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Cape Cod, MA garden/compost questions from a noob.

Posted by oldpaddy (My Page) on
Mon, Oct 4, 10 at 17:17

***I posted this in the Northeast Coast forum, but it was a graveyard, so I reposted it here***

Hi, all! I'm planning next years garden and could use some advice.
I started my first vegetable garden this year and it went ok. Tomatoes were great and lettuce was good too. Broccoli and carrots not so well. I live on the lower cape and it's sandy soil (actually it's just sand). This spring I dug up an area and added about 2-3" of soil from Bayberry gardens. I didn't mix it in, just laid it on top of the sand. I then built it into mounds. I was pleased with the results from my first try and now want to create a permanent vegetable garden.

Next year I'm going to do a flower bed and move the vegetable garden to a different spot. I have an 20'x20'x6' foundation for a cottage that was never built that I've decided to turn into my vegetable garden. The foundation has been there for about 10yrs without being used and I have no plans to have the cottage built. Since I don't have the money to fill it in, I figured it'd be great for a garden. It doesn't have a floor and gets full sun.
So far I've thrown two pallets side by side in one corner and have a lot of compost material on them. I took a mower (with bag) and mowed up years worth of leaves and dumped them in the compost pile. I've added kitchen scraps (no meat or bread), coffee grounds/filters from D&D, a lot of horse manure/shavings from a neighbor and today I added a bunch of fresh seaweed from the beach. I'll be adding more of the same and will make another pile in another corner soon. I turned it a little today and added some lime. It's about 6' tall right now, but it's fresh.
In the spring I plan to spread it out as much as possible while still being at least 3" deep.

Now my questions are, should I till it in? Do I have to? If I don't, how deep should it be? What do you think of my compost? Will the foundation help keep the garden warmer in the spring/fall?
Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Cape Cod, MA garden/compost questions from a noob.

There is no need to till anything into your soil since the soil bacteria will do that for you. I would not be at all surprised to find that your sand does not have enough organic matter, 6 to 8 percent, and that you need to add more since most all soils need that.
Your compost piles sound good, except I wonder why the pallets under them?


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RE: Cape Cod, MA garden/compost questions from a noob.

I read somewhere that stacking the compost on a pallet will allow air to get in.


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RE: Cape Cod, MA garden/compost questions from a noob.

  • Posted by josko Cape Cod (My Page) on
    Tue, Oct 5, 10 at 8:17

Hi from Woods Hole. I'd grab all the eelgrass you can find, put it on top of wherever you want the soil improved, and till or spade it in in the spring. I did about three pickup loads, a 6"-8" layer, last fall, and it's all but gone by now, leaving behind nice loamy soil. It seems to be a great organic matter (OM) addition to our sandbox soil. It also works as a great summertime mulch. If you pick it up right after a rainstorm, salt seems not to be an issue. I'm looking to haul another 3-4 pickup loads this weekend. This nor'easter dumped tons of it on the beaches, and the rain is leaching salt out.
The other thing I did is get hooked up with a comm fisherman who drops off fish racks. I compost about 300-400lbs (4-6 totes) at a time with ~2 yd^3 of woodchips in pallet compost bins. I got it so there's no odor and have about 10 yds of the stuff ready to go this fall.


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another thought.

  • Posted by josko Cape Cod (My Page) on
    Tue, Oct 5, 10 at 8:25

I forgot to mention you can get great leaf+clippings compost for $22/yd from Blacksmith Shop farm. I found it great stuff, and they deliver if you buy 6+ yds. Most of it went on the lawn, but it would be the stuff of choice if i wanted to add OM to the veg. garden fast.


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RE: Cape Cod, MA garden/compost questions from a noob.

Awesome! I wish I had a pick up truck. I have a friend with a jeep that keeps promising he'll help grab seaweed, but it's never the right time for him... So what I do is go down to the beach and fill garbage bags. It's a lot of work. Have you ever tried making seaweed tea?
Sometimes I'm in woods hole for work and it's a great place. I see a lot of gardens too. Whoi has a good sized one at thier entrance. There's one guy at the low end of sippiwisset that seems to have a good one too. Too bad I live an hour and a half away, or I'd try that farm.


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RE: Cape Cod, MA garden/compost questions from a noob.

  • Posted by claire z6b Coastal MA (My Page) on
    Fri, Oct 8, 10 at 20:53

There's also some discussion on this post in the New England Gardening forum.

Claire


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RE: Cape Cod, MA garden/compost questions from a noob.

Putting a compost pile on top of pallets could allow air circulation but that is an unnecessary thing to do as long as the compost pile is kept to a size under 6 x 6. Getting the compost off those pallets could be a real pain and then you would need to be able to pick up the pallets and shake them to get the compost that fell between the slats.


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RE: Cape Cod, MA garden/compost questions from a noob.

Oldpaddy, that sounds like a lovely site for a garden, the cottage foundation. I agree with kimmsr, jettison the pallets, and I'd say just put EVERYTHING in there while you are building up the soil. Which you do seem to be doing, putting down a wide variety of organics!

I would include pulled and hoed weeds, never mind the formality of composing. When I was making many large barrows of raised beds, I used pulled weeds (and a lot of them) as a foundation, and dumped manure and landfill compost and my compost and whatever I had on top, and that has worked great, huge potatoes and other vegs. Because it's all going to rot -- if you've got the whole fall and winter, whatever you put down there will be "dirt" by spring.

Nothing wrong with a little sand in the soil..............

(I live on the Chesapeake.) [:-)


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RE: Cape Cod, MA garden/compost questions from a noob.

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I don't know about sand but I'd just be putting in as much organic material into the ground as fast as I can. the composting sounds great but I'll echo others and say that instead of looking to get air into that bin, look at getting worms into that bin. I think the worms are a bigger payoff than the increased oxygen will ever be. Build the bins on the ground and worms will come.

What I'd like to know is what's this deal with seaweed. Don't you have to worry about salt?
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RE: Cape Cod, MA garden/compost questions from a noob.

  • Posted by pt03 3 Southern Manitoba (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 10, 10 at 1:20

Hi paddy

Just so I have the correct 'picture' in mind, your compost pile is in a corner of a structure, with 6 foot walls on two sides?

If my mental picture is correct then a source of air intake from underneath is not a bad idea. I've used 4 inch plastic pipe with holes drilled into it on larger piles. I tried putting them in vertical and horizontal, not sure if one was better than the other but good aeration is one key to composting (especially thermophilic).

Lloyd


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RE: Cape Cod, MA garden/compost questions from a noob.

Thanks guys :)
Yup pt03, it's in the corner.
From what I've read rott, the salt shouldn't be a problem. Plus it's going to sit for 6 months, so the salt should wash away.

I started a second pile yesterday. This one has three totes of manure and shavings, a bunch of fish guts from a seafood market, two large trash barrels (full) of coffee grounds/filters from a coffee shop, and topped off with four totes of manure and shavings. I'll probably add some seaweed to it this week.
I'm really hoping for a great compost! I figure if I can get a huge pile in each corner I'll have enough for my garden.


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RE: Cape Cod, MA garden/compost questions from a noob.

  • Posted by josko Cape Cod (My Page) on
    Sun, Oct 10, 10 at 20:35

Now you're getting the idea. :) Work with what you can get locally.


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RE: Cape Cod, MA garden/compost questions from a noob.

I had two compost piles contained with stacked concrete blocks on three sides, 6 feet by 6 feet by 4 feet, and never had a problem with air infiltration into the pile with no special anything, pallets under, vents in, to provide that infiltration. My current compost bins are buit up against mortered concrete blocks, that form a wall of the yard tool shed, and 3 cedar board sides coming out 4 feet with doors on the front and there is no problem with air infiltration. Even with both bins full they the mix gets ample quantities of air into the center of the piles.
Where I have seen air infiltration problems is when the person building the compost piles adds too much water to the mix. Compost does not need to be wet, just moist.


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RE: Cape Cod, MA garden/compost questions from a noob.

Too late now, the pallets are down and covered. Whether they're helpful or not I have no idea, but I've got two piles that are composting great and I think the third one is getting hot. Today I added lime, a bunch of seaweed and three totes of horse manure with shavings to the third pile. Maybe I'll remove the pallets for the fourth and fifth piles.
Yeah josko, I've been hitting all the shops. I'm enjoying taking the garbage, it's kinda like the community is helping me with my garden. Though, I don't think my wife is quite as happy as I am about it...


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RE: Cape Cod, MA garden/compost questions from a noob.

Oldpaddy saying,"I started a second pile yesterday. This one has three totes of manure and shavings, a bunch of fish guts from a seafood market, two large trash barrels (full) of coffee grounds/filters from a coffee shop, and topped off with four totes of manure and shavings. I'll probably add some seaweed to it this week.
I'm really hoping for a great compost! I figure if I can get a huge pile in each corner I'll have enough for my garden.
I've got two piles that are composting great and I think the third one is getting hot. Today I added lime, a bunch of seaweed and three totes of horse manure with shavings to the third pile. Maybe I'll remove the pallets for the fourth and fifth piles.
Yeah josko, I've been hitting all the shops. I'm enjoying taking the garbage, it's kinda like the community is helping me with my garden. Though, I don't think my wife is quite as happy as I am about it..."

You are going to have such a great garden.

I remember when I had that much energy --- and not so much private supply of animal manures, as I have subsequently arranged to have. I would steal people's grass clippings!! Those were the days in the '70s when suburban people by the hundreds would rake, bag, and stack their grass clippings in bags by the road for the garbage trucks! I don't think you can do that now....our landfill won't take leafy matter of any kind in regular garbage pickup now.

So I would drive around in a Datsun pickup and take the bags. Many interesting interactions occurred; one suspicious homeowner asked me what I was doing and then fell in a ditch.

There was simply nothing to be said, so I went away from that place, as Mark Twain would say.

I used the grass clippings for mulch between the rows and compost. That was great stuff, actually, it was a good idea. Full of nitrogen, quickly decayed, fine texture. I could think of more uses for it today.

I suppose there are people quick to say, Oh, Oh, there might be chemicals on it, horrors! However, I personally was more concerned about the dog droppings raked up with the grass. And my garden liked the chemicals AND the droppings.


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RE: Cape Cod, MA garden/compost questions from a noob.

Hi all. Just wanted to give an update.
I'm now on my third foundation compost and they're doing great! Very hot too! Due to a fly infestation I've cut out the manure until after we get a consistent frost. But I've been adding a lot of seaweed/eelgrass.
Today I was turning the piles and I found worms! I was surprised since the piles are so hot. I guess using pallets didn't stop the worms.


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RE: Cape Cod, MA garden/compost questions from a noob.

Your compost is going to be fantastic. I envy all that seaweed you're adding to those piles. I resort to adding dried kelp to mine as a way of supplying some of the microelements.

This time of the year is so wonderful because many people want to give you their leaves. With so many extras, I grind them up with my chipper, mix in horse manure and garden waste and put in old black plastic bags. I stack them beside my unheated greenhouse and will get a month's extention of growing things in there with them. When the brutal temps arrive in December and beyond, bags will be dumped into compost bins.

Perhaps the single most important consideration in producing outstanding compost is having an understanding spouse or partner. My wife isn't crazy about me using my little red neon to transport horse manure, but heck, I can get 23 five gallon containers in that little sucker.


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RE: Cape Cod, MA garden/compost questions from a noob.

Haha
Yeah, my wife isn't exactly enthusiastic about the compost, especially since I use her car to grab everything!


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RE: Cape Cod, MA garden/compost questions from a noob.

Lloyd, One of these years years you should take some of that compost and lay a stripe of it across your field, just to see the wheat green up on that stripe.


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RE: Cape Cod, MA garden/compost questions from a noob.

Hi, all.
I wanted to give an update and ask some question.
So two weeks ago I spread out the compost and today I tilled it in with a shovel. Wow! There's a lot of worms!! And I was surprised by how much compost I have. Now, the vast majority of it has composted nicely, but there's still a lot of leaves and shavings that haven't. Is that going to become a problem?
Also, the south wall (or what used to be the south wall, now its the se wall lol) gets mostly shade, will peas be ok for that area?
thanks guys!


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RE: Cape Cod, MA garden/compost questions from a noob.

Not that it matters, but I take back what I said about the south wall now being se, it's drifting sw.


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RE: Cape Cod, MA garden/compost questions from a noob.

I don't see an issue with using the uncomposted leaves and shavings. They are still carbon and will eventually break down and/or attract worms into the garden where you use them. If you don't want to use them now, use them to start your next compost pile. With a little of your old compost, they will bring some of the microbes with them and jumpstart the new pile.


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