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Soose in North Alabama

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Post  Soose 2/23/2022, 9:45 pm

Hi.  I'm new and grateful to have found this forum!  I expect to be sorely in need of advice. 

I have the original book from 1981.  SFG made so much sense to me, then and ever since.   I tried to set up two plots at that time, and did not do well.  (I remember stunted baby carrots, not encouraging, and tomatoes with blossom rot, way back then.  Almost no harvest.  Didn't make it past that.)

So, consider me pretty much a newbie or previously failed gardener. 

I have friends who garden but no one who uses the Square Foot Garden method.  I was already planning to follow Sq Ft Gardening, and  I finally realized when I was delving back into Mel's book last night that they just have totally different gardening styles than I do.  I was getting all confused...  when I picked up the Sq Ft gardening book, sanity returned and answers started floating out. 

I saw encouragement to get Mel's second edition of the book, and have it on order. It's all checked out at our library.

My grown son and I are going to try to give it a go again, urgently trying to prep the structure.  And obtain the soil/mix materials -- a real challenge. 

We see the need to be self-sufficient growing food.  We actually need to grow enough to can or dehydrate as well for next winter. 

And I need to start my own seeds indoors as much as I can, unwise as that may be for a newbie,  because the last two years, seedlings for transplant have been very spotty here.  (Too much demand, not enough on store shelves, hit and miss, spindly plants...  can't rely on getting them.  )  I'm struggling with knowing when to start seeds for our area.  (And our county extension service and such have calendars here, but they conflict with the original book.)  I guess that needs another post.

For beds, it'll have to be raised beds due to age now, and I have some IBC totes in my driveway. (Large plastic caged things.) We're going to cut them in half horizontally, turn the top half over, so each will be 39"x47" and 20inch deep once cut in half,  and that'll  make two self-wicking beds out of each tote.  (We're not great at watering on schedule in the worst heat, and I have had luck growing greens in "diy earth boxes" which are self-wicking.)  So the bottom 4 to 5 inches will be for a water well.

I'll include a "how to"  photo snipped from a youtube interview if I can figure out how: 
Soose in North Alabama Ibc_to10
After the step as shown, it's to be lined with landscape fabric, and then soil on top.  Watering from the bottom.  Weephole allows an airspace. 

I hope that all sounds okay.  A variation on the original, and I have not much clue what's in the second book.  Or beyond.

Glad to be here!  Soose
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Post  markqz 2/23/2022, 10:44 pm

Soose wrote:Hi.  I'm new and grateful to have found this forum!  I expect to be sorely in need of advice. 
Welcome Soose!
Soose wrote:I have the original book from 1981.  SFG made so much sense to me, then and ever since.   I tried to set up two plots at that time, and did not do well.
Back in 1981 you wouldn't have a forum to log onto. You'll find lots of people here that are really knowledgeable that can help you out with most any problems.
I saw encouragement to get Mel's second edition of the book, and have it on order. It's all checked out at our library.
There's actually a 3rd edition of the book. All New Square Foot Gardening (3rd ed.)
And I need to start my own seeds indoors as much as I can, unwise as that may be for a newbie,  because the last two years, seedlings for transplant have been very spotty here.  (Too much demand, not enough on store shelves, hit and miss, spindly plants...  can't rely on getting them.  )  I'm struggling with knowing when to start seeds for our area. 
I think thanks to Covid there's been a run on lots of gardening supplies the last couple years. There's also a bit of a run on lumber happening too.
(And our county extension service and such have calendars here, but they conflict with the original book.)  I guess that needs another post.
Did the old book have a regional calendar? I don't think the current book features such a chart, though it does have charts that you use in conjunction with your expected last freeze date. Do you have a freeze date there? I see your current temperatures are warmer than mine down in true South Cal. I don't have a freeze date, though tonight it's going to be close. I've started some cold-loving plants (kale, bok choy, cauliflower).

I'm sure people from your region will be chipping in to provide advice.
For beds, it'll have to be raised beds due to age now, and I have some IBC totes in my driveway. (Large plastic caged things.)
Lots of people here have made raised beds on either wooden posts or filled in tubs (dirt or stones in the bottom. I haven't seen anyone with raised beds on top of plastic totes. I would be a little concerned whether they could hold the weight of all the mix. But I might not have the right mental image.

I'll include a "how to"  photo snipped from a youtube interview if I can figure out how: 
Soose in North Alabama Ibc_to10
If you can find it, a link to the original youtube video might be interesting!

Well, I'm sure some much more knowledgeable people will be popping in to say hello and offer advice, probably before the wee hours of tomorrow! Until later!
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Post  Soose 2/23/2022, 11:18 pm

Thanks for the reply, Markqz! 
--------
My date confusion:
The original book has general "weeks to last frost" type of info for each veggie it published, right?  Well, for one example... 

-- The book shows on pg 82 that broccoli/cabbage/parsley are to be started from seed 12 weeks before last Spring frost...  and transplants 5 weeks before the last frost.
--My dates here from the county extension show seeds/ cabbage at -10 wks, broccoli at -8 wks   and transplants/ cabbage -4wks, broccoli -2 wks? 

All based on my April 20 last frost date.  (Some weather service data shows that date moved some years back on average to April 3rd, but lordy me, we live here and no one expects that to be real.)   I mean, I can insert my frost date, and count weeks back.  But how many weeks?  I don't have any sense built-in or from experience about when to start things. 
------
Totes:  After I posted I saw there is at least one other person who has posted on splitting and using IBC totes for raised beds.  I guess most people just put them on the ground, but we are planning to set the pallets they live on up on concrete blocks to raise them even further for comfort.  I'll find that link with photo. It's very descriptive.  Hang on...

https://squarefoot.forumotion.com/t23259-my-sfg-journey-tote-beds?highlight=IBC+tote 

The previous photo I sent was from a youtube interview of an elderly gardener who had been constructing the raised beds out of ibc totes for many years, and was describing how to make them...  Ok, I'm a new member and can't post external links. (Hopefully the previous link will be allowed as it's not external.)   The title of that youtube was "How to build a wicking bed from an ibc step by step tips that make it actually wick"...

...but I guess you're asking about the "extra raised" aspect...   and my spouse did question the weight of the soil and water...  but the pallets of these things are meant to hold totes full of liquid, and I think we are okay...   a search on "ibc tote wicking bed" comes up with many hits.  And some of them are up on raised platforms of various types.

The elderly gardener gives a tip that he doesn't leave the pallet on the bottom of his totes/beds, as it provided a run for mice and other critters.  By raising the beds even more, getting that pallet up off the ground, like on a small table, we're thinking that won't be such a problem, with the bonus that it'll help my aging back.

Thanks so much for the warm welcome!


Last edited by Soose on 2/23/2022, 11:30 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : added links)
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Post  markqz 2/24/2022, 3:18 pm

For anyone following along, I think this is the video Soose is referring to:



I haven't heard of anyone doing wicking with SFG, so you may be forging new ground here!
My dates here from the county extension show seeds/ cabbage at -10 wks, broccoli at -8 wks   and transplants/ cabbage -4wks, broccoli -2 wks?
My feeling is that your county extension knows your area better. The numbers in the book are probably a little more conservative because there are people in more northern latitudes that have more variability in that last frost date. Hopefully some folks from your region will pipe up with some observations.

Good luck!


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Post  Soose 2/24/2022, 3:58 pm

markqz wrote:>I haven't heard of anyone doing wicking with SFG, so you may be forging new ground here!

I had the same concern.  My diy self-wicking containers on the porch do really well, out of 18gal bins.  But I don't have the gardening experience to know if a constantly slightly damp bed will affect certain veggies?  I do see some links and will have to read a bit more. 

History says, we're not great on watering mindfulness.  Rather than trying to change that... trying to work around it. I know there are drip systems, too, but that's even more infrastructure to add currently. Too much.

Here's a question.  If a particular plant would usually need more sandy / loose soil than Mel's Mix would give, do you adjust that area of the raised bed, those squares?  Dig in a bit of sand?  I can't remember from the original book.  Will try to read again tonight.
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Post  Hawgwild 2/24/2022, 4:05 pm

Howdy Soose and welcome to this super forum...Not new to gardening but am new to Square Foot Gardening. Have had a few issues, more about seed starting indoors, but when I ask a question was always given some good and very prompt advice.

I have 2 SFG's. A 4'X4' and a 3'X4". Will have 3 more after this season as this will be my last year with a traditional row garden. Really enjoying this site and the things I've learned from it already. SF Gardening has really opened many more possibilities with a number of vegetables I can plant that never did well in my traditional row garden.

Again welcome from northwest Louisiana,
Scottie
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Post  jafstuff 2/28/2022, 12:14 pm

I used SFG for decades but now find that raised beds and containers work better and require less prepping and still use the SFG practices even in tubs. The IBC is similar to my tubs. I get mineral lick tubs from a rancher friend and just line them up supported on cement blocks. I insert poles around them and am able to cover them with plastic trash bags early and late in the season to protect from frost. I am in Zone 5 and all gardening is a challenge. Also a tip is to use the tubs or SFG as a composter through winter, I empty my indoor compost pail onto the containers and raised beds all winter and in spring just give it a turn. Crops are much healthier now.
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Post  Soose 2/28/2022, 12:24 pm

Jafstuff, thanks so much.  You are doing great!  Mineral lick tubs (we call them molasses tubs?) -- supply here seems to have dried up?  I see them for sale in other areas (too far) for $8, not free.  Just don't see them advertised in our area. Yet.

I have a friend who buys half a cow yearly.  I will ask her to ask her farmer, but that's probably later Summer?

I'm a bit nervous...   if  you or anyone knows someone who has combined this with a water reservoir under the soil -- a self-wicking version?  I'm all ears. TY. I don't know why it wouldn't work.
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Post  walshevak 2/28/2022, 4:02 pm

do a search on "pure sand and high water bills"  and you will see a thread on what we affectionally called "pond beds"  a number of years ago.  We started with one block high beds and have graduated to table top high beds using the technique.  It makes a big difference here in my yard and my back and knees.

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Post  Soose 2/28/2022, 5:23 pm

Hi, Walshevak. Found your thread on self-wicking beds...
https://squarefoot.forumotion.com/t5716p25-experiment-to-deal-with-pure-sand-and-high-water-bills

( You didn't actually put any sand in below, to build the deep bed up -- that's what I thought you were saying at first. You meant a sandy soil, with a raised wicking bed over it.  Disconnected by a layer of pond liner. ??  Smile )

So wicking beds and SFG can be ok together. 

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Post  Soose 3/4/2022, 10:08 am

sanderson wrote:.... I have found overhead sun shade has been a game changer.  Even my tomatoes have benefited from any shade cloth I can give them.  My summer temps reach 110*F with 10% humidity, and the plants are struggling and quit setting blooms.  But with shade cloth, they can survive until early fall and give me a second harvest.  Your location will determine what extra care or consideration you need.  Experience, research and advice for your area will eventually make you a really good gardener.

So here in the "Middle South,"  has anyone seen anyone who uses shade cloth year around?  Should we pursue the option of putting our raised beds inside a hoop house, with shade cloth over? It's one of the structures I'd considered.  But worried about because it would be cutting sun hours down.  If it's a big structure, I thought it would be difficult to raise and lower the shade as needed. So I was going with individual beds. 

It doesn't get to 110F here, not usually.  High 90's.  But we have the humidity.
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Post  Soose 3/4/2022, 4:12 pm

Do I really have to put a layer of sand under my MM inside the IBC totes? 
I will have 15" height to put soil in.  I don't mind if there's only 6" of MM and 9"
unused in top. They'll be raised and reachable.

I realized today and want to ask.  Really, the sand might be just a complication.
ANSFG book says 6" is deep enough except for carrots, leeks, and potatoes.
I assume daikon radishes.

So can I just leave the sand (and that weight  and expense and work) out of the plan?

I know I'll only have 6" of MM in my totes above the water reservoir. But I've never had
problems with the soil above wicking up from the reservoir.  (Could test it.) And if the plants
do not need it, other than deep rooting plants... 

Why bother?
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Post  Soose 3/4/2022, 6:18 pm

I can get peat moss and have vermiculite. So that leaves organics.
Sources for the 1/3rd organics...  I have read others making this journey. 


I understand I need to read labels to keep the balance right. 

-----------------------
1.  I can buy worm castings (until we can generate our own)...

---Lowe's has "Readi Soil" brand OMRI $32.12/cu ft...

---Local feed/seed has  something 15.99/cu ft.  Oops, just called. Gone and next Friday is $18.99. Sad

---There's someone on Facebook Mktplc (which I don't do but ask a friend)... 
I think the $20 comes out to $1.11/lb... and if the 40lb bag at Lowe's is 3/4 cu ft, then this is $44+/cu ft. Ouch.

--- There's a nursery listed on Craigslist with worm castings but it's 2 3/4 hrs away from me, up outside of Nashville. If they still have it.
Cheap - $1/gallon, 5gallons $5, bagged.  I can dream.

Worm Casting Soil - $20 a bucket or 8 pd bag for $10
"...worm castings...  $10 for an 8 lb bag (app.)
or $20 for 5 gallon bucket (app. 18 lbs.) bring your own bucket. Pick up in...  [ 30miles away]"


-----------------------
2.  I can buy mushroom compost...

Lowe's has FAKE Old Castle Black Velvet brand  $5.48 / 40lbs or 3/4 cu ft.  (Called company to find ingredients; oops, this is not even Old Castle in my state, and should not have that name. They don't even do biz in Alabama.  Whatever Lowe's here is selling under their name is not theirs.  They do have organic and non organic mushroom compost in other states. Doesn't help me.)

The feed/seed has a mushroom compost $8.95/cu ft.  Can I trust it?

-----------------------
3.  Manure... 
---Black Kow is of course here, Lowe's $5.38/cu ft bag.  (But reviews say it's gone
down in quality lately, uncomposted, sticks/stones/glass in it, peat moss in it...  hard to know what to believe.)

---Rural King has a generic cow manure (vendors vary) only $2.39/bag but I see it says not weed seed free, vendors vary.

-----------------------
4.  I have some composted leaf mold - probably not enough.
I have some kit waste most of it composted down (new veg on top).  Not enough.
Can I mix them and call it enough to make 1/5th organics?

------------------------
5.  The co-op has chicken manure supposedly composted $9.99/cu ft. 
(They also have a variety of small pkgs of things, pricey, as do most of the others.)
-----------------------

Biochar -- I think I can create this in quantity. I have a burn barrel.  Does that count?
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Post  sanderson 3/5/2022, 3:04 am

1. Readi Soil worm castings has peat moss. At $32.12/cu ft that's really expensive peat moss. Shocked What you want are screened worm castings. Limit the volume to 5-10% of the total blended compost as they are rich. Check on Marketplace or Craig's List for private worm farms. "...nursery listed on Craigslist . . .$20 for 5 gallon bucket" (your own) is a decent price Or, search vendors such as this: https://gulfcoastwormranch.com/organic-worm-casting-fertilizer/

2. Mushroom compost is spent compost used for growing mushrooms and it still has nutrition for the veggies. I would buy it if it was available here. Feed and seed store - same thing. Did their vendor add peat moss. Just don't want them to have added peat most when they sell it. Or, if they do add peat moss, find out the %. Then deduct that amount of peat moss from the 1/3 part of peat moss.

3. Black Kow - I've read it's gone down in quality. Do screen all bagged products for wood, rocks, bottle caps etc. Any chicken or cow manure should work. Doesn't have to be OMRI. Nice, but not necessary.

4. Finished leaf mold (black gold) is good. Composted veggies is good. I'm not tot talking about bokashi material, the real deal outside in a bin. These are two different sources.

5. Co-op chicken manure, if it is composted! Limit all barnyard manures to 20-25% of total blended compost volume.

"6." Biochar - we don't use it. Vermiculite holds and releases water and nutrients, and it has a good electrical conductivity, almost as good as compost.

If all you can find right now is 70% mushroom compost, a little 1% worm poop and 29% composted barnyard manure, celebrate! You can get started and then search, call, Google for more sources of compost. Do some serious composting.

Did you stumble across the pop-out bobble topics on the left edge of the home page? https://squarefoot.forumotion.com/t7451-mel-s-mix-how-strong-is-your-backbone






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Post  sanderson 3/5/2022, 3:12 am

Soose wrote:Do I really have to put a layer of sand under my MM inside the IBC totes? 
I will have 15" height to put soil in.  I don't mind if there's only 6" of MM and 9"
unused in top. They'll be raised and reachable.

I realized today and want to ask.  Really, the sand might be just a complication.
ANSFG book says 6" is deep enough except for carrots, leeks, and potatoes.
I assume daikon radishes.
Correct.  You only need sand if you want a high depth of fill.  Just make sure that there is a true 6" of well watered and settled MM.  After watering and settling, you may have to top off to make a true 6".  Determinate potatoes can be grown in 6".  There are half-length carrot and parsnip varieties.  For Daikon, full length carrots, you can fill one bag with 10-12".  For indeterminate potatoes, don't break the bank with hilling, and hilling, and hilling material.I don't think you will find a commercial farmer out there that hills with 3' of dirt.  Wink

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Post  Soose 3/14/2022, 3:25 pm

I found a source of $30/scoop compost from a guy about 1 hr 15mins from me.

Soose wrote:Hi. I'd like to know what's in your compost, how you produce it, please. Thanks!

Organic compost, he says, in the ad title. 

country guy wrote:I have two different kinds. Leaf and yard waste compost and cow manure compost. I avoid cow manure that had Grazon in it...

And later:
A full size pickup will hold three scoops.

Would have to drive in the truck (gas guzzler at the mo, idle is wrong, pricey as well per gallon).
Not sure how much I can really bring back in a 40  year old pickup. I think it's half ton?  Depends on how wet it is.

Have to trade off gas costs.  Pity the other truck in the family just moved away.  It was very economical.

I can probably bring enough to be started on the compost part of MM  and fill in with pricier stuff for variety around here. 
I need MM not only for my raised beds but for some separate berry bins and the potato bags.

And the ground has to be dry to go across the yard and field.  Dry enough today.  More rain tomorrow.
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Post  donnainzone5 3/14/2022, 6:46 pm

That sounds like two probably good composts.
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Post  Soose 3/14/2022, 7:24 pm

donnainzone5 wrote:That sounds like two probably good composts.
 I worry about contamination. Sad

But I'm going to go back in the small wooded dry pond area back of our property and see what I can rake up. That, I'm sure of.  That and my own kitchen waste. 

I went to a local biz today to see what they are selling bulk.  More promising than other nursery/landscapers I've seen so far.  I brought home 4 samples but an not sure which is what...  mix-up between yard and office, and they were busy.  Have to verify but I can take the truck over and get a scoop. May have to screen some of their stuff myself  at home.   I liked the look of one mix but he said it was a landscape mix, not garden.
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Post  donnainzone5 3/14/2022, 8:58 pm

Landscape mixes typically aren't appropriate for SFG.  Try to get one good manure-based compost and four more plant-based ones.
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Post  Frost? 3/14/2022, 9:04 pm

country guy wrote:
I have two different kinds. Leaf and yard waste compost and cow manure compost. I avoid cow manure that had Grazon in it...

And later:
A full size pickup will hold three scoops.
Soose
Would have to drive in the truck (gas guzzler at the mo, idle is wrong, pricey as well per gallon).
Not sure how much I can really bring back in a 40  year old pickup. I think it's half ton?  Depends on how wet it is.

Part of the question is what size "scoop" he has:  1/2 yard, full yard.  You would likely have to figure about 1000# per yard for compost.  Presuming a 1/2 yard bucket, 3 scoops would be 1500# in your 1/2 ton P/U (1000# payload).  A 40 year old truck might not care for the extra burden.  Just an opinion.
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Post  Soose 3/14/2022, 9:16 pm

Frost? wrote:Part of the question is what size "scoop" he has:  1/2 yard, full yard.  You would likely have to figure about 1000# per yard for compost.  Presuming a 1/2 yard bucket, 3 scoops would be 1500# in your 1/2 ton P/U (1000# payload).  A 40 year old truck might not care for the extra burden.  Just an opinion.
Agreed, Frost.  You just made me realize that I don't know what size scoop he was talking about.  All the nurseries around here have either a 25 or 26 cu ft scoop, or a full cu yd scoop.  I'd gotten in the habit of thinking I knew... but this is not a nursery, he's a home guy, I assume, and he might have a totally different scoop size on his tractor.  Must check!  ... 

... If I go that far.  I don't mind the drive for organic at the end at all -- nice countryside --  but we just took a trip across town in the old pickup and it currently needs work to be comfy driving.  (Good news is it is getting better gas mileage than we thought. )  I wish my car had a trailer hitch and could take the weight!  But trailer included I'm pretty sure max is 1500lbs pull.  So a load of compost is out!

The local nursery (with the landscape mix) said they weighed one of their mixes - don't remember which - a scoop is 1800lbs!  Must be wet?  I don't think I should take that in the pickup either.
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Post  Soose 3/14/2022, 9:23 pm

donnainzone5 wrote:Landscape mixes typically aren't appropriate for SFG.  Try to get one good manure-based compost and four more plant-based ones.

TY.  Just scared of the manures...   I took a photo of the info on a bag of "composted cow manure" at this same nursery.  It seemed awfully cheap to me, under $4/cu ft.  (Well, not compared to similar at Rural King - their generic is $2.19/bag.)  It didn't say OMRI - I looked. 

It's out of Georgia.  I should ask on the regional SE forum. (Am I there or somewhere else here? Hard to tell.  Will have to go out and come in at the top to see if this thread of mine is ... wherever.  Seems Sanderson moved me. Smile  Don't mind me - a newbie Smile)
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Post  sanderson 3/20/2022, 3:56 am

On another site, someone mentioned Rural King and that they carry Ecoscraps Garden Soil. Ecoscraps makes a Garden Soil (orange bag) and a compost (green bag). They are both veggie-based. I loved Ecoscraps Compost but it is no longer sold west of the Rockies, or maybe it's west of the Mississippi. I asked the co-founder what was the difference and he said the Compost has a higher ratio of produce.

What I'm trying to get at is, check out this brand. Feel the bag for obvious wood pieces. If a bag has a hole, opps!, poke your finger in it. Even buy a bag and screen it at home with a1/4" hard ware cloth on a wood frame. If you like, it then it can be a veggie-based compost for your blend. Aslo check out their Black Kow Composted Cow Manure. I'm pretty sure you will have to screen it for wood pieces, but at least the price is right. Very Happy Quality varies by region.

Do a search for Nature's Care Really Good Compost and Gardener & Bloome Purely Compost in your area.

https://www.ruralking.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=ecoscraps

https://www.ruralking.com/catalogsearch/result/?&q=cow%20manure&rows=24&view=grid&start=0

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Post  Soose 3/20/2022, 11:37 am

Thanks for the leads, Sanderson. Much appreciated.

Rural King here has the orange bag, topsoil, says for in ground veg/fruit.  Not the compost.  Should I consider the topsoil for my buckets of berries, or my son for his bags of potatoes?  Maybe mixed with something?  Anything would help.

Nature's Care does not have good reviews on it's site. Like many I look at nowadays, I see, "smells strongly of ammonia," "full of trash/plastic pcs/debris," etc..   Scary.  Only 68% positive and all the recent ones I started looking at were bad. What's a gal to do?

(I went out and took a look at that "dry pond" and raked several piles of pine straw. The hummus layer from the pine straw is not thick.  I can get a few cu ft, maybe 3.  Not enough by a long shot.  Surprised the dugout/pond is holding water right now, first time in years.  We're thinking we'll get a bulldozer in for that area.  But it's grown a few big trees.)

I've been working on garden structure more than compost.
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Post  Soose 3/21/2022, 1:58 pm

I'm going to drive and get at least one load of  "fine mulch" to be underlayment /
walkways for our raised bed area today. The ground is just dry enough to drive a
pickup truck across, but not dry enough for a big dump truck's weight, we judge. 

Rain again tomorrow. 

As I say "mulch," I remember reading that it provides a home for some bugs to
overwinter.  Sigh.  Was it vine borers? 

If the ground there were prepped properly, I'd lay down roll roofing.  We've had
good luck with long term ground coverage using that. But the ground has to be
flat and smooth first. 

Right now, I just need to get the ground covered.  There's very little vegetation
in there, a few weeds.  There are some stumps to grind.   Will just lay the mulch
in for now and  deal with everything else later.  Mulch is easy to move.
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