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    Why Gardening Starts With Growing Good Soil

    Microbiology + nutrient cycle = thriving healthy plants
    by Adam Taggart

    Friday, April 24, 2020, 9:42 PM

For two months now, we’ve been advising readers to “grow a garden” in response to the covid-19 pandemic.

We’re recommending that for a number of reasons.

Food security is the primary one. Domestically, several of the small number of concentrated players in our Big Ag food supply chain have been forced to shutter production facilities due to infected employees. Internationally, we’re seeing emerging evidence that countries are preparing for “national food hoarding”, as Chris wrote about last week.

Gardening is good for your physical health, offering exercise and getting you out into the sun and fresh air — all of which are correlated with lower risk of contracting the coronavirus. It’s also beneficial for your mental health, engaging you in a productive pursuit while offering time for reflection and for communion with nature.

Great, many of those inexperienced with gardening may be thinking, But how do I get started?

We’ve got some great resources here on the site. You can start by reading our DIY instructions for creating a raised bed garden, or by reading our Agriculture & Permaculture forum thread and asking questions of the many knowledgeable gardeners there.

But whether you’re new to gardening or not, your success is rooted (pardon the pun) in appreciating that to grow healthy plants you first need to grow healthy soil.

Perhaps the top soil experts in the world are Paul and Elizabeth Kaiser, owners and operators of Singing Frogs Farm — world famous for their nature-based yet innovative approach to farming, in which no tilling of any kind is done to the soil. No pesticide/herbicide/fungicide sprays (organic or otherwise) are used. And the only fertilizer used is natural compost.

This results in a build-up of nutrient-dense, highly bio-rich topsoil. Where most farms have less than 12 inches of ‘alive’ topsoil in which they can grow things, Singing Frogs’ extends to a depth over 4 feet(!).

Singing Frogs Farm is able to produce 5-7 harvests per year on their land, vs the 1-2 harvest average of other farms. And since the annual crop yield is so much higher, so is the revenue. Most other comparable farms average $14,000 in gross revenue per acre. Singing Frogs grosses nearly $100,000 per acre — a stunning 7x more.

We at Peak Prosperity are huge fans of their model, and have repeatedly interviewed Paul and Elizabeth on our podcast (listen here and here) and have hosted them as featured speakers at several our annual seminars.

So, to help direct and inspire your efforts to get your coronavirus garden off to the right start, here’s an 8-minute clip from the Kaiser’s presentation at our last seminar, showing what’s possible when you focus on growing good soil:

The full seminar presentation is 1h 20min long and is packed with similar valuable insights, fascinating science, and best farming practices. Peak Prosperity’s premium members can watch it in full here.

Inspired but not a premium member yet? Enroll now and start watching.

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37 Comments

  • Sat, Apr 25, 2020 - 4:33am

    #1
    Sundancer

    Sundancer

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    Living plants are critical for healthy soil

    In this video, they are absolutely correct that maintaining living plants in the soil every week of the year is critical for healthy soil.  Living plants feed the soil biology.  Every time you go several weeks with an empty garden bed, a lot of the soil biology dies (starves).

    I do wonder about one thing, though.  They say they are adding about 1/2" of compost every single time they harvest a crop - several times a year. First, that is a huge amount of compost each year.  Over many years, that has a potential to create massive nutrient imbalances, such as an excess level of phosphorus.  Excess levels of some nutrients can actually cause plants to experience nutrient deficiencies of other nutrients - even if there are adequate levels in the soil.  Once some levels get too high, it can take many years to try to correct it. So, using soil tests to keep track of nutrient levels over time can be very helpful.

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  • Sat, Apr 25, 2020 - 5:23am

    #2

    Oliveoilguy

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    Compost

    Good question Sundancer. I would like to know how they source that much compost and how they know that the raw ingredients are “clean”. We make ours in bulk with our horse manure, hay and organic chicken manure.  I put at least 1” on new beds...but still use a tilling method. I agree that no till is better, and hope to get there some day.

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  • Sat, Apr 25, 2020 - 5:35am

    #3

    LesPhelps

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    Soil and Gardening

    First, I'm going to disqualify myself.  I'm no where near the experts that Singing Frogs Farms are.  In fact I've learned from them and modified my approach to no-till gardening.  Second, I do not maintain a 100% organic garden.  I strongly avoid pesticides but use some fertilizer.

    Having said that, playing with growing medium can be fun.

    For my first raised beds, a number of years ago I used sheet mulching to fill my beds.  In the fall, I filled my new beds with a combination of approximately 60% chopped up leaves and 40% grass clippings and allowed it to sit over the winter.  In the spring, I covered this with a couple of inches of compost, to plant in and had a high yield garden season.  You can find videos on sheet mulching on youtube.

    These days, I have access to free compost, so I don't sheet mulch.

    The other resource I'd like to mention is the Mittleider Gardening method.  I came across this when my sister turned me on to the youtube channel of the "LDSPrepper."  LDS stands for Later Day Saints and the LDSPrepper is a rather unusual gentlemen who has fascinating videos on all sorts of advanced gardening methods.  My favorite is probably his video on building a geothermal greenhouse.  He has a greenhouse, I believe in Idaho, that he can keep above freezing all winter with only geothermal temperature control techniques.

    Anyway the LDSPrepper teaches "The Mittleider Gardening Method" and, while it's not organic, it has fascinating aspects.  I think of it as, sort of, half way between soil gardening and hydroponics.  A couple of years ago, I grew my tomatoes in a medium of sand and peat moss, using Mittleider fertilizer for plant nutrients.  It worked like a charm.  Like Singing Frogs methods, Mitleider methods can produce extravagant yields.

    Speaking of hydroponics, I'm thinking of trying a hydroponic tower for growing additional lettuce this year.

    I wouldn't enjoy gardening so much if I didn't have some fun with it.

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  • Sat, Apr 25, 2020 - 7:00am

    #4
    karen is a farmer

    karen is a farmer

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    Farmin in KS

    I have been following these kind of practices for nearly 15 years now and I can tell you the tilth of my soil is like baby powder!! No need to till as you can just run a hoe through the soil.  My practice has been to replace every crop I pull out of the soil with a scoop of compost, manure or other organic material back INTO the soil.  I'm happy to say that the greatest compliment is when your neighbors start to emulate your behaviors.  Great you tube as usual!!! Thank you Peak Prosperity!!

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  • Sat, Apr 25, 2020 - 9:59am

    #5
    vshelford

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    Raised beds = no tilling

    I've always loved raised beds for this reason, although I had no idea about all that neat soil biology going on as a result.  Wish we had that much access to compost, but we have been able to get spoiled hay quite easily (that may have stopped now, hope not) and piled it on, tucking it around everything growing.  It just keeps breaking down.  You do have to watch out for reseeding grasses, but it's not hard to manage, and the plants love it.  Very interested in the value of keeping plants in there all the time.  Maybe clover if the weather doesn't allow for anything else?  Our climate allows us to use the raised beds as essentially root cellars in the winter - I wonder how clover over the top of that would work?  Potatoes survive under anything, in my experience, but carrots maybe not.  Beets have lasted well, but keep growing more top, which may toughen the root.  Ours don't last long enough for me to find out.  It's promising to be an innovative time in the garden!

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  • Sat, Apr 25, 2020 - 5:30pm

    #6
    karenchantal

    karenchantal

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    On chickens

    Not garden related but farm........

    I learned a tragic truth today.

    Roosters eat baby chicks.  I had a baby chick massacre this morning.  I had no idea.

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  • Sat, Apr 25, 2020 - 6:40pm

    MarkM

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    Sorry to hear about the chicks

    Don't give up. Stand up, dust off and consider it a lesson learned...the hard way. We have lost many skills that our grandparents knew.

    Agriculture isn't easy. However, to me, there is importance and meaning in the lessons.

    Keep after it.

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  • Sat, Apr 25, 2020 - 6:50pm

    mntnhousepermi

    mntnhousepermi

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    chicks

    Sorry to hear that .  I have never had a rooster or hen bother the chicks IF they were being raised by a broody hen, their momma hen.  They have always been seen as with her and integration and acceptance is automatic. And, if anyone tries to mess with them, they just run under momma as they are never far from her.

    Now, store bought or incubator hatched chicks cannot be introduced to the flock until older and even then, it must be gradual.  In that case, I put a cage of the new ones inside the chicken yard, so they can be seen and heard for many days while having the protection of the cage they are in.  It is not just roosters, the hens would attack also

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  • Sun, Apr 26, 2020 - 12:05am

    David Allan

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    On chickens

    Hi Karen, I had this issue once a few years back.  At the time I had a broody hen hatching her eggs in the main hen house. When the chicks emerged on the first morning the rooster pecked and killed two or three of the chicks. He did not recognize them as being part of his flock. I thought I would have to cull the rooster but he caused no more trouble - I put mum and the remaining chicks in a separate enclosure within the main chook run for a couple of days before reintegrating them.

    Now I have separate broody 'boxes' where hens can sit quietly and then hatch their chicks.  I'll generally wait 2 or 3 days before integrating them back into the main flock. This also helps me get the chicks started on eating crumble which I feed for the first few weeks.

    On gardening - Les, it sounds like you have a similar approach to me. Its called the biological approach - as opposed to strictly organic. This means building life into the soil and supporting it to be healthy and productive. For me this also includes using some fertilizer. I don't use NPK but instead a broad spectrum mineralization. I use this in the orchard too. What really convinced me was the difference in performance of the fruit and nut trees.

    This year I started using newspaper as sheet mulch for the first time. Modern inks are now non toxic as far as I can see and the paper inhibits weeds, helps retain water and eventually breaks down into the soil.

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  • Sun, Apr 26, 2020 - 3:27pm

    #10

    dtrammel

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    Small Scale vs Large Scale Gardens

    The work Singing Frog Farms does is amazing, but their scale is much larger than most suburban or city gardeners can match. Their information about soil biology and composting though is great.

    I'm at the complete opposite scale than they are, with limited space. I add a 2 cuft bag of a premium compost I get from a local nursery, to my beds at the start of the year, working it into the top few inches of soil to not disturb the microbes. Given the ton of earthworms I see (and the neighborhood robins who forage in my beds when I do that can attest) I must be doing something right.

    Something I do though, is incorporate containers into my raised beds too. Some plants need different soil compositions and PH levels. Trying to tailor the entire bed for one or two plants isn't something I can do.

    Here is one of my new beds. Its primarily for two types of onions with three tomato plants, and two 5 gallon containers with pole beans. I'm going to manage the pole beans along the fence this year and see what kind of yield I can get.

    I'm spacing the containers with the beans out about 6-8 feet apart though the one on the left may get moved. The side yard of my duplex is South facing. This is late afternoon and you can see the left container seriously over shadows the tomato plant next to it. I'm removing the lillies and dirt behind it, to put in paving stones to put containers on, so I might wait before planting in that one til I get that done.

    (Neither container has its dirt or plant in it yet. Been raining here that last few days. They will get soil up to 1-2 inches from the top.)

    Those are onions sprouting if you can see them, in the bed. They are a bit closer than recommended (5-6" apart) but then I tend to harvest some when they get lemon size for steaming. That opens the spacing for the remainders to grow larger.

    BTW looks like I need to reset the concrete blocks around the bed, they are starting to look a bit ragged, lol.

    Speaking of hydroponics, I’m thinking of trying a hydroponic tower for growing additional lettuce this year. I wouldn’t enjoy gardening so much if I didn’t have some fun with it.

    Les, you don't have to go the complete hydroponic route to have year round greens. Here's some of my containers planted last month. Those are 2 gallon buckets. I grow the plants until I get 2-3 months of harvest from them and if I see them start to bolt and sprout seed stalks, I get rid of them and replant.

    If you staggered the buckets time wise, and plant from seed say one bucket each 2 weeks, you could probably have a year round supply with just 6-8 buckets, with a mix of plants. You'd need the grow lamps either way. I move them to the basement when it starts to get warm, since I don't use air conditioning in my home.

     

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  • Sun, Apr 26, 2020 - 7:30pm

    #11
    mntnhousepermi

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    my garden could go in most backyards

    46 feet x  33 feet  -- which includes generous paths and has 700 sq feet of beds.  In this you can grow, in my area and alot of the country.  I should be getting 50 pounds of sweet potatoes; 50 pounds of winter squash; 300 pounds of potatoes; 25 pounds of dry corn; garlic, 104 yellow onions; Too many pounds of tomatoes ( canning 104 pint jars plus as much fresh as we can eat and more to give away) strawberries; carrots; green vegetables of alot of varieties; summer squash to eat and to dry for winter; 12 total italian pepper and bell pepper plants for fresh and dried for winter; cucumbers for fresh and pickles. Then  carrots; lettuce; radish; beets; cabbage/bok choy; green beans in their various seasons.

    Then you can put your fruit trees in the front yard for eating out of hand, canning and drying for off season.

     

    How to Grow More Veg... has a family garden plan that is 1200 sq feet, including paths and that includes 5 dwarf fruit trees ( on almost 500 sq feet of it)

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  • Sun, Apr 26, 2020 - 9:18pm

    sddavis5646@gmail.com

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    Sounds like a great garden.  I have about the same amount of raised beds, but I never know how many of each plant to grow.  Somehow I always wind up eating off the same couple of giant old growth kales all summer and somehow my tomato plants wind up completely exploding out of the greenhouse.

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  • Mon, Apr 27, 2020 - 5:38am

    #13
    Penguin Will

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    Penguin Will said:

    Sundancer: "I do wonder about one thing, though.  They say they are adding about 1/2″ of compost every single time they harvest a crop – several times a year. First, that is a huge amount of compost each year...."

    Yes it is. For a smallish 30'x40' garden 1/2" cover is 50 cubic feet. And for most who don't own their own chickens or have access to manure to compost, that equals about 34 bags of compost. For people who have access to good composting material it is a GREAT thing to do, but not everyone is in position to do so. I do composting as much as I can and don't fertilize but 1/2" on the whole garden is out of my reach.

    Not to complain, but I'd like to see a bit more ~ahem~ humility from some people. Not everyone has the money to set up 800 to 1000 square feet of raised beds. Nor has everyone got the resources to garner 50 cubic feet of compost a year for even a backyard garden. We should be encouraging newbies, not intimidating them with all of this grad school jargon. And if you aren't getting your compost from your own resources or those in your local area? Please don't preach to the rest of us about how your method is SO easy and we should all abandon what we have learned and emulate you.

    And while we're on the subject, I'm not selling my tiller, nor my cultivator, nor my chainsaw, and definitely not my four wheel drive. And it takes a hell of a lot of nerve to get on a forum with strangers and ridicule me for not doing so. Not singling out anyone but if I want to get preached at I'll go into town on sunday and get all I want.

    I hope I haven't made too many people uncomfortable. But the tone of some posts is offsetting. I can't imagine what someone new to this stuff must think.

    Will

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  • Mon, Apr 27, 2020 - 5:11pm

    #14
    Thetallestmanonearth

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    Love this!

    Garden porn is the best! This year we doubled our garden to about 2,500 sq feet. I built a 7’ fence around the whole thing and added Hardy kiwi around the perimeter. Planted a few over priced large walnuts and added ducks and geese to the pond. I raise meal worms in my office for the chickens (so easy!). Would love to have a couple of cows by next year, but fencing ain’t cheap and it’s a lot of work. Every step forward feels like too little in light of what we’re facing but it all adds up.

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  • Mon, Apr 27, 2020 - 5:57pm

    #15
    Mohammed Mast

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    SSAWG

    These are some friends of mine who for the last 29 years have been informing farmers about sustainable agriculture. They have a conference every year in January but because of the virus there won't be one next January.

    A couple of presenters have been Joel Salatin and Will Allen. The link is to the store where videos are available for purchase on a wide range of topics.

    https://www.ssawg.org/shop

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  • Tue, Apr 28, 2020 - 10:24am

    #16
    Sparky1

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    MKNorris free webinar on waterbath and pressure canning tomorrow

    Melissa K. Norris is a blogger and YTer  who produces high quality homesteading/prepping content. She's hosting a free webinar tomorrow (4/29; 4 pm EST/1 pm PST) on waterbath and pressure canning.

    Space is limited, register here:  https://melissaknorris.lpages.co/canning-webinar-april-2020/

    "This is a great opportunity to refresh your canning skills, learn how to can safely from the get-go, and get some tips on streamlining the process with an emphasis on creating meals for your family without spending hours on end every day canning during the busy harvest season of summer."--MKN

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  • Tue, Apr 28, 2020 - 6:49pm

    #17
    Sparky1

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    IceAgeFarmer, "AI Takeover of Food Launched - Trumps' Meat XO" (video)

    "AI Takeover of Food Launched - Trumps' Meat XO" (4/28/20)

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  • Tue, Apr 28, 2020 - 8:04pm

    #18

    dtrammel

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    Trump Orders Meat Processors To Stay Open?

    https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/495175-trump-uses-defense-production-act-to-order-meat-processing-plants-to

    Not sure how this is supposed to work. If it means the processors will have to retool and make their plants more safe, then I'm for it but if workers don't show up, what are they going to do? Order people back to work? Allow immigrant workers in, then kick them out when they get infected?

    I should point out, you don't have to eat as much meat as we do. You can get plenty of protein from vegetables, rice and beans. Plus those store much better.

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  • Tue, Apr 28, 2020 - 8:13pm

    #19

    AKGrannyWGrit

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    Hi Will

    Welcome, and I am okay with your opinion.  Wanted to share with you though, a local brewery puts out their used hops/grain that they make beer with.  I drive up and fill 4 buckets and add to my compost. The grandkids hate the smell (beer). Lol.  Just in case you have a brewery close by. What the heck have a cold one while your at it.😎

     

    AKGrannyWGrit

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  • Tue, Apr 28, 2020 - 8:27pm

    #20

    AKGrannyWGrit

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    Meat processors should be open.

    Certainly it can’t be rocket science to create procedures to provide for a safe and clean environment for workers.  Masks, gloves, appropriate distancing and routine cleaning along with new procedures would enable the continued production.

    Many might say we have always conducted business this way.  A new perspective will say we can completely change the environment to maximize safety and be productive.

    Would you rather have the meat processors shut down and fire all the employees?  Not needed.  We are creative, smart and hard-working.   I have faith in our American workers!  It can be done and should be down.

    We are at war - step it up and git-er-done!

    AKGrannyWGrit

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  • Tue, Apr 28, 2020 - 8:27pm

    #21
    kunga

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    Protein

    I think many people eat too much protein.  The govt. pushes this for seniors.  I am 69 and only crave about 40 grams per day.  Research on line, determine what is ideal for your weight and activity level.  To promote autophagy, cell cleaning, less protein is better.  I agree, David, protein can be found in many foods.  You just have to be conscious to get a complete spectrum of essential amino acids.  Meat, animal products is the easiest.

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  • Tue, Apr 28, 2020 - 8:43pm

    #22
    MQ

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    big meat? no, smaller butchering operations...

    Small--smaller than Tyson and its ilk--butchering operations and shops were deemed to be non-essential and made to close. The large outfits work their people/slaves cheek by jowl and they wonder why they become infected and fall ill or die? It's time to start running our lives and businesses on a human scale.

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  • Tue, Apr 28, 2020 - 9:45pm

    #23

    dtrammel

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    Not Sure If That Is Agreeing With Me, Or The Opposite

    Would you rather have the meat processors shut down and fire all the employees?  Not needed.  We are creative, smart and hard-working.   I have faith in our American workers!  It can be done and should be down.

    As my title says. That said, I would love to see big corporations take worker safety more importantly, I just doubt they will. I expect some cosmetic changes, some safety measures for the cameras but that money will still come down on doing it the cheapest way at the expense of the workers.

    My post was wondering how the Administration thinks a DPA order is going to change that. The cynic in me said it won't and the action is just for show.

    Personally I've stockpiled a little bit of meat in my freezers but honestly, I had been moving towards a less meat diet for the last few years.

     

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  • Wed, Apr 29, 2020 - 5:52am

    Penguin Will

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    Penguin Will said:

    Thank you Granny, I appreciate it. No breweries around here though. Not even a good beer joint although most of the local convenience stores have all the Bud that a man could want. 🙂

    It is a tough thing to get compost. I have a couple composters going all the time, one I made for grass clippings and chicken manure and another we bought for kitchen scraps. It is not enough. We add leaves and whatnot to get it evened out and it works well... but it is not enough. After getting a year or so under our belt on our farm, we decided to stick to what we could make ourselves. So we muddle. We're winning the battle but it is slow steady going.

    But for someone looking to make a change or starting out fresh? They need good accurate info. Not "It worked for me and so that means anyone who doesn't emulate me is a heretic!"

    An example: Dealing with heavy clay soils.

    If someone tells you that they had a clay problem but they put 10 or 20 bags of compost on a typical 30'x40' garden and cured the problem? They didn't have a clay problem to begin with. They had slightly less than optimum soil that was easily rectified with a small intervention. Putting 20 bags of compost on a normal sized garden with a serious clay problem is like tossing 20 sparrows down a hungry lion's throat. It's not nothing but it is only a start. A small one at that.

    A real clay problem saturates itself early in the season to where you can't get in the garden for weeks at a time and then gets a hard crust that denies plants any water at all late in the season. I know because I'm maybe a bit over midway building the soil in our own garden. So far I'd guess I've put half a ton of store bought semi-local organic composted chicken manure, a half ton pickup bed full of composted horse manure, and a couple year's worth of my own high test recipe of grass clippings, chicken manure, and maple leaves.

    Three years in and I'm just now getting to where I am not unhappy with it. A ways to go yet, but we're on our way. My experience is unique to my farm. I'm not saying that what I needed to do is what everyone needs to do. I'm saying that this was what needed to be done here. And ignoring those who had all the answers for totally different facts on the ground was part of the reason this is working. It's all about crafting a local answer to a local problem.

    Will

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  • Wed, Apr 29, 2020 - 7:55am

    #25

    dtrammel

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    I Feel Your Clay Pain

    If someone tells you that they had a clay problem but they put 10 or 20 bags of compost on a typical 30’x40′ garden and cured the problem? They didn’t have a clay problem to begin with. They had slightly less than optimum soil that was easily rectified with a small intervention. Putting 20 bags of compost on a normal sized garden with a serious clay problem is like tossing 20 sparrows down a hungry lion’s throat. It’s not nothing but it is only a start. A small one at that.

    I know what you mean. The soil in my side yard could be used to make bricks, it has a lot of clay in it.

    My experience is nothing like yours based on size, but when I started I dug deep, nearly 18 inches and turned over the soil, then worked compost into the clay. Every year since (going on ten now) I've been working more and more compost into it.

    Even given that, I can still count on a hard crust during the Summer when rain wets it, then the Sun cooks it. I ended up putting a deeper watering system in to may few raised beds, using pvc pipe, that lets me soak the soil 6-8' down and below. Not something you can do, given the size you have.

    Here is my modest attempt:

    All I can offer new people would be look at ways to get water into the ground, below the first few inches. I've seen things like ceramic pots which are buried with plants, that wick water into the subsurface, or pipes that do the same.

    Use that tendency to crust as a advantage to cut down on weeds.

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  • Wed, Apr 29, 2020 - 8:36am

    #26

    dtrammel

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    On A Lighter Note

    Chris so needs to do one of these, lol, but from a Peak Prosperity point of view.

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  • Wed, Apr 29, 2020 - 8:50am

    Dan D. Foe

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    Growing a supply of drying beans, lentils and other legumes is more important that growing meat.

    I should point out, you don’t have to eat as much meat as we do. You can get plenty of protein from vegetables, rice and beans. Plus those store much better.

    I concur.  While eating meat provides Vitamin B12 and protein, it also brings with it an additional measure of fat, and in those who eat too much of it a number of negative health effects -- which most everyone is aware of.

    Growing a good supply of drying beans, lentils, and other legumes is probably more important than keeping industrial-scale slaughter and butchering operations  going.  It's possible to grow at least some of the healthful food we need right at home, and its our duty to try!

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  • Wed, Apr 29, 2020 - 8:56am

    bbtruth

    bbtruth

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    Cool video!

    Great to see a little levity in these times.  Thanks for the video.  I think it is well done,  hilarious, and topical....good humor.

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  • Wed, Apr 29, 2020 - 8:58am

    bbtruth

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    Balance.

    All things in balance.  We have canine teeth for a reason.

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  • Wed, Apr 29, 2020 - 9:10am

    bbtruth

    bbtruth

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    Compost, clay soils.

    I have clay in some of my garden plots and through out my property mixed in with what is considered prime soil in spots.  I compost huge piles of hay to lighten my soil and add organic material.  Takes a few years to compost it right so there are no or few viable seeds in it, but it makes fantastic s oil amendment.  Get some hay bails, lots of them, break them up a bit, keep wet, stir it around time to time.  Takes a few years but is a cheap way to make lots of good compost.  I should add that I do add some well aged cow manure, or as I call it, barn scrapings and now with my addition of chickens I will have more good compost material.  Another long term compost idea I am trying out is this... I cleared 60-70 trees for more orchard space and garden space, couldn't figure out how to dispose of all the brush left over ( a huge mountain of brush).  It was too much to burn, or I would spend all damn summer on burning, and I have way too much to do for that waste of time.  So, I piled the brush in a remote spot and started covering it in dirt.  I figure 6,8, maybe 10 years from now when I have depleted some of my soil, I will have a large pile of composted wood and bark, which to me, is some of the finest compost you can use.

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  • Wed, Apr 29, 2020 - 9:17am

    bbtruth

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    bbtruth said:

    I think too many people believe we are all built the same.  We are not.  Every person is unique in the way their body is put together and functions.  There is no one size fits all and it does get a little old hearing people say "This is what you SHOULD do".  Personally, I don't need other people to tell me what they think I should do or what others should do.  The balance to free will is that actions have consequences.

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  • Wed, Apr 29, 2020 - 9:20am

    #32
    bbtruth

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    One more post...

    Sorry for the troll-like carpet bombing of comments.  I have been hitting it hard at home and only occasionally make time to pop in here.  Had a lot to say, and after putting in so much work, today I am dragging my butt a little in getting outside and getting to it.  Alright, again, apologies.  Back to work.

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  • Wed, Apr 29, 2020 - 10:31am

    MQ

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    reply to compost, clay soils

    Sounds like you are making a hugelkultur bed.

     

    https://www.permaculturenews.org/2010/08/03/the-art-and-science-of-making-a-hugelkultur-bed-transforming-woody-debris-into-a-garden-resource/

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  • Wed, Apr 29, 2020 - 11:15am

    MQ

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    easy way to water clay soil

    I use empty gallon or half gallon jugs, drill several holes around the bottom, and set them into the ground about 6 to 8 inches. I fill the jugs with water and whatever additions I need; compost tea, chicken manure water, magnesium, etc, and put the lid back on fairly loosely. It keeps me from giving the plants a sprinkle and a promise when I'm 'too busy'...would rather read! I really wanted some ollas, but they were too spendy, and I'm impatient and wanted a bunch of waterers at once. Mulch on top and I'm set.

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  • Wed, Apr 29, 2020 - 11:29am

    #35
    Penguin Will

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    Penguin Will said:

    dtrammel and MQ: It sounds like you two have some inventive ways to take care of watering. I have seen a couple folks around here drive pvc pipe with holes in it into the ground to get water deep into the roots for orchards. It sounds similar to what you've described.

    As someone else mentioned you can have a clay problem in one area and not have the problem right beside it. My garden was the worst soil on my place. At least for clay content. Why? Because the previous owners (my aunt and uncle) had a tractor and wanted to make sure they used it. So they did what so many others have done and plowed through the topsoil and brought up subsoil.... mostly clay.

    Argh. 🙂

    The soil right beside the garden has a rich layer maybe a foot deep. More clay than you'd like but very rich. And the whole area was where the barn lot was for as long as anyone can remember. But once the deed was done? A complete rebuilding project of soil as yellow as a pine board.

    Will

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  • Thu, Apr 30, 2020 - 6:00am

    bbtruth

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    hugelkultur...

    I didn't realize there was a name for that.  I just decided to do it based on observation.  When I go out to cut firewood I have seen rotted logs that when you check the underside there is some of the richest, lightest soil you have ever seen.  Seemed like a good way to create long term compost, but yes I have thought of growing stuff right in it too.  Always so much to learn, never stop.

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  • Sat, May 02, 2020 - 4:43am

    #37
    Ilex-opaca

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    Free compost and mulch material

    I pick up about 150 bags of leaves and grass clippings every year in the town near me. I use it all for mulching beds and making compost. I’ve figured out when the trash pickup is in different neighborhoods, and drive through the evening  before. Leaf bags are smooth and trash bags are lumpy. This gives me tons of fertility that would otherwise go in the landfill. By mulching all summer, it keeps the weeds down, holds moisture and feeds the plants all season.

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