new to SFG

phantom_white(6)June 18, 2010

After helping a friend put in 3 4x4 raised beds I decided to give it a try myself. I've got a 10x10 frame made of 2x6 boards filled with compost from the local stockyard, sphagnum moss, Earthgro topsoil and potting soil, and some grass clippings. I put weed cloth in the bottom but am regretting that now as I'm afraid the roots won't grow like they should. My biggest problem is that the dirt underneath the frame is clay (not such a big deal) mixed with morning glory and other weed seeds. I've tried everything short of dumping chemicals on the dirt to kill them but nothing works. The whole reason I wanted to try the raised bed was to cut down on the weeds that ALWAYS take the garden over by midsummer. I'd love to cover the whole garden space with raised beds and maximize my productivity with SFG methods but the weeds make it impossible. Now, I've got a friend that raises goats, chickens, quail, and rabbits that I can get fresh manure from. So I was wondering if I could dump the manure on the weeds to burn and kill them then till that under. How have others handled ridiculous weeds trying to take over raised beds and such? Even the weeds that I covered with the weed cloth and 5 inches of dirt are starting to pop through... my parents are already against anything I try to do as far as gardening and I really want this to work so I can show them how much better it would be for us and our wallets.


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Did you build one 10' x 10' bed? You may want to rethink that (unless you've got some REALLY long arms ~grin~). Since one of the benefits if a raised bed is having soil that is not compacted, you won't want to step in the bed. With a 10' bed, you'll have to. You'll also lose planting space as you'll have to leave room to walk. 10' length is fine, you just need a smaller width.

If your morning glory is bindweed, I can't help ~ I've only read about the persistance of bindweed. I wouldn't worry about the weed seeds under 5" of soil though, they shouldn't germinate under there. If you fill the bed then till everything up, you'll probably bring those seeds to the surface where they will likely germinate.

If you are going to remove the weed cloth, try replacing it with a thick layer of newspaper or a couple layers of cardboard. Cut or pull the bigger weeds (if it's bindweed though don't mow it, bindweed will root from small pieces and make lots more), lay & wet the paper then add your soil. The paper should smother the weeds and break down so the roots of your plants can pass into the ground below.

To help keep the weeds at bay, consider mulching around your plants with straw or leaves (I wouldn't use wood chips in the veggie bed though).

Good luck with your garden (and your parents)!

Here is a link that might be useful: Tales of a Transplanted Gardener

    Bookmark   June 19, 2010 at 12:01PM
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I've already been stepping in it. Afterwards I just fluff it up (the dirt is fluffy even after stepping all over it). I plan on getting more, smaller beds when I get the money to do it with.
It's morning glory, bindweed, clover, wheat grass, and all kinds of other stuff. Luckily there isn't any kudzu, which I am thankful for. Should I staple the weed cloth to the outside of the box, then move the whole thing, till under the frame, replace the frame, then remove the cloth? Right now I have pole beans, cukes, tomatoes, corn, kohlrabi, and brocolli in the bed right now. There's a big clump of some ungodly plant pushing up through the cloth that I'd love to get rid of, but the root is so deep that I can't just pull it. I'd have to find some way to dig it out otherwise.
I'm using grass clippings as mulch and also some of the not-so-composted-compost I have. It's rotted manure with lots of hay mixed in.


    Bookmark   June 19, 2010 at 2:50PM
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The hay will give you lots and lots of weeds in addition to whatever seeds are already in the soil.

A couple of tools that are effective against weeds are a hoe and a small, hand-held garden cultivator ($6.00). My bed is 168 sq. ft. and it takes about 30 minutes once a week using it to get rid of any weeds. And that was when the plants were very small. Now, a good majority of the ground is shaded and weeds are rare.

If you have money to spare, you could look at something like a Yard Man Garden Cultivator. I have a rotary tiller so have never used the GC but it is motorized and supposedly can till between rows set just over 6" apart.

Personally, I don't look at weeds as being bad - they are either organic matter that can be tilled into the dirt or compost in the making!


    Bookmark   June 19, 2010 at 8:46PM
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I didn't realize you already had it planted. In that case, I'd probably let it be for this season and make any changes you want to for next year.

If you can't pull the big gnarly weed out, try cutting it as deep in the ground as you can. It will likely keep coming back but maybe you'll weaken it. Just try to keep the worst ones from blooming.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2010 at 2:27AM
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eaglesgarden(6b - se PA)

Have you considered spraying it with vinegar?

Personally I would cut the top growth and apply vinegar to any regrowth. Even regular household vinegar (5% acetic acid) has good effect on systemic destruction of the weeds, although reapplication is generally needed for larger weeds. Secondly, the acid breaks down very rapidly, and is certified as safe to use in organic farming, so it won't harm any surrounding plants. (Just don't get extra spray on the plants you want to keep. There is no long term damage or danger in eating them later if a little gets on them, but it will cause some stress to them.)

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 4:49PM
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I've never heard of using vinegar. Should I dilute it at all?
And sort of a new question: I'm already planning for next year and was wondering if it's better to plant determinate toms or indeterminate ones. I would like a bed that just has super early stuff in it (also need some suggestions for early stuff other than bush beans and greens).
Thanks for the help so far!

    Bookmark   June 22, 2010 at 11:52PM
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Don't dilute the vinegar, you want it strong.

The tomato choice is a personal preference. Determinate tomatoes generally will produce their crop all around the same time while indeterminates will produce throughout the season.

From the tomato forum FAQs:

What is the difference between "determinate" and "indeterminate" tomatoes?
Determinate varieties of tomatoes, also called "bush" tomatoes, are varieties that are bred to grow to a compact height (approx. 4 feet).

They stop growing when fruit sets on the terminal or top bud, ripen all their crop at or near the same time (usually over a 2 week period), and then die.

They may require a limited amount of caging and/or staking for support, should NOT be pruned or "suckered" as it severely reduces the crop, and will perform relatively well in a container (minimum size of 5-6 gallon). Examples are: Rutgers, Roma, Celebrity (called a semi-determinate by some), and Marglobe.

Indeterminate varieties of tomatoes are also called "vining" tomatoes. They will grow and produce fruit until killed by frost and can reach heights of up to 10 feet although 6 feet is considered the norm. They will bloom, set new fruit and ripen fruit all at the same time throughout the growing season.

They require substantial caging and/or staking for support and pruning and the removal of suckers is practiced by many but is not mandatory. The need for it and advisability of doing it varies from region to region. Experiment and see which works best for you. Because of the need for substantial support and the size of the plants, indeterminate varieties are not usually recommended as container plants. Examples are: Big Boy, Beef Master, most "cherry" types, Early Girl, most heirloom varieties, etc.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 1:45AM
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eaglesgarden(6b - se PA)

As greenbean said, you don't want to dilute the vinegar...the stronger the better.

LIke I said, regular vinegar for household use (sold at grocery stores) is 5% acetic acid. That's the weakest strength I've ever read about being used as an herbicide. A higher concentration (10% -20%) is generally needed for bigger/older weeds - they have a better root system and can recover more easily than younger weeds.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 3:40PM
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Where might I find stronger vinegar? I've only seen the 5% in the grocery store.
I was thinking of doing a "65 days and less" bed, which is where the determinates would come in. Besides the tomatoes, I've found corn, peppers, watermelons, broccoli, and greens that all come in at or below 65 days. I thought it would be neat to have a super early bed that would be productive enough to preserve some things from it before it gets so blame hot here. When everything in that bed was done I could pull it out and start all over again with different stuff.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 5:02PM
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eaglesgarden(6b - se PA)

Here's one source.

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden-ville

    Bookmark   June 23, 2010 at 10:31PM
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I might try that sometime.
Now I'm having trouble with the compost I'm using. It has lots of organic matter in it, but holds no water. Literally. I watered one tire for a good 10 minutes last night and earlier when I went to check on my dying tomato plants the dirt was completely dry. What's the BEST stuff to add to something like that? I've got some peat moss and have access to plenty of red clay. Would either of those work?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2010 at 8:00PM
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eaglesgarden(6b - se PA)

If those are the two options, clay has much better moisture retention than peat (in my experience).

Was the surface dry, or was it dry beneath the surface? Is there any mulch to help retain moisture, or is it all exposed to the air/sun?

First, if you don't have mulch, you need to get can make a HUGE difference in water retention.

Secondly, the tires are also leading to more water loss. The tires being black, absorb a bunch of heat, and then cause more water in the soil to evaporate. So, I would consider covering the tires with something white to reflect much of the light to keep the tires cooler. As nice as tires are in the spring to warm the soil, they create a problem in the summer, if not covered. You could cover the entire thing (tire and all) in mulch, and it would serve you well to conserve water.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2010 at 10:05PM
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The surface was wet but underneath was bone dry. The strange thing is, this tire is dry but my others seem to retain maoisture really well. I've been using grass clippings instead of wood mulch and it works nicely. Maybe I should pack some of that into the tomato tire? I put some peat on top of that tire today, right before it started to rain and it seems to have helped somewhat. I really hope those toms perk back up... they were fine 2 days ago. I've got lots of extra white paper from college so maybe I can put that to use somewhere.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2010 at 10:20PM
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eaglesgarden(6b - se PA)

Some mulch actually REPELS water, and causes it to run off, rather than soak through. Perhaps it the top was packed so tightly that they were not allowing for permeation. Just a thought. Did you check for moisture immediately after watering?

    Bookmark   June 24, 2010 at 11:46PM
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Weeds are a pain but if you keep pulling them when they appear you will eventually win the battle.The plants have to produce so much energy restoring themselves that they get smaller and less of a problem.

Vinegar can also kill good plants.You need to be careful using it around other plants.You could put a cone around the weed to avoid broadcasting the vinegar.It will go down to the roots so be careful.Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 11:14AM
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I'm about ready to give up on my little garden. Somebody's dog destroyed ALL my garlic, bush beans, and carrots last night. Those were the ones in tires. They've been in my big bed too... I know who's dogs did it but they won't do anything and neither will the police. Anyone have a deterrent they recommend?

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 11:35AM
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eaglesgarden(6b - se PA)

Have you tried getting a bigger dog to combat the other one? lol

Sorry, can't help with dogs. They are not easy to deal with, especially poorly trained dogs.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 11:11PM
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Oh, I have a big dog. She's a 100+lb wolf mix but she is a big baby and can't be outside by herself for any long amount of time because she cries. I'm starting to think it may have been coons that did it; I salvaged what I could of the garlic and there was a bunch of cloves missing. We have deer as well as other critters but I don't think they would've done that... these tires were wrecked. Whatever it was had to have claws or hands to do this. I thought about putting mouse traps out there with the snap wire sharpened. If it *was* coons I'm pretty sure that would've deterred any further digging. If it was dogs, well, they would've got their nose trimmed. Either way they'd know not to touch it again. I haven't got around to that... yet.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2010 at 11:37PM
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I'm curious. sometimes I've seen 'sphagnum moss' listed as an ingredient for soil. I understand that peat moss is the suggested ingredient. Can someone clear this up? Thanks

    Bookmark   June 29, 2010 at 3:44PM
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They seem to be used interchangeably. Sometimes it called Sphagnum Peat. Check out the Wikipedia link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wikipedia

    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 2:30AM
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