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Re: to plow or not to plow

Hi Pat!

It sounds like you've already done alot of really great work there clearing
rubble down to a depth of 18"! Congratulations on your accomplishments!

Given your original starting point (rubble-filled former building site), I
probably would have recommended framing raised beds & trucking in an ideal loam
mix topped up from time to time with some good compost when you could get it!

Plowing is used in commercial agriculture to break up sod & old pasture land;
turning under crop residues where crops like corn & cotton are grown
continuously & disease/pest pressures would otherwise be intolerable; and for
mixing large amounts of soil ammendments into the soil profile on an industrial

Plowing has some advantages:  After plowing a field, it is usually easy to
prepare a good seed bed by harrowing or disking a couple of times. Plowing can
often bury weed seeds below the zone at which they can effectively germinate.
If done properly & at the correct speed, plowing can thoroughly mix in soil
ammendments on an industrial scale. Done properly on a 1-time-only basis to
break up sod or mix in soil ammendment, plowing should not have much negative
impact on soil structure.

The dis-advantages are considerable: Populations of micro-organisms are buried
at worst or at best, relocated in soil strata less than ideal for their temp &
oxygen requirements; Organic matter may be buried below the zone where it can
provide its benefits; If improperly done- ie at wrong speed or moisture level-
plowing can harm soil structure. Most of the advantages of plowing can be
captured by hand digging or machine digging (depending on the scale of
operation); removing weeds & crop residues for composting

I hope I've given you some background so that you can make a better decision.





Patricia Lawson <cityguys@discoverynet.com> on 08/03/2000 07:33:14 AM

Please respond to cityguys@discoverynet.com
 To:      community_garden@mallorn.com                        
 Subject: [cg] to plow or not                                 

To Whom It May Concern--
I am not currently a member of the American Community Garden Association
but plan to become one.  We have a small community garden in the inner
city of Kansas City, Kansas.  It is located on a lot, which was formerly
the site of a house.  The soil was very poor and rubble-filled when we
began.  We cleared as much as we could--to perhaps a depth of 12-18
inches--and tilled in several loads of compost.  My question is what
would be the best way to improve the soil with a bit of grant money we
have.  Should we continue to add compost to the top and till it in or
would it be better to hire someone to plow it and plow in compost at a
deeper level.  I'm not sure how feasible this would be or if a deeper
plowing would even be that good.  But I've read that tilling can harm
the soil.  (We try not to overdo it).  Please let me know your thoughts
on this.  We're thinking of plowing this fall.  Thanks, Pat Lawson,
Kansas City, Kansas

community_garden maillist  -  community_garden@mallorn.com

community_garden maillist  -  community_garden@mallorn.com

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