Hello everyone! I'm new here and new to growing things.
My family just acquired 8 acres of land in Arizona, and the former owners of the land kept cows and horses on the fields. This one particular area about 6000 ft2 that I envision to be vegetable gardens had enclosed about a dozen cows full time so it's full of cow manure that I believe weren't from eating organic feeds. There is no vegetation growing. Its completely brown.
Now, what would be the very first step I can take to turn this area into garden beds? Scrape the manure and compost as a pile? Any material I can bring on to the future beds? Mulching?
Thank you for your advice and I'm excited to learn!!
Cow manure is a good soil conditioner and the ground is probably compacted after having all those animals on it.
So, it would be good to simply rotary hoe the whole area a few times to mix and break up the ground, then plant a green manure crop to eat up any excess nutrients. Perhaps do the green manure crop thing a few times to also increase soil carbon.
Following that, simply divide the area into rows and away the planting goes!
I second that, tho as compacted as our soils are here naturally I'd run a subsoiler or keyline through instead. I would also take some soil from an edge or other area without too much fresh manure and send it for analysis so you can add any necessary amendments before subsoiling and green manuring
You might want to watch these videos and use the lab they recommend. I'm in the process of amending my soil now following Dan's directions for target ranges. Expecting some good stuff this coming year.
I go along with the use of a subsoiler over a tiller (rotary hoe), then I would get some fungi (mushroom slurry) spores spread over the land, these two things will get that soil microbiome going strong and that's what you need.
Green manure crops are always great, they are really good for a first time area where livestock have been held for too long a period since the roots will open up the soil and the cut material returns the nutrients to the soil.
(read my soil threads, you will find lots of suggestions on improving your soil there)
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Arizona is a big place with lots of soil types, so not sure this is on point. But anyway...
If you are in caliche soils, you will only get minimal depths unless you concentrate on deepening the soil. Subsoiler is one way of doing it, best to go as deep as possible and do it right by doing it once with a big machine. The issue is that those soils recompact very quickly, so don't spend alot of resources unless you have a plan to maintain and gradually deepen your soil depth. In my experience in AZ, this means you need heavy shade for the dry season (because it is brutal for soil microbes) and a plan to annually incorporate biomass. This can be from the shade plants at the beginning of the wet season, so a timed chop and drop. There are lots of plants that grow really fast there and provide shade even once cut down for a long time. Unfortunately some are kind of invasive... So you may develop a plan to have a maturing layer behind the fast growers, and you can schwack the fast growers into submission later if you know how to kill them off. Tillage radishes/turnips may help especially the first couple years. It is so dry there that I don't think they will even degrade much until you get toward the wet season, leaving you with better soil structure when you need it from all the root mass. And earthworks in AZ are well documented as being important in the dry areas if you can do them.
My best garden in AZ was in partial shade. Full sun I could only grow in spring and fall. Best of luck!
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