Re: Garden hints
Rooty plants (like German parsley) will probe into hard soil helping to
loosen hard sub soil. When you remove the tops, leave the roots to
compost in place and facilitate water penetration. The German parsley
also makes a pretty good wind break (when it goes to seed) as does
asparagus here in the hot, dry Southwest desert. However, the
asparagus is shallow rooted. If you have room to grow crops to simply
improve your soil, you'll benefit. Peanuts are great for improving
soil, as are fava beans which have the added benefit of being able to
grow in cool weather..
On Sun, 21 Nov 1999 22:40:29 -0600 "Laura McKenzie"
>Kirsten, I have arthritis in my hands so please excuse the
>typos. I've been making Christmas presents tonight.
> We live in the Southeast. The builder of the house we built
>bulldozed all of the topsoil off this lot before we ever bought
>the house. We were left with sandstone and chirt, no soil. My
>husband and I used trees that had been toppled in a hurricane
>to build raised beds. Then we moved soil out of a dry creek
>bed next to our home a little at a time and gave each other a
>load of soil for Christmas. Because we live on a very steep
>slope, the truck could only drop the load off about 200 ft from
>the garden. We wheel-barrowed it up the rest of the way. I've
>also used rocks from the area by husband pick-axed (where we
>were trying to build a terraced bed) to form the border of two
> So I've established that we had no soil. Our land is also
>on a south facing slope in a very hot area. In the summer my
>poor vegetables fry. I'm working on an apple tree for a bit of
>shade. Finally, for some reason, the area is full of disease
>such as dampening off, powdery mildew, black spot.... I
>believe that is because its been under chemical treatments so
>long there are no beneficial microbes left in the soil at all.
>There is no soil come to think of it!
> I joined OGL (organic gardening list) two years ago and
>spent a winter researching what to do. I had been a successful
>organic gardener in New Mexico but wasn't ready for the
> Here's the best of what I learned:
> No Till: I have found that each time I till, the microbes
>have to re-establish themselves and that wastes time and
>energy... they aren't as effective helpers as they could be if
>I leave them alone. So, I don't till... even this miserable
>chirt. Instead, I have been sheet composting. If you don't
>know what that is, think of lasagne made of paper (if you have
>weeds) leaves, grass clippings and soil. I had to use the chirt
>from the paths as the soil but it is beginning to work well. I
>used eight to twelve inches of organic material between the
>paper and the soil. I also found that I need LIME. Lime
>encourages microbial growth and quick break down of organic
>matter. Lime also helps neutralize acid from the oak leaves.
>The first year in a new sheet composted bed is for potatoes and
>transplants such as tomatoes (read about mini beds of compost
> Mini beds of compost: Sheet composting takes time even
>in this terrible humid, hot area so I plant everything in mini
>beds of compost. For instance, when I put in spinach I make a
>small furrow about two inches deep with a stick and fill it
>with compost. I then plant my seeds into this instead of
>directly into the bed. My seedling get a nice start that way.
>The better the start, the better the plant. That's why some
>plants "need chemical fertilizers" supposedly. If you buy
>transplants from a retail store, they are in such bad shape
>that you have to move heaven and earth to get them to work out
>well! Baby your own transplants and you'll have wonderful
>plants that don't require nearly as much attention later.
> Another example of mini beds of compost: If I want to
>plant a transplant I make a hole almost twice the size I need
>and fill it half way with compost. Pumpkins go into a homemade
>pot made of newspaper filled with compost. I set the plant down
>in the hole being sure there is plenty of compost to keep it
>going (all season if the spot doesn't have good soil yet.) As
>my soil gets better (and it will because last year's wad of
>compost is this year's good soil), I won't need to do this as
> Good soil makes resistant plants: Two years ago I
>planted two pumpkins. One was in a less than ideal place. It
>was too shady and actually I didn't even plant that pumpkin, it
>sprouted out of the leftover compost pile from the year before.
>The other plant was in my proper garden where I hadn't worked
>on the soil as much as I needed to. The garden pumpkin caught
>every disease and pest imaginable. 100 feet away, the
>compost,shady pumpkin grew three vines each 40 feet long. No
>pests ever bothered it. My theory (I've read only a little on
>this and can't site research) is that the compost gave the
>pumpkin a good dose of beneficial bacteria. This allowed it to
>resist bugs and disease and be healthy. Last year, I planted
>my pumpkin in a wad of compost in a hill of grass from a
>neighbor (no chemicals on the grass). I got eight pumpkins. No
>too shabby considering it ran into my deep forest and was
>beaten up by my dogs until the vine was only threads in places.
> No kidding, this year, in that same pile of grass
>clippings (now soil), One tomato (Matt's Wild Cherry) grew.
>And grew and grew... it branched out and make a diameter of 15
>feet (I didn't stake except for the middle at first) and was 5
>feet tall in the middle. I have a lot of requests for the seeds
>but each of those folks should be asking my neighbor for his
> I like cover crops: Those sheet composted beds also
>get an extra boost with vetch and clover and oats growing in
>them. I'm becoming partial to lamb's quarters too (phosphate
>miners!). The cover crop lifts out of my soil with no trouble
>when I'm ready to plant. I just pull it out and use it for
> MULCH!!! MULCH!!! MULCH!!! I DO get weeds from using
>hay as mulch. Yucky Johnson grass has gotten into my beds along
>with Bermuda. I have to plan where to plant carrots especially
>because of this. But, beyond that, I just dress those suckers
>with 6 inches or more of leaves, grass clippings (I have fescue
>grass) and hay and a good dose of lime (to help them rot),
>maybe also cover the worst with paper and ignore them. They
>rot away just fine. To plant, I shove aside the mulch and
>plant. As the plant grows, I bring the mulch up around it.
>Mulch is so important because basically it encourages microbial
>life. Dry, hot soil isn't as good as nice even temperatured
>soil, shaded and protected from erosion.
> Doing these steps has allowed me to boost
>productivity. I can grow much more on less garden space.
> Well, I've gone on enough for one note. I'll search my
>brain for more ideas. I'm on the CG list because I had hopes
>of starting a community garden at a church camp nearby. The
>camp is now being sold to developers at pennies on the dollar
>so I'm thinking instead of opening up parts of my garden to a
>few needy families in the area and show them how to grow their
>own food. They would be refered to me from the operators of
>the local food pantry.
> If you are inclined to prayer, I'm praying for the means
>to buy the camp and start an environmental education project
>there. The site contains remnants of a quarry site about 5,000
>years old. Its a wonderful spot to use to educate children in
>microbiology, archaeology, horticulture, native american
>culture, ecology.... you name it. I have only the funds for
>about 1/5th of the price so far.
>----- Original Message -----
>From: Kirsten Walter <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>To: Laura McKenzie <email@example.com>
>Sent: Sunday, November 21, 1999 12:17 PM
>Subject: Re: [cg] Scotts Company & USBG
>> hi Laura,
>> thank you for expressing your views so eloquently and at the
>> respectfully. i happen to be in complete agreement with you.
>> was wondering if you could take the time to share some of
>> hints with the rest of us. I feel the more we share, the
>more likely we
>> will all be 'successful' at demonstrating by example how
>> and in fact dangerous the use of chemicals to grow food is.
>> your time, but if you get a chance, i'd love to hear your
>> in search and in service,
>> kirsten walter
>> Hands on the Earth
>> we remember where the source
>> of our power lies.
>> -Terry Tempest Williams
>community_garden maillist - firstname.lastname@example.org
community_garden maillist - email@example.com