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Wish me luck

Posted by momfryhover (My Page) on
Fri, Jan 28, 11 at 9:29

I just had my $700 order of PT lumber delivered from HD to use to finally build my fantasy raised bed garden. I had to gulp several times this week thinking about spending that for the garden, but my conclusion is this: you can't eat money and if this helps me to have a super productive (plus organized and great looking garden) then it is worth every penny. I will post pictures of the before and after hopefully by next week. Will try to get it done before next weeks weather arrives with a crew of 3. Like I said, wish me luck!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Wish me luck

PS....I already have nice weed free, grass free beds I am starting with, so its just a matter of putting it all together.


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RE: Wish me luck

Luck, luck, luck, luck, luck! And more luck! How very exciting! Yippee!

Seedmama


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RE: Wish me luck

Good luck and have fun with your building project. You certainly picked a great time to do it since the weather is going to be so gorgeous for the next couple of days.

Dawn


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Good luck!!! I can HARDLY wait to see the pics! How exciting!!! This could start a chain reaction!

Paula


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I too cannot wait to see the pics! Good luck!


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That's awesome! We too got $580 worth of pine untreated 2"x12"x16' timber this morning!

Three of us are building raised beds this weekend... only difference is you both are lucky enough to have "nice weed free, grass free beds", but I am going start war with Bermuda tomorrow before laying beds. WISH ME BIG LUCK PLEASE!!!!

Also bought linseed oil and paint roller brush for timber filling. I also read in one of the post by Uschi in SFG saying <"Take boiled linseed oil and stir in it pulverized charcoal to the consistency of paint. Put a coat of this over the timber, and there is not a man that will live to see it rotten." (From "Lee's Priceless Recipes" 1895)


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One quick question. What is best orientation suited for raised beds in Oklahoma? Some suggested NE and some suggested EW, that's why I confused. Our backyard is West facing, receives all day sunlight (Dawn to Dusk), No tress or building in west side. It has very light slope running from SE to NW, Soil type is mainly red clay.


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Ooh, congrats to you both! I can't wait until it's my turn.

Chandra, most things I've read state that N-S (although, I've seen an occasional differing opinion) is best and that's how I've always done mine when I had a choice. However, if you're on a slope, drainage is certainly important to take into consideration so N-S may not be best when all things are considered. No matter which orientation you choose, you can always arrange your plantings to make it work anyway.

Diane


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I use both E-W and N-S, both do well but I Like east-west best because I can place my tall plants on the north side and not shade other plants. But then, some times you will want some shade. Which direction do you need wind protection from?

Larry


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I use both N-S and E-W too, and their placement is determined by the way our land slopes. I want to channel heavy rainfall to run off, not to be trapped inside the garden by the raised beds. I think the need for adequate drainage is always more important than light exposure if you are gardening in full sun in our climate. This is especially true if you have slow-draining, heavy clay soil.

In our climate, if you have full-day sun, your plants will get lots of light since most do well on six hours of sun a day.

Like Larry, I put the taller plants on the north side most of the time so they don't shade the shorter plants, but sometimes I plant peppers on the north side of a taller plant like okra, because partial shade can help protect the peppers from sunscald.

We are in a fairly sheltered creek hollow with woodland on most sides so I don't have to worry as much about the direction of the prevailing wind as much as people do who are in a more wind-exposed location. If you are in an area where your garden is exposed to lots of wind, you should take the direction of the prevailing winds into account.

In a separate smaller garden up by the garage where the land is flat and more exposed to the wind, my rows run north-south because the prevailing wind there comes from the south.


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Good luck!

My long beds mostly run E-W. I plant tomatoes on the north side (like Larry and Dawn, so as not to shade anything else). I usually grow lettuces and spinaches at the foot of my tomato plants.

Jo


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Today I worked on resizing the beds and working dirt and relized I won't have it ready for my wood boxes until I get some more moisture, so don't expect "after" pics for a while. But I took some "before" pics, now lets see if I can load them! Or here is the link to them.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/47015409@N02/?saved=1


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testing


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Looks great! Can't wait to see the 'afters'.

cj


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Despite of little hiccups, we have done major work in last two days. Layout the spray paint plan, removed the grass with sod cutter, then used roto-tiller to till top soil of about 6-8". Then put the linseed polished beds in place while taking care of best possible level!

Here are before and after pics;

Here is a link that might be useful: see more pics


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Those pics look great! Wow, you guys really got a LOT done in a short length of time...and since I'm close to you in proximity, I really can relate as it was so overcast today. You inspire me....maybe next weekend I (we) can get out there and get something done for the 2 small raised beds we're putting in!


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Paula, you might have seen how our soil looks in one of the picture shared in the above post. It is typical red clay soil with lack of organic matter and soil microbial activity. I not saw a single earth worms in the newly tilled soil. I don't have any idea about N P K and Ph of the soil. As you know I am close to your place, I guess you too have exactly same soil condition. I thought to ask you for quick tips/advise for amending this type of soil. How you have turned that brick red clay into healthy garden soil?

DIY SOIL TEST? I have bought soil test kit from Lowe's, but not sure how accurate results will be. Secondly I not want to use any chemical fertilizer, is that possible to amend red clay soil organic-way by just adding enough compost? Do I need to add sand and additional top soil?
thank you -Chandra


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I really like the pictures, but it makes my back hurt looking at all the work you have done.

I dont add anything except organic matter. (any kind I can get)

I hope you keep posting pictures, even of the crops you grow in the beds.

Larry


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Chandra - I'm a bit further east of you, closer the Lake Thunderbird, so I don't have the red clay that you have. We have a few small viens, but not much. I have sand...lots and lots of sand which is host to Root Knot Nematodes. (I'd NEVER heard of those until I moved out here!) However, I wouldn't add anything except organic matter, like Larry said. The City of Norman has a compost facility that we've used several times. It's pretty good for the price, but watch out for rocks. I don't have a compost pile, per se, at my home but I save all my egg shells and just started saving coffee grounds. Got extended family saving them too because we're all coffee-drinkers.

I also have used the DIY soil tester from Lowes and found it to be reliable so go for it! Also...I don't know if anyone else does this or would recommend it, but I buy earthworms that are used for fish bait. I have found them not only at the baithouses around the lake, but even at the 12th Street Walmart back in the sporting goods section. (You might be a redneck if....ha!)

Looking forward to pictures of progress from both you and momfryhover!

Paula


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Chandra,

I have red clay soil and the good news is that red clay is highly fertile soil. If you add enough organic matter to it, it is great gardening soil. Because all organic matter breaks down over time (and very quickly in hot climates), you have to continue adding organic matter forever. I add tons of organic matter every year, and also mulch heavily with grass clippings, chopped leaves and straw. As those mulch materials break down, they help improve the soil as well.

You can add a small amount of sand, but you don't have to. Some of my clay is almost pure clay and very dense, while in other areas it is a sandy clay that drains somewhat better. Organic matter is all you need to add. We didn't have any earthworms in the beginning, but after a year we had plenty. If you add organic matter, the earthworms will come.

Those little soil test kits the stores sell are very unreliable. If I needed a soil test, I'd use the OSU Soil, Water and Forage Lab or the independent Texas Plant and Soil Lab in Edinburg, TX.

Paula, Back in the olden days when I was but a wee child, my dad added sand to his clay to "improve" it. What he really did was bring in nematodes that were in the sand. Isn't that terrible? Luckily, since he had mostly clay to begin with (and good blackland prairie clay at that), the nematodes didn't thrive and reproduce as they would have in pure or almost pure sand. He quickly learned a lesson about adding sand.

Dawn

Here is a link that might be useful: OSU Soil Testing Lab


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I am so glad to know that "red clay is highly fertile soil" . Good know about sand and nematodes, adding sand is dropped out from the plan.

If soil can be improved by just adding only organic matter (compost) then why we need soil test? Here is my stupid guess, if soil test report recommends to add certain amount of NPK and gypsum/lime to balance Ph, then how we calculate amount of compost to be added to reach their recommendation? or Just ignore the report and add as much compost as possible?


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There are many important things you can learn from a soil test and not just NPK. One of the most important bits of data you'll get from a soil test (if they haven't stopped testing for it in order to keep soil tests inexpensive) is your soil's cation exchange capacity. You'll also learn your soil's pH. Knowing your pH is very important because plants won't grow well in soil that has a very high pH or very low one.

Organic matter is so much more than compost. When I was improving my soil after we broke ground here, I added a wide variety of organic amendments to it, and not just compost. I also added different kinds of animal manure (cow, rabbit, chicken), greensand, lava sand, soft rock phosphate, compost (of course), leaf mold, bagged soil conditioner (which consisted of pine bark fines and humus), composted cotton burs, alfalfa meal, bone meal, blood meal, rotted hay, dry molasses, earthworm castings, etc. I was not the least bit worried about N-P-K or anything else, but rather was trying to turn very depleted red clay and overgrazed fallow pasture land into rich, dark soil teeming with life.

Our land was fallow farm land once used to raise cotton (until the cotton root rot and boll weevils made that a losing proposition) and later on corn and wheat. When we bought it, it had been fallow about 20 or 25 years with cows occasionally grazing on it. Since the cows were eating the grasses, there wasn't much plant material left to fall to the ground, decompose and put something back into the soil. It was horrible clay, but it had potential.

By contrast, the soil in our woodland was red clay subsurface soil with about 8" of dark brownish-black, rich, humusy soil on top of that clay that had developed naturally over several decades as leaves, bark, tree limbs and tree trunks, other plant material, insects, small animals, etc. decomposed and turned into rich soil. So, all I was trying to do, really, was to artificially replicate that rich, humusy woodland soil in my veggie garden area without having to wait 30 or 40 years for it to happen on its own. In the woods, all the organic (with organic in this case merely meaning "once living") matter fell to the ground and decomposed on its own. No one put it there. No one rototilled it into the soil. The woodland was building its own soil from the top down. I wanted that for my garden, but didn't want to wait forever for it to happen.

You really don't need much organic matter in the soil. With most soil 3 to 5% organic matter by volume is adequate. I strive to get higher numbers than that because soil with a good organic matter content holds moisture better and yet also drains better. Because we are surrounded by higher ground and water drains down into our garden, I need to improve the drainage as much as I can within reason.

In April 2009, a monster of a rainstorm dumped 12.89" of rain on our property in one day. My garden was mostly planted. In areas where I had done soil improvement by adding lots of organic matter, almost all the plants survived, even though the soil stayed excessively wet and soggy for about 6 weeks. In areas where I had not done soil improvement, some of the native plants, including prairie grasses died. That's why I work so hard to improve the soil....because I don't want for my plants to drown every time a heavy rainstorm drops a huge amount of rain here.

While 12.89" in one day is a lot, on other occasions we have had almost as much. In April 2006, we had 9.25" in one day and most of that fell in only 4 hours. In September 2010, we had 9" over three days, and 6" of that fell in just a few hours. So, my soil needs to drain well or that kind of rainfall is bad news for my plants.

I am not trying to get soil that has a certain N-P-K amount. I want soil that smells good, that is teeming with microbial life, that has all kinds of activity going on in it. I want living soil, not dead soil. When I say I want living soil, what do I mean by life in the soil? Healthy balanced soil will have the following contained within it: protozoa, actinomycetes, bacteria, fungi, yeast, algae and nematodes (there are plenty of good nematodes in soil and they help destroy the bad nematodes that cause problems for gardeners).

In healthy soil not only will you have numerous microorganisms, but you'll also have macroorganisms. The macroorganisms we see in our soil include everything from the tiniest little mites to larger rodents. Each one has a job to do in the soil. Earthworms in soil, for example, provide a sort of natural tilling as they move through the soil. They also aerate it. They eat and break down organic matter, leaving earthworm castings behind to serve as fertilizer. Some macroorganisms are herbivores while others are carnivores and still others are detrivores. They all have a role to play. While some maroorganisms are considered harmful by gardeners, they still are a part of the ecosystem of the soil and have a job to do. Having a garden with balanced soil means leaving the macroorganisms and microorganisms alone and letting them do their jobs. If soil is out of balance and has too much or too little of what it needs in any area, the entire ecosystem of the soil can be thrown out of balance.

Starting with a soil test will simply show you if there is a particular imbalance in your soil that is easily corrected.

I don't routinely do a soil test because I can look at my soil or at my plants and know when something is out of balance, but the first year here, I did use a soil test so I'd know what I was starting out with. Nowadays, I just watch my plants, watch their color and watch their performance and can tell by watching if something is wrong. That comes with experience...with knowing what healthy plants do look like and by knowing what inbalance causes a given set of symptoms.

In Texas, I learned about the importance of soil building from watching my dad and grandad work to improve their soil. Long before I could tell someone how to compost, I saw how my dad composted and what it did for his soil. I saw my grandad use sheet composting to improve poor sandy soil and I saw my dad use compost piles to improve poor black gumbo clay. After I became an adult and had my own soil to improve, I began to read books from the Rodale folks (publishers of Organic Gardening magazine and many books on organic gardening) and also to read the writings of Texas organic gardening gurus J. Howard Garret and Malcolm Beck and began to truly understand that gardening starts with the soil. At that point, I stopped worrying about N-P-K and just focused on improving the soil by adding all kinds of organic matter and minerals. If you give the soil what it needs, it will give the plants what they need.

A great introduction to soil life can be found in the early chapters of J. Howard Garret's book "The Organic Manual: Natural Gardening For The 21st Century".

Some people really use soil tests and get them done regularly. I don't. I have one done "in the beginning" so I know what I'm starting out with, then I use soil building techniques to turn the soil I have into the soil I want, and another test isn't necessary. As long as I'm adding the right kinds of stuff to the soil, it gets better and better every year on its own. You do have to keep giving back to the soil (your mulch does that continually as it decomposes) so it can remain healthy. You can't just plant and take stuff away from the soil, you have to put stuff back there too.

I don't calculate specifically how much of this or that to put into the ground. In the beginning, I just added a couple of inches of organic amendments to the ground, rototilled it in, added a couple more inches, rototilled it in, etc. until I had added between 6 and 8 inches of organic matter to the soil. Then I planted my garden. Now, I just let the mulch break down and add to the soil over time. I'm always adding mulch throughout the garden season precisely because it does break down.

When your soil is dark brown, rich, crumbly (not sticky like clay), and water soaks into the ground instead of running off, you know you have good soil. It smells humusy, just like when you walk through a woodland. The soil itself is full of earthworms. If you don't find a lot of earthworms a year or two after you've added lots of organic matter to your soil, then you know something is wrong.

Because our soil once had cotton root rot, which affects several thousands of plants, I knew my soil had reached the state I wanted for it when I stopped losing susceptible plants to cotton root rot. Does that mean the cotton root rot is gone? I doubt it. What it does mean, though, is that the cotton root rot is no longer so dominant that it destroys what I plant. I don't think I'll ever plant cotton here though as that would be just asking for trouble.

Dawn

Here is a link that might be useful: Cation Exchange Capacity


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I back up everything Dawn said. Although I will add that the DIY testing we got at Lowes was a good indictor of the pH and I went with that and ran...so far, so good...and this will be our third year working with that indicator and all the good things are there.

Just a smaller, simple "back-up" of what our Tomatoe Queen stated. Dang...aren't I lucky that she did all the work? LOL!!!!


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Dawn, You are awesome! Thank you so much for all those details. I will follow your instructions and also keep track of soil improvement. I doubt I would gain this much of information even after reading hundred of books. You are living garden encyclopedia! I am second to Paula's thoughts and we are lucky to have you with us.

I am continuously learning so much each day! so many questions come to mind, then got it resolved, then new queries keep building.

Now I am seriously thinking to incorporate my gardening addition to my regular research (remote sensing), lot of food for the thoughts...I hope something will click before the blizzard is over.

Have a safe and warm regards -Chandra


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I am looking for the garden soil to fill new raised beds (12"x4'x16'). Roto-tilled soil in the bed is about 6" and if add compost can make 8-9inches depth. I assume that may not be enough depth for root crops.

Please suggest sources and supplier for economic garden soil to fill 14 beds (~700 sq ft) the beds.

I found one source www.minickmaterials.com but don't know much about the quality, quantity...

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden Ready soil from Minick Materials


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I'm sure Minick's has someone who can tell you how much you need based on your dimensions. They've been around a very long time. I tried to find some reviews, but in a cursory search, did not find any. They are on facebook so you could maybe get some feedback from customers there. Their garden soil contains 47% topsoil, 25% clean sand, 12.5% manure, 12.5% cotton burrs, and 3% gypsum. Sounds pretty good to me. You might not need to add any other amendments to it this year at least.

I don't know if the definition of "clean sand" means nematode free or not, but maybe someone else does.

Susan

Here is a link that might be useful: Garden Soil Contents at Minick's


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Chandra,

Have you called K&K to inquire about a bulk supplier?

Seedmama


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Susan, that's what I thought. Btw, I come to know that Garden Ready soil from Minick will cost $45.00 per yard (I may need tons of yards?) plus $141 for delivery to Norman area...

Seedmama, not yet, will check today!


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Biradarcm, those are some beautiful beds! Have you checked some of the big horse places near you for really aged manure? I've had great luck with good horse manure, plus it's free.
Or, a dairy, if you're near one.
Anyway, I'm jealous! I'm hoping to get my three beds built this weekend if I can motivate my husband or my neighbor.


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Thank you Tracydr, I don't see any big horse places nearby, but will look for it... I have send email to Minick materials for bulk order, I yet hear from them. -Chandra


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I has couple of email correspondences with Sam Minick from the Minick Materials. I have asked couple of question regarding the quality of the garden ready soil and clean sand (Susan's query). I copied couple of sections from his email response;

Their are laws regulating soil amendments and conditioners. They have to go through numerous tests every year. Just to be called a soil amendment or conditioner. We thought we would leave it up to the customer on whether they think these products help their soil or not. Washed sand normally means a sand that's had water run over it and been sized. It has nothing to with nematodes. There a both beneficial and bad nematodes, I don't track either presence in my soil. That being said, trying to sterilize the soil because you may be concerned about bad bugs, will kill the beneficial ones also. I have never had a soil complaint that our soil had enough bad nematodes in them to make a difference, so assume that they don't...

Organics is the key to a curing a lot of problems. One of the things some miss when amending their soil is gypsum. We have found that when adding it in the presence of manures it actually lowers your ph. The sodium that you get with organic fertilizers' can be abated by gypsum sometimes. Just to let you know we are working on having a new store open this spring at I-35& Hwy 9. Hopefully by April we'll be there. Even though we have added organics to our Garden Ready soil, I still add organics for years after that. We just can not make a perfect soil and have a good price that customers will pay. It's worth it but it's still just to newly mixed to have all the beneficial bacteria that great soil need. You have to grow'em. Feed them compost.

For the bulk order cost of the garden ready soil come down to $30.25 per yard (~27 sq ft). Delivery charge seems to be varies with quantity and destination. For Norman area its $131.25 to deliver 14 yards.

Another good news is they are working on having a new store open here at Norman this spring at I-35 and Hwy 9!

I hope this info help folks who are putting new beds this year!

Cheers -Chandra


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We bought the rich mix from Murphy's in OKC last year to build up the bed in front of the house. It seemed like pretty nice soil and I guess it was because all of the herbs, flowers and peppers that we put in there grew like crazy. The pine bark mulch was nice, too.

We also bought a truckload of the compost for the big garden, but weren't nearly as happy with it. It had a really strong ammonia odor that was almost overpowering as we unloaded the truck. It doesn't seem to have affected anything in the garden, but I don't think that I would get it again.

I'm not sure what they charge for delivery to other places, but it was going to be $105 for up to ten yards delivered to eastern OK county. We just picked it up ourselves.

Here is a link that might be useful: Murphy's


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laspasturas, thank you, now I am bit confused choose one. Minick's Garden ready cost $30.25 cuyd and Murphy's Rich Mix cost $17.50 cuyd, almost half of the minick's You said murphy's rich mix did wonder for you. Now I am in dilemma to choose one?

Is there any added advantage of Minick's Garden Ready ($424) over Murphy's Rich Mix ($245)? Please share your views if any of you used both mix in the past? That will certainly help me, as I need at least 14 cuyd materials. $424 vs $245! Thank you -Chandra


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I haven't used Minick's, but their site looks very nice. We couldn't afford the $30 for the amount that we needed, so that's the main reason that we ultimately went with Murphy's.

I wouldn't say that Murphy's is wonderful, but what we got felt and looked nice and wasn't too sandy (which is what I was a little worried about). If you'd like to check it out before you order, I'm sure they'd let you look at it first if you went down to the Stockyards. But, be forewarned, it is a very busy, noisy place!

-Megan


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Chandra,

I have gotten truck loads of dirt from Minick over the last 3-4 years for my garden beds. It's decent dirt but you will still have to amend it. Just the way it goes.

I'm not sure how you feel or your opinion on certain things but the link is something to do w/ Murphy's that i'll let you be the judge.

Brad

Here is a link that might be useful: Article


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Hi Meghan and Brad, thank you for your inputs.

I am thinking to order garden-ready-soil-mix from following 3 different places and tested their quality and performance.

Minick Materials @30.25/cuyd
Murphy's @17.5/cuyd
Kalvin Beavers @10/cypd

I will let you all know the results at the end of the first growing season. I am sure, my garden will keep expanding, it would be right time to resolve those uncertainties. All of your advise is most welcome. If you not want to post anything sensitive message here, you are most welcome to send me email. Thank you -Chandra


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momfryhover, sorry for hijacking your thread. I hope you have made great progress with your new beds. How about you Puala? I love to see pics of the both of your new garden beds. Thank you -Chandra


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Chandra, I love it that there is a number of us taking the "plunge" of permanent beds and love your pictures and progress! Tomorrow is the new day for us to put ours together so pics should soon follow!


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Yesterday was big hauling day for us, we hauled tons of garden ready soil from three different places @ different price rate. What I found was "cheapest is the best". Here is how I amended the soil;
1. Added Norman compost (4") to pre-tilled native red clay soil (6-8") and used mantis tiller to mix it thoroughly;
2. Added another 4" garden soil mix brought from three different sources (A, B and C);
3. Out of the total 14 beds, I divided 4 each for garden soil mix A, B, C abd 2 with all three mixes mixed together;

Here is picture of the garden soil amendment experiments;

I named commercial soil mixes as A, B and C as I not wanted my unfinished experiment affect their business. From visual observation of color, smell, texture, composition, age, relative weight, I found soil mix "C" is THE BEST and it is three-times cheaper than "B" and 1.7 times the "A".

I don't think its right time say soil mix "X" is best, but definitely I can able to tell quantitatively after one/two growing seasons. At this moment I am so pleased with soil mix "C" for its excellent quality but very cheap($15 cuyd). This is much better than bagged potting soil brought from super stores!

Now all garden beds are ready to plant. Taking some risk and going to sown some seeds today as per the Dawn's cool seasons tips!

Cheers -Chandra

Here is a link that might be useful: see more pics


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Chandra,I love your post, pictures and your TILLER.

I am sure you will have a good harvest.

Larry


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I'm interested to see how your experiment goes this year, Chandra! How do you like the Norman Compost? We are thinking about trying it this year.


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At this moment Norman Compost is not that good, what you see in couple of picture is the quality, most of the woody stuff not broken down. I used two truck loads to mix with native soil in the bottom portion of the beds, so that they keep breaking down while making some room for air and drainage. Our landscape contractor said all the good quality compost usually sold out in early Jan, and hard to catch hold of good stuff, usually sold in couple of days. -Chandra


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Soil Test Results

I received OSU soil test results for the native red-soil of our new raised beds. I have taken soil sample for the test before applying any amendments because that is base layer for entire garden area.

ROUTINE SOIL TEST Results shows;

pH: 8.1
Buffer Index N: 6
P Index: 21
K Index: 435

INTERPRETATIONS AND REQUIREMENTS FOR GARDEN;

pH: Adequate- No lime required
N: Deficient- 1lbs/1000 sq ft
P: Deficient- 2lbs/1000 sq ft P2O5 annually
K: Adequate- None

COMMENTS:

pH: your pH is high, apply 40 lbs of sulfur to lower pH.
N: Apply 5lbs 21-0-0-24 (ammonium sulfate)
P: apply 2 lbs of actual phosporus per 1000 sq ft
K: Index is over 300, do not apply anything containing K
Retest in one year to monitor pH and nutrient levels.

WHAT I HAVE DONE SO FAR:

I have applied compost (3-4") over native red soil and mixed well using tiller. Then added another 3-4" of garden ready soil mix (roughly equal parts of top soil, sand and manure). But I not tilled top later as it was nice looking and better texture for planting little seedling and sowing seeds.

As OSU's soil test did not mention any organic options to lower soil pH and balance N and P. Do you think above amendments are enough or might have lowered the soil pH and incrased N and P? Or should I still need to apply sulfur to lower pH, ammonuim sulfate to raise N level and actual phosporus to balance P?

I appreciate your expert advise before I take further step.

Thank you -Chandra


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Chandra, I to am trying to build my soil organically, I want to try to use alfalfa meal, soybean meal, and compost.

I feel I have too little compost and want to add a little alfalfa meal to help feed the microbes. I already have more K and P than I need. I may buy a bag of blood meal also, but I hope I can accomplish my needs with alfalfa.

This is all new to me so I will just stumble my way through.

Larry


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Just a note about Minick's...I had good luck with them in the distant past but my last interaction was seriously disappointing. I will never do it again.

As far as the composting facility in Norman...the folks that have the ability to be able to set the compost aside for a period of time end up with a really rich product. It just isn't ready for prime time upon it's initial release. I have been trying for years to figure out where I could store it on my urban lot for a while.

Imp


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RE: Wish me luck

Chandra,

I would think that the compost you used should correct most of the issues the soil test found. The exception would be the high pH. While adding lots of organic matter will help somewhat with the pH, it takes a lot of organic matter added every year to help bring down the pH and it takes years of adding it to make a big change. So, if I was going to add anything, I'd add the sulphur they recommended to bring down the pH. The sulphur would be a "quick fix" for this year.

In future years, your soil will obtain all the sulphur it needs from the slow decomposition of grass clippings and chopped leaves used either as a soil amendment or as mulch. I mulch all my beds with grass clippings and chopped leaves, relying on the grass clippings during the warm months, and collecting the chopped/shredded leaves in the fall and adding some to the beds in the fall, and saving others in bags to use as mulch after spring planting.

I don't know that you necessarily would need to add anything else to raise N and P since you already added compost. However, if you want to add something, you could. Just be careful that you don't add too much of any one nutrient or it can interfere with the uptake of other nutrients.

I would take the nitrogen results with a grain of salt. Here's why: nitrogen in soil is highly mobile and is affected by soil temperatures, other weather conditions, soil moisture levels and even the activity of microorganisms in the soil. For those reasons, nitrogen often doesn't show up on soil tests done during cold weather even when it is in the soil in perfectly adequate levels. For this reason, many labs don't even test for nitrogen anymore. Anyway, if your nitrogen levels are too low (and I bet they won't be since you added the compost) you'll know by the way your plants are growing and, at that time, you could feed with a water-soluable fertilizer or could top-dress with blood meal or something similar.

One issue you will find with soil that has a high pH is that the pH often causes micronutrients to be less available in the soil. (By the way, the opposite is true of soils with low pH. In that case, the low pH causes macronutrients to be less available.)

My soil's original pH was almost identical to yours and it is red clay too. Because I knew that added organic matter would fix the pH issue over time, I mostly have focused on adding organic matter annually. Because of the issue with micronutrients being less available in high pH soil, I use Espoma's organic fertilizers (Tomato Tone and Garden Tone) because they contain the micronutrients plants need. I have about 250 lbs. of Espoma fertilizers in my garage right now and am adding them to each bed before I plant. Later on, I'll topdress the beds with them every few weeks or will add them to a bed after an early cool-season crop comes out and before the succession planting of a warm-season crop goes in.

I prefer adding organic matter and organic fertilizers to the beds instead of using synthetic, chemically-based fertilizers because I believe the organic matter and organic fertilizers contribute to the long-term health of the soil in ways synthetic fertilizers do not.

Dawn


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RE: Wish me luck

Thank you Larry and Dawn,

I will add more compost as a mulch or top dressing. I never tried Espoma's organic fertilizers before. I saw that in HD sometime ago, I am going buy and try garden tone this time.

I have planted blue, black and Ross berries last fall, I come to know that they also need acidic soil. Going to add more surfer and peat moss.

Imp, I am not happy with their stuff too.

regards -Chandra


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RE: Wish me luck

Chandra,

I'm not familiar with one of your garden soil sources- Kalvin Beavers. Where are they located? How do you contact them? I have both compost and a source of manure, but need some cheap soil.

Thanks,
Andria


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RE: Wish me luck

Andria, I have given his contact details in another thread linked below. He said won't mind posing his contact details in GW, here is his physical address: 9450 172nd St Lexington, OK 73068

Here is a link that might be useful: Kalvin Beavers contact


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RE: Wish me luck

A few years ago, my husband and I got a truckload of the good garden soil from Murphy's. Just an FYI....although it looked incredible and rich, a soil test showed that it was almost void of nitrogen. I added bloodmeal to each bed and we had an incredible garden that year.


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RE: Wish me luck

Dawn, would the application of Blood Meal help to lower the phosphorous levels over time? If so, how often, at what intervals. I'm assuming one should continue soil tests to see what progress is being made.

Susan


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RE: Wish me luck

Susan, Blood Meal is added to the soil as a quick-release, organic form of nitrogen. It is about 14% nitrogen. It also contains some trace minerals. You generally add 5 to 10 lbs. per 100 square feet to garden beds.

To increase phosphorus, you'd add phosphate, and the best kind is colloidal phosphate, aka soft rock phosphate. You also can add phosphorus by adding greensand.

Dawn


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RE: Wish me luck

I was reading up the thread a bit and someone mentioned putting sand in the clay soil to help with drainage. I thought sand was horrible for that...was I told wrong?


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RE: Wish me luck

What kind of sulphur/sulfur?

I been to atwoods at lunch break, they have small packets of Sulphur Dust which is a Fungicide. Is that I need to add to soil to lower soil pH? or I need to look for sulfur fertilizer specially made of soil amendment?

Where I can buy large quantities of both Sulfur and actual phosporus? I need to apply for the area of at least 2000 sq ft.

Thank you -Chandra


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RE: Wish me luck

I not want to kill beneficial soil fungi by applying fungicide sulfur. Are there any better advise or alternative for lowering soil pH (8.1 to 6.5) without killing good microbial fauna?


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RE: Wish me luck

Ezzirah, If all you add is sand, it is not necessarily very helpful. If you add sand in addition to lots of organic material, that's fine. I added about 5 to 10% sand to my native clay when I built my beds the first year, but added about 10 times as much organic matter as sand.

Chandra, I find sulphur in large bags (maybe 20 lb or 25 lb bags in farm supply stores). The last time I bought it, I think it was at an Agri-Products store, but it might have been at a Tractor Supply Store. The sulphur sold as a fungicide is the same one added to high-pH soil to reduce the pH. I have found sulphur/sulfur under various descriptive names including "Agricultural Sulphur/Sulfur", "Soil Acidifier" and "Elemental Sulphur/Sulfur". Sometimes I see the Espoma brand (as pictured in the link below) in some stores that carry organic products, including an occasional Home Depot.

Dawn

Here is a link that might be useful: Espoma Soil Acidifier (Sulfur)


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RE: Wish me luck

Chandra - in our area, try Ellis Feed & Seed...or even Oklahoma Tractor Supply on the south side of Moore, maybe. If not, send me an e-mail and I'll help you find it. Might be of use to me someday too.

Paula


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RE: Wish me luck

Thank you Dawn for the clarification and suggestions.

I wonder without your constant inputs and advise it would be very hard for newbies to do things right! You have an answer for every question, that amazes me what a knowledgeable person you are. We are so lucky to have you with us (GW), no doubt you a "Living Garden Encyclopedia". Sometimes books and Google won't find perfect answer to my query but you always have a perfect answer. Hats off to you!

Regards -Chandra


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RE: Wish me luck

Thank you Puala, I not thought about Ellison and Tractor Supply, will check their stores tomorrow. I hope your cool season seeds/transplants are out in new raised beds. Regards -Chandra


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RE: Wish me luck

Oops.....my bad. I was thinking the other way around. Chandra, you could also try our friend Mark at OKC Organics, too, if you're up this way.

Susan


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RE: Wish me luck

Chandra,

At normal levels, sulphur/sulfur shouldn't harm the good fungi or other microorganisms that exist in soil. Since you've also added compost, I wouldn't be concerned about it. The problems that occur in soil occur when some element or elements are out-of-balance, being too high or too low. For example, you want to have "enough" nitrogen in your soil for good plant growth, but not too much because it can interfere with the uptake of certain elements like iron, cobalt and something else....maybe zinc.

So, just strive to create healthy, balanced soil in the future and avoid (in general) quick fixes that flush an area with a lot of any one nutrient or element at any given time. That's why I rely heavily on compost and other organic materials---because it is hard to overdose garden soil with anything that is organic and slow-release in nature. Using sulphur one time to lower your soil pH won't hurt the good life forms in your soil and, even if it did, it would be temporary and would pass quickly because your compost is full of good biological life and activity. One reason I use the Espoma fertilizers so much is that they not only add micronutrients in the right percentages neeed, but also contain certain microorganisms that are good for the soil.

As long as you continue to add compost and mulch, you shouldn't have to add sulphur every year, or if you do need to add it, you should be able to add less and less every year.

As for gardening no-know, just wait until you're as old as I am and have been gardening for a long time. You'll be surprised how much you learn over the years! Gardening is fascinating and I learn something new on this forum (and in the garden) each and every day. I've also learned you never have it all figured-out because there are so many variables, and for every gardening "rule" there is an exception, or maybe a dozen exceptions. Trying to understand it all keeps my brain alert and engaged, and I hope that never changes.

Dawn


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RE: Wish me luck

Yesterday I had been to Tractor Supply Co and Ellison to buy garden sulfur, ammonium sulfate... TSC won't have any stock and Ellison has only small packets of dusting sulfur. I bought only one small packet of dusting sulfur for blue berries as a quick fix :-(

I not find Espoma Soil Acidifier or Garden Sulfur at any store near by.

Please let me know anyone come across any local supplier or online deals with free shipping: Garden Sulfur, Ammonium sulfate.

Thank you -Chandra


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RE: Wish me luck

Oh, my! I somehow found this thread by following one of your links, Chandra, and there is so much information here. It's gotten me excited to really get busy and do some serious work on the garden. I can't do a lot with it for the remainder of this season, but I can certainly make plans for next year.

Naturally, this year is the first time I've actually grown a 'garden' in OK and not just put in a few tomato plants. I had to pick one of the hottest, driest years on record to start with. It hasn't been a complete loss, since I did manage to put some beans in the freezer and we've been eating a lot of nice fresh squash. We might still have some cantaloupe also. It's looking okay so far, if I can manage to keep it watered. All in all, it's been an educational year.

My next step is to take soil samples to OSU to find out exactly what I'm dealing with. My father used to always say "If you can manage to get a shovel into it, red dirt will grow anything". I suspect that I'll find I have more N and P than I need, but the test results will tell me for sure. I also need to see what the Ph is in the two distinctly different soil types. One is sandy and under oak trees, the other is clay.

Now that you have grown crops in your beautiful raised beds, did you find a difference in the way the different soil amendments worked for you? Or did you decide on a single one from the beginning and just use that one? You said that "Mix C" was by far the best, and it certainly looks like it from the photos. I tried following the link to Minick's but it didn't work. Are they still in business? If they opened the new location at Hwy 9 it would be really easy for me to get to it. I'm on a very limited budget, but I don't think I need a lot of amendment to start with, and we can haul it in the pickup truck. At least I'm off to a decent start with the heavy mulch that was put down this year. If we can rent a good enough tiller to turn it all in properly and then add some amended soil to it also, I should have something that's not bad to work with.
(The tiller we rented this spring was a pitiful wreck. It barely did anything at all, other than being hard on the operator.)

So, I'm getting very excited about the possibilities for next year. Thank you so much, everyone, for all the fabulous information. Dawn, you are a wonder!

Pat


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RE: Wish me luck

Ok I forgot update some info about my last year's experiment on different types of garden soil mixes. I was prepring beds last week for spring planting, noticed soil mix C turned awesome and saw lot of earth warms in it. Lot of organic matter and great soil porosity and retained darker texture. However soil mix B and C turned bit clayee and looks almost native soil, that means they did not have enough organic matter in it.

Pat, sorry I just saw you post, yes C sounds better. Minick has open store in Norman as well. I too agre with you father's say "If you can manage to get a shovel into it, red dirt will grow anything". I learn that native soil has lot nutrients but lacking poricity due to clay nature, just add enough compost that would turn in to great soil in couple of seasons. My first garden beds were just amended with Norman compost, had great success. Cheers -Chandra


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RE: Wish me luck

Remember that you never stop adding organic matter because heat causes it to break down very quickly in our climate. The quick way of saying it is that "Heat eats compost."

Sometimes less-experienced gardeners think that if they add compost to their soil when they build their beds, that is the end of the work. Not so. The heat will break down all that compost in no time at all. You have to add compost every year.

I add compost continually to all my beds in the form of mulch, and each bed also gets an inch or two of compost before spring planting time rolls around. As the mulch decomposes, it enriches the soil. I have some ornamental beds that are further from the house and don't get much attention and I fail to mulch them as well as I should, and they've pretty much reverted back to all clay, even though I added tons of organic matter to those beds during our first couple of years here.

I agree that red clay is wonderfully rich in many nutrients and anything will grow in it as long as you add organic matter to improve the clay's tilth.

Dawn


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