no till gardening questions

muddobber(5/6 Webster Co MO)March 28, 2009

Howdy to All:

To make a short story long I'm a thansplanted Florida sand gardener.We're going on our second year garden here and could use some advice. The garden is 100 x 100.I started off scattering the "topsoil"(what was scraped off the top putting in roads,barn pad,etc.) it's loamy and cement hard when dry.On top of that I covered it with 3in of half brokendown tree grindings MO dot had left for folks to take.I capped it off with 4in of well composted cow manure I got for cleaning out an old dairy barn.I did all this over the course of early winter, and let it sit till spring. Our yield was ok.In early fall we put a couple of pigs on it til the 1st of the year, then limed. They ate up the refuse,pooped,and rooted the dickens out of place.Well, that brings us to the here and now.every ammendment has broken down to a earthworm rich 3in topsoil. underneath the loam is still packed hard. I really would like to get away from doing anymore tilling. Theres a lively debate going on in this household.Y-all could sure do alot by giving your 2cents worth.Sorry to have been so wordy,but y-ll needed all the info to form an opinion.

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helenh(z6 SW MO)

If you dig up a little spot and mix in the three inch top layer, do you get a nicer soil texture? You say you had a garden last summer that was OK. Did you dig up the packed hard soil to make that garden? I wonder if the pigs digging helped or hurt the texture? I am not a vegetable gardener but I have hauled in stuff and sometimes it stays in layers. The roots can grow in the fluffy humus and not penetrate very far into the soil underneath. If your humus layer was thicker than three inches the plants could grow in the top layer. I hope the wood is completely composted; if not I would not mix it in.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2009 at 11:09PM
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helen, answered you question very well. Most plants can do fine with 6 inches of topsoil.

I don't know how hard the bottom layer is...can plants penetrate it at all? Is it clay or just very packed ground? Do you have a picture?

Can you get some one local to actually plow the garden this year and turn over the bottom layer for you?

Here is a thought and what I was advised way back when I bought my Merry Tiller. Just till today what you are planting then plant, the next time move on to the next row and do the same. It doesn't seem like such an endless job that way.

I believe in no-till, but the ground must be in good shape first. Work to get that good top soil to at least 6 inches by adding mulch each season. Mulch can be leaves, straw, old hay, manure, kitchen waste...etc.

Good luck with it this year.


    Bookmark   March 29, 2009 at 6:22AM
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Welcome to the Ozarks forum Muddobber. Your member page says you joined in July but I can't remember officially saying Hi.
I'm still in the beginner catagory when it comes to veggie gardening so I can't give you any expert advice. An idea though, if it seems like it's taking a long time to improve your soil - Maybe you can sort of divide your garden in half and work on making the topsoil deeper where you're going to plant root crops. Then tackle the other half later.
Best of luck with your garden this year.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2009 at 9:43AM
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muddobber(5/6 Webster Co MO)

To answer gldno1, I first disced and de-rocked the ground proper.I then added the scrapings,mo dot grindings,and disced the daylights out of that I put the cow poop and tilled the whole kaboodle. the top layer is pretty much the cow manure(it,s like the heavyer stuff settled and compacted.I suppose some plants can penetrate it,as there are a few weeds coming up that has a really long root.Maybe the best thing is to really dig it under and continue doing the mulch layering until I get 6" of good soil. probley wouldn't hurt to add some sand to bust up the loam. I'm not adverse to doin the work,but I hate disturbing all the hard work those microbs did. Thanks folks.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2009 at 6:02PM
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fuzzy(6b northern AR)


Welcome to the Ozarks! I spent a few years in Florida, gardening while I was there... and the Ozark soil is a completely different situation, isn't it? I feel like a beginner again, coming back and having to relearn how to do things!

The earthworms are a great sign--they do wonders, but it can take time. My opinion: The organic matter in your mulches will do the job, but possibly not work miracles in just a year or two. But with patience and more mulch...

My mother has a little garden plot (about 3'x3') that she's kept mulched with grass clippings for a decade. The soil all around it is hard as can be (Dad's a chemical fertilizer guy), but you can sink a pitchfork 12" into the ground in the garden plot-- like a table knife going through soft butter. It's amazing what organic material and a little time can accomplish.

...if you can still get a "decent" harvest out of what's there, I'd vote for continuing to lay on the OM and wait for nature to work its magic on what's beneath. I'm not sure, but letting pigs trample around on it might not be the best long-term idea-- their weight may work against you.

(If you need some leverage with the family, look up Ruth Stout's books- try for bargains and out-of-print copies.)

Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 1:15AM
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ceresone(missouri ozarks)

Muddobber, I asked the question once over in the Soil Forum-and I was told to remember what you get when you add sand to clay--cement!
I think you're well on your way to building a good garden spot--remember, too, that the long-rooted weeds are doing just what you want-breaking up the hardpan. Not that I advise leaving them, but chop off, dont pull-as the root rots, it leaves tunnels into the hard layer.
I'm a firm believer that if you just keep adding, layer by layer, that the fishworms/nightcrawlers, will do the lower work.
Dont forget to mulch heavy-and leave that to rot too.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 8:36AM
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teeandcee(Florida 9b)

Transplanted Floridian here too. The only thing I miss, and something I took for granted when I lived there, was that oh-so-easy-to-dig sand!

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 9:04PM
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I am gonna try the Ruth Stout way starting this year, well at least on part of the garden, so far the strawberry are looking good with this method.
Ruth Stout
I have gotten 2 of her books on ebay.
lilly ")

    Bookmark   April 11, 2009 at 5:54AM
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I have her No Work Garden book and reread it every now and then. I need to check her other books.

She gives some good advice.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2009 at 8:04AM
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ceresone(missouri ozarks)

I've had Ruth Stouts books for over 40 years, add to them when I can--think I have them all now.
I've gardened her way for years--one of her books is for "the old, lazy, and indolent" and since I fit all of them-LOL, it's for me.
However, I'm parting from her basic ways, in going to all framed raised beds--I think she would have approved, bringing the ground up to her, instead of"getting down" in her old age. Other than that, it will still be mulch, mulch, mulch.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2009 at 8:56AM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

I would mix your organic matter with the soil. I believe in the Ruth Stout method and have used her ideas for years. I think the story was that she had a garden spot, hired it to be dug up every year, was too old to do it herself so she covered it in hay. I think her soil was good just covered with weeds. Parts of my yard are almost pure gravel. I have to dig the humus and hauled in good dirt in and mix it to have soil. I know the reason; there is a gulley on the side of my yard that used to go through my yard. I am trying to garden in a stream bed. I have hauled in so much organic matter that I have a spot that is dry and crumbly like a barn lot; that is not good. You need some inorganic in there with the organic. Clay holds moisture and the humus keeps it light so air can get in and roots can penetrate. I think the pigs digging have done more damage than you do with tilling the soil because I am sure you know not to work wet soil. I have also found that wood takes forever to decay. I use it for paths.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2009 at 11:34AM
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