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How do you ammend the soil in your box year to year? Toplef10How do you ammend the soil in your box year to year? 1zd3ho10

Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.

How do you ammend the soil in your box year to year? I22gcj10How do you ammend the soil in your box year to year? 14dhcg10

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How do you ammend the soil in your box year to year?

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How do you ammend the soil in your box year to year? Empty How do you ammend the soil in your box year to year?

Post  ttx599 2015-05-30, 12:11

What are some of you doing when you start a new season of growing in your boxes to "refresh" the soil?  

Does anyone plant fall / winter cover crops in their boxes to add nitrogen to the soil?

Just curious.
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Post  camprn 2015-05-30, 12:23

No cover crop in the sfg as it is not necessary. I usually take 1/3 of last year's mix out of a box and dump 1-2 wheel barrows full of compost into each box , stir and plant. Easy peasy.


Last edited by camprn on 2015-05-30, 14:06; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Typos)

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Post  Marc Iverson 2015-05-30, 13:10

I planted buckwheat over my compost pile last fall and it gave me lots of quality green manure. You really have to keep on it though, as one of its main virtues is that it grows and reseeds so quickly even in short seasons. I wouldn't hesitate to plant it anywhere I was going to leave fallow for a while, as long as I'd be willing to get up off my butt and give it quick trims here and there before it goes to seed.
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Post  CapeCoddess 2015-05-30, 13:24

Nope, no cover crops for me either. I usually dump about a five gallon bucket of compost or two on each bed and mix it into the Mel's Mix. Although last year I covered everything with fresh seaweed before winter set in. That got mixed in with the MM when I mixed in the compost this spring.

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Post  boffer 2015-05-30, 13:28

CapeCoddess wrote:Nope, no cover crops for me either. I usually dump about a five gallon bucket of compost or two on each bed and mix it into the Mel's Mix....
CC

Me too. Here's why:

https://squarefoot.forumotion.com/t8236-green-manure-does-not-come-from-cows

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Post  Turan 2015-05-30, 14:15

I add more compost and stir it in if the things to be planted there like that. I don't bother when planting root crops, too easy for them to get too much. Basically a bed gets more compost every other year or so. I might add sand if it feels like it needs it.

I am tempted to plant an annual cover crop after I pull the garlic. My season is just not long enough to successfully grow much else in that bed. Then the following year I would plant broccoli there through the mulch provided by the now dead cover crop.

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Post  yolos 2015-05-30, 14:21

ttx599 wrote:What are some of you doing when you start a new season of growing in your boxes to "refresh" the soil?  

Does anyone plant fall / winter cover crops in their boxes to add nitrogen to the soil?

Just curious.

I grew a fall/winter cover/green manure crop last year.  I grew winter peas in one 4 x 12 bed and Buckwheat followed by annual rye in another 4 x 12 bed.  I loved it.  It was the only thing green growing for miles around.  Beautiful and uplifting to walk out in the garden and see some green. 

As boffer stated in the link he supplied, it is not necessary but I cut some of it down in the early spring and added the greens to my compost pile and I turned the remaining green growth and roots under.  You do have to cut it down and turn it under before seeds appear and at least two weeks before planting in the bed.

I spend a lot of time collecting stuff and shredding it and turning a compost pile.  The cover crop was a lot easier than composting stuff.  This year I only had to have one compost pile because the cover crop supplied those two large beds with all the organic matter I needed.

For all my other beds I just added a lot of compost before planting, mixed it in, and let it sit for a week or two before planting.


Here is a picture of the two beds.
How do you ammend the soil in your box year to year? Cover_13
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Post  boffer 2015-05-30, 14:42

yolos wrote:...This year I only had to have one compost pile because the cover crop supplied those two large beds with all the organic matter I needed...

I understand the value of adding the organic matter, but what about the value of various nutrition sources ie. 5 different composts?  Is your cover crop the sole source of nutrition, or are you supplementing those boxes?
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Post  Kelejan 2015-05-30, 15:04

camprn wrote:No cover crop in the sfg as it is not necessary. I usually take 1/3 of last year's mix out of a box and dump 1-2 wheel barrows full of compost into each box , stir and plant. Easy peasy.

What do you do with the 1/3 of the mix that you take out of the box?
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Post  yolos 2015-05-30, 16:18

boffer wrote:
yolos wrote:...This year I only had to have one compost pile because the cover crop supplied those two large beds with all the organic matter I needed...

I understand the value of adding the organic matter, but what about the value of various nutrition sources ie. 5 different composts?  Is your cover crop the sole source of nutrition, or are you supplementing those boxes?

Yes I am supplementing.  My compost pile is mostly leaves, grass and vegetable waste.  No manure.  Therefore, I make a 7 way compost with all kinds of bagged compost (cow manure, chicken compost, Cotton compost, Earthworm castings, forest products compost) and mix it up with 50% of my homemade compost.  Then add some to the bed, but not as much as I would have added if I did not do the green manure crop. 

I am not really relying on the green manure crop to give my soil nutrients, but more to give it (or me) the feeling that it is more alive and has more tilth (whatever that means).  This is all just an experiment but I do really like the green growing in the winter and that I do not have to worry about covering up when we get a hard freeze.

It is so enjoyable to me to walk out to the garden in the middle of the winter and see a long 4 x 24 foot space all green and growing (slowly).
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Post  camprn 2015-05-30, 16:35

Kelejan wrote:
camprn wrote:No cover crop in the sfg as it is not necessary. I usually take 1/3 of last year's mix out of a box and dump 1-2 wheel barrows full of compost into each box , stir and plant. Easy peasy.

What do you do with the 1/3 of the mix that you take out of the box?
Put it into a new box usually. But sometimes I toss it into the flower bed.

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Post  Roseinarosecity 2015-05-30, 18:36

I have found that I treat my boxes differently per planting season.

After summer is over, I yank the plants out, check the roots for nematode damage, compost the healthy plants and dump in the green waste any infected plant. Since I plant Brassicas in the fall by seeds, I supplement with homemade compost, worm poop, and organic fertilizers in the entire bed. I add shrimp or crab meal if I found nematode damage.  I also dig around the soil to look for grubs since I get those scarabs flying around all summer.  I then plant fall plants, mostly by seed. 

When winter is over, I snip at the base of these brassicas, add to my compost the leaves, and the large stalk of the broccoli or cauliflower, which is very woody, I bury along the edge of the raised beds, so that they decompose in the bed but away from the center where I will plant my spring plants.  I now supplement with organic fertilizers, leaf mold (to get ready for summer), and homemade compost.  I try not to stir up the soil too deeply, so my compost is mainly where I will add my transplants.  Unless I plant favas, I cut them up as small as possible and turn them into the soil weekly until I can't recognize them.  For spring, I mostly plant transplants.

I have never planted cover crops, unless you want to count the favas, but we do wait for the fava beans and eat them.  I do want to learn more about cover crops, but I plant all year round, so the timing has to work with my planting.
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Post  ttx599 2015-05-30, 19:06

I see that referenced in some answers of a question I posted and not quite sure what that is?

I am cold composting  - so I guess it will take forever, thinking, perhaps, green manure is the "unfinished" compost?
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Post  yolos 2015-05-30, 19:21

ttx599 wrote:I see that referenced in some answers of a question I posted and not quite sure what that is?

I am cold composting  - so I guess it will take forever, thinking, perhaps, green manure is the "unfinished" compost?

Here is a definition:

http://organic.about.com/od/organicdefinition1/g/Green-Manure.htm

From the above website:

"Green manure is not the same as raw manure. Green manure, sometimes alternatively called cover crops, is when a crop or plant is grown and then intentionally plowed under in order to improve the soil. Green manure may also be obtained by collecting green leaf and twigs from plants grown in wastelands, forests and other areas, although in the case of organic farming, growing green manure crops is more common.


Cover crops used for green manure include soybeans, clover, rye and others. The main benefit of using green manure for organic farmers (and other farmers) is that adding organic matter to the soil releases important plant nutrients, including nitrogen and helps to increase crop yields. Other benefits include improved soil condition, decreased weeds, increased water holding capacity and decreased soil loss via erosion."

Most SFG gardeners do not do this and as Boffer said, it is not really necessary.  I just like the green growing in the winter and feel that it helps a little.
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Post  boffer 2015-05-30, 19:25

Green manure and cover crops are often  used interchangeably, but if I recall correctly, there is a technical difference.  

They are  a crop that is purposely grown to till back into the soil rather than harvest.   They  can economically provide organic material, and a few nutrients, on a large scale.
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Post  Marc Iverson 2015-05-30, 20:20

We lose a lot of soil in our PNW rains every fall and spring. I like the idea of something growing so as to help cover the ground and fix the soil through the rains. The extra greens and browns the plants provide is a nice bonus.
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Post  camprn 2015-05-31, 05:00

I have been asked why I remove 1/3 of the Mel's mix when recharging my garden. The answer is rather simple. The vermiculite and  peat don't feed the plants, the compost does. You have to remember, and as Mel has pointed out , the MM is simply a starting point, then it is never the same afterwords. If there is enough room in the box and the mix is settled I don't remove any mix and just add compost. The goal is to have good strong fertility and tilth in the mix, not equal amounts of ingredients.

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Post  Roseinarosecity 2015-05-31, 16:02

Compost decomposes in the beds within a year, or over a season as I notice in my beds.  That's why I replenish with more compost.

Peat moss decomposes over several years.  When people buy transplants from nurseries, it's usually just peat moss in the small transplant.  When I grow my own seedlings, it's usually just in peat moss.  So every time I add a transplant to my bed, I am "replenishing" some of the peat moss, but I don't do it to keep the original MM's formula.  It just happens because it part of the growing medium of the transplants. 

The vermiculite does not decompose because it was never living matter, but it does slowly disappear because it does attach to some roots when you remove your plants at the end of the season, and it breaks down due to erosion.  That is one reason for me to dunk the healthy roots in a 5 - gallon bucket of water to try to capture some of the clinging vermiculite.  I then add that water-vermiculite mix back to the bed.  Also, when you buy transplants, they might also use perlite.  So my beds have some perlite because of the transplants.  I have never purposely added perlite; it just happens when I add transplants.

Organic fertilizers get used up in 3 to 6 months, so that's why I need to replenish those, too.

So my original MM's is changing, but that's ok, because it's working for me.
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