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Thread: OK to til straw into bed ?

  1. #1
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    OK to til straw into bed ?

    I'm trying to get a bed going for my many rescued Easter lilies as well as some other bulbs and perennials. The current bed was created this past spring and we grew veggies. I had used straw to inhibit weed growth. Can I just til that strw into the soil or is that a no-no ? I also plan to add about 2 bags of cotton bol mulch as well as many bags of either potting soil or top soil whichever one has some organic stuff in it and doesn't turn into a ball of clay when I squeeze it in my hand. Any advice on the straw,etc. ?
    "If I keep a green bough in my heart, a singing bird will come"




  2. #2
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    Since the straw has been on the ground since Spring I don't see a problem with tilling it under. Birds have had plenty of time to find any seeds that may have still been in it so there shouldn't be any problems with wheat or oats sprouting and growing. Just be sure to till thoroughly and as deep as you can - good for the straw and the bulbs and plants you intend to plant in the new bed. You might also want to till in some bone meal to give the bulbs a boost.

    Rebecca

  3. #3
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    Hi Lily,

    Great advice from Rebecca. As to tilling in potting soil, I would not recommend it. Potting soil is peat moss with amendments such as perlite. Peat moss really doesn't have much nutritive value and once dry, is difficult to wet again. Besides that, you might want to read this.

    http://www.ondelmarva.com/peat.html
    http://www.rbgkew.org.uk/ksheets/peat.html#help

    One of the best things you can add would be compost. The more the merrier, about a 3" to 4" layer would be great for your plants. If you need any links for info on compost, don't hesitate to ask.

    Newt
    When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.

  4. #4
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    Newt,

    I have the worst clay soil in the world and regularly add potting mix to my beds and especially when I am planting my daylily seedlings in the ground. I do mix it thoroughly with the garden soil and water my newly planted seedlings in well. I have found this to be a good thing. It helps the seedlings by hold more moisture around the roots as they are establishing themselves in the new bed and they also benefit from the slight acidic nature of the peat.

    I am picky about what I use as a potting soil and I do stay away from ones that are soil-less, for the most part. The brand I currently use has a lot of organic matter in it and no perlite or vermiculite. It also has fertilizer, trace elements and Ironite added. I grow everything in it and everything grows like gang-busters.

    Not all potting mixes are bad and not all are peat based. I have always added Canadian peat to new beds to help loosen the clay to aide drainage and help with water retention. I have yet to have anything bad happen.

    I will be checking out those links though!

    Rebecca

  5. #5
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    Hi Rebecca,

    I learn something new everyday. I don't think I've ever seen a potting soil like you have described around here. Great to know. While you are reading, you might want to look at these sites too.

    http://soils.usda.gov/sqi/soil_quali...gy_primer.html
    http://www.cce.cornell.edu/programs/...ter/index.html

    Newt
    When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.

  6. #6
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    Oh how could I resist going to the ref from Cornell U first ?!

    I have 2 potting soils: 1) the Expert brand soil-less one that I use as an intermediate stop for my DL seedlings(Rebecca-I might try the one you use next year-it's in the green bag right ?) and 2) the 1.50 per 40 pound bag one from Wal-Mart(which we have already determined is baaad). It really doesn't have organic stuff in it and turns into gray clay when wet. I usually mix it with the other stuff AND Cotton Bol Compost as an intermediate stop for the adult DL's. (Intermediate stops are for people like me who don't have beds ready in time-LOL!) The thing is though that I can't afford to dump Expert brand in mass quantities into the bed and I suppose I can't afford(in another sense) to use too much of the 1.50 per bag stuff.
    Given those two soils, I think the answer is organic matter. I have some stuff that I've dumped over time in the back of the yard(lots of leaves and straw from last year). I also have twigs galore(I have 160 Chinese Elm trees ringing my property).
    I do have to raise the soil level up though in that bed and that's the real challenge--what do I use. Or, if I add enough organic compost to even slightly nots so good soil will it outweigh the negatives of that soil. I might have to go back to the stores and do the squeeze test and see which inexpensive soils won't turn into a clay glop and have visible organic matter.
    I would like to see those compost links.
    "If I keep a green bough in my heart, a singing bird will come"




  7. #7
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    The brand I eluded to is 'Magic Earth' from ABS Greenworld, they have a mixing plant in Valdesto, GA. I've written to them asking for a complete analysis and ingredient listing. Don't know if I'll get a response or not though. I like it a thousand times better than Expert.

    Do you have a dairy farm near you? Or any kind of farm animal, including horses where you could get a couple of pick-up truck loads of manure? If so, you could use that as the base for the raised beds, tilled in with the soil you'd be laying it over. If it's aged it would be even better, you don't want to much heat in it. Then layer it off with as much compost as you can get then a bag or two of the Expert, or, as a last resort, the Sam's Choice potting mix.

    Do you have access to wood chips in quantity? Like from the Street Department or a tree service? You might want to look into it. Won't do you a lot of good right now, but if you could get some or a lot and have space to dump it and let it sit for at least a year, you'd have a good source for organics to amend the soil with. It would help if you had time to turn it over a couple of times a year. I got some wood chips from my Street Department a few years ago to mulch beds with and didn't use it all. It sat through winter and I was able to use part of it to mix with my potting mix and it worked pretty good. Of course I had to dig what I needed from the bottom of the pile. What was finally left was used as mulch on beds I hadn't gotten to the previous year.

    You really have to plan ahead on a lot of what we use and need for out gardens. I know when I wanted to do the mound bed I was hoping to get free fill dirt to use, but couldn't manage to hook up with anyone to get some and ended up using the Magic Earth potting soil. That was a lot of bags of potting soil! Nice chunk of change too!

    Rebecca

  8. #8
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    Lily,

    What I've learned is that the best way to improve the tilth of soil is to add lots of organic matter. I've found the best way to do that is either to do lasagna beds (sheet composting) or add lots of compost. We had to regrade our property and parts were stripped bare of topsoil. All we had was clay subsoil. Maryland and Georgia are known for it's red clay. We added 3" of compost, 3" of leaf mold and 1" of sand and mixed in during the fall. There were NO worms in the clay. The next spring we had worms and much nicer soil that you could dig into. Here's a bunch of links that should keep you reading for a bit. Also look at these two I gave to Rebecca about the soil.

    Soil:
    http://soils.usda.gov/sqi/soil_quali...gy_primer.html
    http://www.cce.cornell.edu/programs/...ter/index.html

    Lasagna composting:
    http://www.motherearthnews.com/menar...173-050-01.htm
    http://www.bconnex.net/~carolw/lasagna1.html
    http://csf.colorado.edu/perma/no_till.html

    Leaf Mold:
    http://faq.gardenweb.com/faq/lists/s...150021580.html

    Compost:
    http://faq.gardenweb.com/faq/data/so...647001285.html
    http://www.gardenguides.com/articles/dynamic.htm
    http://www.mastercomposter.com/
    http://www.mastercomposter.com/ref/orgmat1.html
    http://www.howtocompost.org/
    http://muextension.missouri.edu/expl...ort/G06958.htm

    Manure:
    http://gardening.wsu.edu/stewardship...re/manure0.htm
    http://www.hort.cornell.edu/gardenin...x.html#manures

    I've got some interesting ones on mulches too, but I figure that should keep you reading for a while. I'm going to my daughter in Delaware tomorrow morning to care for her after knee surgery. I should be back on Saturday and won't have computer access, so if you want the ones on mulches, let me know and I'll try and get back to my computer before I leave.

    Newt
    When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.

  9. #9
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    Wow ! Thanks. All those links should keep me plenty busy reading. It's been raining since Sunday afternoon which put a damper(bad pun) on my planting of adult DL's(only 36 more to go); then on to the OTHER bed ! Probably will get back out there Wednesday. Funny, I can't plant if it rains but when it rains it's easier to dig into the soil. Bottom line is that I have got to get my planting into high gear before the dreaded First Freeze. Have a Safe Trip !
    Last edited by Dazed_Lily; 10-11-2004 at 08:10 PM.
    "If I keep a green bough in my heart, a singing bird will come"




  10. #10
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    Lily,
    I have planted after a first and even second frost. Do try and get it all done before the ground freezes though.

    Thank you soo much for your kind words. I will drive gently!

    Now don't stay up all night reading!
    Newt
    When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.

  11. #11
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    Newt,
    Hi, just wanted to say welcome to Landspro. There's lots of great people here.
    I haven't been on too much lately as changed ISP and had to reinstall windows and get everything back going again, which in my case takes awhile.

    Thanks for all the good links you've been posting. Love to learn and learn.

    Cathi,
    Does your town have a yard waste drop off. A town by me sells 3 yr. old compost for 7.00 yd. I was tickled pink and my flower beds just loved this nice rich dark amendment. I piled it on by the wheelbarrow fulls.
    Here's a pic of the pile:
    Attached Images  
    Happy Growing,
    Vicki in West. Mich.

  12. #12
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    Hi Vicki,

    Thanks for the warm welcome. I just loved seeing your pile of black gold. It's as delightful as a garden full of flowers, bugs, critters and birds! Are we warped or what? My daughter just asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I said, "A nice large pile of compost!" I got a large groan from her! I might have to settle for a field guide or two on butterflies and bugs.

    Newt
    When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.

  13. #13
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    Vicki- You reminded me about a place that does do that in Wichita but I can't get their website to open, but I'll check into that. While I was doing that I also found this link:

    http://www.mastercomposter.com/

    I loooove that pile of compost that you have !
    I remember about a year ago when I was wanting soil that I saw a huge pile on the way to work and just drooled over it. Later, when talking to co-workers, who also get excited over dirt, I said I guess that's a sign of getting older--getting all excited over a pile of dirt !

    P.S. Love that car color !!!!
    "If I keep a green bough in my heart, a singing bird will come"




  14. #14
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    Cathi,
    Yea maybe that is a sign of getting older! Drooling over dirt. LOL! Thanks I loved my car too. But ya want to know something, Chrysler cars are pieces of s__t! The only car I've ever bought 'brand new' and it lasted about 4 yrs. before the head gaskets blew.
    It has less than 60,000 miles on it. Had it fixed, and it didn't last very long at all. Something about faulty design of the heads. So they're known to blow gaskets and wouldn't ya know I never did an internet search before buying it.
    They have since been offering 'after market' gaskets for it, but at 800. to have it fixed, it just has to wait a little longer. At least I've learned something from the experience of being a new car owner.
    Happy Growing,
    Vicki in West. Mich.

  15. #15
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    Had fun today raking up twigs and leaves from under the trees and tilling into the new bed. Couldn't get over how it was right under my nose and free for the taking. I will take composting more seriously from here forwrad; a good winter study project.
    "If I keep a green bough in my heart, a singing bird will come"




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