Tilling up ground for new garden

lnsoaps

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Hello, I'm in a quandary as to what I want to do. So we were doing raised beds 2 years ago. I did the Mels mix recipe with all the goodies in there. Then Hurricane Florence wreaked havoc on everything we had; home, my soap business, greenhouse and gardens! We are still in an RV a year and a half later in fact. We are still cleaning up hurricane debris on the property. So where we had the raised beds all the beds are gone, but the soil is still there. I'm thinking about just tilling it in and weeding it. Because if I take that soil out for a raised bed then I will have holes in the ground. Massive holes. So I'm thinking about going back to the traditional garden rows but done in the square foot gardening arrangement. What would you do? Suggestions? Tips?
 

Ridgerunner

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Not sure how big of an area you are talking about. I'd probably till it and weed it. If it's on grass try to get all the roots out you can. That can be a pain. But leaving them can too. It's about time for you to get stuff in the ground where you are. That limits your prep time.

I got that book. He really likes his salad doesn't he?

Peat moss, vermiculite, sand, compost, line, and organic fertilizers. One advantage to tilling it is that you add your native soil to it. If that is clay you are closer to what I consider a better mix. You don't need much clay but just a little will help slow down the nutrients leaching out of the sand. To me that's a better mix as long as it's not that much clay, but some gumpy old men up north don't necessarily agree.

If you can I'd till in more compost. That stuff continues to break down and disappear over time. I like compost.

The disadvantage is that you will have roots and weed seeds in it. That can be a pain, especially grass. That's where mulching can come in handy.
 

Zeedman

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To me that's a better mix as long as it's not that much clay, but some gumpy old men up north don't necessarily agree.
:lol: And that's "Up North". ;) But agree on clay being a vital component of good soil.

Sorry to hear of your losses, @lnsoaps , I hope you are able to return to normalcy. As @Ridgerunner pointed out, your growing season has already begun; so it might be best to just till those beds this year so you can get things in. Depending upon the results, you can then decide whether or not to rebuild the raised beds.
 

lnsoaps

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Not sure how big of an area you are talking about. I'd probably till it and weed it. If it's on grass try to get all the roots out you can. That can be a pain. But leaving them can too. It's about time for you to get stuff in the ground where you are. That limits your prep time.

I got that book. He really likes his salad doesn't he?

Peat moss, vermiculite, sand, compost, line, and organic fertilizers. One advantage to tilling it is that you add your native soil to it. If that is clay you are closer to what I consider a better mix. You don't need much clay but just a little will help slow down the nutrients leaching out of the sand. To me that's a better mix as long as it's not that much clay, but some gumpy old men up north don't necessarily agree.

If you can I'd till in more compost. That stuff continues to break down and disappear over time. I like compost.

The disadvantage is that you will have roots and weed seeds in it. That can be a pain, especially grass. That's where mulching can come in handy.
Thank you. Yeah I see a lot of work coming up...lol Fortunately, I did start seeds indoors. We have a greenhouse to put up but my husband just had his kidney removed last week. So its going to be a slight delay. So I have shoots that are now about an inch tall. In a few weeksI want to transplant them into the garden. I have two compost bins cooking and baby chicks that will be helping outing the future. Just got to get things in the ground now.
 

lnsoaps

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:lol: And that's "Up North". ;) But agree on clay being a vital component of good soil.

Sorry to hear of your losses, @lnsoaps , I hope you are able to return to normalcy. As @Ridgerunner pointed out, your growing season has already begun; so it might be best to just till those beds this year so you can get things in. Depending upon the results, you can then decide whether or not to rebuild the raised beds.
Thank you Ridge. It's been a super tough couple of years. Hence even more reason why we need these gardens. I think I will till it. There's clay on the property but this particular area has just a little and its way down deep. We'll have some compost to add as well. Fortunately its not super hard since all the mixed soil is on top with some weeds. The Hurricane dropped huge 70 year old tree on it. Took us forever to get it chopped up and pulled out. The stump is rooted up but sitting nearby. Waiting for it to dry out and burn it.
 

seedcorn

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Most will hate this BUT...... if I had to start my garden again (it was yard) I’d use Round up and spray the area to kill the grasses. I didn’t, still fighting grasses years later as no way to get all the bits of crabgrass out. Then till, plant, mulch and weed, weed, weed but get to harvest and eat as well.
 

Dirtmechanic

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Most will hate this BUT...... if I had to start my garden again (it was yard) I’d use Round up and spray the area to kill the grasses. I didn’t, still fighting grasses years later as no way to get all the bits of crabgrass out. Then till, plant, mulch and weed, weed, weed but get to harvest and eat as well.
I like to burn to create ashes. We have acidic soil and potassium is habitually low so it works for me. The heat gets down enough to toast a few roots to boot. I have decided that after years of running my 3" chipper, its a better idea to pile the twigs and burn them. Becky does not know it but a outdoor fire ring is coming. There is a danish design with 70 degree angle walls that is actually pretty effective at making char.

@lnsoaps I would want to know the details about your soil like pH for other amendments but basically I would lay the contents of black kow compost bags shoulder to shoulder until the grass dies under it and then till it in for a good lazy start. Or kill the grass, like with a blowtorch, because the ashes and charcoal are good stuff. I would hate to shovel up the grass roots but it would make things easier. Anyway its kinda hard to get that first rich soil because nobody really gets how much soil weighs, and therefore how much compost might be used to get to some ratio like say 20%. You probably want at least 10% and no more than 30% organic matter. Here is a chart about soil and material weight by volume.
Screenshot_20200415-205618.png


If your soil weighs 2700 lbs per cubic yard adding roughly 540lbs of compost is a target 20%. (yes it will come out a slightly lower percent but bear with me here) The small tillers only go down about six inches so using a cubic foot cut in half to six inches deep makes a rough target too. Thats 2 square feet on the surface multiplied by the 27 in a yard of material. If 540 lbs of black kow compost in the 40lb bags is used it should be about 20 lbs of compost or 1 whole bag for every 2 square feet.

These are really rough numbers but basically it points to the idea cover the area in compost about the thickness of a bag of compost and till it in. I would personally add some cornmeal in place of some of the compost to get trichoderma colonies built up as deep as possible. Because of cost most folks do not use this much compost all at once. This need is related to your soil contents anyway so play it by ear as you understand your own soil.
 
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flowerbug

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a first shot of tilling and raking out the roots will help, but after that i'd use a stirrup hoe. use it once a week. you won't have a weed problem if you leave enough room between plants that you can get the hoe between them so you don't have to bend over as much. yes, for weeds close to plants you still have to do some fine close up weeding and bending over, but what i do is i have a ground pillow that i kneel on (some people can't do that with bad knees) or sit on. i also use a large knife or a small trowel (an actual brick layers small trowel because it has a fine point and a sharp edge so i can scrape weeds as much as uproot them, which i don't want to do too much close to garden veggie plants).

we have a lot of gardens here. the stirrup hoe gets them done.

i do about 10,000sq ft in a good year. :) in a bad year (injuries) i'm half that. i don't till any more, but i do dig and bury weeds and garden debris as needed - in most gardens that means 5-10% of the area gets disturbed other than me scraping the surface with the stirrup hoe. in extreme cases i will turn more. i have a few gardens that i'll be needing to do that with this year. i don't mind the work as when i'm burying weeds i know that is worm food and then eventually that becomes garden plant and veggie food.
 

Ridgerunner

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I've found that a blow torch does not kill grass roots. Doesn't kill established weed roots either. I tried using one on a gravel driveway/parking area. All it did was turn the stuff on the surface to a black char that is easily tracked into the house or car. I use Seed's solution to keep the grass and weeds down so people could get in and out of their car without getting into ticks and chiggers. I have used the blow torch to burn off surface vegetation where I was going to turn or till the soil to make it easier. Long tough vegetation like grass will foul a tiller's tines. If it is grass that will sprout from the stems you at least stop that weed source.

With that gardening mix you had out there it's not like you are starting with just native soil. It will have broken down and dispersed some but a lot of the goodness is still there. Since it is planting time and you have other things to do in your recovery I stick by my original suggestions. Till in some more compost and plant.
 

lnsoaps

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Wow! Very Good information here! I will consider that! I have a couple of barrels of compost already. Some of one of them needs a little more time. But I can do that with the bags. Thank you so much!!!!
 
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