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New guy in Kingman AZ

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New guy in Kingman AZ

Post  Tom Bergstrand on 5/22/2014, 8:08 pm

Hi,
          My name is Tom and I live about 17 miles east of Kingman AZ just off old Route 66. I have a huge garden in the works but won't be ready to seriously plant until fall and then BIG TIME in spring. I raise red wiggler worms for the compost and have quite a bit which will find it's way to the garden as a soil amendment very soon. Raising reds here in the hot and dry climate requires quite a bit of work BUT once you have it "down to a science" it goes pretty smooth. They love horse manure which is not only plentiful around here BUT free for the taking. I also feed coffee grounds (mine and that which some members of my Masonic Lodge save for me) and ground up cow manure. Crushed egg shells finish the blend. I mix it all with water EXCEPT for a good dose of cheap diet pop for energy. I now have 5 bins working and will soon expand as soon as I take an accurate count of my worm population. I'll be perfectly honest about my motives. I am worried about problems with the food pipeline and the quality (or LACK thereof) of supermarket foods. I am a veteran (former PARATROOPER) and am now retired.

Tom Bergstrand

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Re: New guy in Kingman AZ

Post  sanderson on 5/23/2014, 3:26 am

Tom, Welcome to the Forum!  glad you\'re here  You didn't mention if you are going to try raised SFG beds or if you are a traditional row gardener. SFG is great for desert climates. The Mel's Mix topped with mulch really cuts down on the amount of water needed. There are several of us with summers 100+ degrees.

PS: First thing I thought was "airborne." Is that the correct word?

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Re: New guy in Kingman AZ

Post  AtlantaMarie on 5/23/2014, 8:04 am

Hi Tom.  Welcome!

Thank you for your service.  My hubby was in 101st.

You'll find that a lot of us are concerned about what we see in the supermarkets & the pipeline. 

We've got a couple of threads you might be interested in.  Dstack started one called "Your sure-fire crop to plant" or something similar (Sorry DStack!  Can't remember the exact wording.) and Emergency Preparation Gardening.

And I'm sure there's some other similar ones hiding in the search area.

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Re: New guy in Kingman AZ

Post  Tom Bergstrand on 5/23/2014, 2:22 pm

@sanderson wrote:Tom,  Welcome to the Forum!   glad you\'re here  You didn't mention if you are going to try raised SFG beds or if you are a traditional row gardener.  SFG is great for desert climates.  The Mel's Mix topped with mulch really cuts down on the amount of water needed.  There are several of us with summers 100+ degrees.

PS:  First thing I thought was "airborne."  Is that the correct word?  

Yes it is.
                  I will give you a run down on what I have. I have 5 rows of raised beds that are on a slight slope so the uphill side is 8 inches and the downhill side is 10 inches. That makes the dirt level. They are about 32 feet long and 5 feet across. They are all covered by hoops that are almost 5 feet high with deer netting (3/4" by 3/4"). I have a system in place where I can pull the netting up easily just like a venetian blind. It is all connected by .... what else ... PARACHUTE CORD! If I can bet my life on something I can easily have faith in it to protect bell peppers and the like. As for SFG I must first determine how I will water this monster by some kind of auto system. I have an idea but I might lack the ability to explain it correctly. I will try. I have a tote that holds 275 gallons. (actually I have 2 but only one in the "master plan"). The screw on top has a stainless steel tire valve installed on it so I can actually apply air pressure to it thereby not only speeding up the watering process but assuring that I have steady pressure at all times. My compressor has an attachment that controls the pressure leaving it. So if I set it for say 25 PSI it will maintain that and NO MORE (I hope). I will plan on a row of irrigation hose down the middle of each row. From this line I will install smaller hoses all leading to 1 liter plastic bottles (of which I have HUNDREDS) with the tops cut off and holes drilled down the side facing the plant being served as well as a couple on the bottom. This will assure an even flow of water all the way down to 7+ inches regardless of what the soil wants to do. I will control each smaller hose with a small valve so as to assure that the hoses will deliver the same amount of water from the beginning all the way to the end. So this way as I stand at the one end and those bottles get full the ones at the other end are also full OR as full as that particular crop needs. I can then shut it off and go to the next one. They are all in line running from east to west so the sun is equally on them all at the same time. Our summer equinox gives us sun at "dead center" height and the winter sun comes  at about 30 degrees so we are NEVER without sun all year. I also have another 2 rows but are not the same. I have one other one in line that is only 28 feet long but I haven't built the raised portion as yet and my wife uses another 32 foot long row with the hoops and netting but we have long boxes as a raised bed one foot high. This all works together with a hoop house that measures 12 feet wide and 15 feet long that contains containers (and one long box) that number about 28 or so. The box is 4X2X1. I believe that we can grow quite a bit of food not only for us but for barter and help folks they we know. Brother Masons, fellow Vets and neighbors that cannot do all this. I stand ready at ALL times to help those others to do whatever they can. You would be surprised what you can do with only a small plot and minimal effort. I think that if one cannot dig around to do potatoes they can surely grow excellent herbs and such and trade for those potatoes (or whatever). Well, that's all I can think of right now. My wife wants to take a picture and send it to a girlfriend in CA so I think it will be ME taking it since the best way to see it all is from the top of my garage and send it along on here as well. Oh, I forgot to mention. We still have an large area in there for other projects about 700 square feet AND I also forgot to mention that it is totally enclosed by a 5 foot fence. 2 feet high of steel sheeting and 3 more of poultry wire. (We HAVE rabbits around here) The aforementioned netting is a defense for birds. Any questions, hints or any form of helpful stuff is GREATLY appreciated. It might seem a bit redundant with all I am doing BUT I am widely known as "The Master Of Overkill", if one is good then 2 is better ... so do THREE! Thank you in advance for all the help I KNOW I will be getting. We'll get into my worm operation real soon.

Tom Bergstrand

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Re: New guy in Kingman AZ

Post  grownsunshine on 5/24/2014, 12:10 pm

Sounds great Tom. Can't wait to see pics! Everyone here loves pics!

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Re: New guy in Kingman AZ

Post  sanderson on 5/24/2014, 1:31 pm

@grownsunshine wrote:Sounds great Tom. Can't wait to see pics! Everyone here loves pics!

+1

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Re: New guy in Kingman AZ

Post  Tom Bergstrand on 6/25/2014, 10:51 pm

@sanderson wrote:
@grownsunshine wrote:Sounds great Tom. Can't wait to see pics! Everyone here loves pics!

+1

OK, I finally got some pix BUT don't know how to add them. I need a bit of help in the form of detailed instructions.

Tom Bergstrand

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Re: New guy in Kingman AZ

Post  sanderson on 6/26/2014, 12:48 am


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Re: New guy in Kingman AZ

Post  Tom Bergstrand on 6/26/2014, 2:07 am

This is the only raised bed planted so far. Cantaloupes, potatoes, pumpkins and zucchini.



Another view of the same bed.As you can see the sides pull up like a venetian blind.


Here are some of the raised beds that are getting ready to be planted. There are a total of 5 which are 32 feet by 5 feet or a total of 160 X 5 or 800 square feet altogether.
.

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Re: New guy in Kingman AZ

Post  sanderson on 6/26/2014, 3:18 am

What a Face  That's quite a setup you have there.  You can surely feed yourselves, put up for the winter, and have produce left over for others or bartering.  I have one question:  Did you use Mel's Mix?  Or dirt?  Or add compost to dirt?  I guess I have a second question:  Will you be adding compost bins?

Please keep posting photos as your garden continues to be developed.  It's absolutely amazing.  Very Happy

PS I re-read your initial post and you mention manures and worms. I should have read before I asked.

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Re: New guy in Kingman AZ

Post  Tom Bergstrand on 6/26/2014, 10:45 pm

@sanderson wrote:What a Face  That's quite a setup you have there.  You can surely feed yourselves, put up for the winter, and have produce left over for others or bartering.  I have one question:  Did you use Mel's Mix?  Or dirt?  Or add compost to dirt?  I guess I have a second question:  Will you be adding compost bins?

Please keep posting photos as your garden continues to be developed.  It's absolutely amazing.  Very Happy

PS  I re-read your initial post and you mention manures and worms.  I should have read before I asked.

Hi,
      As for dirt. There is a definite shortage of "dirt" around here. If you dig down a bit there is something that resembles dirt. I went down 16 inches to get some dirt. I added an organic soil from Home Depot and mixed it all in. To that was mixed a lot of aged (years) of horse manure. I am still about 8 yards or so short of filling my raised beds. I have a plan to surround the area in which I will plant each seedling that will give it all the soil and compost it will need and disregard the area around it. I will post pictures soon showing my "plan". I have a big bunch of horse manure behind my garage that is between 2 years and 5 months old. I still have the aged horse manure up in the big garden which you will see when I get up on the garage and take a picture of it all. Then it will be easier to show what I have done. I was going to do it today but the wind was really blowing. When I was younger I was a PARATROOPER but I'm not willing to relive those moments of hurtling to earth. Ladder up, ladder down. Maybe tomorrow. I will also take pictures of my worm operation. I am limited by space to a maximum of 22 - 18 gallon bins. I am trying to get as much as I can so as to enrich the poor soil we have. After next spring I think I will pull back some and only keep enough bins to serve my own needs. Remember, they need to be fed in order to produce vermicompost. So if I have 22 bins with 2 pounds in each one I must feed 44 pounds of worms. That's hundreds of pounds a month. Of course the return is also hundreds of pounds a month. Another strategy is to hold off feeding and allow them to (CAUTION: Yuch factor to follow) consume  their own compost again so as to make it even better. Cuts down on feeding and makes a better product. I'll have more in a couple of days

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Re: New guy in Kingman AZ

Post  Marc Iverson on 6/27/2014, 12:33 am

Really interesting post, Tom.

Few thoughts:

1. Feeding those worms will be quite an effort, especially considering what you probably expect to get out of them considering your (from what I gather) less than optimum soil. In that regard:

1a. Have you sourced food for them outside what you yourself are likely to produce? You say horse poop, but do you feel that is sufficient and balanced enough to get a top-quality soil supplement? If not, can you get something like restaurant or grocery refuse, either free or in trade?

1b. Can you supplement with something else, like crops specifically grown for the worms such as comfrey or, say, cover crops, especially nitrogen-rich legumes?

2. What kind of compost operation do you have going? It's hard enough sometimes to supplement a pure-Mel's Mix garden with home-grown compost every year, but you want not only to supplement the soil but to build it up. Are your plans to "feed the soil" adequate and in place or on the drawing board? It's a consideration as important as any other, especially if money is not a completely irrelevant concern. (And if you're speaking barter, we're probably past thinking money solves everything, even if you have tons of it.)

3. What do you think about cultivating worms in the wild -- or is that even sustainable? I've been trying to grow worms outside my regular garden area just for the heck of it, in case I want lots of worms to transfer someplace at any later time. Redundancy is what I'm thinking. Are you interested in worm redundancy? And even worms can be traded.

4. If you are worried about the food supply, or any other of the things that could be problematic in an economic system whose health is sometimes hard to determine, perhaps the strongest thing that has always encouraged mankind's flourishing and survival is community. Have you made contact with those other people you would like to barter with, either now or in the future? Do you have people you can count on, and who can count on you, and who can trade things and services of value with you, whether it be auto repair or bookkeeping or worm poop or food or firewood, you name it ... ? It sounds like you've got a good start going, and it's always a personal decision whether to network or not, but ... how's your network?

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Re: New guy in Kingman AZ

Post  Tom Bergstrand on 6/27/2014, 1:45 am

@Marc Iverson wrote:Really interesting post, Tom.

Few thoughts:

1.  Feeding those worms will be quite an effort, especially considering what you probably expect to get out of them considering your (from what I gather) less than optimum soil.  In that regard:

1a.  Have you sourced food for them outside what you yourself are likely to produce?  You say horse poop, but do you feel that is sufficient and balanced enough to get a top-quality soil supplement? If not, can you get something like restaurant or grocery refuse, either free or in trade?

1b.  Can you supplement with something else, like crops specifically grown for the worms such as comfrey or, say, cover crops, especially nitrogen-rich legumes?

2.  What kind of compost operation do you have going?  It's hard enough sometimes to supplement a pure-Mel's Mix garden with home-grown compost every year, but you want not only to supplement the soil but to build it up.  Are your plans to "feed the soil" adequate and in place or on the drawing board?  It's a consideration as important as any other, especially if money is not a completely irrelevant concern.  (And if you're speaking barter, we're probably past thinking money solves everything, even if you have tons of it.)

3.  What do you think about cultivating worms in the wild -- or is that even sustainable?  I've been trying to grow worms outside my regular garden area just for the heck of it, in case I want lots of worms to transfer someplace at any later time.  Redundancy is what I'm thinking.  Are you interested in worm redundancy?  And even worms can be traded.

4.  If you are worried about the food supply, or any other of the things that could be problematic in an economic system whose health is sometimes hard to determine, perhaps the strongest thing that has always encouraged mankind's flourishing and survival is community.  Have you made contact with those other people you would like to barter with, either now or in the future?  Do you have people you can count on, and who can count on you, and who can trade things and services of value with you, whether it be auto repair or bookkeeping or worm poop or food or firewood, you name it ... ?  It sounds like you've got a good start going, and it's always a personal decision whether to network or not, but ... how's your network?

Hi,
         Addressing as I go.

              The horse poop is what is considered "The Holy Grail" of worm food. The Red Wigglers that I have are commonly called "manure worms" since they are usually found in and at the bottom of manure piles. Horse being the most popular. Sourcing other foods is not a concern at this time. The fellas at my Masonic Lodge save coffee grounds for me and, as I've said I have goo gobs of aged horse manure behind my garage. One of my Masonic buddies has a DIL that is an Asst. Mgr. at the local supermarket. She said I could have all the stuff that the produce dept. culls from the product before displaying it. Since we go into town once a week (20+ miles each way) it would help but would not be a "ton" of stuff. (Not to forget that their stuff is chemically grown).  As I said the horse manure is totally available. Another PARATROOPER buddy that lives about 500 feet from me has 2 horses and I am allowed to fill my pick up truck ANYTIME I want. As far as more free poop another Mason buddy about 1/4 mile down the road still has piles of horse poop that I would have to think is about 100 cubic yards or so. Also for my taking. It's years old so it is also aged.

           I will be trying to compost all the leafy greens that are left over after harvest. The zucchini, pumpkin and cantaloupes all have a plethora of leaves which will undergo the process to become worm food. First it is frozen. Then it is doused with microbe laden water and allowed to sit and "ferment". That is to say it begins to rot. The worms will eat the microbes that feed on the rotting food. It's a slower process but it's free and "right here".

          As for "feeding" the soil I am resigned to purchase organic soil and mix aged manure and worm compost together. At the end of the summer the big stores sell out their remaining bags at a good price. A good time to buy soil and peat for seedling production. We might be on the same page as far as money is concerned. We retired with NO debt and considerable savings. Our income far exceeds our present needs. I don't say that to brag but to make the point that it is entirely possible for this economy to become "problematic" so having food not only stored but growing in LARGE amounts just might be the difference between surviving and NOT surviving. So spending on an infrastructure now can reap enormous benefits later. I look at it this way. If there is a problem ... we eat. If there is NO problem ... we eat. WIN WIN. Not to mention that our food is a LOT better than supermarket stuff.

               Worms in the wild. Wrong worms. The ones that frequent and TOTALLY benefit the local gardens are called "Night Crawlers" or earth worms. Different environment. They ingest actual soil (which we DON'T have) and receive nutrition from it. They also come to the top and actually drag fallen leaves down to their little "home" and feed on them. During cold times they burrow down and live way down in the soil. We don't have that. If someone has a bit of an underground water deposit (rare around here) they can and do survive BUT that is not the norm. As for trading worms. Many people know about the value of having worms but shy away from raising them due to the heat and lack of humidity that we have. There are opportunities to sell worms through the mail but I don't want a business. The "big guys" that have the fancy web sites about worms use many smaller worm raisers to fill most of their orders. I think that since I am retired that I should leave them to make a living and not interfere. I might do a bit of trading with my compost but I will first help fellow veterans and Brother Masons  since they help me with poop and coffee grounds. And of course even if they have nothing to offer.

            Network. Good to have. Just about everyone in our little network is combat trained and served with special units. A couple haven't but they have proven to be trustworthy. We are all working towards having something to trade to the others. I am still looking into raising rabbits. One guy has chickens, his son does aquaponics and bee keeping, another one does goats and turkeys. The fodder system has stirred the interest of all of us and we are working on raising our own barley. I found a video on how to thrash small amounts of grain. It's really simple and cool. We just need a way to grow it and keep it free of wild rabbits.

                I don't know if I addressed all of what you presented. If I left anything out please ask me again. I am willing to answer any questions and entertain any and all suggestions. I USED to know everything but ... I was 15 years old and have since found out that I was WRONG! Thank you for great thoughts.

Tom Bergstrand

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Re: New guy in Kingman AZ

Post  Marc Iverson on 6/27/2014, 2:34 am

Thanks for the detailed replied. Sounds like you have some good plans going.

Couple comments:

1. Replenishing the soil has to be sustainable, and worm poop is not recommended to be a major part of it. 5% at most according to my master gardening course, if I recall correctly. Too much is actually detrimental. If you are buying your soil supplements, that seems like a leak you can plug by getting into composting. And at the level you are growing, I can't see any reason you wouldn't. It will save a ton of money and increase sustainability. Worm poop does not and cannot replace regular compost.

If you only feed the worms, you may be approaching the plant nutrition angle in terms of feeding the plants. What you really need to do is feed the soil. (Do that, and the plants can take care of themselves.) It will take more than horse manure to do it. The All New Square Foot Gardening (ANSFG) book points out that different manures have different nutrients and levels of nutrients (and salts and minerals, among other things). I'm not saying horse manure isn't a great nutrient -- but it's only one. The quality of your worm poop is directly dependent on variety. As when they say in computer programming, GIGO -- garbage in, garbage out -- horse manure is far from garbage, but you cannot get a broad balance from a single ingredient. Mel's Mix is comprised of 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 peat, and 1/3 a blend of FIVE composts ... and manure is often mentioned to be only ONE of the five. So this is where I'm coming from in saying perhaps it's not good to rely on too narrow a range of nutrients/composts, as it sounds like you are doing with reliance on worm poop created through horse poop. The grocery stuff sounds great, though ... so maybe you are ameliorating that narrowness? I'm just saying that the narrowness is a very real problem.

2. Re worms: You can nourish whatever worms you like. Put red worms into native soil if you prefer. Any and all will enrich the soil. I grew a pot full of worm poop last year by burying a 3-gallon container, only four pencil-sized holes in the bottom, into native soil with an inch above the ground. I covered it loosely and put newspaper and kitchen scraps into it at any random moment. It survived the worst Oregon winter on record; I found worms -- redworms are not native here -- and poop in it next spring. Who knows how much worm poop -- and worms and worm eggs --- might have been spread nearby. Not bad for doing basically nothing, if you have any kind of worms at all.

Both of these comments are about thinking about thinking outside the box. The box is where everyone lives, of course. We all live in a box of our own creation. Building up worms outside your immediate gardening area is an easy thing, and especially good for people who are thinking long-term. Creating your own ongoing composting operation, with varied nutrients, is tackling something much harder. But sustainability-wise, self-sustainabililty-wise, I don't see how you can avoid it. Even 10 kinds of poop is still just one source, according to SFG -- poop. What about the rest of the nutrition your plants need?

Maybe the grocery store leavings will supply it ... but .. they STILL need to be composted.

Sorry if I sound like an evangelist for a balanced compost, or critical. It's just that I can't see how an operation of your size can be maintained long-term without it. Unless I misunderstood, that doesn't look like part of your plan.

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Re: New guy in Kingman AZ

Post  Tom Bergstrand on 6/27/2014, 5:35 pm

Just a quick note here in the afternoon. Red worms and Red Wigglers are 2 different worms. Red Wigglers do not survive well in soil. They are manure worms. The Red Worms are actually Night Crawlers. As for specifics. I am doing what I can with what I have here. That is the reason that my growing area is so big. If I had good soil I could grow more in a smaller space. I figure if I have moderate success I will do well if only by sheer volume of ground. The soil approach I will take for next spring (my first real growing season) will be based on the following: 5 gallons Brown Peat Moss, 5 gallons Black Peat Moss, 1/2 cup of Lime, 5 gallons Organic Compost, 5 gallons Perlite and one gallon worm castings. This will be the soil mixture I will use to place in holes dug in my garden for the next crop to grow in. I will make as many batches as it takes to create the garden. This will hold the moisture that I need to grow. My holes for growing will be about 12 inches deep and 10 in. X 10 in. The area around will be the aged manure and sorry native "dirt". I am actually creating a controlled environment for each plant. Like container gardening without the container. Each plant will have it's own water supply so as to insure that all will receive adequate water. When it's all together I will supply pictures. It will not be "SFG" but more like "2SFG" due to some other things that have to be incorporated.

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