous, I myself would use tennessee brown rock phosphate. It has an analysis of 0-22-0, along with nice amounts of calcium, and silicon to boot! You may be able to find it at a brick and mortar garden center, but a quick google search will yield several places to get it from. There's also the option of driving to the source in southern tennessee with a pickup truck and getting a scoop dumped in the back. There are other soft rock phosphates on the market as well.



James.  I went to Tennessee and got a few bags of brown rock dust and also later went to get some bags of SEA-90 (also in Tennessee).  I have mixed both in my compost and will now use some around my plants.  Maybe a tablespoon of each mixed in with the soil.   I also have some blood meal to get a nitrogen boost also.  Walmart is now carrying organic supplies.

Thanks all.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I would want to include the S21 test if possible.
 
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