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Algernon Gordon

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since Oct 17, 2013
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Recent posts by Algernon Gordon

Carbon is easy to come by for me but not nitrogen. I don't have much lawn and when I do mow it, I use mulching blades.

I save my kitchen scraps but they don't amount to the massive quantities I will need for the amount of compost I want. I do have an arrangement with some local coffee shops where they save me their grounds and I pick them up frequently. It's working well but I still want more nitrogen.

Curious to see if any of you have tips for free nitrogen sources?

The first thing that came to mind was more food scraps (since they are such a good nitrogen source) so I asked one of the local grocery stores what they do with all their produce department waste (expired/rotten vegetables, trimmings, etc). He said they just put them in plastic trash bags and throw them in the dumpster along with everything else in the store. I don't think they would be willing to segregate the produce dept stuff from the rest of the stuff, and I'd have to dig through the dumpster (meat and dairy dept waste etc) so I don't think this is a great idea. What would be very ideal is a food distributor of some sort.....something where everything is already in boxes and just didn't get sold in time. I just have no idea how to find one.

Any ideas? Thanks in advance!
5 years ago
Willow tree.... interesting. I never would have thought of that. My yard does stay pretty damp in a few places so maybe a willow would work nicely. Thanks for the tip!
5 years ago
Thanks for the reply. I looked it up and it looks like it would be a good option though apparently it is only suited to zone 9-11 and I'm in 7b.
5 years ago
I have seen plenty of the gurus around here use dry, fresh, or partially rotted wood. Doesn't seem to matter.

Check out some of the examples at the bottom of this page:
http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/

5 years ago
I'm in the Atlanta area and am looking for perrenial plants that will grow very fast and can be chopped down (partially) for mulch. I'm hoping to find something woody/shrubby that gets a little large (10' to 20') so I can harvest a lot of biomass from it continuously. I have some areas that get 8 hours of direct sun, and a lot of other areas that are either full shade, or partial shade.

I've done some searching on this but can't find anything specific to my area and a lot of what I find is geared to more northern areas. I also find a lot of suggestions for smaller non-woody plants likee Comfrey and other low cover grops, which I do intend to use, but I'm hoping to find more woody perrenials to add even more biomass to my soil.

Thanks in advance!
5 years ago
I'm planning on building a long hugelbed that will double as a swale. I'm going to be planting a lot of annual vegetables in it and some perennials as well.

I have read info about the wood decay in the beds locking up nitrogen (during early phases), which makes sense to me. I'm looking to ensure it doesn't become an issue to my crop that will be planted within two months of the bed's creation (I can't wait longer). My ideas are to plant a cover crop, and mix in a lot of coffee grounds to the soil that is mounded over the wood (I've been collecting pounds and pounds of used coffee grounds from local coffee shops in prep for this).

I'd like to get your feedback on the coffee idea, as well as the idea of planting a lot of red clover and buckwheat as an early cover crop that I would chop and drop as the annual vegetables start to take off (the idea being that the clover would add nitrogen, and buckwheat act as an insectary, and both would stabilize the soil with their roots). My only concern with the cover crops is that I once planted squash (something I'm focusing on this year) in an area I also planted clover, and I could NOT keep up on the clover chopping. The squash vines got all tangled in it, making it impossible for me to chop much of the clover without damaging the squash vines, and what I would chop would just grow right back quickly. The clover also held a lot of humiditiy and moisture around the squash leaves which I think caused them to get a fungal disease of some sort that ended up killing the squash. Also gave the squash bugs a nice place to hide.

Any input would be appreciated, thank you!

5 years ago
Thanks for the additional replies. To answer the question about disease, I gave an infected leaf to a master gardener friend who took it to a university. The professor looked at it under the microscope and said it was a fungal disease, but not the common powdery mildew. The symptoms looked more like a bacterial wilt (starts with yellow spots which turn brown around the edges and expand until the whole leaf dies, then the stem, etc). I tried plucking the leaves at first sign of infection but the remaining healthy leaves eventually got the disease too. And as mentioned, the copper fungicide spray just didn't kill the disease (maybe it works better as a preventative measure than a way to eradicate it once it is established).

Based on all the input here, I think I'm going to try the following:
- Plant LATE (in July for Atlanta, as suggested)
- Plant further apart for better airflow (and perhaps make a small brush pile for the vines to climb)
- Plant in a different area

As for hard-stemmed varieties, I believe only butternut squash fits that bill and I REALLY want to grow melons and winter squash. But again, while friends have had vine borer problems, I haven't so I'm going to knock on wood and keep trying.

Lastly, on the topic of roof-planting, I had some Vietnamese neighbors who used to grow some sort of strange cucurbits over a lattice that was built over their deck. The vines climbed all the way up from pots on the deck and formed a 100% leaf cover over the deck along the lattice. They had a bumper crop every year and it looked great. I'm guessing having the vines up high like that increased airflow which helped with the disease. However, this was when I lived back in Oregon, not Georgia, so the problems/solutions may be different. Since I'm trying to go more permaculture/sustainable, a man-made lattice goes against that so that's why I have been thinking about a brush pile instead. It should probably last for a good couple of years before decomposing into the soil. My only concern would be weeds growing up through the brush pile. I have noticed that weeds around the cucurbits will cause a LOT of moisture to be held in the air on and around the cucurbit leaves which encourages disease.

6 years ago
Interesting, so you didn't have any trouble with weeds choking out the plants?

I thought of making a big brush pile of fallen tree limbs, and planting a few of the melon seeds around it, then training the vines to grow up over the brush pile. I could possibly avoid having to mulch this way. But then again, it would give the squash bugs a place to hide (in the brush).

6 years ago
Thanks for the quick replies. I actually tried the candy roaster squash in 2012 and it looked like it would produce some good ones but ultimately I lost them. I did plant them very early though.

I will try late now.

Do either of you use a trellis of any kind? What are you using for mulch? I thought a trellis might help because it would keep the plants off the ground where they will get more airflow and perhaps will allow less places for the squash bugs to hide from predators (if they even HAVE any predators).

Thanks!
6 years ago
I live in Atlanta where it is hot, wet and humid in the summer. I have NEVER grown a successful crop of long-season cucurbits like melons or winter squash. I lose them every time to disease and squash bugs. Vine borers are also a problem here but I haven't been hit with them yet.

I can grow cucumbers and summer squash quite well because they are early-season growers and fruit very quickly, before the bugs and disease have a chance to really take hold. But winter squash and melon require months of growing and that's just too long to keep them bug/disease free.

I've tried spraying with neem, copper, spinosad.... nothing works against the disease and squash bugs.

I'm looking for tips that will allow me to grow them with as little maintenance as possible. I would love to grow things like acorn squash and cantaloupe.

Any help would be very appreciated!
6 years ago