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Garden Clean-Up/Preparation

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Garden Clean-Up/Preparation

Post  brianj555 on 12/10/2017, 1:03 pm

After clearing out and cleaning up the bed, do you turn, fluff, stir or otherwise re-mix the MM?  It seems like I have read a little about leaving it alone and then also read about people who re-mix it up because the vermiculite has a tendency to sink to the bottom.  What do you do?
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Re: Garden Clean-Up/Preparation

Post  trolleydriver on 12/10/2017, 1:24 pm

@brianj555 wrote:After clearing out and cleaning up the bed, do you turn, fluff, stir or otherwise re-mix the MM?  It seems like I have read a little about leaving it alone and then also read about people who re-mix it up because the vermiculite has a tendency to sink to the bottom.  What do you do?
Rightly or wrongly, at the end of the growing season I add new home-made compost to each square and stir it in with a three pronged hand held thingy that I got at the dollar store. The beds are then left exposed to the elements (rain, snow, freezing, thawing) until the following Spring. As I replant in the Spring I add another trowel full of compost to each square. I'm looking forward to hearing other comments.

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Re: Garden Clean-Up/Preparation

Post  Scorpio Rising on 12/10/2017, 1:48 pm

I have done both, or a combination of the above!  Last year, I added compost to my old existing beds at Fall.  To my new 3x7 I added it in Spring, of course.  That bed was full of grass, apparently from the incomplete composting of the weeds in the straw...or just weeds.  

This year, I left them naked and unstirred.  James Bond coming to mind!  Will top off with compost and more volume of MM in Spring.  My beds have deflated.
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Re: Garden Clean-Up/Preparation

Post  brianj555 on 12/10/2017, 5:23 pm

Yeah, mine has deflated as well and I also plan to top it off with new mix (prob 2”) but I’m wondering if I should mix the old and the new all up or just leave the new stuff on top.  I would like to stir it all up , not sure why I’m itching to do that, but I don’t want to disturb any kind of beneficial micro ecosystem that could be going on or developing down there.
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Re: Garden Clean-Up/Preparation

Post  sanderson on 12/10/2017, 5:30 pm

I have done all three: added and roughly mixed, added as a thick top dressing only, and done nothing. What I have noticed is that come spring, the microorganisms and red wiggler worms have turned the MM into a fine, wet mix of the consistency of fine ground coffee with a few vermiculite sparkes.  So, this year I am waiting until spring to add more chunky compost to the beds.  That will allow some air pockets.

Brian, I want to protect the microbes, also. But, if I don't roughly mix new compost in, then the vermiculite stays in the bottom. My final decision is that veggies are short term plants so roughly mixing in is the best compromise. Just my thoughts. If I have an orchard, I would not plow.

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Re: Garden Clean-Up/Preparation

Post  trolleydriver on 12/10/2017, 5:31 pm

Brian, I figure, we have plants densely packed in our SFG beds and when we pull them out that disturbs the micro ecosystem anyway. I don't worry about that stuff but maybe I should. We are essentially growing in a soilless mixture and for most of us on a small scale. If we keep adding good compost we should be golden.

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Re: Garden Clean-Up/Preparation

Post  brianj555 on 12/10/2017, 6:21 pm

I think I will mix it since that doesn’t seem like a bad thing to do.   I am very very curious to see if I have a population of worms inside my mix. I don’t think red wigglers are native to my area though.
I am still curious to hear everyone’s thoughts on this though.
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Re: Garden Clean-Up/Preparation

Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on 12/10/2017, 6:55 pm

I have mostly been putting the new stuff on top, but I think my beds could use a good fluff. The texture has gotten a bit stiff below the top half on some of them. I think that's why all my carrots came up 'short.'
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Re: Garden Clean-Up/Preparation

Post  Scorpio Rising on 12/10/2017, 10:33 pm

That’s interesting.  I pull out a good bit of MM with my plants at end of seasons...and there is just plain old gravity.
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Re: Garden Clean-Up/Preparation

Post  CapeCoddess on 12/12/2017, 12:18 pm

For the first time, I've decided to leave the roots in, leaving the microbes undisturbed, and cover the bed with compost without mixing. This may change come spring but for now that's the plan.
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Re: Garden Clean-Up/Preparation

Post  Scorpio Rising on 12/13/2017, 7:54 pm

@CapeCoddess wrote:For the first time, I've decided to leave the roots in, leaving the microbes undisturbed, and cover the bed with compost without mixing.  This may change come spring but for now that's the plan.
I will be so interested in what you deal with in Spring!  I thought about it for Sure!
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Re: Garden Clean-Up/Preparation

Post  countrynaturals on 12/13/2017, 11:16 pm

@CapeCoddess wrote:For the first time, I've decided to leave the roots in, leaving the microbes undisturbed, and cover the bed with compost without mixing.  This may change come spring but for now that's the plan.
Same here. I like the ease and simplicity of this plan. Cool
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Re: Garden Clean-Up/Preparation

Post  meatburner on 12/14/2017, 1:09 am

Suz, this fits right into the BTE gardening method.  Keeping it simple which is what nature does.  We try our very best to make it more complicated because "It cannot be that easy....we need to do more work".  Remember the old commercial, "It's not nice to fool mother nature".  In nature, the roots would be left to decompose so why disturb them.  Just my thoughts.
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Re: Garden Clean-Up/Preparation

Post  brianj555 on 12/14/2017, 9:32 am

@meatburner wrote:Suz, this fits right into the BTE gardening method.  Keeping it simple which is what nature does.  We try our very best to make it more complicated because "It cannot be that easy....we need to do more work".  Remember the old commercial, "It's not nice to fool mother nature".  In nature, the roots would be left to decompose so why disturb them.  Just my thoughts.

This that you are mentioning is sort of where my initial question originated from.  I read somewhere that it was recommended to simply leave the roots in place to break down on their own in the bed.  I can certainly see how this would make perfect sense.  Although when thinking on this, two questions (with a couple sub-questions tongue ) came to mind.  

If I leave the mix alone and only top with new compost, will my vermiculite sink to the bottom?  If so, would it serve it's proper purpose once it does? I certainly see the benefits of strictly adding new compost due to the fuel it would provide, but I'm wondering if topping with new MM would be better???

How long would it take for all of those roots to decompose?  In my zone, I only have 3 months where tomatoes, peppers, cukes, corn ect. aren't in the ground.  Will those roots have time to decompose that quickly in those cold temperature months?  Could it cause problems if they don't get broken down before I put new transplants in?  

I really do want to keep things simple, but in a contained area like a raised bed, is this the best thing to do? Basically, I can see both sides of this coin.  It seems like they both have pros and cons.  I'm just wondering which has the most pros and the least cons.  Wink

Either way, I will be re-mixing this year.  I want to see if I have a worm population becoming established in my mix.  Also, I filled the bed with a 25% vermiculite, 25% peat and 50% compost in July.  I plan to mix in a few new inches of MM, going a little heavy with vermiculite and peat in an attempt to bring the ratio closer to what is suggested in the book.  I will say that my plants produced very well for the most part with the ratio above, (i can only imagine how well they would have done if I knew how to identify and control the critters and then without hurricane nate) but I would think they would only do better with the correct proportions.
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Re: Garden Clean-Up/Preparation

Post  sanderson on 12/15/2017, 2:50 pm

@brianj555 wrote:I read somewhere that it was recommended to simply leave the roots in place to break down on their own in the bed.  I can certainly see how this would make perfect sense.  Although when thinking on this, two questions (with a couple sub-questions tongue ) came to mind.  

If I leave the mix alone and only top with new compost, will my vermiculite sink to the bottom?  If so, would it serve it's proper purpose once it does? I certainly see the benefits of strictly adding new compost due to the fuel it would provide, but I'm wondering if topping with new MM would be better???
If you top with compost, the vermiculite will stay where it is, at the bottom.  It doesn't migrate.

How long would it take for all of those roots to decompose?  In my zone, I only have 3 months where tomatoes, peppers, cukes, corn etc. aren't in the ground.  Will those roots have time to decompose that quickly in those cold temperature months?  Could it cause problems if they don't get broken down before I put new transplants in?
Only one way to find out.  Wink I remove the biggest roots.  Mel pulled out the plants.  But, then, Mel devised a gardening method that works and would allow people to grow some fresh veggies.
  
I really do want to keep things simple, but in a contained area like a raised bed, is this the best thing to do? Basically, I can see both sides of this coin.  It seems like they both have pros and cons.  I'm just wondering which has the most pros and the least cons.  Wink

Either way, I will be re-mixing this year.  I want to see if I have a worm population becoming established in my mix.  Also, I filled the bed with a 25% vermiculite, 25% peat and 50% compost in July.  I plan to mix in a few new inches of MM, going a little heavy with vermiculite and peat in an attempt to bring the ratio closer to what is suggested in the book.  I will say that my plants produced very well for the most part with the ratio above, (i can only imagine how well they would have done if I knew how to identify and control the critters and then without hurricane Nate) but I would think they would only do better with the correct proportions.
I don't know that it is necessary to change your ratio.  People in other countries don't have peat/coir or vermiculite/perlite. And, yes, you did good this year. Very Happy

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Re: Garden Clean-Up/Preparation

Post  Robbomb116 on 12/15/2017, 3:52 pm

The main microorganism I am familiar with is mychorizal fungi,  as I worked as few summers under a soil scientist researching it.   From a mychorizal stance alone, tracing just the roots in doesn't do much more good for them then turning the bed.  

To survive , mychorizal fungi need a living root to attach to. So cutting off the plant and just leaving the roots does little to nothing for them.  That being said there are also some plants that don't form a relationship with the fungi.  A big group for us gardeners are brassicas( cabbage family) so those plants won't help.

Now, it is entirely possible  (and likely) that mixing the beds disturbs other parts of the micro ecosystem besides just mychorizal fungi... but I am only really knowledgeable on the mychorizal.

One option that my boss was researching was the effects of cover crops on the fungi  (long story short, it's really good!) So a cover crop of possibly some rye grass or alfalfa be a great option for your microorganisms if your winters are mild enough for them (but maybe too cold for most veggies, as I'd imagine you'd grow veggies if it was an option.) Bonus with cover crops is you can throw them into the compost pile, and alfalfa fixes nitrogen like beans and peas!

That all being said, I myself did add compost and mix my beds, for compaction reasons, and our winters are so so cold that I can't really do a winter cover crop even if I wanted to.
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Re: Garden Clean-Up/Preparation

Post  brianj555 on 12/15/2017, 6:55 pm

Thanks Sanderson.  Very interesting Rob.
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Re: Garden Clean-Up/Preparation

Post  Robbomb116 on 12/15/2017, 7:11 pm

You can never be too heavy on compost.  In fact, a common problem is to have too much peat moss and/or vermiculite.   To play it on the safe side I am actually planning to use your initial ratio of 50% compost 25% each of the other two for any future beds I make.
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Re: Garden Clean-Up/Preparation

Post  brianj555 on 12/15/2017, 7:27 pm

@Robbomb116 wrote:You can never be too heavy on compost.  In fact, a common problem is to have too much peat moss and/or vermiculite.   To play it on the safe side I am actually planning to use your initial ratio of 50% compost 25% each of the other two for any future beds I make.
That is good to know.  Like I said, that ratio did work very well for me. Maybe I shouldn’t fix anything’s not broken thinking
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Re: Garden Clean-Up/Preparation

Post  sanderson on 12/15/2017, 7:50 pm

Wink

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Re: Garden Clean-Up/Preparation

Post  Scorpio Rising on 12/15/2017, 7:53 pm

Great thread!
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