Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Getting organic matter into the soil

I've started organic gardening, but my soil isn't very good. I have found multiple ways of getting organic matter into my soil, but my garden is huge 50' x 150'. In your opinion what would be the best way to get organic matter into my soil. I have a compost pile, but it is not big enough to support the entire garden. Should I grow a cover crop? Should I layer the garden with green sand fertilizer, manure then hay? My soil has a lot of clay. I have been putting hay and grass around my plants during this season. Any help is appreciated.

Yes, and yes.  Manure, hay (although many people don't like hay because of field grass seeds, I just pull them when they sprout), and compost are all good steps. Get a big delivery of manure and hay, and spread them evenly in layers, hay on top for the winter. But you mention cover crops and that might even be better. Just yesterday I read this article at Cornucopia, which says:

Forage legumes, such as alfalfa and clover in crop rotations can: supply nitrogen for grain crops; increase soil organic matter; improve soil structure and tilth; and
reduce weed pressure. 

 While you're probably not doing grain crops, the idea is the same. If you need organic matter in your soil, which we all do every year, then grow some right there on the spot! Be sure to read up on the specifics, like when to turn the cover crop under. I've never done cover crops, but I suppose that once you turn them, you'll still need manure and mulch to overwinter the site (depending on the harshness of your winter).

I use peat moss to organic up this very limey and clay-like soil here in upstate NY. That may be an expensive proposition for something of your scale, but it works very well. Grass clippings are good too!

Good luck and let me know what you decide!

Monday, August 02, 2010

Time to start hording hay and manure

The only ripe tomatoes I've gotten this year are the cherry kind and I'm already thinking about winter. Maybe it was the 48 degree night we had last week, or maybe it's the old joke from a few posts ago that we have two seasons up here, the 4th of July and winter, but I'm already thinking about bedding this baby down for the winter with layers of manure and hay.

Maybe the fact that I once again planted some things too close together is making me with I had more raised beds, and the winter manure and hay is going to help me make a couple more before the snow gets here. If I could do them now, I could get some fall collard greens, maybe some spinach and peas if the deer don't get them.

Whatever the reason, I've definitely got manure and hay on the mind. The tractor just came through the fields behind us, shooting hay bales into the wagon like the rolled up shirts shot out of cannons (like the ones that killed Maude Flanders, you Simpsons fans). Nothing like the site of a bunch of baled up hay to make me want to un-bale it and protect some fine garden soil.

I still have some green sand fertilizer, too, which must be scattered on the ground under the manure layer, which goes under the hay layer, which will go under the snow layer, where it will all lie, protected from the cold, composting away under there for months while I shiver and wonder if I put enough manure down.

For now, I'm content to just wait for the tomatoes I missed so much last year (blight). But when those babies start turning red, I'm going to be turning compost and manure, layering the open spots, planting some fall greens on top, and stock-piling hay to cover it all up with for the winter.