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Hi y'all! Couple of newbie questions.

Posted by hanovertomato (My Page) on
Tue, Mar 17, 09 at 9:59

I'm new here, so just thought I'd introduce myself. We live outside of Richmond, out in Hanover.

I manage to grow a few things every year, but still consider myself a very novice gardener. I'm much, much better with animals than I am with plants! This year I'm determined to ramp things up a bit. I've got 2 apples, 2 pears and a peach tree ordered, but not yet planted, as well as strawberries, blackberries, sunchokes, and one lone blueberry bush. Mr. Tomato is building me a raised bed, and I've got lots of seedlings growing indoors. I'm notoriously (some would say pathologically) thrifty, so I'm always on the lookout for good gardening deals. I'm hoping an expanded garden this year will help us both eat better and save a little money. I realize some of the fruit won't bear for awhile, but still consider it a good investment for the future.

A couple of newbie questions:

For the raised bed soil- our local county dumps offer free mulch (that's usually more of a "dirt" than "mulch" consistency). I've used it with success for landscaping stuff, but nothing edible. I was wondering if mixing this with some old manure and regular dirt would be acceptable for the raised beds, or if I should actually get garden soil delivered. I'd hate to try to take the cheap way out and use the free stuff- then have my plants be puny because of it. Anyone have suggestions for a cheap way to fill the bed? My regular garden soil won't cut it.

I'm hoping to get sweet potatos and regular potatos planted very soon, I was thinking about using the method where you just grow them in upright bags of soil- anybody had good luck with this in our area?

We have a mole problem, so are going to line our raised beds with wire on the bottom. How small should the wire holes be so the little boogers can't get through? Anyone know where to get the wire inexpensively?

Also- if anyone shops at the Amish Market outside Harrisonburg and could tell me their prices on bulk canning lids (or anyplace else to get them inxexpensively) I'd be very thankful!

Thanks for any advice- I've already learned a lot here, and looking forward to learning more!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Hi y'all! Couple of newbie questions.

Well, I'll address something that you didn't even ask about. I think you need some more blueberry bushes, for pollination.
Although you say "mole problem", it could also be a vole problem, which is worse because although moles will tunnel through your yard and garden eating insects, the smaller voles will eat your plants. You would probably need wire screening that is about one-half inch squares. Have you considered integrated pest management for this problem; i.e. a cat? Voles must be pretty tasty, because our cats catch and eat quite a few!


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RE: Hi y'all! Couple of newbie questions.

Hi tomato. Regarding the free mulch, I'm a bit picky about that stuff and leave it in a pile for a year before I use it. That gives time for most pesticide residue to be broken down. I don't turn those piles like compost, just let them sit. At the end of the year, the stuff is broken down some but lots safer for the garden.

If you decide to use the county mulch, mix it equal parts mulch, composted (rotted) manure, and soil. You will probably need to add additional nitrogen fertilizer since the decay process of the mulch will use up some of the nitrogen in the soil that the plants need.

If you have voles, not moles... I know the gardens at Lewis Ginter were infested with voles a few years ago and they experimented with several methods to prevent damage to their plants. It seems they made cages out of 1/2" hardware cloth (rat wire), even bringing the wire up over the top of the soil around the plant. It was just about the only successful barrier. Voles can be trapped if you've got the time and patience to do it. Mouse traps baited with apple or peanut butter are placed near their holes under an overturned bucket (so it stays in the dark.)

If you have moles, not voles... you don't need to bring the wire above ground. The same size mesh should do the trick. Anything larger than 1/2" and they just sail right through it. They won't eat your plants since they are carnivores, looking for grubs and such.

Where in Hanover are you? I was raised out there on Lee Davis Road.

Sandy


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RE: Hi y'all! Couple of newbie questions.

Thanks for the responses!

coffeehaus- The blueberry I ordered (jumbo blueberry from Gurneys) is listed as being self-pollinating. I know that's not always reliable, and a cross-pollinator usually means a higher yield anyway, so I'll pick up more when I can find them inexpensively. My husband was thrilled to read your cat idea, our almost 20 year old cat passed away last year, and he's itching to get a new one!

I'm googling madly to see if I can figure out if we have voles or moles. I've never actually seen the little critters, just the holes and tunnels. Has anyone used Uncle Ian's mole and gopher repellent? I've heard good things about it (and the label says it works on voles as well).

I'm extremely tenderhearted (you should've seen me saving the earthworms off to the side as I planted some things yesterday), so I'd rather not kill the moles/voles if I can possibly avoid it. Uncle Ian's is supposedly just dried blood and chili pepper mixed together.

Sandy- I'm up towards the courthouse. Thanks for the info on the county mulch. I'm thinking I'll get a pile for next year and let it age like you'd suggested. Can I locate the pile right next to the compost pile I just started, or is there any reason I should seperate them a bit? I'm also getting a load of free horse manure (I never thought I'd get excited about a truckload of poo!), so I was planning on letting that age next to the compost pile too. I was going to tarp both the mulch and manure to keep my dogs out of it -any harm in that? The compost pile itself is made of pallets, so they can't get into that easily.

Yesterday I got my liberty apple, a grapevine, and 6 blackberries planted! Again, thanks for the advice!


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RE: Hi y'all! Couple of newbie questions.

If you have just moles, then you have the raised tunnels across the yard and no plant damage. They eat earthworms and grubs and such. I've used a castor bean oil repellant with good success. If that's what you have, the repellant will help if used exactly according to directions. It needs to be watered in so it's in the ground at the level the moles are tunneling.

Voles are extremely destructive to plants, eating the roots and crowns of many kinds. I lost several hundred dollars worth of hostas many years ago before I realized what was going on and my MIL lost a huge rose bush that literally fell over from loss of roots. I don't know if the repellants work against them or not.

A cat is an excellent solution since they think vole and mole hunting is great sport. They usually kill the moles and leave them lying around but will eat the voles. At least that's what our cats have always done.

The other solutions are traps or poison bait which can be enclosed in specially designed bait stations. I worry about the poisoned critters being caught above ground before they die and eaten by cats or other predators and then the poison going up the food chain. I've done it in the past when we didn't have outside pets and the neighbors were far enough away that I was reasonably sure no pets were going to get in trouble. But it's not my favorite thing to do. I much prefer letting a cat do my dirty work for me. LOL They will also keep the chipmunk population under control.

The mulch, compost, and manure can be stored near each other without problem. Tarps might keep the dogs out but are not really necessary for any other reason. The manure will age better without a tarp and be ready for the garden faster but I understand the need if the dogs are fond of it. We had one that loved to follow the neighbor's cows around and find the freshest pile available to roll in... then thought he was the sweetest smelling thing alive and wanted to be petted! Nasty little critter, but we loved him anyway! LOL


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RE: Hi y'all! Couple of newbie questions.

That's true, manure needs to be left uncovered if possible. It will stink longer if you hold in that moisture. Also if you should use a dark tarp it will over heat, and has been known to start fires.
Have you ever made green tea?
Just place about one small shovel of manure in a 5 gal. bucket and add about 3 gal. of water. Let sit overnight and stir it some. Use as a liquid fertilizer only on large, well established plants. You may want to put some in another container and dilute some more. This stuff is strong so don't overdo it. Good luck and happy gardening.


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RE: Hi y'all! Couple of newbie questions.

Horse manure isn't as 'hot' as most other readily available manure. Most horses are fed mostly hay, not grain-- and as such their poop isn't as nutritive as that of cow, chicken or pig. This can be a good or bad thing. The advantage is that fresh horse manure is unlikely to burn plants, so you can use it almost straight out of the horse. The disadvantage is that you need a lot more of it to get the desired effect. I was once told that 6" of horse manure is equivalent to 4" of cow manure, 3" inches of pig manure and 1" of chicken manure. I grew up on a small horse farm that had over an acre of gardens on the grounds. We used sawdust as bedding instead of straw. The manure always went straight from the barn to the garden. The urine soaked sawdust was dumped into whichever vegetable garden was *not* being used that year. We never had any problems using the manure in this manner. When you get your truckload, try to find out if it just poop or the entire contents of the stall. If it is the latter, it will need to cure for a few months at least.


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