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Thread: Starting a garden

  1. #1

    Default Starting a garden

    Okay, so this has probably been covered in various threads, but I could not find what I was looking for.

    I have recently built a garden area with (7) 4'x8' raised beds, all about 8"-14" deep. I want to get soil in the beds before winter so when spring comes all I need to do is plant.

    So my questions are:

    1. what soil mixture should I put in the beds?

    2. I have chickens and have pine shavings in the coop. I have heard that if I just turn over their poo throughout the winter in the shavings, I can use it in the beds. I don't know if this is true, and if it is, I don't know how exactly to use it or how much.

    Basically, I need someone to tell me what soil to use, what to put in the soil, and how to properly use compost and/or the chicken poo in the beds.

    (I am from Louisiana, so growing stuff here is wayyy foreign to me. There, you just stick it in the ground and it will grow. LOL)

    Thanks.

    Oh, and as far as planting, I am wanting to grow a variety of things: zucchini, potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, squash, peas, beans....and anything else you might suggest that does well!

  2. #2
    Member 1stimestar's Avatar
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    Chicken manure is pretty strong so you would want to age it for a year for best results.
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  3. #3
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Where are you located? If in Southcental, consider buying the garden soil from Susitna Organics. I planted my first garden this year and paid a little bit higher price for their soil (a mix of humified compost and topsoil). I caught a rash of crap from my father for paying more than I would have for regular topsoil, but my garden did amazingly well. Seriously, I had no idea that some of the stuff I grew could be so prolific, and comparing it to my father's garden and those of a few others I know, well...there was no comparison. I have been incredibly pleased with the soil I got from them, so that's the route I would recommend. I'm new to this, but man, I couldn't be happier with my first year results.

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    Member Hayduke's Avatar
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    I will second Susitna Organics. Considering the crappy summer our garden did really well.

  5. #5

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    Sweet! Thanks. I will definitely check them out....and age my chicken manure for a year! LOL

    And, btw, I am in the Wasilla area.

    One more question: would it be better for me to go ahead and get the soil now and just cover it with plastic for the winter or wait until spring to put it in the beds? Or will it make a difference at all? Thanks.

  6. #6
    Member Hayduke's Avatar
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    We placed ours in about mid May. I am not even sure you could buy from them now. I don't really see a reason why you would need the soil until a couple weeks before you plant. I wish we would have covered our beds with back plastic for a couple of weeks to warm the soil before we planted but most of out veggies did pretty good.

  7. #7

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    if you are buying soil i recommend doing it sooner (now) than later (spring). several reasons, suppliers tend to be busier in spring, also you could be warming your beds with plastic or hoop houses while the suppliers are still sitting on piles of frozen soil. if it sits through the fall/winter/spring in your beds chances are you'll have a great many more earthworms (a good thing) as well as other beneficial microorganisms, etc. it will also give you a chance to amend the soil with organics (manure, leaf mold, etc) that may not be quite ripe for the garden yet, (as others have pointed out about chicken poo)
    healthy soil=healthy plants=healthy food.

  8. #8

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    Thanks. I was thinking along those same lines, Dirtysteev - figured getting it in now will save tome and headache later, and when the temps are right, I can start warming them before the ground is fully thawed. Appreciate the input!

  9. #9

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    Oh yeah - and last thing - adding perlite. Should I add it to the organic garden soil, and if so, how much? Thanks.

  10. #10
    Member mudbuddy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dirtysteev View Post
    if you are buying soil i recommend doing it sooner (now) than later (spring). several reasons, suppliers tend to be busier in spring, also you could be warming your beds with plastic or hoop houses while the suppliers are still sitting on piles of frozen soil. if it sits through the fall/winter/spring in your beds chances are you'll have a great many more earthworms (a good thing) as well as other beneficial microorganisms, etc. it will also give you a chance to amend the soil with organics (manure, leaf mold, etc) that may not be quite ripe for the garden yet, (as others have pointed out about chicken poo)
    healthy soil=healthy plants=healthy food.
    +1 for "NOW". Soil will have time to stabilize & tighten up some.

    I did not add perlite, good organic soil should be light enough.

    I filled mine with a mix of straight HM compost & leaves/grass/garden compost pile mix last fall & everything did well, (but for all the rain anyway)
    And have got lots of earth worms moving into the beds

    Don't forget now is also the time to get a compost pile of 60% leaves & 40% grass clipping started. Cover & it should get cooking.
    I just got the first mix of leaves & grass in the compost bins yesterday.
    Some composting (pictures) I've been doing:
    http://thegardenforums.org/viewtopic.php?f=33&t=20560
    http://idigmygarden.com/forums/showthread.php?t=23309

  11. #11
    Member mudbuddy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hayduke View Post
    . I wish we would have covered our beds with back plastic for a couple of weeks to warm the soil before we planted but most of out veggies did pretty good.
    Hayduke,
    Try covering with clear plastic. It acts like a greenhouse & lets the heat from the sun tru to the soil & beds. Black plastic shades the sunlight from the soil, the dark plastic gets warm but very little heat transfer.

  12. #12

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    Mudbuddy-


    I am new at this, so please explain what you mean when you say you "filled yours with HM compost and leaves/grass/garden compost"

    Thanks.


    Also, I have no compost as of now. I have plenty of chicken poo produced daily, so how should I use that to make compost?

  13. #13
    Member mudbuddy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AK Explorer View Post
    Mudbuddy-


    I am new at this, so please explain what you mean when you say you "filled yours with HM compost and leaves/grass/garden compost"

    Thanks.


    Also, I have no compost as of now. I have plenty of chicken poo produced daily, so how should I use that to make compost?
    i was lucky & got several yards of Horse Manure (HM) 2 years age & piled it up & let it cook (get hot)
    I have always composted garden plants, leaves & grass & get about 2 -3 yards per year.
    I filled my soil boxes with a mix 50/50 of 1 year+ old HM compost & last years garden grass leaves compost.
    I did not add any other soil, just the mix of the 2 compost piles.
    My soil boxes are 100% compost.

    I would start a compost pile of leaves, kitchen scraps grass & any garden plants. mix in the CP into my compost pile

    My first compost bin was 3 pallets stood up on ends & wired together & some old 2 X 6/4s for the front held in place with with metal fence post. I have 2 compost bins in the garden, a bin for working compost & 1 for "done" compost, plus several yards of HM compost done & some cooking.

    hope this helps

    I've upgraded since but compost is my "garden gold" & now that I have several yards of it stored for use, it is all I use.
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  14. #14
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    I've got a compost pile of kitchen scraps and garden clippings that I've been working on since last winter. I let it get too dry this summer, but now it is slowly cooking. Soon I am going to start vermicomposting (worm composting) indoors. I'm pretty excited to give that a shot, and hopefully I'll have plenty to spread over my garden next spring.

    As for perlite, I added some along with some vermiculite to my gardens when I put the soil in this past spring. I didn't see any reason not to, really. Perhaps I'm wrong, but is there any downside? A little looser soil and a little more water retention seemed like a good thing. On that note, I put my soil in in the spring. I'm sure fall is preferable, but the soil I got from Susitna Organics was nice and warm when I got it. They had ample supply as well.

  15. #15

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    Thanks guys. This is really valuable information, especially to a newbie like me.

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    Susitna Organics dirt is the way to go for starters. Yes it's more expensive, but your results are much better than plain dirt. Do start a compost pile with your chicken manure as soon as possible. Go and get the Alaska Gardening Guide Vol. 1 for good reading. My advice is to go with the best dirt you can afford, not adding any perlite or vermiculite. Use a weed barrier before you add your dirt - it makes things easier. Just replacing the top few inches of your dirt with compost every fall and or spring will make your dirt very aerated and porous. One soil addition would be some sphagnum moss to improve drainage. Do shovel the snow off of your beds in spring and use clear plastic to heat up the soil. Black plastic is not recommended in Alaska. As for your vegetable list, it sounds great.

  17. #17

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    Thanks, BTK. I am going to get the Susitna Organics Garden Soil as soon as I can pay for it. I e-mailed them and they said they will have it available until the end of October or so, but they also said it will be ready pretty soon in the spring, so it shouldn't matter either way. Just got so much to spend $$ on before winter here (tires, plow, oil pan heater, shed)- I have to decide what to do before the winter and what to do during. Tires and stuff can't wait....shed...well, maybe.

    I already started composting. I took Mudbuddy's advice and went and got 4 pallets for free and just screwed them all together, hinging the one on front and strapping the side opposite the hinges with rubber straps. I put in 2" vent pipes with the holes drilled the same as in the photos. Then I went and trimmed and mowed all my grass (wife was happy) and raked a bunch of leaves and threw the whole mix into the new "bin" - after that, I shoveled out a bunch of the poo-filled pine shavings from the coop and threw that in and mixed it all up. Added to that today 4 Wal-Mart bags-full of used coffee grounds and mixed it up. Threw a little more grass and leaves in and some food from the house. Hopefully that will get it started. Gonna get some corn meal soon and mix it in to help the process. I will just add chicken poo/shavings, leaves, grounds, and food as I go, I suppose....until it is almost full. Them just stir and wait??

  18. #18
    Member mudbuddy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AK Explorer View Post
    Thanks, BTK. I am going to get the Susitna Organics Garden Soil as soon as I can pay for it. I e-mailed them and they said they will have it available until the end of October or so, but they also said it will be ready pretty soon in the spring, so it shouldn't matter either way. Just got so much to spend $$ on before winter here (tires, plow, oil pan heater, shed)- I have to decide what to do before the winter and what to do during. Tires and stuff can't wait....shed...well, maybe.

    I already started composting. I took Mudbuddy's advice and went and got 4 pallets for free and just screwed them all together, hinging the one on front and strapping the side opposite the hinges with rubber straps. I put in 2" vent pipes with the holes drilled the same as in the photos. Then I went and trimmed and mowed all my grass (wife was happy) and raked a bunch of leaves and threw the whole mix into the new "bin" - after that, I shoveled out a bunch of the poo-filled pine shavings from the coop and threw that in and mixed it all up. Added to that today 4 Wal-Mart bags-full of used coffee grounds and mixed it up. Threw a little more grass and leaves in and some food from the house. Hopefully that will get it started. Gonna get some corn meal soon and mix it in to help the process. I will just add chicken poo/shavings, leaves, grounds, and food as I go, I suppose....until it is almost full. Them just stir and wait??
    You don't mess around, sounds like a great compost pile.
    I bet it's steaming hot in the middle by now.
    Good luck

  19. #19
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    Mix your pile. Add water so the compost heap is damp. I add a small amount of alfalfa pellets to really heat things up. The coffee grounds are a good addition, they seem to heat up fast. This spring my compost heap was at 140 while there was still a foot of snow because of the alfalfa pellets. When you have fresh grass clippings they do the trick of heating too.

  20. #20

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    Thanks...I will do that tomorrow - mix, that is. I also will try the corn meal idea eventually. Not much grass left to add, might get one more clipping. I haven't seen any steam coming out of the pipes yet, so I dunno how hot it is. I covered it with plastic and there is a lot of condensation on the inside of the plastic, so I guess that is good. Gonna add some more chicken poop and leaves tomorrow. Again, I won't need to use it until spring of 2012.

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