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Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Posted by scorpiouno TX (My Page) on
Fri, May 4, 12 at 16:52

I want to take out roughly 5X30 of the grass along our fence to make it a vegetable/flower bed. I want to do this in the shortest amount of time. Effort is not an issue. I am willing to work hard to get it done and I want to do it manually. I have 10 days. I will have 2.5 to 3 hours every day to work on this. I was originally planning to use a shovel to remove the grass where I want the bed and turn it over (based on the recommended procedure I read online from various sources)-quickest way to get it done with minimal problem of weeds growing through. I went to Home Depot today and the lady there suggested that I just lay fabric down on the grass in the shape of the bed I want, make holes where I want the plants, dig and plant them, and then cover up with garden soil and mulch. But the problem with that is I won't then be able to use pave stones to make a nice border for the bed.I realize that this is a tough project.please suggest how I should go about doing this.I plan to start work on this this weekend.
My plan is like I mentioned earlier to dig up the grass along the fence after creating an outline using a rope. turn it over (or throw it out if not needed.suggestions?), get the garden soil in place. (Do I need mulch over that?) Use pave stones to make a nice level border along the bed and also as a border so that grass and weeds don't get into the bed. Also use a bed liner along the fence so that weeds and grass don't get in from the other side of the fence. Please guide me in this to do this project the right way.i have attached a link to photos of my yard. First2are the relevant ones.planning to have the bed along the fence.

Here is a link that might be useful: Photos of my yard


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

No matter how you do it, you're going to be fighting weeds for some months.

For a flower/veg. garden I would immediately write off the Home Depot lady's suggestion. You cannot create such a garden in soil that has not been plowed (turned over) and amended, too. The little plants would just sit there crying. Trying to do it on a plant-by-plant, hole-by-hole basis would be extremely inefficient. You would also be surprised how many weeds would creep their way right to, and out of, the hole that supposedly belonged to your little flower or veg.

Your best bet would be to cut off the sod, an inch or so below its surface, with a rented manual or mechanical sod cutter. If you don't want to incur a rental fee, a flat SHARPENED spade would also work, though it would be a harder job. It would be used in a process of stabbing/slicing sideways below the grass crowns... best done from on your knees. It would be rough work. All of the sod could go in the compost heap. If you don't remove the sod before trying to create a garden, you will be almost guaranteed of an impossible weed problem.

After removing the sod, use a garden spading fork (much easier and better than what a shovel could do) to turn over the top 8" layer of soil. This is a clod-by-clod operation and you wouldn't skip any areas. In the process, you'd whack the clods with the fork in order to aid their disintegration... or lift them high enough that when they drop, they break apart. As you spot taproots of weeds during this process, be sure to pull them out of the garden. Once the soil is turned, use a garden rake to grade it out to relatively smooth. Apply granular fertilizer uniformly to the top surface.

If you don't have access to a lot of well-rotted compost, apply a 4" depth layer of peat moss to the entire garden. (It will seem like a lot, but it will settle a lot; a year later, you will barely believe you added it.) Use the spading fork to turn the hole mess over again in order to mix in the peat. Rake again. Turn over and rake again. It sounds like a lot of bother, but it gets easier... easiest in the final stages. You might sprinkle on a light layer of fertilizer at the end of it.

Plant the garden.

For weed cultivation, I find the triangular, arrowhead-shaped hoe (sharpened) to be preferable.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

I'm too lazy for Yardvaark's method for flower gardens. Sometimes I spray Roundup. Sometimes I don't. Then I pile on the newspaper and put a bunch of mulch on top of that and plant through it. By the time the newspaper rots, all the plants underneath are dead.

You can do this with veggie gardening, too, but only if you're planting transplants the first year, and you'd have a lot more weeds around them. Look at the lasagna gardening method for more.

Roundup would allow you to use Yardvaark's method and NOT remove the sod but turn it into the soil and let it rot and enrich the soil. It would also lead to fewer weeds because all the roots you accidentally leave will be dead, too.

I'm redoing my veggie garden. I'm going to Roundup the grass around the current beds, scalp it, reshape the beds, plant a cover crop, and then give it a final turning before planting it next year. But that's because I'm willing to wait a year for food crops.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

  • Posted by natal Louisiana 8b (My Page) on
    Sat, May 5, 12 at 11:16

I always remove the sod when creating new beds. I want a clean bed to turn and amend.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Why so strict a time line in accomplishing this? Roughly 30 hours to dig out, till up a bit (triangle hoe is good, so is a long handled three prong cultivator), weed, amend, and plant means everything is getting short shrift.

Although I've bought plants from Home Depot, I wouldn't "buy" any of their advice. I might also resign myself to the fact that the 2012 season might be better spent prepping a spot for planting in the 2013 season.

If I were really antsy to do something - I'd plot out some smaller spaces, remove the sod, hoe up, amend, and perhaps put in a clump or two of some perennial or a small shrub... things that can easily be moved or worked around at a later date.

We've probably all done things in a scatter shot manner at one time or another, but I keep going back to wondering about the @2.5 hrs. a day for 10 days schedule.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

It is "I have 10 days." that is the controlling factor on what method can be used. The "paper/cardboard smothering" method will not allow for any amendment to be worked into soil prior to planting. If there were a couple month's waiting time available, either of reyesuela's methods would work fine.

(FYI, smothering an area with cardboard and mulch will not rid it of the evil nutsedge!)


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Thank you for the responses so far.
I have a 10 day timeframe because my wife is out of town and I want to get this done as a surprise for her before she gets back.

I was thinking no Roundup cos it is supposed to take 4-6 weeks for anything to grow in the soil that has Roundup(am I wrong about this?)

I also thought what the lady suggested at Home Depot wasn't right. Wasn't too keen about that idea. So what I originally thought I'd do is better according to Yardvaark.
I didn't understand how I'd use a spade while on my knees. Use both hands to jame it in under the grass? I don't think my grass is like sod anymore(am i wrong here). Were you able to open the link I sent with the photos of my yard? with that kind of grass, it is still the same procedure but just digging up the grass is what I should be doing? Of course tilling all the soil after that is still there. You aksed me to use peat moss. i was going to use gardening soil. Is that a bad idea? It has peat moss also in it. Check the attached link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Organic MiracleGro garden soil


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

I am contemplating between the second and third style of borders in this page - paver border or raised bed with border.

Suggestions?

Here is a link that might be useful: Borders for the bed


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Round-Up is supposedly "safe" once it dries on a surface. It does not linger in the soil for long and it won't be picked up in other plants' root systems. It does take a bit of time to kill grass though - it's not instant death.

And you still should lift the dead grass or it'll remain a dried dead mat. If your grass has been in place for a while, it's more than likely developed a deeper root system than you'd ever find on relatively newly laid sheared sod rolls.

You don't dig up grass/sod on your knees. Do you have a good shovel or spade? Because of my limitations, I prefer the short D-handled shovels while others prefer the long handles. You have to test out tools in the store to find what's right for you.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

  • Posted by natal Louisiana 8b (My Page) on
    Sat, May 5, 12 at 13:48

Looks like you have St. Augustine grass. It's much easier to slice the top layer of sod if you're down on your knees close to it. You can do all the slicing at once, or slice and lift as you go.

Would probably be much cheaper to get a load of garden soil delivered from one of your local nurseries.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

The Roundup (Glysophate) works by being absorbed into leaf or green tissue. Once inside the plant it moves to the various plant parts. It isn't taken in by the root. (Though, I'm sure if you were to soak a plant root in Roundup, it couldn't help but absorb some.) Nevertheless, with the 10-day limit, Roundup isn't going to help you that much so I'd not bother with it and have no possibility of its acting on roots.

About removing sod... in the diagram, if you were to remove sod from a standing position with a shovel (scheme B) it would inefficiently require you to take many more, but smaller "bites" and inadvertently remove much soil in the process. (But you get to stand up!) Scheme A is much more efficient (in not removing soil) but requires that you hold the flat blade of a spade nearly parallel to the ground surface... obviously, very difficult to do while standing. You'd hold the spade with two hands and slice away the sod (with a stabbing motion) just below it's surface. It's trial and error and your grass species that would determine the proper depth at which to cleave.

@ soil amendment... In the case of your garden, you're already starting with 100% soil. You don't need to add any more soil as it won't do anything at all to change the soil structure. It is ORGANIC MATTER that will do that. While bagged "garden soil" will have peat moss in it, the amount will be relatively low relative to its volume. If it's 25% peat, you'll need to add 4 times the amount you would need if you were adding just pure peat moss. This is extremely inefficient in terms of labor, cost and added bulk.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

If scorpiouno elects to go with a raised bed, I don't know that he has to worry about that St. Augustine. I dumped six inches of soil into a bed overrun with it a couple of years ago, and that was the end of it.

I'm not totally convinced that peat moss would be the only, or the most cost effective amendment for heavy Houston soil ('gumbo,' I think they call it.) Over the long haul, peat moss can become very compacted and disinclined to drain well.

Not to change the subject, but I've been experimenting with trying to eradicate field bindweed with a concentrated form of Roundup. Occasionally, I've been able to pull up long underground bindweed runners, and I've been inserting the scraped ends of these into bottles filled with a 15% glyphosate solution. These runners are typically 1/4th to 3/8th inches thick, and some have guzzled a good two or three ounces of the solution. I've lately been seeing some dead bindwood foliage in the shrubs, but it's really too soon to tell.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Whitecap, the condition you are describing I don't think is compaction, but sounds like when peat becomes bone dry in a pot. That doesn't happen when mixed with soil in a garden. And even in a pot, if soaked (literally) and moistened, it drains fine. Since it can be purchased anywhere, scorpio would have no trouble finding. What other organic matter would be readily available, more cost effective and do an equal or superior job?


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

>I want a clean bed to turn and amend.

Can't turn beds here. Don't dare disturb the tree roots. I just top dress!

>The "paper/cardboard smothering" method will not allow for any amendment to be worked into soil prior to planting. If there were a couple month's waiting time available, either of reyesuela's methods would work fine.

And since that's not an option here for me, I don't worry about it. :-)

You could still plant straight through newspaper and topdress with compost with compost as long as you give it a kick of nitrogen as you plant--organic fert, if you prefer. If you're going no-till, that would work fine. There are those who are REALLY hardcore on not disrupting the soil layers, and then there are those who say aeration and amendment above all. I think either work fine.

But you have to REALLY rethink your whole approach to making a bed if you're going truly no till versus traditional methods.

Yardvaark's approach is much more traditional, and it will absolutely get you where you want to go in 10 days.

And, yes, there are a few weeds that will laugh madly at the smothering. But there are a few weeds that will laugh madly at being all chopped up--and spread throughout the bed! So if you have something nasty that likes to be all chopped up, Roundup first and wait for death BEFORE removing the top layer if you choose to dig it. With smothering, you can Roundup and then smother whenever--it'll die as long as the leaf is attached to the root whether or not it's visible.

I've discovered that my ground gets super soft in about a year with the layering method, just by keeping on feeding with compost and mulch a good top level of plant material. I go from struggling to get a shovel in an inch to being able to slip the blade up to the top easily. (If I don't hit a root, ahem.) Earthworms appear out of nowhere, too.

Clean edges are harder to initially get with this method--a weed whacker turned sideways can clear a little trench. No matter what method you use, with St. Augustine, it's the easiest way to maintain a nice sharp edge. There's no reason to buy edging material. The St. Augustine will just jump it.

If you're more comfortable with traditional methods, go for digging in amendments, and you'll have a result that looks and feels just like you want it to as soon as you're done. In Texas, I did this--St. Augustine is actually ridiculously easy to remove! In Indiana, I was restricted to pots. :-) In New Mexico, I mostly levered rocks out of the caliche and, since pickaxes are NOT my favorite, I piled on topsoil and LOTS of compost and did the forbidden the first year by working the ground wet (the only way to avoid that pickaxe) to get enough things in the ground to make a sparse green canopy over the soil and give food to the starving microbes. There really weren't any weeds to deal with there! Here in Maryland, with lots of shallow roots of trees and a huge yard, I layer and then mulch, and I fertilize just a little. (These are all for ornamental beds--for veggie beds, more compost and fert are necessary immediately.)

I got the same results everywhere. It was just a matter of preference!


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Oh, I don't pretend to speak with authority on the properties of peat moss. One reason I'm disenchanted with it is that, over a period of a couple of years or so, it lost a good 50 to 60% of its volume, and became difficult to turn with a shovel, in a raised bed I had used a lot of it in. Another is that, if you use it as your primary planting medium in containers, in a couple of years it will become a soggy, undrainable mess, necessitating repotting. I've found ample confirmation of my experiences here both on the Container Gardening and Azalea forums.

It seems to remain an open question whether the OP will go for a flat or raised bed. If the latter, I assume he will either bring in a planting medium and place it over the existing soil, or work some "amendments" into the existing soil. Were it me, I would be tempted to use more bark and less peat moss in the mix, and maybe even throw in some decomposed granite. Since as much as 4 or 5 yards may be required, perhaps buying a "tried and true" mix in bulk from a trusted gardening materials supplier would be the way to go. Certainly not Home Depot, though.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

There's a lot of "junk science" swirling around here, but I believe some trials by Texas A & M and the Dallas Arboretum have made a strong case that expanded shale may be the most effective amendment for clay soils.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

I remember reading years and years ago on the soil forum that adding peat moss to our heavy clay soil only makes matters worse. I never did that and am glad for it.

Since the OP has St Augustine and not Bermuda he'll have a much easier time killing off his grass and getting a nice bed going.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Some people, regrettably, are coldly indifferent to the predatory harvesting of peat from our pristine bogs.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Wonderful information everyone! Thank you so much for all the tips. I have to go through all of this information a few more times to understand it all better. From what I got so far though, aardvark's suggestions seem to be most recommended and that I have to be careful about using too much peat moss. I will post again in a few hours again after going through all the information you have provided.

I am thinking of starting on the border as mentioned in the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Border for the bed


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

I read what's been said a bit differently - that the best answer depends on what kind of a bed you are making.

If it is a raised bed, bordered with brick, stone, or timbers, you can simply install the edging and put soil, with or without a newspaper layer, over the grass - the grass will die underneath and you can plant right away.

If the bed is to be flush with the present ground level, you do have to remove the grass... in other words, the process shown in the HD tutorial simply needs to be taken over the whole surface. This is basically what Yardvaark described.

And either way, peat sounds like a bad idea for your soil.

But you know, if I were you I'd want to be really sure you are building this bed where your wife would want it...? Surprises are good, but if she's the gardener, she might have an opinion about the placement.

Karin L


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Thanks Karin.

The bed is going to be almost level with the rest of the yard. So aardvark's way it is.

About the placement of the bed - already discussed it with my wife and told her I will have a contractor do it in a few months. She knows where it will be. Just won't know that it is going to be ready so soon. :)


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

I don't know where all the information about peat being "bad for" is coming from. It is organic matter that is essential to garden soil amendment. Using some woody products that are not decomposed--sawdust or chopped straw, for example--are likely to cause a nitrogen deficiency that, oddly, cannot be overcome with the simple addition of more nitrogen. Peat does not cause this condition. Regarding the addition of expanded shale... the conclusions that can be drawn from the study are complicated because there are a great many variables to the study. One that might be noted here is: "...but plant growth in the 75% pine bark + 25% sphagnum peat moss mix and the 50% pine bark + 50% biosolids mix was diminished by including expanded shale in the mix." [This from American Society for Hort. Sci.] So it is not a panacea and the studies are premised on shale being added to soil mixes which already primarily comprised of high levels of organic matter... not just raw garden soil. Add expanded shale to the garden, if desired. But don't leave out the O.M!

Peat is not only a readily available source of organic matter, but has stood the test of time as a soil amendment. It will have no negative effect. Further, what other O.M. is as safe, available and inexpensive? The only thing I know of is one's own home made compost if they are lucky enough to already have it. Peat is what to use when compost is not available.

As far as being "coldly indifferent to the predatory harvesting of peat from our pristine bogs..." I can honestly say that I never buy and use a bag of it without a good cry session and it never goes unreported at the confessional!


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Truly, the heavens weep.

I wonder if we're mixing apples and oranges here. No one would doubt that organic products are better than shale if soil fertility is the goal. The purpose of expanded shale, however, is to make and keep clay soils friable, and it doesn't degrade and compact over time like organic materials.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

  • Posted by natal Louisiana 8b (My Page) on
    Sun, May 6, 12 at 17:56

On the subject of amendments ...

Scorpio, after you create that flower bed your next project should be a compost system. There's nothing like that black gold! We created our bins a year before we put in the first garden in 1986. Still had to buy soil amendments for the first couple years, but not since. I've created and amended many beds in the past 25 years all with homemade compost.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

This is my understanding of the problem with adding peat to our clay soil: Ours is already full of decomposed organic material-- but it is compacted.
It already holds water pretty good, until we get to the summer when its hot and dry, then it turns to rock hard cement.

Years ago on the soil forum some very wise people pointed out that our clay soils just need loosing up, not more compacted already decomposed organic stuff added to it.

Using peat there's nothing there for Mother Nature to work on. It doesn't improve anything only makes the soil more compact.

Better is: adding raw kitchen waste, dry leaves and grass, & paper, (lasagna style or put into holes through out the bed) encourages Mother Nature to go to work on it for you.

Let the worms and microbes do their job. The soil is better for it, you haven't disturbed the structure with tilling either. It may take longer, but it is better in the long run.
So the options in our clay soil are to loosen up the soil via Mother Nature or make raise beds and haul in good soil to fill those beds or a combination: make a raised bed, but before putting in good soil put a layer of stuff to decompose (via Mother Nature) then your good soil. Over time the stuff underneath will soften the clay and you'll have really good lose dirt pretty deep down.

Now, sandy soils are a totally different (opposite) matter to contend with.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Why 10 days, its almost too late to plant nearly everything except things that survive in heat like peppers in almost all of texas. If it were me I would lay out newspaper, roundup, sit for a week, till it up, order an entire dump truck load of topsoil ammend with bonemeal, compost, and manure, retill, hoe in some nice rows, and go that route. You could even consider covering with mulch or landscape fabric to prevent weeds that are so prevalent with the drought throughout texas right now. Just some friendly heads up.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

  • Posted by natal Louisiana 8b (My Page) on
    Sun, May 6, 12 at 18:26

Finally Googled expanded shale. Sounds like it's used the same as coarse vermiculite. That's what we added to the garden along with cow manure and peat the first couple years. Now it's strictly compost.


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RE: Help with laqying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Thank you whitecap!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Shale is a great idea that I had not thought of, before I create a 1/2 acre garden! The Dallas arboretum is beautiful, not to mention the shell won't displace, I would also think crushed oyster shell "calcium" would work well in beds.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

I see I've got a message from Captain Obvious here. Let's see . . . "Why couldn't you add both expanded shale and organics to the soil?" Hmmm . . .Strikes me as borderline impudent.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

"... my understanding of the problem with adding peat to our clay soil: Ours is already full of decomposed organic material-- but it is compacted. "

This is theoretical and just wrong. A clay soil that is compacted is a soil that has LITTLE or NO organic matter in it. While clay has little problem holding nutrients, it neither breathes, drains or releases nutrients to plant roots. Dry, it is an adobe brick.

Loam, a MIXTURE of clay, sand and decomposed organic matter is the ideal natural soil for growing most plants... especially garden-type flowers and vegetable. Of loam's three components, it is only DECOMPOSED ORGANIC MATTER that could grow plants well without the other two components being present. Neither sand alone nor clay alone grows plants well. The cure to sandy soil is the addition of organic matter. The cure to a clay soil is the addition of organic matter. Organic matter makes soil rich, dark, moisture and oxygen-holding, facilitates drainage and is the best for transferring nutrients in the soil to plant roots. Decomposed organic matter--compost--is like a moist, dark, nutrient rich, breathing sponge.

In some places nice loamy soil already exists as a gift from nature. In many other places, soil is too sandy or has too much clay... and little organic matter so won't hold nutrients, or oxygen, or water. It's usually good enough for growing woody plants and tough perennials, but inadequate for vegetable and flower annuals so we must amend it. If we add sand to a clay soil to make it drain better, or if we add clay to a too sandy soil to make it hold water and nutrients better, we'll still end up with a soil insufficient for growing garden plants. In ALL cases, adding decomposed organic matter will cure the ailing soil... even if we don't add more sand or clay to compensate for a shortfall of either.

Nature makes compost--decomposed organic matter--all the time. It's epitomized by the process of dying leaves falling to the ground, rotting and adding themselves to the soil layer. The places where this has happened over a long period of time are the places with rich, dark, moist soil. Unfortunately, when we build a garden and need to improve the soil, we don't necessarily have a ready supply of natural (or man-made) compost standing by. And UN-decomposed organic matter is not a substitute. Using fresh vegetation before it has composted will NOT grow plants. Go gardeners must look for a substitute. Semi-decomposed peat moss has so far proven to be the leading substitute for natural compost that has thus far been found. It's readily available and comparatively inexpensive. To anyone claiming there's a drawback to using it that would suggest it shouldn't be used, I say nonsense. It's been in use and proven itself for many decades longer than any other product. It is the universal essential ingredient in almost every packaged soil mix. As far as I know, there is not any other product as available or offers the benefits it does. (One of which is water holding ability... essential to gardening. Peat can hold between 15 and 20 times its dry weight of water.) The idea that it contributes to compaction of the soil is just wrong. It does exactly the opposite. Peat, as it's purchased, is not 100% decomposed and continues to break down after it's incorporated into the soil. But it only turns further into compost, becoming even more beneficial.

There are many products that can be used to amend soil: Perlite, Vermiculite, expanded shale, gypsum, sand, clay, etc. While each may have its purpose, none of those based on mineral alone come close to equaling what compost does to make a soil "garden ready." The question comes down to, "What will a person use INSTEAD of compost if they don't yet have compost?" Since a person can buy compost, it seems that the answer would be just to buy bagged compost. But when one begins to look at how much of it they really need, and the cost, they'd quickly see that it is prohibitively expensive for a garden of any size.

The only disadvantage (and I hate to call it that because it's so easily addressed) is that if peat is used in a high ratio to other garden soil (40-ish%) and the surface of the garden is allowed to become bone dry, then peat at the soil surface will behave like a crusty, dried dish rag and refuse to accept water. The solution is to wet it slowly. Sprinkle and wait 5 minutes. Sprinkle again. In short order it'll be just fine for taking on regular watering. Or one can cultivate for weeds and expose the not so dry soil just below the surface and the garden will then accept water. Or one can mulch--even with regular soil-- and the garden can be watered. There are so many ways around it that it's not an issue.

Still in doubt after all the nay-saying? I can tell that a lot of the advice against using peat moss is not coming from users, but those who are not users. Since the proof will be in the pudding, it's easy enough to buy a single bale of peat and incorporate it as a test into a small area. (A 4 to 5" layer of it.) Mix it in good, water and see what you think.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

And I say it's far too precious a resource to be mucked around with like this. It ought to be held in reserve against the day the Scots run short of it.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

I do not know the science of it, I'm just relating to you what I was told years ago on the soil forum about improving clay soils in Texas. YOU asked.

It made perfect sense to me. There was quite a discussion about this around 10 - 12 years ago. I don't even remember who was involved way back then. They had experience and science to support their position.

It is physically impossible _for me_ to mix peat into clay soil AND it doesn't make sense to me to even try it. Per the discussion from years ago: it makes matters worse to do so.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

I am simply amazed by all the assistance I am getting here.

I would definitely love to have a compost system. Can anyone please provide some links where I can get information on getting that done?

I got started on digging up the grass today. It is tiring but not as tough as people warned me it would be. I think I got aroung 1/3rd of it out in a little over 2 hours. I should be done with getting the grass out tomorrow. Worst case Tuesday. i will post the pictures in a bit for y'all to see and suggest what I do with the soil.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

The real issue is what the consistency of your "pudding" will be like in a year or two. Peat moss, over time, subsides, becomes compacted, and ceases to drain well. That is what I have observed with my own eyes, and felt with my own hands. It simply loses the air that makes it so wonderfully light and fluffy. You will have to add substantial amounts of it, at regular intervals, to maintain a suitable measure of porosity in clay soil. Expanded shale, on the other hand, does not lose its porosity over time. I find no great difficulty in supposing that there might be a role for each to play in soil composition.

Most of the compost geeks hang out over on the Soil forum, Scorpio.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

>Some people, regrettably, are coldly indifferent to the predatory harvesting of peat from our pristine bogs.

Don't be absurd. You do realize that Canadian peat is not only renewable but is being produced many times faster than it's being used, right? *rolls eyes*

Why do people hate clay soil???? All it needs is some OM, and it's beautiful for most plants. And OM is SO, SO easy to get. Just stick some plants in the ground. Throw a bunch of mulch around them. Hit them with nitrogen so they grow nice and big and shade the ground to it retains moisture. All the microbes and larger beasties will come running, and soon you have an all-you-can-eat buffet from the mulch you keep adding, the fallen leaves and OM from the plants you're growing, and an occasional nitrogen hit from your favorite source. The soil gets soft all on its own, and the critters and the roots move the OM down through the layers just fine without me touching them.

It's not instant results. It takes a year or so for the first 4-6 inches to get really nice and friable, and after that, you can expect only about an inch a year to loosen up.

I'm FROM Bryan/College Station, and I think the salt in the water is as much or more a problem as the slick red clay you start with. Having lived on NM caliche, B/CS clay, and what people in Maryland laughably call clay (I think I could put a dead stick in the ground here, and it'd flower by next week), the only one that's challenging is the B/CS clay. Not fully sure why it's harder to make lovely than high desert caliche, but it is. I'd blame the alkalinity, but NM was alkaline, too. *shrugs* In B/CS, I'd probably still favor working in amendments for faster results. But it might be just because I did a lot of my gardening there as a kid and didn't know as much about growing things intelligently!


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shoveling

yaardvark
i am using the shovel method from the picture you gave but it isn't coming out jagged as in the pic. its coming out uniformly flat


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photos

Here are photos of where work on the bed ended for me today.

Please take a look at the picture of the soil & let me know your opinions. Not that you havent given it already :)

Loving all the knowledge i'm gaining through y'all.

Here is a link that might be useful: As it is right now


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

You need to get your irony detector checked, Eyeroller.

Looks like pretty good dirt to me, Scorpio--better than a lot of us have.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Now that patch that you see I am working on for the bed, like I said is around 5x30. After I got the grass out, my fingers were able to go a little over 2 inches into the soil. How many inches above it do you think I should fill up(not a raised bed. will be raised just a little bit to come up to almost the paver border level that I plan to use)? Based on the photos (I can post more today evening with the soil in my hand to show how it exactly is), what do you think the composition should be of the soil mix I fill on top?


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

"Peat moss, over time, subsides, becomes compacted, and ceases to drain well."

If one begins with a 100 lb. log and submits it to the decomposition process, at the end of that process, the log may have shrunk into a pile of black rot that only weighs only 10 lb. Since peat moss is not fully decomposed when you put it in the garden, over the course of a year it is ever-shrinking as it submits to the decomposition process and becomes only a fraction of the volume of which it started. The lessened drainage and greater compaction after one year is not the result of peat being added. It's the result of its "disappearing" due to the decomposition process and the soil reverting to its original poor draining, compacted state. To change the bad soil of a garden into good soil takes A LOT of organic matter. It is a joke to mix a 1" layer of peat into an 8" depth of garden soil and expect it to make any visible or meaningful improvement in the soil. It takes a 4 or 5" layer. "You will have to add substantial amounts of it, at regular intervals, to maintain a suitable measure of porosity in clay soil." True. A year later, peat will have decomposed to the equivalent of a 1" layer. So it will be time to add compost or more peat. But each time one does, they "fluff" the soil back to a state where it will hold water and nutrients and grow plants easily. Soil building takes the annual or semi-annual addition of decomposed organic matter (which might start out as un-decomposed peat fresh out of a bag) over the course of a few years in order to bring it to a permanent state of loveliness. After a point, it will not be necessary to add further O.M. It will just need fertilizer. As stated earlier, but I repeat, if a person has a source of decomposed organic matter, then there is no need to purchase and use peat moss. Peat moss is the readily available product that works when D.O.M is not otherwise available. Very few new gardeners just starting out have a ready supply of compost. The process of garden preparation that I described earlier was not meant to imply that it's all a person ever needs to do in order to maintain a garden. It's simply what a person needs to do to get it going.

"Expanded shale, on the other hand, does not lose its porosity over time. I find no great difficulty in supposing that there might be a role for each to play in soil composition. We're not in disagreement about that. The same is true of sand, perlite or other mineral ingredients. If added to a soil to improve drainage, they will not decompose and "disappear." However, these mineral ingredients are not a substitute for decomposed organic matter. They can be added in ADDITION to O.M., but not in place of it. They don't have the nutrient transferring or water-holding abilities that O.M. does. As reported earlier, in some of the samples to which expanded shale was added for testing, the results were inferior, not superior.

"It ought to be held in reserve against the day the Scots run short of it." The Scots have been hanging on to their old phone books getting ready for just such a day.

"I would definitely love to have a compost system." Find a place in the yard where you can toss all of the sod you are removing, grass clippings, leaves and other landscape waste, kitchen garbage and the pet goldfish when it croaks. Now you have a compost system! As long as it remains a tiny bit moist you will be hard pressed to stop things in it from rotting.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

  • Posted by natal Louisiana 8b (My Page) on
    Mon, May 7, 12 at 10:51

Find a place in the yard where you can toss all of the sod you are removing, grass clippings, leaves and other landscape waste, kitchen garbage and the pet goldfish when it croaks. Now you have a compost system! As long as it remains a tiny bit moist you will be hard pressed to stop things in it from rotting.

Yup, easy as that. If you want to make it more attractive you can build bins.

Ours is tucked into a corner of the yard. It's 27 years old and needs to be rebuilt. The original sliding doors rotted years ago and the posts are slowly doing the same, but it still gets the job done.

Here is a link that might be useful: a few compost system designs


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

During your sojourn near the Texas border, did you perchance become acquainted with a curiosity known as the "jumping bean"? That's the way this discussion has been going. I'm trying to talk about friability, and you keep flipping the subject back to fertility. Texas farmers raise a great variety of food, feed and fiber crops without the use of peat moss or, for that matter, other "organic" amendments. In fact, clay soil is considered optimal for "dry farming" because it retains the scant moisture it receives for so long. No, the problem faced by the Texas farmer is keeping the soil loose enough to work and to allow adequate root expansion. He has solved that problem through mechanization. Now, Scorpio here probably has neither mule nor tractor. He needs to keep the soil in his bed friable with unnecessary cost and effort. I have serious doubts that peat most is the most direct path to that end. Based on personal experience, I'm convinced that, were you to fill a raised bed with nothing but peat moss, it wouldn't be much more workable than clay, after a year or two. Wouldn't be much of it left, either.

Never heard of drying malted barley with old phone books. You're too subtle for me today.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Yes Whitecap.. like I've been saying...
for our Texas clay, the best option is to help Mother Nature do the heavy lifting. Get those worms and microbes busy: feed them!! Sit back and drink a cold one or 2.

In the long run this is the best, cheapest and easiest option.

I have also occasionally gotten my hands on horse stall sweepings,(both fresh and composted) and donkey manure. Both are spread on top of the beds. I don't even need to work them into the soil, Mother Nature takes care of that too. Both are mild enough you can put it fresh on perennials with out hurting them.

When we had the back yard at our present house re graded, re sodded and new beds put in, I got a huge flatbed of horse manure. There was enough for one of the new beds and one of the established but enlarged (rotten soil) beds.
The foreman on the job said he wished we could have gotten more for laying down before the sod went down.
If I had a place to store it while the work was going on I would have!

He told me that was one of the best things I could do for our soil and he wished more people would be open to doing things that way.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

"Get those worms and microbes busy: feed them!!" Feed them what... table scraps, yard clippings? This is nothing other than the act of creating decomposed organic matter. So there's no dispute about it. But, eventually, for it to change the soil structure of a garden, it must be worked into the plant root zone. If a person can entice worms to do it for them, that's great. But it cannot be done that way in 10 days!

Horse manure and bedding? It's just another source of organic matter. Must be used with caution if incorporating INTO the soil if too fresh or it may give year-long nitrogen deficiency as the woody parts break down. Great as a mulch depending on how fresh and how deep. Fully composted, fantastic in or on.

Whitecap, I've been talking of friability, too. Only mentioned fertility as an incidental.

The phonebooks are a fuel source.

"...the problem faced by the Texas farmer is keeping the soil loose enough to work and to allow adequate root expansion. He has solved that problem through mechanization." Though we frequently refer to various soils as "clay," they in fact are not pure clay. If they were, farmers wouldn't be able to grow anything whether they plowed or not. Those are really clay loams or loamy clay. There has to be some organic matter in a soil to make it tolerable to garden and agricultural plants. With some level of O.M., a farmer can plow to mechanically loosen soil. But if this is all that's done, over the years the soil never improves its friability. One way farmers incorporate O.M. into the soil is to leave the crop by-products--stalks, leaves, etc.--in the field and plow it in. Over time, this matter composts in place and the soil friability improves.

"I'm convinced that, were you to fill a raised bed with nothing but peat moss, it wouldn't be much more workable than clay, after a year or two." IF you let it become BONE DRY like a mummy, it would neither be workable, grow plants or continue decomposing. If you kept it moist, it would be a giant Jiffy pot. Over time, it would continue the process of decomposing (just like any other vegetation) and just become more generic compost, albeit much less quantity than what you started with. You'll not find me arguing in favor of pure compost or pure peat as the ideal soil medium. The addition of sand and clay improve it and in garden soil's most improved state, it's going to be some variety of loam.

The question is, "How do we achieve a soil akin to ideal loam when we don't have compost available?" If a person doesn't want to add decomposed organic matter (or it's substitute), or mix it in, they're not going to achieve a loam soil near a quickly as if they did these things. The nice thing about peat is that, if one incorporates a sufficient amount of it into their garden before they plant, the garden behaves as if they had been adding compost for years! Is it a one-time, permanent fix? No. More must be added later to compensate for it's decomposition. (It would probably require 3 years of LIBERAL peat additions in order to achieve a decent soil if not relying on any compost.)

If a person had clay soil and amended it ONLY with sand or exp. shale, they'd be improving the soil. But making it IDEAL for plant growth? Not really.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Let me come at it sideways: What do you suppose might be the percentage of air in a BigBox bag of peat moss? Surely the goal is to reduce the amount of material that must be added periodically to a planting bed to maintain acceptable "structure." Next time around, I'm going with expanded shale and pine bark mulch, and might even use a little of that calcined clay (turface, I think it's called) they use to soak up excess moisture in athletic fields. As for nutritional needs, there's always Miracle-Gro.

I think Melvalena may be technically correct in suggesting that Texas clay is of organic derivation. It was formed, as I understand it, from the shells and skeletal remains of the tiny creatures which once swarmed the shallow seas covering much of Texas.

I can vaguely recall old phone books being used for other purposes. Not in Texas, of course.


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options in soil

i stopped by a garden center and i am glad i did. way more affordable. i have attached the pictures of the options of all of the different kinds they have below. all were 2 cu feet bags and 4 for 11$. except the last one which was organic native mulch which was 5 for 12.50$

please take a look and let me know how much i should get for 150 sq ft to be covered up maybe up to 3-5 inches.

Here is a link that might be useful: Options in soil


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compost system

the corner visible in the photo below is just mulch. can i put the compost system there for now and change the location later or should it not be moved once it is started?

Here is a link that might be useful: Corner for compost


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

So how deep is the planting material of the bed to be? Just trying to get a handle on the ratio of topsoil to the "amendments."

I see play sand in one of your shots. You don't want to even think about mixing this with clay. Also, some of the mulch seems intended for cosmetic use on top of the soil. I don't know about cedar mulch as an amendment.

You might check the website of a company called Living Earth. They have several locations in Houston.

Hmmm . . I see that, in my previous post, I neglected to mention the "limestone" phase of Texas clay formation.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

the sand is for the border under the pave stones. the main purpose of the sand will be to level the pave stones.

there is already around 2 inches of depth in the loose top soil. i was thinking another 3-5 inches on top of that? is that sufficient for vegetables(other than like carrots) and flowers? to be more specific-should i go with 3, 4 or 5 inches of soil on top?

i will check out living earth as well.

and oh yes, i am done with getting the grass out. i was working on my own and expected to finish tomorrow. but my neighbor jumped in and it got done today. i will post the photos in a bit.

i still need recommendations of what kind of mixture should i use for the bed. after you see the photos.


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Grass removed!!

here is the area with the grass removed.

see all the uprooted grass put to the corner. is that good enough for composting? will it decrease in size as it decays?

what mixture of soil do you think I need in the bed from what you see in these photos?

Here is a link that might be useful: Grass removed!!


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

So much for the easy part.

Once the pavers are positioned, what will be the distance between them and the fence? If they're to go down over the area you've now cleared of grass, that's going to make for a rather narrow bed. An Early Girl tomato is going to need a good 3 ft. of elbow room, and you don't want a lot of foliage pressing against the fence, causing it to deteriorate prematurely. The more attractive hardy perennials, such as plumbago, will require even more room (not to speak of shrubs.) I realize you're against a tight deadline, but you have plenty of room to work with and, once the pavers are in place, widening the bed is going to be a real hassle.

So you have two inches of loose topsoil? What are you finding below that two inches? Any small rock? You don't want that stuff in your bed. Now, how deep do you want to be able to plant something without reaching for the grubbing hoe? I would want a minimum of 10 inches of easily worked soil. Bear in mind that, the deeper the roots can penetrate, the less water they will require, and deepening the bed at a later date will be difficult, because of all the material you will have to displace.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Scorpio, why don't you call a couple of local landscape installation companies and ask them what they amend soil with when they install annuals? That might put it in perspective for you. Of the choices you offer in your photo I see something--ranging from pointless to money-wasting or extra work--for each one.

Your bed looks a little narrow. Plants take room.

I'd run a string line and uniformly straighten the out the bed edge for a better appearance. I think you'd be better off to finish the soil prep and then install pavers afterward on solid, undisturbed soil (which means remove another strip of sod later to accommodate the paver width.

There is no point to create a paver edge on the back side of the garden. Do only the front edge.

If you leave the sod pile up against the fence, the fence will become part of your composted product in the end. Keep in mind that when the grass decomposes out of the sod pile, you're mainly going to end up with dirt (until you add a lot more organic matter which will take some time.) It's going to be a heavy, compacted pile after it sits a while so don't leave it somewhere temporary too long or it's going to be a pain to relocate. I'd create a pile that has at least one side open and access to it no narrower than 5'. Nothing wrong with having it entirely open if you have room.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

OK, so I have zero knowledge about soil amendments (where I live you just stick plants in the ground and they grow). But it seems ordained that Yardvaark and I have different views. So I have to say that I like the curve on your bed, and I think doing a paver edging along the back might not be too bad an idea.

It seems that your fence boards go all the way to the ground. This is not so good for fenceboard longevity if you are adding a few inches of WHATEVER to the bed - soil against the fence is the same as compost. Pavers will tend to hold moisture at the fence base, but that is better than dirt. I don't know how wide a paver you're using, but the other benefit of pavers is they will stop you from planting too close to the fence. Plants will tend to lean out in this bed, seeking the light, and it won't help to plant right at the fence - quite the opposite in fact. And in assessing the width of the bed, remember plants can use the airspace above the grass as well as above the bed.

You should definitely head over to the soils forum with questions about composting and amendments, but one thing I will say is that how you compost depends on what kind of stuff you are composting. If it is straight yard waste - your grass, leaves, and other plant bits - then an open pile is fine. And you can certainly move it when half composted, though it's more efficient to leave the first pile in peace (maybe covered with something) and just start a new one. But if you plan to add kitchen scraps, it's probably better to get a closed system. I use a green cone (without the underground basket), but there are lots of others ranging from very simple to fancy.

Also, how nice to have a neighbour who will pitch in. I hope your wife is gratifyingly surprised!

Karin L


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

The curve in the bed is intentional. didn't want a plain straight border. so made it a gradual curve to facilitate easier installation of border. i wasn't planning to put a paver border in the back. wanted to put a metal border in the back but if you say the soil will affect the wood then maybe I should put a steel border high enough between the soil and the wooden fence?

below the 2 inches of soil isn't rock. i think its just compacted from the weight that has been above it and that "loamy clay" you guys were talking about. I think i can till the soil to make it loose.

the width of the bed, unfortunately, i don't have too wide a yard and i want enough place for my daughter to play. i was thinking the decorative plants would be in the front and the vegetables towards the back. this is just a starting point. we plan to eventually replace the grass all along the fence with a vegetable bed. so we can plan and plant how many ever we want. I could have gone the entire length now but didn't want to overdo it and kill myself. this big a bed seemed realistically doable and so far i seem to have estimated the size right (in terms of me being able to get it done).

yeah i've got great neighbors. always willing to help and very social people. lucky to have them. he plans to put a bed in next year though(much smaller one from what he told me), so i will be able to help him out too.

i will see if i can talk to some local landscaper to ask about the soil. another neighbor of mine has been here a long time and he knows a lot about yard work and the kind of soil we have here etc. but unfortunately he seems to be out of town. haven't seen him in a long while.


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rain?

its thunder and lightning here
will rain affect my work in any way?


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Scorpio--You must not work the soil when it is waterlogged. It will become compacted.

Amend like crazy now. I don't care whether you put in peat, but if you do, you'll need 4" or so. You could work in 2" of compost into the top 2-3" and let the microbes do the rest as long as you double pinky swear that you will put 2" of compost on to of the bed for the next 3 years and 1" on top every year after.

Here's another vote against the curve. But I would protect the fence. (What am I doing here, splitting the difference between Yardvaark and Karin?) It's too small of a gesture to look deliberate. It looks like a burp or a squiggle. Grand moves, broad gestures! Also, the best MUST be at least 50% deeper--better, twice as deep--unless you just want to put in a solid bed of irises or something of that sort.

If you're going to make one, make your compost pile near your trash cans or A/C compressor. Your yard's so small, though, that I'd probably not sacrifice any space to that and would just buy it.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

The reason I made the comment about the bed line was that it does not at all look like an intentional curve. It just looks like careless work. If you want to have a curve it should look purposeful and intentional. Also, the bed being a connecting element to the fences should be shaped in a way of strength, not weakness. In the example below, the the orange curve is good. The red line is less so.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

The orange line also lends itself more to gracefully extending the bed in the future (as I believe you indicated you intend.)

Looks like we may be in for a rainy week. You don't have to worry about compacting your existing soil.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

i made the curve that way so that it is easy for me to mow the corner (at least a little bit easier) as i use a manual mower. not a fan of the emmissions of a gas powered mower and not excited about the limited usability of an electric one.the curves are so that i can get the mower through with lesser effort than it would be if it was like in the orange curve.

i will probably throw all the uprooted grass out. it does look quite bad with all of it there. i will dig up the trench around the bed for the border today. borders and soil tomorrow.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

  • Posted by natal Louisiana 8b (My Page) on
    Tue, May 8, 12 at 18:50

That doesn't look like a good location to start a compost pile. You need easy access to turn it occasionally. What is all of that in that corner anyway? Did you look at the link I provided on compost systems?


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soil

checked out living earth. locations are too far off.

i will need around 40 cu feet of soil altogether for the whole area for 3"
will 12 bags(2 cu ft per bag) of top soil and 8 bags(2 cu ft per bag) of peat be a good combination?

attached the link to the soils below again

Here is a link that might be useful: soils


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compost system

oh i missed that link
just saw it. yeah i will have to make one of those.
throwing out the grass i have now.

those are the telecommunications and power boxes.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

darn rain! didn't rain all day and rained just as i got home!
all i could do is clean up the remaining roots. i hope it doesn't rain tomorrow and i can finish the rest of the work.

one thing has come up though. i had a neighbor come and take a look. he was saying that in the past there were oil wells nearby. is that something to be concerned about? is it risky to allow the plants to go into the soil? do i have to put more soil than i had planned?

on the fence what kind of border should i put that can hold the soil away from the fence.

at one spot i noticed fire ants on the other side of the fence. should i use ortho to kill em? or will that affect the fertility of the soil that i will be putting in?


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Scorpio, I have a sense you are looking for "right" answers for a lot of things. For many things in gardening there simply aren't any, and in fact, many things of which people sound certain are not cast in stone either. For example, I've never turned a compost pile in my life, and mine is way too high in kitchen scraps and not enough green/brown stuff, but you know what: it all rots down with time no matter what you do and whether you turn it or not.

The same is true of soil amending, edging, and every other decision you are facing. I suspect that just new soil or almost any selection of the amendments you showed will get you through this season, and you can spend all next winter researching :-). I'm not sure I would call a landscaper, as that's not what they're in business to do, but there must be local books, magazines, newspaper garden writers? And of course local nurseries. And isn't there a Texas gardening forum here on Gardenweb?

One of the great things in the garden (and the most frustrating thing too) is that nothing is permanent. Well, except maybe poured concrete, and even that... But you always get a do-over in the garden. So just pick whatever solution works for you today, and fix it later if it doesn't hold up. If you put soil against the fence, it won't rot it this week, or even this season. Fix it before 5 years, and you'll be fine.

For what it's worth, I would not have thrown out your grass; it would have been put grass-side down in the corner and left for the season. You do have to get used to the fact that not everything in the garden looks good all the time :-)

Karin L


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Scorpio. I figure I am going to do you a favor, that earths finest is some decent stuff if using a little for a small bed etc. but for a vegtable garden I would really consider getting large cube of peat moss for 10$ and calling a horse stable/looking around for some manure, know that fresh manure will take some time to break down and will smell awful, but it should break down by August when it will be time to plant again for the fall and would really pay off in the long run, don't rush the groundwork, its easily the most important part "in my opinion" for a vegetable garden. Personally I love irrigation direct if you need a drip or misting system and cheap lowes 15$ timmers.


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RE: Help with laying- down vegetable/flower garden bed

I know you were anti raised beds, though if it were me I would dry stack/cinder block it with two layers. I figure that would be roughly 16" high. You could use compost in the holes and grow things like followers, herbs, and onion "neighbor is doing that and it looks really good". You could also seal it, paint it, stucco, brick etc. Lot of good options. I guess you'd need around 40 but thats just a guess. I think they are 16x6x8 on average LxWxH and roughly 1.50. They would also help keep out the grass and protect the fence/give you an area to walk on by the fence/though I would go vertical with rebar "in the cincerblock holes and use that for tomatoes/pole beans.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

I didn't want to totally knock the earths best, I mean if it were me I would probably do a mix of soil if you need it now, like 2-3 bags of cow manure earths finest, then a commercial bag of peat, maybe a small bag of vermiculite if your planning on trying to grow a lot during the summer "peppers"/ie we have been insanely hot here in texas summer lately". If it was me I would see how much it was to get 1/2 a truckload of topsoil "would add the cinderblock above", and then amend that with either cow, horse, or chicken manure "but would make sure its composted or if raw wait to plant a couple of months".


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Bunny manure is another good thing if you can get your hands on it. Up here in the Dallas area, we see adds for it on Craig's list.

BUT, most manure needs to be composted before adding it among plants other wise it burns and kills them. Donkey manure and horse manure isn't as 'hot' so won't hurt established perennials and you don't have to mix it in the soil, the soil workers will do that for you. I have a friend who puts donkey manure on top of all her beds, even the ones with freshly sowed or planted annuals. She puts it right on top or mixed into her potted plants and hanging baskets. Doesn't hurt any of those plants.

Chicken and cow manure REALLY needs to be composted first. I'm not sure about the bunny manure but from what I remember, it is pretty concentrated so I suspect it too should be composted.

Just a little reminder about that peat; Texans with years and years of experience in our clay soil have all said not to use it.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

ocean
i am thinking about the option of a raised bed now that i see how the soil is.

i get that there is no perfect answer. just doing the best we can. i am just trying to do the best with help from the more experienced ones.

there is not enough time for me to research on stables/farms to get manure from them. i can probably mix it in a bit later. and since i have been told here that cow manure isn't suitable directly, that option is also out.

i haven't thrown out the grass. it is still lying in the same spot and upside down. i didn't have the energy to haul it all out yesterday with all of it being wet and heavy from the rain. there is no rain forecast today. hopefully i can get it out today.

from all the suggestions here, i can try to make some mixture of soil with the options i have at the garden center. but my 2 main questions remaining are -
1. do you think the soil should be safe enough to grow vegetables with the history of nearby oil wells.
2. should i put down ortho to get rid of the few fire ants coming from the neighbor's yard or will that mess with the fertility of the soil?


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Read something interesting the other day, Melvalena, about the use of composted horse manure. It seems lime is used for sanitary purposes in the stables and gets scooped up with the manure, resulting in high alkalinity. There's no end of composted cattle manure products to pick from. Seems like I see Black Cow stacked up everywhere.

Heap dirt against that fence and you will not only accelerate deterioration (obviously well advanced, as it is) but also make it difficult to replace pickets, because the dirt will not stay in place when you remove the picket against which it is pressing.

I have no problem with the thought that peat moss will yield acceptable short term results.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

  • Posted by natal Louisiana 8b (My Page) on
    Wed, May 9, 12 at 10:32

I've never turned a compost pile in my life, and mine is way too high in kitchen scraps and not enough green/brown stuff, but you know what: it all rots down with time no matter what you do and whether you turn it or not.

If you use compost on a regular basis like I do, turning and adding the right ingredients guarantees that it'll be available when you need it.

1. do you think the soil should be safe enough to grow vegetables with the history of nearby oil wells.
2. should i put down ortho to get rid of the few fire ants coming from the neighbor's yard or will that mess with the fertility of the soil?

1. How long ago did they drill? Do your neighbors have gardens?

My dh did a lot of land drilling in the Abbeville, LA area back in the 80s. The area was surrounded by sugarcane fields.

2. Make sure whatever fireant bait you use is safe for a vegetable garden.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

yeah i know a few who have 1 or 2 vegetables growing. mine will probably be the first bed in our section.

when i was digging through for roots yesterday, i found that the fence is held in place by concerete bases. dont know how that will affect replacing the fence when the time comes. i guess i will have to redo the bed on that side then. my neighbor on the other side of the fence said he'd also probably do a bed on his side the same way next year


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Whitecap: Re the horse manure--I haven't noticed anything drastic with the high alkalinity, maybe it depends on how much (if any) lime was in the stuff I got or what the ph of my soil was to begin with? And how much of it was in there when calculating all the other stuff mixed in with the stall sweepings?

Now I'm using donkey manure when I have the where-with-all to go get it, or in a pinch the bagged composted black cow
stuff.

Re: turning a compost pile. At first I did it often. Now I never. I just don't have the time, strength or energy to devote to it. It takes longer to break down.. but that's ok with me.

scorpiouno: I wouldn't worry about the oil well business.
Yes, get rid of the ants now, and stay on top of it.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

I wouldn't sweat the oil at all, unless you see it in the soil when working it. I know people are already farming in new orleans after katrina and the vegetables taste fine "amazing with all of the chemicals I know"! That in itself should debunk a lot of stuff and will be interesting to see 20-30 years down the road.

I honestly think for that size area a raised bed is by far the way to go, I origonally thought it was 3x4 times that size, making a raised bed hard. Google raised beds to get some good ideas of what they look like and ideas. The peat would be successful in a raised bed system in texas, the only thing I would say is mulch heavy, people in Texas don't and with the summer heats we have been having it will destroy your soil. I saw entire landscapes destroyed last summer. Also, a cheap and really easy compost bin is just taking 4 pallets and tying three off then making a cheap wooden hinge or pin for the 4th or just moving it, the pallets allow the air to flow. Also, after a rain me and the kids go picking up worms "didn't yesterday" and add them to the compost and my pots in the green house. You can always tell the posts when replanting that have worms vs the ones that don't, the soil smells 10x better and looks amazing.

Just some cheap and economical ways to garden. Don't go cheap on the bed because all you will end up with is a ton of weeds, you need some height and it will make things 10x easier. "not to mention if the top layer is soft with compost/mulch when you get weeds in the top you can just use a hoe if plants are spaced out good.


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RE: kHelp with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

another thing you can do is over the winter if not growing anything, is use your neighbors pine straw and fallen leaves in the fall put them on top of the raised bed, and then take them off in the spring when planting, you'll be surprised how nice the soil is below and how little amending you'll have to do. I bury whole chicken carcasses about a two feet deep in my compost and there gone within two weeks "worms" ;) "I also don't turn it". That expanded shale might be useful if worked into the existing clay before putting the raised bed on top, that way you didn't end up with an overly dense layer, I know a lot of people don't work the soil before starting a raised bed, I am a huge fan of tilling it up prior or the roots will just hit hard clay and go sideways to the other nutrient rich soil.

To me gardening is 70% common sense 20% science, and 10% total luck.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

thanks again for the tips

darn fire ants. spread like crazy all over the bed! from that one spot they spread all over. had to spread ortho everywhere. now have to try to finish it tomorrow. and my wife has preponed her trip. so even lesser time!!!


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raised bed

raised bed seems like a good option but it requires a lot more stones and a lot more soil


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

I'm thinking I'll go with this raised border - estate edging (watch from the middle of the video)

Here is a link that might be useful: Estate edging


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

I think you'll be very happy with that type of edging.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

*giggles* Seriously, concerned about there having been an oil well??? NO. That's not how oil wells work.

(The mineral rights to our little piece of property--a bit more than a quarter acre--kept my family solvent when my mother was in grad school and my father had a really low-paying job with the university. I have great affection for oil wells.)


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

  • Posted by natal Louisiana 8b (My Page) on
    Mon, May 14, 12 at 11:40

Reyesula, it's not the well so much as the reserve pits.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Natal, for the sake of us ignorant about "reserve pits," please explain the "how" of it.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

  • Posted by natal Louisiana 8b (My Page) on
    Mon, May 14, 12 at 13:31

Yard, here are a couple links that should explain it.

Basically, a reserve pit contains drilling mud which contains chemicals.

reserve pits

Statistical Assessment and Sampling of Drilling-Fluid Reserve


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

I would think that if the OP had run into reserve pits during digging, he would know it immediately. The consistency would be all wrong.


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oil well concerns

its definitely not reserve pits. from all of the opinions i've got here it is pretty clear that i need not worry about any oil contamination etc. just wanted to get that cleared since a neighbor brought it up.

loads of work for me today. could not work on it all weekend and wife arriving at midnight tonight. i've got a very tight timeline to stick to, to finish the bed. i'm hoping it should be done. will let y'all know

thank you again all of you.

i will post updates here as we get the plants in.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

  • Posted by natal Louisiana 8b (My Page) on
    Mon, May 14, 12 at 16:02

Tanowicki, the issue would have been the migration of chemicals from the pit, not the actual pit.

Good to hear it's not an issue.


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

sorry for the lack of updates

we have it all done and started planting. currently we have tomatoes, peppers, curry leaves, mint, roselle, okra planted.

putting vincas on the border of the bed.

will post pics as soon as i can


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

  • Posted by natal Louisiana 8b (My Page) on
    Thu, Jun 28, 12 at 18:52

You should be harvesting tomatoes and peppers by now. When did you plant?


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Oh I couldn't finish it back then. it wound up being an extended project. had to go out of town and by the time i got back it was again full of weeds. took em all out. took out a bit of the top soil (i know its a sin :D) to get rid of those weeds. filled up the bed with 3200 pounds of soil. looks great now. planted all of those plants around 1.5 weeks ago.
i must say the okra plants are growing like crazy!


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spraying

I am having trouble using this device. instructions are not exactly clear. anyone have a clue?

https://plus.google.com/u/3/photos/113493922059177632258/albums/5766330240946225873/5766330242379425042

Here is a link that might be useful: Sprayer


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Ailing plants

My plants seem to be dying of something. Please take a look at the attached plant photos and let me know if you have any clue what it is

Here is a link that might be useful: Plants photos


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

went to lowes and showed the gardener there the photos. she told us they were getting too much water and thats why they were getting fungus at the bottom.

moved the plants to another bed with lesser water through the day and they seem to be fine.

now, coming back to my vegetable bed, how do i get it to drain better. while making it i put in a layer of industrial fabric, 1-2 inches of organic peat humus and then 2-3 inches of a mix of top soil and organic peat humus. the gardener said that the peat humus at the bottom must be retaining too much water


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

Reconsider the fabric. Reconsider the type of amendment (something about shale earlier in this thread?). And reconsider the idea of a raised bed.

But overall, look at the lay of your land: totally flat? slight slope toward the bed? And reconsider the best location for a vegetable garden. Like I said earlier, you always get a do-over in gardening, and you usually don't get it right first time.

Never be married to one idea, because the plants are telling you something!

Karin L


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

From what you've said, Scorpio, I would suspect that the "industrial fabric" is most likely the culprit creating the problems. Not sure what it is you're using, and why, but it seems unnecessary. The correlation might be like soil in a pot vs. soil in the ground. When it goes in the pot, a different, MUCH better draining soil mix must be used. Using that fabric seems like it would be creating a condition that is similar to the bottom of a pot. Since it's not needed, why not just remove it?


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

how do i remove the fabric now when its so deep inside?


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RE: Help with laying down vegetable/flower garden bed

you need to remove the soil from above it first. It might need to be done in sections to make it practical.


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