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natethebrown 03-10-16 03:19 PM

My large semi-raised bed garden
I thought I would go ahead and post about my gardening experiences. I have learned some lessons along the way that, perhaps, someone may find useful. As far as a little background, last year (2015) I attempted to do a standard row garden in my heavy red clay soil (we had just bought the house the summer prior, so I really hadn’t had much time to work the garden due to the other new homeowner projects). Doing the standard row garden was the simplest method for me to get something in the ground. This would be my third year to have a garden, with the two previous at a rental house (both of which were quite successful). Unfortunately, this garden was a complete failure. I was plagued with problems, from poor soil and weeds to 4+ legged pest problems (rabbits, grasshoppers, squash bugs, cows that broke out of their pasture behind my house, etc.). Also, I learned that I absolutely HATE starting seeds in biodegradable seed starting pots. The biodegradable pots wick away the moisture from the soil and allow rapid evaporation. I accidentally forgot to water my sprouts (they were out on the back patio) one morning, and the soil in the pots was bone dry by the time I got home from work! By that time, the sprouts were heavily shocked and really didn’t grow well after that. I ended up buying $30 worth of plants, which ended up getting destroyed by the previously mentioned problems. What a bad gardening experience!

Late in August, 2015, I got fed up and just mowed everything down (mostly weeds) with my mower. I was determined to start anew and do it right! The first thing I did was find a local ranch I could get manure from. I got two truckloads (totaling roughly 2.7 cu-yd) worth of semi-composted horse manure, mixed with wood shavings, from the stalls. It cost me $15 for both truckloads (I foolishly shoveled the first load, then got wise and paid the guy $15 to load the second). Here is what the garden basically looked like at the start:

Later, in 2015, I noticed weeds were growing up in the semi-composted manure/wood chips, so I bought some cheap landscape fabric. Also, I went to the local botanical gardens and got a truckload of leaf mulch for $10 (at certain times of the year they have a front end loader, otherwise it is free to get all the leaf mulch one wants). I put down the landscape fabric and the leaf mulch on top of the fabric to hold it down. Later that year, I tore down my old, falling apart, wood privacy fence to replace. I was just planning on putting all of the old 4x4s out by the road and my dad suggested I just use them to create a raised bed garden…brilliant! Two boxes of nails later, I now have a semi-raised bed garden with dimensions of 8’Wx40’Lx7”H. Finally, I took advantage of people’s composing ignorance and picked up a ton of bags of raked up leaves that folks put out by the street to trash. I used all the leaves to create a complete cover over everything in the garden bed, and to fill in an areas that were low. I just left the garden to fallow over winter. This is what the garden looked like at this point (Note: you can see my new fence posts on the left side of this picture):

At the start of this year, I did a few soil tests (soil samples were probably taken too deep but oh well) and noted the nitrogen levels were quite low. I went ahead and spread approximately 4lbs of blood meal in the garden. Since we have a local coyote pack, I wanted to put more ground cover down so the blood meal doesn’t attract them into my yard. Fortunately, the local botanical gardens gets a tree chipper and chips up people’s Christmas trees into large mulch piles for the community to come use…score! I figured out, if you go early enough no one has disturbed any of the mulch piles. This is really good because I just backed my truck into the largest pile and shoveled downhill:

Roughly 1.5 cu-yd (I really loaded my truck full) worth of wood chips and I have 2-3” of wood mulch in some areas:

So far, I believe I have conquered at least two problems from last year, soil fertility and weeds. I have a rabbit fence that I can put up (if my traps don’t take care of them) and the pasture fence has been repaired by the owners, taking care of two other problems. As far as the 6+ legged pests, I am going to start investing in some organic pesticides, like Diatomaceous Earth, BT Powder, Neem oil, and others. Also, I am going to try out companion planting. I got some basil and onions, both of which compliment many different plants. I found a really useful companion planting chart here:

Here is a simple sketch of my garden plan (forgive the spelling of lettuce! Also, the house is on the West side of the garden):

I really lucked out that onions compliment tomatoes, lettuce, and carrots, all of which I congregated on the West side of the garden. I am going to spread some onion and basil in and around all of these plants and hope for the best!

To date, I have spent roughly $380 on the garden. This includes $125 for concrete remesh tomato cages (I’ll get pictures up later) and $75 for rabbit fencing. Basically $180 for seeds, plants, soil conditioning, fertilizers, and building the raised bed…pretty darn good! Also, I am trying out a new seed starting idea (that I haven’t seen anyone do yet) that I will post about later. Stay tuned for updates.

Daox 04-13-16 12:21 PM

Looks great. Got any updates?

jeff5may 04-13-16 06:25 PM

This year's beginning:
Top: Roma tomatoes in jiffy pellets in pencil box germination module
Bottom: 2 kinds of basil in jiffy pellets in recycled 4-packs
Brought outside just long enough to water. None of these babies are ready for direct sunlight. Those seed leaves will burn super easy, then you get to start all over.
Super high-speed transplant station (leftover everything)
Secret seed starting juice from Wal-Mart (too lazy to drive to the grow store) or superthrive works too. 1 drop per liter of bottled water. Secret dollar tree soil plus some leftover perlite from previous pic used to fill 4-packs a few days after seeds germinate.

Total investment:
seeds $2
jiffy pellets $3
secret stuff: $6

Or you can go to the grow hut and pay a dollar apiece for plants in a month. I count about 50 here.

Not shown (still germinating in the dark on top of the refrigerator):
bell peppers: another $3 for two dozen
purple coneflowers: about the same (these sell for $2 or 3 each a month out)

Now is transplant time for perennial plants such as shrubs, sedum, hostas, daylillies, ornamental grass, hibiscus, etc. If you wait much longer, they will need to be watered to survive the summer. It rained a few inches last week, so the ground here is just sloppy, soggy, and loose. Transplanting is more like making pottery than shoveling dirt, but guess what? Once you stomp on your transplant, it molds perfectly level to the ground. Throw mulch over everything, water once with your favorite no-burn rooting formula and a watering can, and wait for shoots to emerge.

Haven't heard from the pilgrims on the dirt garden, but I broke ground two weeks ago. Still waiting on Mr green jeans to say when he plans on coming to rototill the plot with the mean green machine. I gladly pay him the following Tuesday to do in 15 minutes what would take me all day with the troy-bilt. I'm sure the hippies and tourists will show up Kentucky derby weekend.

natethebrown 04-14-16 09:37 AM


Originally Posted by Daox (Post 49738)
Looks great. Got any updates?

I wish I had better progress.. First, my seedlings really haven't been doing well. I wish I knew why, so I may end up just having to buy some plants for the garden. Second, I have had very little time to give the seedlings the love they deserve. I have been completely focused on other pressing projects like finishing everything for the nursery, fixing the riding lawnmower for this cutting season (deck had to be welded), and doing everything else my wife is too tired to do. I never did put up pictures of my blue berry bushes...

Back in February, since I want to get my land to work for me and I want to save some money not buying as much fruit at the store, I got 4 Rabbiteye Blue Berry bushes ($72 total). The two varieties are Tifblue and Powderblue. According to the gardening place I got them from, they cross pollinate well together (mutually beneficial) and produce at slightly different times of the year. Also, the rabbiteye varieties are native to us Southerners, so that should mean much less maintenance or upkeep. Unfortunately, North Alabama has a REDICULOUS amount of clay with very little organic matter in the soil. Blue Berry bushes HATE wet feet so I had to do some major soil reconstruction. I got cu. Yd. of soil conditioner ($21) and a truck load of free leaf mulch from the local Botanical Gardens.

The guy at the garden shop told me to prep the hole for what the bush will become, not what it is when planting. Blueberry bushes’ roots apparently don’t go deep but wide. I dug the holes roughly 5’ across and around 1.5’ deep. Since the clay can act like a bowl and retain all the rain we get, he also told me to dig a drainage trench. The holes are dug on a slight mound in the yard with the trench going away slightly downhill.

I mixed roughly 1/3 original clay soil with 1/3 leaf mulch and 1/3 soil conditioner. Also, since blueberries love acid (3.5-5 pH) and my soil is around 6 pH, I put about 1/8 cup of sulfur per hole (I haven’t had a chance to retest the soil again to see what the pH is).

After a lot of digging and work all the bushes got planted. You can see, the root ball is mounded even within the hole I dug to help shed water.

To date, all my blueberry bushes are looking blooming but it is possible I have Septoria leaf spot on them (*sigh*). I need to check it out a bit more but I will likely have to spray them with a fungicide. I will get some pictures up later of where they are at now.

On a lighter, more fun note. I wanted to see what happens when one puts the root of green onions from the grocery store in water with a couple of drops of liquid fertilizer. Here they are after about 2 weeks (they were previously cut down to the white).

Servicetech 04-16-16 06:55 AM

Large ain't the word for it !!
That's a HUGE raised garden bed !!

We may do a small 4' x 8' next year.

jeff5may 04-16-16 08:01 AM

We have hard, red clay soil here in Kentucky too. For plants that like well drained soil, the raised bed is the best thing you can do. Break ground a few inches deep, let it dry out, and spread organic matter over the clods of clay. Rototill it once to mix the clay and amendment material without pulverizing everything. Build a perimeter for the bed or make a mound, fill with compost or mulch a couple inches deep. Carve out holes for plants so that the bottom of the hole exposes some of the base layer and backfill with compost mulch.

I have used this method on hundreds of plots in my area with extraordinary success. Super low maintenance and way above average plant vitality.

Kentucky is a big tobacco producing state, so for big plots I use a wood chipper and a mixture of tobacco stalks and hedge or tree trimmings. Local tobacco farmers will dump a whole hay wagon full of stalks on me for free in the late summer or fall. You have a local source of wood chips, so all you need to mix in is something green so the wood chips can compost in place. Livestock manure is easy to come by here, since Kentucky is a big horse racing state. For smaller plots, bales of green hay (not grass - alfalfa, clover,or oat hay is best) can be used to incorporate some high-nitrogen material into the layer.

A lot less green material is needed than wood chips. For an actively managed compost bin, you want a high nitrogen ratio (20 carbon:nitrogen) so the bin will work fast and hot. For composting in place, especially with coarse woody chips, the process works much slower, so having a high nitrogen ratio ( below 50-75 carbon:nitrogen) will get you a stinky, sloppy mess of a bed that will need more wood chips or aged leaves mixed in. I cannot stress this enough: DO NOT PUT TOO MUCH NITROGEN INTO A FRESH RAISED BED!

Check out this page for the lowdown:

Optimal Compost Ingredients To Create Rich Black Soil

Using this basic method/formula will eliminate the need for fertilizer, water, and most other routine maintenance for a long, long time. As long as the plot is not disturbed, it will need nothing except more mulch on top as it cooks down. If you live in the desert, the plot will need water the first year or two until the worms and fungus do some composting underground. If the color isn't your favorite, sprinkle a thin layer of store bought mulch from the big box store. They had a sale on it this month for 2 bucks a bag in rainbow colors. Scott's earth something.

natethebrown 05-12-16 07:13 AM

Well most all of my seedlings have failed this year! The only ones that pulled through were my squash seedlings. Since all of my tomato and cauliflower seedlings failed, I was fortunate enough to find a plant sale last weekend, hosted by the Master Gardeners of North Alabama. I rolled out of there with 19 plants for $19! I got 4 different varieties of tomatoes and 3 different varieties of peppers. I got everything planted and watered last Saturday. Things were finally looking up, maybe I would have a successful garden this year. Sunday afternoon, I was out looking at the garden....BAM! EVERY STINKING TOMATO PLANT HAS POWDERY MILDEW! Sigh... I attempted a Sodium Bicarbonate solution, per the interwebs, spraying the plants every day. A couple of the tomato plants look better, but, for the most part, Sodium Bicarbonate solution seems pretty ineffective on Powdery Mildew. Last night, I got some Neem Oil concentrate and sprayed the plants. I didn't get a chance to look at them this morning, but I will report later on how effective Neem Oil is.

In positive news, my bush beans are doing great, as well as my cucumbers. They were all directly sown, so at least that was easy enough.

In a more interesting project, these are store bought, non organic, heads of romaine lettuce. You can see where they were originally cut down too with a knife. Water and a little bit of liquid fertilizer and new growth!

Higgy 05-26-16 10:11 AM

Nice big garden there Nate. I have 4 4x8 raised beds for vegetables. So far my tomatoes are coming along nicely. I was going to plant them last week but living in Canada you never know when there will be some freak risk of frost.

How did that neem oil work on your tomato plants? Hopefully they survive. I haven't been getting very good crop at my new house (been living there for 4 years) compared to my old one, I think because of all the wind they get. My old house used to be protected by a fence, but the new one I don't have a fence around it. Hopefully they do better this year. I also planted carrots, beets, peas and cucumbers. I'm going to try lettuce as well but I should have started them earlier this year as they do better in the spring/fall.

natethebrown 05-31-16 07:23 PM


Originally Posted by Higgy (Post 50258)
How did that neem oil work on your tomato plants? Hopefully they survive.

Sorry for the delay, I have been a little busy as of late:

This picture was him still in the NICU. Alexander is 11 days old, today.

The Neem Oil was quite effective in eliminating the Powdery Mildew. Unfortunately, I did end up loosing two tomato plants. Two out of twelve plants isn't a huge loss in my book. Also, on a plus side it is also good against mites and aphids, which I was also having some aphid issues on my green beans. The Neem Oil took care of both problems! I would highly recommend it to anyone now!

The garden is looking great. Since I am taking off work for two weeks, due to the above mentioned distraction, I have had some down time during sleep times to work on the garden. I have put in all of my concrete remesh tomato cages. Each cage has a 2' diameter. At the very front (nearest me) you can see the carrots and lettuce mix coming in.

You can sort of see how I fastened everything down. I zip-tied each cage to two 2.5' long rebar stakes that I hammered about 1.5' into the ground. Also, I zip-tied all the cages together, so, in essence, four rebar stakes are holding 3 cages down.

Next time, I am going to leave a bit more space in between the tomato plant rows. Even for a skinny guy like me, there isn't a lot of room between the cage rows.

Daox 05-31-16 08:39 PM

Congrats on the kid!

Also, nice looking garden. :)

pinballlooking 05-31-16 08:43 PM

Congrats on the new addition to your family!

natethebrown 06-01-16 01:06 PM

My green beans and cucumber vines (the small green patches between the green bean rows) are coming in pretty well.

jeff5may 06-02-16 06:32 AM

Congratulations on the new arrival. Prepare to lose way too much sleep for the indefinite future.

The tourists didn't show up to work on the garden, Noone wanted to pitch in to have farmer brown till up the plot, and everyone says they're too broke to buy plants. So it likes we will be having a weed garden this year. My dad just had shoulder surgery, so he is down for a month or two. Looks like I will be giving away some seedlings and growing a few of this and that in containers.

natethebrown 06-08-16 09:44 AM

The garden is doing quite well. We got a ton of rain over the weekend, so the plants are exploding! I am going to prune my tomatoes today or tomorrow. Since I have a few of each variety, and they are all indeterminate types, I am going to try pruning some to a single vine and others to two or three main vines.
Tomatoes, lettuce, and carrots:

Green beans and cucumbers with an A-frame trellis made from concrete remesh (I need to stake it down a bit better):

pinballlooking 06-08-16 09:49 AM

Plants are looking good.

Higgy 06-15-16 02:28 PM

Oh hey, that A frame for the cuc's might work in my garden. Mine always go crazy with the vines. I like that.

natethebrown 06-16-16 07:24 AM

We had a pretty windy storm last night. From what I was able to figure out, we had at least 40 MPH wind gusts. It blew everything around but it appears nothing was broken. Here is my 2' diam squash plants turned over:

My tomato cages held just fine!

Here is a better look at my anchors (just two sticks of 2.5' rebar zip tied to each cage):


Originally Posted by Higgy (Post 50537)
Oh hey, that A frame for the cuc's might work in my garden. Mine always go crazy with the vines. I like that.

The A-frame held up, even in the wind. My cucumbers are starting to grow up it, so I am hopeful!

Higgy 06-17-16 01:56 PM

That wind is just evil sometimes. I had some bad wind last weekend and stuck some plywood in front of the tomatoes just to stop the wind a bit.

natethebrown 06-29-16 08:31 AM

End of June Status
So, due to El Nino, the South is starting to experience drought conditions. While they may not be as bad as California has previously experienced, only time will tell. We have had a few thunderstorms, but they have all been pretty small and localized. The last couple of thunderstorms have completely missed my house, ugh! Here is the precipitation we have gotten in my area:

So, with such low rain numbers, how is the garden doing? Quite well actually. I haven't watered the garden once, until last night! I have been picking plenty of squash, green beans, and cucumbers. I haven't gotten any ripe tomatoes yet, but I have tons of green ones ready to start ripening up. I am now a firm believer in light colored mulch, it really helps reflect the heat and keep the moisture in the soil. Here is pictures of my garden last night, right before I watered everything.

I didn't have a chance to check the garden out this morning, but I think the 2 hours of drip hose irrigation should have helped. I may water again tonight or tomorrow night depending on how everything looks. Yes, I need to do something with all the grass and weeds growing. I am starting to lay some cardboard down to suppress the weeds. I will cover the cardboard up with some more wood chips and just leave it there to decompose and help keep the weeds at bay.

pinballlooking 06-29-16 09:51 AM

You are doing good only watering that much.
When I have a exposed garden I was watering $75 - $100 a month.

natethebrown 07-19-16 01:25 PM

Sorry for the lack of updates. The garden is going great! I have been busy just harvesting veggies (squash, peppers, cucumbers, and some green beans).

It appears some of my planting strategies are working out reasonably well. I purposely planted green beans around my cucumbers as a companion plant AND as a potential sacrificial plant. It seemed to work. My green beans have been decimated by grass hoppers and aphids but nothing has touched my cucumbers (aside from mice).

I am having mice problems right now. I got two over the weekend with snap traps and put 6 out last night. Oddly enough, two traps were completely missing this morning! I am going to try to look for them a bit better later tonight but I have a suspicion that a larger animal may have dragged the dead mice away, with the trap hanging along.

I started canning some of the veggies for both enjoyment and playing with long-term storage.

I still have a lot of veggies that need to be cooked/eaten/canned.

pinballlooking 07-19-16 01:31 PM

Nice. It is good to see all those veggies being harvested.

natethebrown 01-31-17 02:06 PM

2017 Garden
Last year's (2016) garden was as productive as it could be considering how busy I was with the runt. Anyways, 2017 is gearing up to be a good year. Since I had a good base to start from, prepping the garden for this year took much much less time and effort. The first thing I did was get two truck loads of composted horse manure/wood shavings (total ~3 cu yd) and just pile that on top of the previous mulch. The guy that I got the manure from charged $15 per load, so $30 total.

I didn't get a before picture, but you can see on the far side what the garden looked like.

The finished product.

I put a 7lb bag of blood meal directly on the manure to help activate its decomposition. After that, I laid out cardboard as a weed barrier.

I am going to try cardboard out this year and see how well it works. From what I have read, everyone says it doesn't block rain water. I figured it would probably help a great deal on water retention in the warmer months. Since I will be planting a number of things from pots, I shouldn't have too much difficulty cutting holes in the cardboard with my trowel. Finally, I put about 1.5 cu yd of wood chips on top of the card board to hold it down and act as a final weed barrier.

As additional projects, I finished painting my final 5 concrete remesh tomato cages to make a total of 12. I figured I have another 30-40 years of gardening ahead of me so I might as well have them last and look semi decent. Also, I am buying all the parts I need for DIY LED grow lights. My florescent grow light is far too small and upgrading it would be much more costly. I will cover my LED grow lights in another post. Between the paints for the cages, one bag of organic fertilizer, and the two truck loads of horse manure/wood chips, I have spent $62.50 YTD. All I have left is to buy, directly for the garden, is seeds and potting soil. Overall, it is really nice to see my garden costs trending downwards (2015 - $317, 2016 - $231).

jeff5may 01-31-17 03:23 PM

I believe you will love the cardboard. It makes for a pretty good sponge when it rains, an insulation layer when it's dry, and worms love it. Once the worms get to it, the beneficial bacteria left behind multiply and catalyze the composting-in-place process.Meanwhile, plants with roots below the cardboard tie all the stuff together down under. Any weeds that start up high can be pulled right out of the wood chips with ease.

natethebrown 08-28-17 07:22 AM


Originally Posted by robertsmall (Post 55273)
Wow!!! A great project. I would like to do one with my family too...
Congrats on Alexander and Hope he is doing well. :)

Unfortunately, my garden was pretty much a disaster this year. The cardboard with wood-chips was a massive fail as a weed barrier this year! Besides bush beans and cucumbers, most everything struggled or failed to produce (especially the tomatoes). It is quite possible I dumped way too much wood chips in the garden, causing it to be way too low on Nitrogen (a guess). I am not really sure what happened, but I do plan on getting the soil professionally tested (Auburn University).

On the plus side though, the previous owners of the house had blackberries which I have been caring for and encouraging them to spread for the past few years since we have owned the house. This year we picked about 1 1/4 gal of blackberries, not including the ones we ate straight off the canes, which is our biggest harvest yet!

natethebrown 03-01-18 02:08 PM

2018 Garden
After the failure of last year, I have another year and another chance to start over. Here is a rundown of the issues I had last year:
1) Grass! The cardboard and wood chips did little to prevent the grass from popping up everywhere.

2) Seedling failure. This is documented in my LED Grow Light Thread, starting with post #15.

3) Poor plant growth. This is unconfirmed, but possibly due to the large amount of wood chips in my garden, robbing the nitrogen out of the soil. My cucumbers, squash, and green beans did well, but everything else was lackluster.

4) Cucumbers were hard to pick, again. The A-frame sucks.

5) Bush beans are annoying. Pole beans might encourage me to pick the beans more.

6) My thorny blackberries are literally painful to maintain. Picking can be difficult and trying. The winter pruning often has me picking thorn splinters from my skin and gloves for a couple of days after.

2018 is a new year and a fresh start to conquer my previous problems.

#1) The city run wood mulch pile was closed down last summer due to budget constraints. This caused me to look for alternatives for a mulch source. Like any city, we have people who rake up and bag their leaves for people like me to come by and pick them up! I don’t know how many bags I ended up picking up, but it was a lot. I dumbed the leaves in my garden, then mulched them with my push mower. Once mulched, I would dump more and run over them again with the mower. I repeated this until everything was covered with a thick layer of leaf mulch. After it was all said and done, I now have about 3” of leaf mulch on top of my entire 8’x42’ garden. My hope is if I keep up this deep mulch concept it will keep the grass suppressed.

#2) This is an easy fix. First, start the seedlings a little bit later (I started them too early last year). Second, I will be using a good seed starting mix.

#3) I just collected soil samples around my yard and garden. I am mailing those samples down to the Auburn University Soil Testing Facility to get the samples properly tested. As you can see below, my garden soil looks significantly different from my regular yard soil!

I should get the results back either next week or the week after, which will give me plenty of time to fertilize what I need before I start putting plants in the ground.

#4) The A-Frame was ok, but typically the cucumbers would hang beneath the frame and be hard to find and pick. I am switching to a vertical trellis and will just use 6.5’ sticks of rebar driven into the ground for the trellis support.

#5) My thinking is a trellised bean will be easier and quicker to pick than a bush bean. Rumors have it that pole beans have a better flavor, so that is also a positive. Anyways, I plan on trellising the beans just like the cucumbers. Remesh supported with rebar.

#6) I did my winter pruning of my blackberries last week and was again picking thorns from my flesh for a few days after. I knew I wanted to eventually trellis my blackberries and came across this YouTube video:

I was immediately sold! I plan on implementing this as soon as I have time to dig the holes.

Since it has been raining buckets all week, I don’t have any pictures yet, but once it stops I will snap a few of the progress I have made so far.

natethebrown 03-16-18 08:21 PM

A quick update. The garden looks good. So far, minimal to no weeds popping up in the garden. The leaf mulch is definitely doing its job!

I finished concreting in the trellis posts for my blackberries. Here is one row, I didn't take a picture of the other row of blackberries.

Finally, I combined the boy's favorite past time, 'digging in dirt,' with real work like filling the seed pots with soil. Worked out better than I expected!

jeff5may 03-21-18 09:49 AM

Ok guys, be careful with the free tree chips and mulch that you get from the community center pile. They're typically infested with the kind of thing that runs amok in the locality. Bugs, weeds, and bad bacteria are prime examples. Also, the stuff is ultra super fresh and green, so besides growing what you don't want, they leech from the site they're spread upon. I always compost the stuff first; sometimes I let it sit a year if the compost pile starts its own garden of woe.

With a big compost pile of public waste, it pays back in droves to plant a plot of something high in nitrogen around or next to it. Nearly always, the stuff is brown or blonde stuff: Woody clippings and leaves. What the pile needs to get hot and producting fast is fresh greens. Farm crops are cheap and awesome for this. Me like spinach oregano sage basil alfalfa and clover. Seeds or seedlings just depends on your patience versus wallet factor. When the stuff gets tall enough, mow it on super tall setting and incorporate directly into the pile. Different crops grow at different times and rates, so there will be a constant supply of food for the pile.

If you are in a big hurry, and need a boatload of black gold fast, a wood chipper that will pulverize everything into little bitty pieces is priceless. With a decent supply of waste, a patch of the above-mentioned crop stock, and not much else, a compost bed can be layered in place and then you just wait. Toss in some Woody, toss in some brown, toss in some green. Repeat a few layers of each, then move chipper forward or around to the next spot. Once a certain type of waste is depleted, put one more layer of the other stuff on and quit. It's ok if the basil or alfalfa patch outgrows your supply of waste. You can always sell, eat or donate the surplus. Cuz that stuff isn't cheap at the store.

natethebrown 03-22-18 07:28 AM


Originally Posted by jeff5may (Post 58851)
Ok guys, be careful with the free tree chips and mulch that you get from the community center pile. They're typically infested with the kind of thing that runs amok in the locality. Bugs, weeds, and bad bacteria are prime examples. Also, the stuff is ultra super fresh and green, so besides growing what you don't want, they leech from the site they're spread upon. I always compost the stuff first; sometimes I let it sit a year if the compost pile starts its own garden of woe.

Thanks for your concern, I will keep an eye out for any plant issues this year. Like I mentioned in problem 3, I believe you are correct about the "greeness" of the wood chips. I don't know that I had a problem with bacteria or bugs. Speaking of bugs, I saw a YouTube video recently that an Organic Mulch Producer said chunky mulch is a good thing because it also gives the predator bugs like spiders places to hide as well.

Anyways, the leaf mulch is still rocking. Very little in the way of weeds and grass so far. I picked a few blades of grass around the edges of the garden, but that is to be expected. I got my soil test results back.

Obviously, I was a bit concerned about the Phosphorous and Potassium, so I called the Auburn test lab and spoke with one of the Professors there. He said it is fine and don't do anything with the soil. He said, "you should be good to grow in the garden for a couple of years without adding any fertilizers." I'll call that a win in my book!

Here is an update on the blackberries. The thorny blackberries (I haven't determined their variety yet) are about half way done trellising. This is definitely the heaviest pruning I have ever done on them, so it will be interesting to see what my overall yield will be.

Before heavy pruning and trellising.

Halfway through pruning and trellising.

natethebrown 06-12-18 08:29 PM

Plants can be hard to kill!
I have been a bit busy lately to post any updates. Any ways, I grew a lot from seed. 5 different varieties of tomatoes, squash, herbs, peppers, and, later, sun flowers. April was warming up quite nice. Things were starting to bloom. I planted all my seedlings in the garden on April 27th. Disaster struck! We had a freeze on April 29th!

Here are the results the next afternoon:

Tomato Plant

Squash Plants:

12 Tomato plants and 9 squash plants all looked like that. Well, you can imagine how upset I was. I had a few leftover seedlings still in pots (3 tomatoes and 3 squash) so I replaced the worse plants with the still good seedlings. It turns out all the plants that froze all came back! Here are some pictures of the garden today:

The entire garden.

Those Tomato cages are about 5'6" tall (the width of remesh).

The squash is roaring to life even though 70% of the plants froze!

Mammoth Sunflowers are growing quite nicely.

natethebrown 02-27-19 03:34 PM

2019 Garden
I have been busy getting the garden ready for this new growing season. Like last year, I got a bunch of bags of leaves to mulch up and put into the garden. Here is the start of the mulching operation:

And after a few hours of dumping 63 bags and running over the leaves with a push mower I am left with this:

Those are leaks in the foreground that I replanted after cutting the stalks off for some cooking. That proves, if it has roots it can be replanted!

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