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Soose in North Alabama

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Post  Soose 3/23/2022, 9:10 am

Just journalling.

That was 2 loads of fine mulch, as I said, lovely stuff, 4 cu yards, on Monday.  In before the next rain.
Then my better half said, no more truck-driving, have to find a vac leak.  It won't idle, dangerous
in traffic to have it stop as you drive around a turn!  In gridlock and work insanity!  Have to finish
spreading it in new garden area, over the few tree stumps that need grinding - we marked them with flags.
Need other trees taken out and will let them grind these.

Plenty of sun but shaded partially from western heat in this area.  (My house is rotated 23degrees to take
advantage of lighting, should allow a little western sun in this area but also some shade as the day progresses.
Some of the garden will be beyond the shade. I'll have to watch it this Summer. My better half can see
the path of the sun and predict but I can't. He says I'll be okay. 

The storm system is out of our area and it's again VERY SOGGY out.  High of 61F.  No rain for 4 days.

The direct-sown cabbages (in my diy wicking bins on the porch) came up, weathered an inch of ice
when their greenhouse cover blew off, and seem fine. The prob is that they did not stay where I sowed
them.  I guess something washed them off...  so they're all in groups/huddled together.  I'll have to
transplant them.  Have to do that anyway.  Hope they survive. I'm attracted to soil blocks because I
keep hearing "no transplant shock, it's amazing." 

Direct sowing.  This was not my idea - a gardening friend came down one day
and decided to take charge.  Didn't make sense to me as she keeps saying, "with direct sowing you can
just leave them there and not transplant, which I"m not good at remembering to do in time." Then she
proceeded to direct sow a whole bunch of cabbages all in one little 2sq ft area, guaranteeing they have
to be moved?  I'm confused.

The beets direct sown did not come up?  Yet?  I'll look again. I made a chart as I won't remember.

The little onion starts did come up, are about 6", but she says I'l have to use them for green onions.
I kept telling her I want bulb onions.  We don't use a lot of green onions.  She just wanted to get something
in the ground.  They're closely planted. Do I transplant them?  So I'm confused again.

I finally realized, we have diff gardening styles.
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Post  Frost? 3/23/2022, 9:51 am

The beets I have planted have been somewhat arbitrary with germination:  for me I think it's soil temp that has been the issue.  I believe (subject to correction) that they need warm soil (above 70) to germinate well.  Onions I believe you can easily transplant at any juvenile stage - I'm pretty sure that's the deal behind growing slips for later planting.
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Post  OhioGardener 3/23/2022, 10:04 am

Frost? wrote:The beets I have planted have been somewhat arbitrary with germination:  for me I think it's soil temp that has been the issue.  I believe (subject to correction) that they need warm soil (above 70) to germinate well.  Onions I believe you can easily transplant at any juvenile stage - I'm pretty sure that's the deal behind growing slips for later planting.

The High Mowing Seeds Planting Chart, indicates that beets need soil temp to be between 60ºF and 85ºF.

https://www.highmowingseeds.com/pub/media/wysiwyg/pdf/2017 Planting Chart.pdf

Yes, onion seedlings can be transplanted at almost any time after the last hard freeze as long as they have been hardened off. Our average last frost is May 15, and I can plant the onions any time after mid-March.

____________________________

"In short, the soil food web feeds everything you eat and helps keep your favorite planet from getting too hot. Be nice to it."  ~ Diane Miessler, "Grow Your Soil"
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Post  Frost? 3/23/2022, 10:55 am

Thanks for the clarification OhioGardener!
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Post  Soose 3/25/2022, 12:04 pm

I am still at the hardscape stage.  Got some photos yesterday. But I am sorely lacking in the seed-starting arena.  Sad

Let me see if I can figure out how to attach photos. 

Ok, here is a view from the field back towards where the new raised bed SFG will be...

Soose in North Alabama - Page 2 Img_2011

This area was an old fenced dog yard first, then turned into storage for construction this and that. 

Progress:  We removed three sides of the fence a month or so ago.  Trees had grown up around it, including one large non-productive pecan.  We've had the trees removed last week and there are red flags for some small stumps. 

Making progress on removing the construction stuff.  (That pile in the foreground was moved end of day yesterday.  We are all very sore.

You can see there's a little concrete pad in the corner.  It was just left over concrete from the garage foundation pour, and I plan to use it.

I was concerned about shade on the garden, and had planned to put it further out into the yard. But we though access from the patio there outside the kitchen was important for us.  So we've moved it in and are working on transforming the area instead.

The photo was taken at almost 3pm so you can see where the shade from the garage is just about encroaching on the future garden.  I have another photo later showing shade later in the afternoon.  To compare.
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Post  Soose 3/25/2022, 12:34 pm

Meanwhile, here's a second photo from the South, out in the field, towards the garden, taken at the same time, before 3pm.

The foreground area is a swamp!  We got another 4inches a couple of days ago, and have disturbed the ground levels.  We're just
avoiding the muggy areas for now.   The fine mulch I brought in on Monday before that rain isn't all spread yet.  The garden
area itself is fine, and was without the rain. 

Today, I need to continue spreading out mulch. Maybe my pocket wallet I lost Monday is
in amongst the first pile.  (We did look. No luck. But it wasn't my important stuff. If it shows up, it shows.  Garden receipts. )

In later photos you'll see that we've made more progress.  The pile of old lumber is mostly gone, and we've set out an IBC tote
to collect water. (Next.  This doesn't seem to want more than one photo at a time. ) 

Oh, and my older compost bins are in the right foreground.  We need a new location for compost.  Several discussions have not brought clarity.

Soose in North Alabama - Page 2 Img_2014
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Post  Soose 3/25/2022, 12:45 pm

Here you can see where we decided to put the 275gal water tote, up on a couple of concrete blocks so we can get a bucket under.
Not sure if the water pressure will be enough to attach a hose.  I've read comments that it isn't really but don't know the commenter's
watering needs.  Our raised beds will be self-wicking, maybe the flow rate doesn't matter as much. 

We don't have a gutter on that roof above yet.  But I bought the parts to do it.  It'll be a stretch for the guttering, across the fence to fill the tote.

But we decided covering part of the concrete pad with a water tote was a waste.  We'd like to use the concrete pad for utility -
maybe some cans for bags of stuff, maybe a work table, some tools?  A bench?  This will be the first shady spot, obviously from
photos.

In front of the future water tote you can see the first IBC tote cut in half.  The totes for both water and garden need to be painted or covered with something to keep out light and algae. That'll be a job! 

Totes may not be aesthetically pleasing to many.  But they will get the job done for us.  There was a time when I would have built bed frames... but the cost of lumber... 

When I get the mulch all spread, then we get to decide on placement of the raised beds and walkways.  We are talking about building a hardware cloth or chicken wire cage around the whole garden area.  Just talking. 
Soose in North Alabama - Page 2 Img_2015

Oh, and you can see, at 5:15pm, a lot of the garden will be shaded.  I don't think that will be a bad thing in the South?  (I was asking here about shade from trellises and that's what I absorbed.  

There will be even more morning sun in the Summer time.  My better half is more in tune with Astronomy and tells me the shade pattern in the afternoon will not be that much different between now and Summer because the house is tilted 23degrees towards the Southeast, not on a north south axis.  I hope he's right.  

It's serendipity that I took a photo just as the shade was beginning to encroach on the garden area. And again at a particular hour of the afternoon.  And that photos have recorded times.   Easier to see what's going on.   

That's all, folks.  Almost noon and we haven't worked out there today yet!  It's been mostly overcast.
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Post  Frost? 3/25/2022, 1:13 pm

Looks like you have your work cut out for you; but you are making progress; I was going to suggest using that concrete pad for rain collection barrels, but you addressed that subsequently.  
  I had a garage built in my backyard over the foot print of an old shed that had a poured concrete slab.  I sectioned the slab with a diamond saw and use those pieces all over the place.  One under rain barrels, , one for a door entry to the new garage, one under some wicking buckets of carrots, one for future generator, several in a series as a walk way along the canal, etc.  
  It would be nice if you could dig yourself a "pond" in the middle of your swamp and collect the runoff all into one spot - but I'm not sure how found Alabama is of wetland alterations - it's a big no-no in Florida.
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Post  Soose 3/25/2022, 2:20 pm

Frost? wrote:Looks like you have your work cut out for you; but you are making progress; I was going to suggest using that concrete pad for rain collection barrels, but you addressed that subsequently.  
  I had a garage built in my backyard over the foot print of an old shed that had a poured concrete slab.  I sectioned the slab with a diamond saw and use those pieces all over the place.  One under rain barrels, , one for a door entry to the new garage, one under some wicking buckets of carrots, one for future generator, several in a series as a walk way along the canal, etc.  
  It would be nice if you could dig yourself a "pond" in the middle of your swamp and collect the runoff all into one spot - but I'm not sure how found Alabama is of wetland alterations - it's a big no-no in Florida.
We definitely have our work cut out for us!  Especially if we decide to close this garden in.  But it's good to see progress.

How did you move the concrete sections!?  Whew.  Good usage.

Our swamp isn't really a swamp, I was just calling it that.  Not a wetland.  (We're out in a former horse field, and likely before that, a cotton field many decades ago.  A big [ mostly ] flat field. )  It's a slightly lower section of the back yard there, maybe 100 sq ft, that only collects water above ground when we have a lot of rain.  We should bring in some topsoil.

There's never been more than a temporary 1 inch of water standing in the back there, in a small area.  I was wondering if maybe moving the fence and the changes we've made has made it worse?  Or us slogging thru it is making it worse.  But also, the ground has been saturated for several months over winter, so that water just stands a couple of days or more.  There and in the front between our driveway and the street.  (We call that out front the "pond." lol)  Soggy! 

But our soil does drain well, it's just we're the lowest lot in the neighborhood and all the other lots drain off first.  So we have to wait a couple of days past when neighbors are already out mowing.  lol
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Post  Frost? 3/25/2022, 3:31 pm

Where possible I cut them 30" x 30" because that was the biggest I could "easily" shuffle around (300# estimate); I used a hand truck.  It got it a little complicated going down the bank line with them.

Soose in North Alabama - Page 2 Shed_p10

Soose in North Alabama - Page 2 Walkwa10

The biggest ones (?600#) we (enlisted my wife's help) rolled across the lawn on PVC pipe; Using four pieces I would push the slab and when one of the pipes came out the back she would pick it up and put it in front for the next push.  Very effective.

With you water table being lower than everyone else's you might be in a position to set up a cistern to pump water out of when things get dry!?
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Post  Soose 3/25/2022, 4:11 pm

Your concrete pad are awesome.

We're not in city limits but nearby.
I don't think we're allowed a well?
I meant to put in a cistern when we built about 30 yrs ago. Didn't get done. A big regret.

Do now we're setting up the totes. One is out by the new blueberry patch, on a storage building. Didn't take long to fill it! This one will service the garden. It was an afterthought. We already have a biosand filter we're trying to build out of other totes in the house. But it's taken a backseat to getting the garden done.
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Post  Frost? 3/25/2022, 10:18 pm

Soose wrote:Your concrete pad are awesome.

Thanks, it beats having to dispose of the pieces.
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Post  Soose 3/29/2022, 10:29 am

My son spent yesterday cutting the totes apart, got
half done and plans to try to finish today.  I have to be away, and my
better half is rebuilding the truck to aide my compost pickup.  If the totes
can be finished today, we'll turn out attention to those potato bags first,
before we make the wicking part of my own totes. 

Unlike Frank, in the grow bag thread, we have level ground to work with. 
Just been recovering it.

[ And have a case of poison ivy as a bonus. Luckily my son escaped but
my husband is in bad shape - hands swollen - and I have bits.  ]

A friend found me some plants yesterday -- several tomatoes and peppers,
broc. and cabbages of a size. (Mine are only 2.5" tall? Babies. Direct sown.
And in the wrong place - as a bunch - my friend insisted all the while I told her
that wasn't where I intended them.  They seem healthy but need to be separated
and moved.  Not good. I really want to use soil blocks.  I don't think the beets
came up at all. Yet. Ditto - wrong placing.)
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Post  Soose 4/3/2022, 11:45 am

The small plants my friend acquired for me - mostly tomatoes and peppers, maybe some broc and cabbage? -- are looking healthy still. Also the unplanted / hilled-in blackberry rootings I got from a homeowner in the area.  The blueberries, already planted, are leafing out nicely.  (I have 3 blueberries unplanted still, gotta get back to them.)

The truck is fixed!  Idles great!  A new exhaust manifold is on the way, but meanwhile no exhaust leaks.    Making a list... heading out this morning. 

First, raised bed structure.  I still have the supports for 7  out of 9 beds in my garden part set up.  (One more tote to cut first, just the bottle part.)  They are only roughly set in.  My son's potato totes (5 shown on the South side, in the front) are not up on concrete blocks yet.  I told him he could leave them on the ground but he wants them raised. 

We are going to try to enclose the main garden to keep out pests,  but not the potato beds on the South.   You can see a couple of wooden posts where the pest barrier will go...  likely hardware cloth or welded wire?   I will need to decide on where to put trellises, in all totes or select totes.

Soose in North Alabama - Page 2 Img_2017

I need more concrete blocks, and I've already listed the various parts I will need to build the reservoirs in my wicking beds.

I have decided to use welded wire instead of cattle panel sections for the top of my water reservoir.  I know I can use the cut pieces of cattle panel to make tomato cages or trellises. (We cut them to make them easier to bring home in the truck. They are 39" -- the narrower dimension of my totes -- by 48".)  I think the cattle panels might have let the fabric above sag too much.  I had not realized until watching again that the man I am following for these totes used a finer mesh. 

(Here is the video I am referencing for self-wicking beds out of ibc totes.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7sGSjSNnB4&list=PL_085mySJq19a7FMcM5YvfiEM26R1Hvwm&index=54 )

I also will need something to support the welded wire section -- he used cutoffs of 4" pvc drain pipe attached with cable ties.  Anything will do but I think I'll just go ahead and buy the pipe.

I'm looking at overflow plumbing parts just now.    [ Some use a simple hole and then add a little pipe cutoff.  Some more complicated.  I think one of his good ideas was to put a downward-facing  L on the inside so it doesn't clog with soil mix, then an upward L on the outside so different heights of stubs of pipe can be attached.  This allows you to  regulate the water level for the overflow seasonally or by the bed's contents.  If the overflow is at 2" high, then adding a stub of 4" will mean the overflow works at 6", etc..  I don't know if I need that but it makes sense to me to add a feature in that would be very hard to add later. ]

Then, I need to finish off procuring the MM ingredients.  This has me worried. 

Potato garden: 
The five totes at ground level in the front of this photo are the potato totes. (One is for my sweet potatoes.)

My son is also ready for his soil mix, or will be as soon as he gets his other concrete blocks, and I think he is not going to use MM but a 3 part mix including top soil, compost, and peat in his grow bags?  We'll see.  He needs an acidic mix.

He has told me he is not going to make wicking beds for now - he can always add that feature later if he needs. We are worried about over-watering potatoes.  He's just going to set a grid of his potato grow bags (sand bags) down in the totes and bottom water them. 

I need to ask if he wants an overflow on his totes?  But I forgot as I say that -- he can just open the valves to let some water out if needed because we used only the bottom halves of the tote bottles, the ones that have a valve, for his section.  (Only a couple of mine in the main garden have valves. The rest were made from the tops of the bottles that were cut off.)  

More details than you probably want to know.  But that's the state of the garden today.  We have today and tomorrow, good weather.  Then rain again?
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Post  Frost? 4/3/2022, 8:39 pm

Wow!  Great progress; looks like you're rolling right along.  60 sqft of potatoes!  You MUST be Irish.  I blush when I think I'll be content with 18 sqft of SFG raised beds.  Of course I also have 12 sqft of wicking beds, 2 sqft of wicking buckets, and 96 sqft of old style SFG ground level grids.  Your's is definitely more organized, good job!
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Post  Soose 4/3/2022, 11:01 pm

I wonder how many potatoes that will produce? Remember we are new gardeners. We have no idea of yields. Not counting the sweet potato tote (and it's better get on the stick because I don't have a lot of slips to plant yet), we saw a video that estimated 48 grow bags produced 750 lbs of potatoes. I wish.

I was wondering how much I'll get out of the 9 tote beds. And wondering if I had totally overestimated. One of the mistakes the SFG books talks about is taking on more than you can handle the first year...

Then, I read in one of the books that one 4x4v garden would produce salads for one person for one season. And I kind of doubt that they're talking about the size of salads we eat here. Everyone eats a large main meal size cruciferous salad every day for lunch. Plus, the same passage said one 4x4 bed will produce veg for one person for a season. And I think if we want any to put away for winter, that's the third bed. So. 3 people. 3 beds. The 5 potato beds are extra but my son eats potatoes lots of days. Actually I hope we produce more beans.

And I hope we have some to share. But mostly I expect some learning experience. We have no idea what we're doing.
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Post  Soose 4/3/2022, 11:04 pm

I need to hire a gardener. Someone who knows what they are doing with veg.
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Post  Frost? 4/3/2022, 11:15 pm

I'm sure you're about to figure it all out.  We have been able to keep something growing all year to have our veggies every day, but I have not been as diligent as I should have been in the past.  This year should be my most productive year so far.  We don't eat regular potatoes much, wouldn't be worth growing them, but sweet potatoes we could eat daily.  A 16" x 36" storage tote kept us in sweet potatoes pretty consistently for about 2 years until the tote gave out.  We just kept our tops buried as much as possible, and cut everything off that overhung the bin.
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Post  Soose 4/4/2022, 2:16 am

I figured out percentages/ cu ft for my Mel's Mix so I can shop for compost ingredients this week.
The veterans here are right, I paid too much for the Coast of Maine product with the coir and peat moss added.
I wasn't thinking straight that day.  But I think I'm straight on what I need to complete mix for 10 totes now.
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Post  Soose 4/8/2022, 9:29 am

What do y'all think of this mushroom compost in the photo?

I've located a landscaper who has mushroom compost bulk. 

I went and got about a cup of the bulk as a sample.  The pile did have a lot of the spider web gray type fungus all over and in it.  (You can not see that in my photo, it seemed to dry out by the time I got it home. And it's been 1.5 days since I collected the sample.) 

It looks to me as if it is not much broken down. Is this normal for mushroom compost?  Take a look. By the time I sift it...  the cost savings might not be great.  But it had great fungus!  I was expecting something like my leaf mold compost.  All broken down. 

(The photo without the Sharpie was maybe 3 hrs after I pulled the sample from the pile. 
The other was taken just now, 1.5 days later, to get a sense of scale.  Don't know if you can see a diff in the fungus load.)

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Post  Soose 4/8/2022, 9:40 am

This bulk mushroom compost (photos just sent)  is $42/half cu yd scoop.  Approx. $3.12 per cu foot.
Big plus I didn't mention:  it is AVAILABLE.  Materials are disappearing off the shelves here. Sad 
I can take the pickup truck down and bring it home.

Bagged products for mushroom compost:

...  Nursery / landscaper:  6.99 per 1.5cu ft bag ...   $4.66 per cu foot.  (Unknown brand but they carry major names.)

...  Black Kow brand at the co-op is $5.49 40lbs bag =3/4 cu ft ...   $7.32 per cu ft.  Wednesday, they still had 35 bags.
(And I hope are getting some worm castings in today from Tennessee?  Fingers crossed!  )  [ EDIT:  The co-op wasn't able to get any worm castings. ]

... "Black Velvet Old Castle" brand at Lowe's is $5.48 40lbs bag =3/4 cu ft.  $7.31 per cu ft. **

--------------------------------
p.s.  ** I called the Old Castle company a couple of weeks ago as I'd seen recent bad reviews on Lowe's site, and the customer care number was in a reply.

The customer service person on the phone number listed was not familiar with the product, put me on hold, went to talk to three different divisions if I remember correctly. Came back and said they don't even sell in Alabama anymore, something about distribution, and didn't recognize this product  (or was it their compost?) as theirs amongst the divisions.  Raises a red flag about this product.  Confusing!
I worry about getting a contaminated product in and finding it kills my whole garden.  I've seen bad reviews on Black Kow brand as well.
And reports that they did not stand behind their products.

Feedback appreciated!
Thanks, Soose

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Post  OhioGardener 4/8/2022, 10:38 am

Soose wrote:...  Black Kow brand at the co-op is $5.49 40lbs bag =3/4 cu ft ...   $7.32 per cu ft.  Wednesday, they still had 35 bags.

That is interesting. The Black Kow sold here at the Lowe's store is a 1 cu ft bag for $5.48.

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Post  Soose 4/8/2022, 10:56 am

OhioGardener wrote:That is interesting. The Black Kow sold here at the Lowe's store is a 1 cu ft bag for $5.48.
You're right.  My mistake...  I am getting my price notes for all these items confused in my mind.
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Post  Soose 4/8/2022, 11:10 am

Soose wrote:
OhioGardener wrote:That is interesting. The Black Kow sold here at the Lowe's store is a 1 cu ft bag for $5.48.
You're right.  My mistake...  I am getting my price notes for all these items confused in my mind.

Wait -- that was Black Kow brand mushroom compost  -- not manure.  White bag, not yellow/black.
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The lady at the local co-op must have told me it's 3/4cu ft not 1 cu ft of mushroom compost?  I'm not sure which now.
They have 35 bags at 5.49.

Okay, for that Black Velvet mushroom compost product (that's NOT old castle brand), the questions and answers section on Lowe's site says 40lb bag is 3/4cu ft.  I might have assumed it's the same for a 40lb bag of Black Kow brand.
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Post  Soose 4/8/2022, 2:16 pm

OhioGardener wrote:That is interesting. The Black Kow sold here...
OhioGardener (and others), has anyone bought the Black Kow brand of mushroom compost,  to compare it with the photos I sent earlier of the bulk stuff I can get at a landscaping company?  I figure I'm going to have to screen the bulk stuff and maybe get a 50-75% yield.  Wonder if I'd have to screen the Black Kow bags as well or if it's better composted.  (Of course,we'd re-compost the remainder, so I know it's not a total loss. But for current needs... )
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