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Topic by syble posted 05-30-2008 11:10 AM 2710 views 0 times favorited 25 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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syble

126 posts in 3681 days

05-30-2008 11:10 AM

just curious as to how everyone opens new plots for gardening. I suppose the specific area in question is a big lot, probably round 50’ square. Now for small beds I woul have likely used a shovel and stripped the turf off first but with such a big plot, we opted out to kill the grasss first and have gotten it to the point of running the tiller over it. Now we’re debating weather or not to leave the dead grass in to break down. It’s going to be the new sunflower plot, simple rows with tiller access in between. The grass breaking down would be good organics (if only a bit, though every bit helps with this darn clay). only draw back is that its not very even looking and a bit unsightly at first (won’t be bad once the sunflower forest grows).
How do you guys do it?
Thanks
sib ;)



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Eklectic

1824 posts in 3674 days
hardiness zone 5a

05-30-2008 11:23 AM

I would leave the clumps there and I would grow some beans of some sort so they have a climbing spot as well as keeping the weeds down: they grow well together, being “friends”!!

-- Eklectic, Follow my Bliss, South East Ontario 5a

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GrandmaT

5389 posts in 3752 days
hardiness zone 9

05-30-2008 11:51 AM

At our old home, I was always digging and creating new beds … It was always a very spur of the moment thing … no fore thought … just outside putzing around and thinking how flowers would look nice “there” ... hmmmmm, where is my shovel … and so the digging began.

I always dug up the grass/sod first and then began to prepare the soil. But it sounds to me like it would be a good idea to leave the dead grass there to break down. Why take it up when you don’t really have to especially if it will help with the clay.

Man, I wish I had room for sunflowers here …

-- "A beautiful garden is a work of heart" --

View Scott Hildenbrand's profile

Scott Hildenbrand

1690 posts in 3646 days
hardiness zone 6b

05-30-2008 11:55 AM

We left the dead grass clumps in our plot, which is just a tad smaller than that you’re describing.. They’re a pain to work around some times, but if you just push them into the walking path instead of the planting row it’s all good. They’ll end up breaking down.

We didn’t kill off the grass on ours before it was tilled, so we’ve got some sections where grass is growing back in. I figure I’ll take care of that next spring, when I’ll be knocking down the cover crop and laying down plastic to cook the whole bed before it’s tilled next season.

I’m not big on doing vetch for cover crops.. Fighting common vetch all around the yard, which has grown in places to 4’ high.. Oh well, good for the compost pile.

Thinking of Crimson clover, personally.

Anyway.. It can be left and will break down, but it’ll get in the way while you plant the beds. Else after it’s fine.

-- Planting Daylilies in Kentucky, zone 6b

View Bon's profile

Bon

7374 posts in 3654 days
hardiness zone 5a

05-30-2008 12:56 PM

If the grass is dead just till it under and add lots of peat moss and manure to help break up the clay.Mixing a load of sand in with the clay will give you a better texture to your soil also.Hope this helps ya.

-- Bon,Hastings,Ont.....zone 5a....Always room for one more

View Scott Hildenbrand's profile

Scott Hildenbrand

1690 posts in 3646 days
hardiness zone 6b

05-30-2008 01:10 PM

peat moss is a non renewable resource and should be avoided. It’s also hard to handle and doesn’t take up water easily, often washing away before it takes up the water.

Add pine fines instead, and lay down a good layer of N fertilizer over it, since as the fine pine bark breaks down, it will suck out the nitrogen out of the soil.

Be careful adding sand and do not do so until the organic content is increased as sand and clay will darn near form a concrete, making it harder to work.

-- Planting Daylilies in Kentucky, zone 6b

View Bon's profile

Bon

7374 posts in 3654 days
hardiness zone 5a

05-30-2008 01:15 PM

Gotta tell ya Scott.I had excellent results mixing the three together.

-- Bon,Hastings,Ont.....zone 5a....Always room for one more

View Scott Hildenbrand's profile

Scott Hildenbrand

1690 posts in 3646 days
hardiness zone 6b

05-30-2008 01:35 PM

Oh they do give results.. I did the peat moss deal with the fern bed, mostly because I needed the acidity and lighter soil.. But for such a large plot I’d go with pine fines.. It’s way cheaper, easier to work with, will not float and adds more aeration to the soil due to its structure.

Last I checked, it was 25 per cubic yard. Where Lowes sells the 3.8 cubic foot for $9.

1 cubic foot = 0.037037 cu yd, so 1 cubic yard is just a hair over 27 cubic feet.

Given the cost breakdown, to get one cubic yard to peat moss at the bags from Lowes, it’d take a little over 7 bags at a cost of $63.

Now, to get a 1 inch depth of amendment for a 50’x50’ bed, you would need 7.716 cubic yards, making the price $504 for peat or $200 for the pine fines.

Now, there is a delivery fee for the dump truck, but often nurseries will waive the fee if you get alot. The one near me delivers free if you get at least 8 cubic yards.

So as far as costs go for a bed that size, it’s really better. Only extra that’s needed is laying down some 15 0 0 fertilizer before it’s all tilled in.

But that’s just one persons opinion.. ;)

-- Planting Daylilies in Kentucky, zone 6b

View Catspaw's profile

Catspaw

244 posts in 3671 days

05-30-2008 08:37 PM

Actually 1 cu.yd. is exactly 27 cu.ft.

Sand + clay = concrete.

I think sawdust and poop are probably the best to add to clay. That’s what I’m going to do. The boss keeps complaining about how he has no place to get rid of all the sawdust we make. I keep telling him to bring it to me. (but, it’s a fair drive…I’d give him some gas money…and we can’t leave it behind the shop.)

I’ve been busting up the sod and raking it off (yes, I know there’s good stuff in there….but the grass has to go….and it’s not like I’m losing it ‘cause it’s just in a different place.) Usually, I rake enough to shake off alot of the soil out of the sod.

I use an earthway planter, which doesn’t work at all in chunky stuff. It’s got to be fairly well tilled to do it’s best.

Even sod that’s turned under will continue to grow. You really have to kill the rizomes. I wanna try that black plastic this year to expand for next year. I’ve seen it happen with just stuff laying around and it didn’t occur to me until this thread to use it to my advantage.

But that’s just one opinions person.

-- arborial reconfiguration specialist......Zone out....(USA 5)

View Scott Hildenbrand's profile

Scott Hildenbrand

1690 posts in 3646 days
hardiness zone 6b

05-30-2008 09:27 PM

”Even sod that’s turned under will continue to grow. You really have to kill the rizomes.”

That’s our current problem. Though not thick at all, it’s still enough to be a pest which is why I’ll be covering the bed with plastic for a month before I plant the cover crop.

Use clear plastic, not black. You want light to shine through.. Acts as a lens that way and literally bakes the soil.

”I think sawdust and poop are probably the best to add to clay. ”

So long as it’s not from pressure treated wood, great! :) Just be sure to lay down some extra nitrogen since the sawdust will also suck N out of the soil as it breaks down.

-- Planting Daylilies in Kentucky, zone 6b

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syble

126 posts in 3681 days

05-31-2008 10:19 PM

Our clay is definately concrete! Hard to believe how far the main garden had come seeing as it wall all clay at one point too. over the years we’ve added alot of mushroom compost, our barn compost (goat, rabbit and fowl poop on shavings and straw, the occasional amounts of leaves and grass clippings too), and sand from the concrete plant my dad works at.

As for the grass clumps, My intention was to till them under, but that first few passes dosen’t seam to be enough to get them under, but has broken up their root balls nicely. For initial ammendments, we will likely add a composted peat thing that we get from a friend who used to run a mushroom farm. They’re about a ton, rather large. One would probably do it, but we’ll put 2 in for good measure. Nicely clearanced at $20 a bag ;) Short drive with the dump truck too.

I definately would not want to have to fight with grass growing through it. Did that once years ago, never doing it again!
Thanks for the imput.
Sib ;)

View Scott Hildenbrand's profile

Scott Hildenbrand

1690 posts in 3646 days
hardiness zone 6b

06-01-2008 12:11 AM

lol.. See.. You know exactly what you’re doing.. Why even ask? ;)

What kind of tiller do you have? Is it reverse rotation?

Guy who did our initial till used a PTO tiller, reverse rotation on the back of his tractor..

Daaaaaaaaang nice tillage.. Took 3 passes and left nothing but soft soil at the top. Advantage of the reverse direction of the tines.

-- Planting Daylilies in Kentucky, zone 6b

View Eklectic's profile

Eklectic

1824 posts in 3674 days
hardiness zone 5a

06-01-2008 05:53 AM

What I have done in the past, when we lived in the city, put wet newspaper/cardboard down about 1/2 an inch,
then put leaves and more paper material, and compost matter, and if it was in the fall, all the cuttings/cleaning from the beds. The grass will die, you did not have to dig and you have a new bed!

In the spring, if it was not decomposed enough, I still did the planting by adding dirt only where I was planting and it all grew beautifully!
It is the principle of the “lasagna bed”!

ourgardengang.tripod.com/lasagna_gardening.htm

-- Eklectic, Follow my Bliss, South East Ontario 5a

View Catspaw's profile

Catspaw

244 posts in 3671 days

06-01-2008 05:57 AM

I’m lucky in that the neighbor has a PTO tiller and comes up to till my gardens [for free or at most some produce at harvest.]

It’s like walking in 4” of brown snow afterwards. It pains me to even step foot in it, it looks sooo nice afterwards.

BTW, after drooling over his tiller and being crushed by the price of even a used one, I checked out the rental place for one and they only cost $75 for a day. Well worth renting over buying.

Scott, I disagree with the black or clear plastic. I figure black plastic would get hotter. But, I can’t give you any specific reason why. Therefore, it behooves me to try and prove my contention. So, I’m going to put down a square of clear and black and test the temps underneath. I’m very curious to see the difference.

Also, I would hope in this day and age, not using treated wood sawdust would go without saying. But, then my dad called the other night and wanted to know if I wanted a bunch of old 6×6 treated posts from an old pole barn for my raised beds (definitely the old arsenic stuff). I tried to explain to him about the leaching. He said they were so old it shouldn’t be a problem…....well….maybe…....and maybe not. He wasn’t convinced about the “why risk it at all” factor. go figure.

-- arborial reconfiguration specialist......Zone out....(USA 5)

View blooz's profile

blooz

273 posts in 3596 days

06-01-2008 10:01 AM

i’ve heard great results from Lasagna gardening, Ecklectic. This year – black earth, triple mix, sheep manure along with peat moss. Tomatoes and cuke seeds are now in containers. Now to tackle the planters. Have special soil … very light with pellets to retain moisture. Time will tell what will transpire. Each plant sells for $2.81 which includes tax. Trasportation costs certainly taking its toll on so many products.

-- blooz 5b - You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt. ~author unkown

View Bon's profile

Bon

7374 posts in 3654 days
hardiness zone 5a

06-01-2008 10:27 AM

Blooz…..I was excited to hear that someone else uses the same garden mix that I use.Black earth,triple mix,peat moss and I have used only sheep manure for years with great results.

-- Bon,Hastings,Ont.....zone 5a....Always room for one more

View Scott Hildenbrand's profile

Scott Hildenbrand

1690 posts in 3646 days
hardiness zone 6b

06-01-2008 02:27 PM

Catspaw,

I know.. You’d think that black would work better but it does not heat the ground as much. This is due to the layer of air under the plastic as it lays against the ground which insulates it. In order for it to work the best, clear plastic is the choice as it does not block any solar radiation from the sun, which will destroy everything when covered.

http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/pests/msg0821364214991.html

The above is a discussion about the very same thing. There are plenty of sources that say to use clear plastic instead of black.

Hmm.. Seems like a good thing to test.. I may end up covering two 5×5 sections with black and clear, just to see what effect each has as well.

My money is on clear though.. ;)

Edit: Here’s a good resource about the subject at the AG dept. at U of Arizona.

http://ag.arizona.edu/gardening/news/articles/12.8.html

-- Planting Daylilies in Kentucky, zone 6b

View syble's profile

syble

126 posts in 3681 days

06-01-2008 09:10 PM

yep, it’s a counter rotating tine tiller, self propelled too, but just a 17” till. One day we will get a tiller for the back of the tractor, just not apparently any day soon :(

And as for why I asked how OTHER people do it is because I like to compare methods. Mine is horticulturally sound and all, but someone elses method might be adaptable to me needs and offer some additional benifts. Never know till you ask.
Thanks
Sib ;)

View Scott Hildenbrand's profile

Scott Hildenbrand

1690 posts in 3646 days
hardiness zone 6b

06-01-2008 09:25 PM

Quite true.. Best way to learn, in fact.. ;)

-- Planting Daylilies in Kentucky, zone 6b

View Catspaw's profile

Catspaw

244 posts in 3671 days

06-02-2008 06:35 PM

I think out loud…sometimes I think in quiet.

I roll ideas around all the time. whether or not you agree with someone elses views..it still tells you something…even if it tells you you’re still in agreement with yourself.

Each little bit has a steering effect. So even if you’ve made up your mind, just hearing someone else has a tendency to cause you to make adjustments here and there.

Sometimes, I throw out ideas just to get reactions from people. You never no what they’ll throw back at you.

-- arborial reconfiguration specialist......Zone out....(USA 5)

View Scott Hildenbrand's profile

Scott Hildenbrand

1690 posts in 3646 days
hardiness zone 6b

06-02-2008 09:45 PM

Thinking out loud is better IMO.. I talk to myself some times… Some times I answer back.. Some times I drool profusely while doing so.

So long as what I throw back doesn’t break anything, else just let me know.. I’ll patch it with my t-shirt. ;)

Man… We’re having a heck of a time with the grass coming back after having the bed tilled. If you get to testing out the black & clear before I do, let me know which is better.. I want to burn off the soil before I plant the cover crop this fall.

It’s that or herbicide, which isn’t an option IMO.

-- Planting Daylilies in Kentucky, zone 6b

View syble's profile

syble

126 posts in 3681 days

06-02-2008 10:03 PM

Exactly, brain storming can be a wonderful thing, so long as people respect each others opions, even if they don’t mesh ;)

I know there are many anti pesticides people out there as well as many pro-pesticides… I tend to fall in the middle. My grass is a wonderful mix of grasses and dandilions, creeping charlie, plantain and a few others. But when it comes to something like bed prep, I don’t want to mess around. I want the grass eliminated as a problem, but don’t want it phisically removed (as would the top soil, which for me is totally unacceptible). I simply cannot battle grass all year long, just not an option. I also don’t have the time to try something like a plastic bake properly. So a herbacide was the clear option for me. I won’t have to use it again which is good with me ;) Any additional lawn checks from the garden will be taken care of by a rototiller ;)

I’ve really got to get going on it thats for sure though, gonna run out of season soon !
love canada!
Sib ;)

View Scott Hildenbrand's profile

Scott Hildenbrand

1690 posts in 3646 days
hardiness zone 6b

06-02-2008 10:28 PM

Eh, you’re still not done with your bed prep? You better get on it for sure.

I’ve got time to relax all the way till October or so when I’ll be closing down the bed and planting some kind of cover crop. Most likely going with clover.

-- Planting Daylilies in Kentucky, zone 6b

View scottb's profile

scottb

214 posts in 3753 days
hardiness zone 5

06-02-2008 10:46 PM

There’s totally nothing wrong with thinking out-loud. I worry about people who DON’T talk to themselves. ;)

Funny how we get keep fighting the plants in one spot, and can’t get the same ones to grow nearby. Why can’t my yard understand where I want room to play, and where I want the vegetables to grow? My new lawn is faring horribly this year (regraded last summer) some parts have great soil, others, it turns out, not so much – and hence dead grass in the middle, yet beautiful around the edges, and plenty popping up where the tomatoes, etc… should be. If it weren’t for the little one needing room to run and play, we’d have a nice 1/4 acre of flowers, veg and fruit trees, and nothing to mow!

I totally onboard with not using pressure treated wood, new or old near my garden patches. Wouldn’t mind so much for non-edibles, if I had no choice, but why make the flowers fight the toxins and struggle to grow, as well as limit where future vegetable patches could be? (there was a study with the old PT lumber, and even hostas didn’t grow as well when subjected to whatever was leaching into the soil)

I’ve had good luck as well with the lasagna method mentioned above. Way less prep, nice healthy beds, and no need to put down anything undesirable.

just a thought, instead of using an herbacide (if you have to again) try killing off (cooking actually) the spot with boiling water from the tea kettle. (or leftover pasta water) Might take a little while, but there won’t be anything latent in the soil keeping the next crop from getting off to a good start. Might not be as fast to apply as an herbicide, but should be faster than the plastic method. (and little to no digging to boot!)

-- southern NH. - smack dab in the middle of 5a and 5b - with lots of shade and full sun, in all the wrong places.

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

14694 posts in 3874 days
hardiness zone 5b

06-03-2008 05:03 AM

re: thinking..
I shake my head when people come back from a workshop and say that they didn’t learn anything… they had to learn something (if they were awake)... they either learned something new, learned that they disagreed with the presenter or learned that they stand behind their current practices…

I’m with you Scott—the yard should know what my vision is and cooperate :)

re: boiling water. Do you have to do that several times? I poured a big pot of boiling water on some tufts of grass peaking out from the edge of a flower bed and they didn’t even seem to wilt.

-- - Debbie, SW Ontario Canada (USDA Hardiness Zone: 5a)

View Catspaw's profile

Catspaw

244 posts in 3671 days

08-12-2008 06:51 PM

This may be an old post, but, here’s my follow up.

While clear plastic may create higher temperatures, black plastic will eliminate growth underneath while clear may not.

I say “may not” because I’m sure it has alot to do with where you live. We can generate high temps here in the midwest.

In my area clear allowed light thru. But, it is my belief that the light allows the plants to defend against the heat, just as lettuce will defend itself against frost.

My black plastic killed off everything while the clear plastic has plenty of growth (while a bit pale) and no sign of death.

I linked up another thought when looking at the spot where a vehicle I had parked in a spot for a very long time showed death of all plant life. Under the car would be well ventilated and cool. Yet, without light, the plants readily faced their doom.

And since where I stand is flat, I also conclude the rest of the earth must be flat also, otherwise, wouldn’t I fall off the edge?

-- arborial reconfiguration specialist......Zone out....(USA 5)

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