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Measuring organic content

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Re: Measuring organic content

Post  sanderson on 9/15/2014, 2:48 am

Very Happy

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Re: Measuring organic content

Post  GreenGene on 9/16/2014, 2:18 pm

I really do appreciate all of your suggestions and help.  Since I wasn't a farm boy or lawn & turf guy, I realize I must be out-of-step with the fundamental rhythm and terminology of gardening. I often feel I have cobbled a potentially high-performance race car that slowly putters around at best.  Without researching and thinking
things through as thoroughly as I know how, I wouldn't know what to do to progress. (And generally still don't anyways.)

fwiw: This is my spring plan, subject to review and revision. My local '50% chance of a frost' or Last frost day (LFD) is 2/15.

Pepper, tomato, and most other seed starts in Dec. 
Near 1/21/15: refresh the 1/3 organics in beds in the following manner
  acquire 6.67cuft (4.5 bags) each (totaling ~33cuft~$336) of quality
      cow, chicken, turkey, mushroom, and leaf mold composts.
   produce 3cuft batches of blended organics using equal portions of the composts.
     include 4oz each of azomite and bone meal in each batch
   For every bed (mine have 2x12 sides with 4" allowance for mulch TBD): 
      Top the bed with 2 1/2" to 3" of freshly blended composts. 
      Cultivate the bed well in the surface to 6" deep area
         (below 6" there is minimal 'root magic' happening.)
  repeat until all beds have been prepped similarly
      (maybe a little deeper than 6" for carrot or other deep root beds)

My target is to be prepared to direct sow most seeds a couple of weeks before the LFD.  Transplants a week or two after the LFD.

I will keep using ETc to determine irrigation duration for my specific garden, but will reduce total delivery by restricting to 1 irrigation per day.   ETc is appealing in its concept of 'reduced stress' to plants with 'minimum irrigation' requirement. For the most part, the primary root zone area remains in a state conducive to movement of nutrient between grow medium and plant.

I will also continue to add compost to the beds every couple of weeks, but will refrain from fertigation for a couple of months.

What should I read/review to develop an even better plan?  I have read composting articles and feel I understand its fundamentals, but will definitely read the Composting 101 article. Have 2 9cuft tumblers. Have produced what I thought was 'good compost'. Yet in the above I am committing to purchasing over $300 in compost.  (hmmmm. scratching head.)

Thanks again.

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Re: Measuring organic content

Post  CapeCoddess on 9/16/2014, 2:37 pm

Have you read the All New Square Foot Gardening book?  And the Answer Book?  They would give you step by step instructions and help to keep it simple.
Very Happy 

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Re: Measuring organic content

Post  camprn on 9/16/2014, 4:27 pm

http://compost.css.cornell.edu/index.html <~~ click

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Re: Measuring organic content

Post  sanderson on 9/16/2014, 4:39 pm

Gene,  Glad you are hanging in there.  CapeCoddess has a good suggestion to read the SFG Answer Book.  I bought mine used on line.  The Answer Book restates the principles of SFG in a Q & A format.  Another book, someone here recommended, and, that I bought used, was The Complete Compost Gardening Guide by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah L. Martin.  Camprn posted a good link from Cornell. Carefully store your charts and forget them.  You are on a new adventure.

You do not need to spend $300 on compost.  For the first year, yes.  Most folks don't have large compost piles when they first start gardening.  However, most begin to make their own after they realize things aren't growing the way they thought they would. You can "make" your own for the price of gasoline for driving.  You have 2 composters.  Please describe.  Are they tumblers?  What exactly do you put in them?

I think that most of the folks on this Forum make their own compost from free materials.  Layer the ingredients properly, wet and turn according to whether they are hot fast method or slower, warm, months-long method.  Your community has horse stables and other ag sources.  (I Binged your town for nearby supplies, including Craig's List.)

Dried small leaves, dried grass, small wood chips, clean paper, etc. for "Browns/Carbons."  Fresh horse manure, free tossed produce (grocery stores, farmers markets, farmers), Starbucks coffee grounds, fresh green grass, etc., for "Greens/Nitrogen".  How many square feet of free area do you have to make compost piles?

What do you mean by leaf mold?  Wet moldy leaves that are undergoing composting?  I am concerned about the 5 ingredients you are using.  The mushroom compost is good, but what ingredients are in the manures?  Fully composted horse, chicken and turkey manure should be free for the price of gas and you helping yourself.  The litter or bedding should be completely composted to where they are barely identifiable.  (wheat straw, rice hulls, wood shavings are the ones that come to my mind).  If the manure/bedding material are fresh, they are used as ingredients in making your own compost pile.  Leaves are free, which should be used in the new compost pile.

When to start indoor seedlings and sow outside
:  Your last front date is the same as mine.  Late January or February is plenty early to start seedlings indoor.  Don't plant seedlings or sow outside until the soil measures 60*F.  [Maybe someone can correct me on that]  That may be March or April.  Introducing the seedlings to the outside temps during the warmth of the day, maybe in March.  Bring them back inside at night for a while until you are sure they can survive the nights.

There are other things you can spend the $300 on.  Gas for driving around picking up supplies is a given.  A 20" dial or digital compost thermometer.  Building compost bins.  (A lot of my 2 x 4s were free scrap lumber at a building site.  Free is always great!  Get permission first.)  Two side-by-side are better than a single one so that when you turn, you can turn directly into the other one.  Some folks have room for 3 side-by-side bins where they can rest and store the finished compost in the 3rd one.  Lucky folks.

Refresh your winter beds a couple weeks before planting (March 1st?) to get all the material and micros going in the warming beds.

Don't fertilize.  Well, there are a few exceptions but that comes later down the road.  Top dress with your new (homemade?  Very Happy ) compost once or twice during the growing season.  And of course, between pulling a plant and starting a new one.

PS  you haven't looked at the Private Message (PM) I sent you.

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Re: Measuring organic content

Post  boffer on 9/16/2014, 6:13 pm

Your proposed gardening plan is akin to modifying your race car to go faster when you  barely have a clue as to how the motor works.  You're looking at a very steep learning curve fraught  with frustrating set-backs.

I'm sure you're familiar with the K.I.S.S. principle.  Put it to good use by starting at the beginning: follow the guidelines of the ANSFG book, and learn all you can from gardeners in your area about the idiosyncrasies of gardening in your climate.  You can analyze all you want, but plants couldn't care less. One popular gardening adage: 'One of the worst mistakes you can make as a gardener is to think you're in charge.'

It appears that you like to experiment; many gardeners do.  Learn how to conduct your experiments so that you're able to use the results to obtain useful, valid conclusions; many gardeners don't.  Hint: you're changing too many variables at the same time.  There's no way to determine the effectiveness of a singular change.

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Re: Measuring organic content

Post  GreenGene on 9/16/2014, 7:25 pm

@sanderson wrote:.  You have 2 composters.  Please describe.  Are they tumblers?  What exactly do you put in them?

They are LifeTime 9cuft tumblers.  I put dried leaves, fresh lawn clippings, anything from the garden.  I have ordered an electric chipper shredder I intend to use mostly for the leaves and grass clippings for a 10:1 reduction in particle size. I have read 2 parts (5gal buckets) of leaves to 1 part packed grass clippings yields close to the 30:1 C:N ratio for thermophylic (Berkley) composting.  I also add kitchen scraps sans meats and oils, anything made from grain, old seasonings, paper, tea bags and coffee grounds.

I am disabled and would have difficulty collecting manures from local farms.  Maybe one might deliver, but that may have issues too.  That is why I selected the table top SFG method with automated/timed drip irrigation for the beds.  The whole garden is enclosed with a chicken wire top and 8ft link fence.

leaf mold compost is carbon rich at 100:1 C:N. Yet combining the 5 compost components yields a 9:1 blended compost as calculated by
http://www.klickitatcounty.org/solidwaste/fileshtml/organics/compostcalc.htm

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Re: Measuring organic content

Post  GreenGene on 9/17/2014, 10:14 pm

After diving into Mel's SFG Answer Book I feel more confident and more confused.  In several places Mel mentions using plenty of water, especially in the heat of day, but to never waste water. (amen!)  He prefers watering by hand to build a closer bond with his plants, but seems to have no aversion to timed drip irrigation.  He mentions having a watering cup readily available beside the sun-warmed water pale. I was applying half of Mels cup, a 1/4 cup per plant twice per day.  I have difficulty understanding how I could be over watering.

Mels states that water needs are going to be different at different times and recommend reducing irrigation water near the end of the growing season which follows the reasoning presented in how plant coefficients (Kf) are used to tweak evapotranspiration (ETc) parameters throughout the season on a per plant basis. (Although I have read good results are also obtained by using an 'compound crop average' coefficient which is what I attempt) 

Mel states to 'generally run drip systems for 15 minutes to an hour'.  After seeing organics dripping through the bottom of my beds the first two, and only two times I ran it for 15 minutes, I knew it was not good.  I still can not fathom irrigating for an hour.  Seeing nutrient on the ground is what inspired me to search for some sort of irrigation schedule, which led me to Texas A & M literatures on evapotranspiration.  My gardens maximum irrigation duration is 5 minutes, exhibited when the table top beds themselves begin to drip.  Water moving out of and below the primary root zone area is called deep percolation which is another form of wasting water and, agreeing with Mr. Bartholomew, should be avoided.  Fortunatly, the 3 to 4 minutes irrigation duration calculated by ETc for my garden allows no-to-low deep percolation, which, imo, is ideal.  I wonder if Mel has observed a table top drip system expelling organics and realized that a regular SFG surface bed would be doing the same, invisibly.

Mel recommends hand spritzing sun shaded leaf lettuce every time the garden is entered to maximize production before it bolts due to heat stress, which is virtually the same as using an irrigation mister, is it not? 

Mels method of "putting a bed to sleep over the winter with plastic sheeting to keep your soil in perfect shape and ready to go for spring" is what he and others call solarizing, which he does recommend.

Since Mel considers pig, cow, horse, rabbit and steer as ONE compost source, and he did not explicitly state it, but I assume that mushroom and leaf-mold composts are considered a single source as would be chicken and turkey manure composts.  Since I am using cow, chicken, turkey, mushroom, and leaf mold composts does Mel imply necessity and benefit in me using at least two additional compost sources?  Washed seaweed and household organics are about all I could think of.

Ooops. Way longer than I planned. sorry.

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Re: Measuring organic content

Post  Marc Iverson on 9/18/2014, 12:27 am

I've read that an inch of water can be expected to reach down 4 to 6 inches into soil. Our blazing summers, which can be very close to or over 100 degrees for months on end, dries out soils very quickly. I find light waterings to plants that get full sun during our summers can lead to them looking very stressed, and sometimes dropping their blossoms, which become very dry. I get better results watering more deeply and less often, and watering in the morning so that plants have time to rehydrate before having to face up to the day's heat..


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Re: Measuring organic content

Post  sanderson on 9/18/2014, 3:06 am

Gene,  Glad you read the book.  More confused?  That's entirely possible.  I had to read the ANSFG book twice and I still made mistakes or questions that the members helped me overcome.

When it rains, don't water.  Forget about using a cup to water especially in the heat of summer.  That would take forever.  The dry areas of Mix will suck the water out of the wet area.  Most members use drip lines or water with a hose wand.  I use drips, 2 lines or 4 drippers per square.  With mulch such as wood chips or chopped straw, the whole square becomes moist instead of just under the drippers.  In your area, you MUST mulch in the warm months.

Yes, some water will drip out the bottom.  That's what the bottom holes are for.  If you have a lot coming out, skip a day or two, or cut back the minutes.  Forget the Kf and ETc.  I don't think anyone else here uses such.

Don't use both misters and drippers on the same square.  Use a mister wand or spray bottle for the lettuce if you want to mist.

Putting a bed to sleep for the winter.  Mel mentions weed fabric or black plastic.  It will keep falling leaves and wind-borne seeds from getting the Mix.

Composted manure(s) is one source or kind or type.  Count all of them as 1/5. I think someone uses mixed manures as 2/5 of the mix. Mushroom compost is a catch-all 2nd.  Composted tree (leaves, branches or chips) is a 3rd.  Sea source, such as composted seaweed, kelp meal, lobster shell or shrimp shell compost, is a 4th.  Worm castings is a 5th.  Composted veggies is a 6th.  If you make your own in your bins, use 5 different fresh/non-composted types/sources, what ever you want to call them.  Ex:  dry leaves, green grass, fresh manure, shrimp shells or chopped sea weed, chopped produce and coffee grounds.

Finding different sources can be the hardest part.
Veggie compost: Ecoscraps compost, Whole Foods brand of veggie compost.
Worm castings: check Craig's List in your area, or order on-line like from eBay. I have a local "worm man" who sells worm casting, but my first bag was from online.
Kelp meal: It seems someone in your area should be making shrimp compost. At least they should! I ordered from eBay Kelp4Less. I made one compost pile with chopped seaweed, a 2 1/2 hour drive to the ocean.


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Re: Measuring organic content

Post  camprn on 9/18/2014, 7:03 am

Scientifically, Mel is wrong about the manure being all the same.

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Re: Measuring organic content

Post  sanderson on 9/18/2014, 11:31 am

Camp, Yes, you're right. Cool rabbit, hot poultry and hoofed/trunk mediums. I was just trying to keep it (manure) simple in regards to finding some different sources for mixing.

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Re: Measuring organic content

Post  sanderson on 9/29/2014, 2:25 pm

GreenGene, You may be interested in the new Topic "Leaf mold for part of peat?". How are things going?

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Re: Measuring organic content

Post  GreenGene on 9/30/2014, 1:10 pm

Sanderson,  Thanks for the topic heads-up.  I will review it.  Things are going fine for me except for getting a bit behind in garden chores.  As soon as I get this new generator installed and working I will cover the beds with plastic sheeting so they can sleep for a few months through our mild winter.


Thanks,

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Re: Measuring organic content

Post  plantoid on 9/30/2014, 5:34 pm

Gene ,
Perhaps over time  try using better drip heads that can be adjusted to give lesser amounts of water over the timed event.
 
I use min micro sprays instead of drippers so the plants also get leaf watering as well.that come on in early morning before sunrise and again in the evening as the sun declines . I have to adjust the time clock about every two months if i want things to be more precise.

 Look up " Hozelock micro irrigation products " for pictures and descriptions of what I use .. similar stuff should be available in the USA.

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Re: Measuring organic content

Post  GreenGene on 10/1/2014, 2:21 pm

1/2 gph drip emitters satisfies evapotransporation irrigation requirements for my area.  (Based on my local weather and grow zone, generally a 1/4 cup per plant per day is all that is required to keep water readily available in the primary root zone with minimal deep percolation.)  Use of a mister, for me, would be to lower ambient temps during hot summers for heat sensitive crops.

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Re: Measuring organic content

Post  plantoid on 10/1/2014, 3:04 pm

Have I understood things right ?
You complain of water running out the beds carrying away  nutrients .

You use 2 gal per hour because somewhere it states you need that amount.

 
 Question ... Does that 2GPH  really mean of a mother earth garden or a raised bed with MM in it ?

 You could mulch with an inch or so of compost ..that will slow down the evaporation even in the hottest of weather that way you'd need less water in one go & get an overall reduction each day  .   2 GPH does seem high for MM filled beds.

My sprays can be turned down to drip at about 1&1/2 pints per hour if needed though they are usually calibrated by placing one in measuring jug and setting the individual spray head control so I get about 3/4 of a litre  over a period of 5 minutes sprayed low down below the leaves or if on drip mode the head lays direct on the MM by the  base of the pant .

 I water for five minutes twice a day automatically for most of  our UK's warmer weather .

Should it turn hot 80 oF for a change then I'll increase the time slot or if it's really hot at 90 oF plus I'll turn to a three times a day regime . Then check in the early to mid evening to see how successful the penetration of water is and adjust things accordingly as needed.

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Re: Measuring organic content

Post  GreenGene on 10/2/2014, 12:20 am

The 4 zones that contain the 856 emitters drip one half gallon per hour. If I irrigate for periods in excess of 5 minutes visible nutrient loss is observed from the table top beds expelling excess water to the ground.  There are other methods, but what resonated the most in me was to investigate the fundamentals of ETc to answer 'how much should I irrigate?'.  I drip 3 to 4 minutes per day which is about one half cup (3.8 ounces, or about 454 drips) per plant.  My goal is to maximize and maintain available nutrient and water in the primary root zone area while minimizing deep percolation (aka excess water & nutrient going below root zone and exhibited as the table top beds dripping excess.  If my beds were ground based, it might be difficult to visually detect, but could be measured or calculated.)

This isn't SFG, but is incredibly high performance (and cool) in itself.  Makes me want to migrate into more automation.  And I will, in time...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2wWTadsBDA

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Re: Measuring organic content

Post  plantoid on 10/2/2014, 8:06 pm

Perhaps you should say stuff the charts and calculations for your area and go for the more hands on approach
 

Grab a hand full of MM from about an inch and a half below the surface  at various times after watering , give it a squeeze and see how much water comes out . If it's still sopping wet say 10 min after watering I'd offer that you've put too much water on in one place .

 One of the biggest plant killers we have is too much water for too long in one go that washes out the nutrients and encourages hair root rot .  Evidently most plants tend to like their feet  in slighty dry ground that occasionally gets a good soaking rather than ground that gets frequent watering too often.
 

That can be the problem with drippers , the area of watering tends to be very wet adjacent to the dripper ,  it also depends on the make up of your MM . If it has a high wood content from shavings , wood pulp or sawdust that is only partially decayed ( three to four years average rot down time for wood ) it tends to drain down quickly .
 

After a year or so as you " Build the soil "  by adding more and more rotted & rotting composted material to the bed the water retention improves considerably for the maturing bed compost acts like a giant sponge .





 I haven't looked at the tube clip as it's 0111 hrs & is  bed time for me.
 Edit have just looked at it ...

 Question ...  one that that always puzzles me when Ii see these fish fertilizer system hydroponic set up's.
 Where does he get the trace elements for his plants from such as  , selenium & copper by using just fish poop dissolved in water ?



The Israeli's are one of the worlds leading experts in drip & spray irrigation .. they make the desert bloom on a fraction the water most other countries use for crop growing .

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Measuring Organic Content

Post  GloriaG on 10/3/2014, 10:00 am

Hi GreenGene,

I appreciate your desire to learn everything possible about the operation of your table tops.  Like you, I like to understand the science behind what we do.

For background, I have a small hydroponic system, small aeroponic system, some self watering containers and my SFG which has about 250 sq ft. active, plus I have an immature asparagus bed.

From my calculations, if you are watering 3-4 minutes at a time with half gallon emitters,  you are applying between 5.35 gallons (at 3 minutes) and 7.13 gallons (at 4 minutes) to each of your beds twice daily.  Unless you have extreme heat that's too much.  On average a 4' x 4' bed needs just under 10 gallons of water per week.  You can probably reduce your watering time to 2.5 minutes twice per day - or better yet, increase to 5 or 6 minutes once each day.  If your automatic timer won't accommodate 2.5 minutes, water 3 minutes in the morning and 2 in the evening.

Keep in mind that the water you apply flows through the Mels mix SIDEWAYS.  So that what you apply to one plant helps its neighbors. The key therefore, is applying the correct amount of water evenly over the entire bed, not on a plant by plant basis.

Also - plants need a wet/dry cycle.  They need to have enough water to maintain good growth, but their roots also need to be exposed to the air molecules in the soil.  That doesn't happen in super-saturated Mels mix.

Hope this helps,
Gloria

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Re: Measuring organic content

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