Garden Questions

I have a market for tomatoes and peppers, and perhaps anything else that I can grow. My garden spot measures about 75'x125'. It is very fertile, and I just had it disked and it is now ready to plant. I don't have a lot of time or money, have only a small sized roto-tiller and have no one to help me. What would be the cheapest and least labor intensive way that I can achieve my goals of producing produce?
I thought about using mulch, but really don't have access to enough of it. Big round hay bales are about $25.00 a piece in this area, but if I used hay or straw I am afraid that weed and grass seeds will sprout. I thought about using a pre-emergence herbicide, but would like to keep it organic. I could use plastic, I guess. I don't know really what to do. Any advice will be taken with gratitude.
Sincerely, Rick Hurd.
Rick's Indexing snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com
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snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

Rick, I have no experience with marketing, but of course I am always on the lookout for ways to save labor and produce lots. This said,
1) if you cover your plot with wood chips (which around here can be had for free by calling a tree company) you will eliminate any weeding work for about two years, and substantially reduce watering. By minimizing water fluctuations, the flavor and aspect of your tomatoes will improve. Long term, fertility and tilth of the soil will increase, and humus rich soil will improve the health of your plants. You only need to add nitrogen to wood chips to have a satisfactory fertilization (they have all the micros, and good amounts of P and K). You have to consider many things, such as:
a) is your soil already acid? the chips will make it more acid initially. If so, consider adding wood ash, perhaps one lb per 100 sq ft a year
b) can you drive a truck up to your plot? I can readily get ten tons of wood chips from a company, but carrying it around the house with a wheelbarrow is another story. You need ten to twenty tons dumped directly on the plot
c) chips prevent all seeds from sprouting. For the first two years you will be limited to transplants (no problem with peppers or tomatoes) or large seeds (such as potato, beans and peas, garlic) that can push thru. You will not be able to direct seed a row of carrots until the wood chips are gone. That's when the weeds will come back, too.
I like wood chips in the garden. My main flower beds have received only one foot of wood chips, they get no water or fertilizer and they look very good. But I have acid soil so I amend with ash. I can not drive up to the garden so I spend a lot of time with shovel and wheelbarrow. And I rotate my organic amendments so that a bed that takes wood chips is initiated with tomatoes, squash or peppers, then garlic, then chicory transplants. I also have beds which are covered with leaves, which disappear within the year, so next year I can direct seed.
2) if you have relatively large plants (such as tomatoes and peppers) you will save yourself a lot of work if you build a drip irrigation system (search this group for advice). Place one plant next to each drip hole. It is not difficult to install. Now with chips and drip you have eliminated weeding and nearly eliminated watering work.
3) to save money, consider building a small greenhouse out of poly film and grow all your seedlings in there. I actually grow everything on a shelf that I place by my south-exposed glass door. Then tomato plants will cost you a penny each.
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There is a big difference between Straw and Hay. Hay is cut & dried tall grass (fescue, etc). It most likely will have seeds, in fact the best hay does. The seeds are additional nutrition for the animals. For a gardener, as you mentioned, it will produce weeds. Straw, on the other hand, is the remains of wheat after the seed heads are harvested. Modern harvesting equipment is pretty good, and there will be very few if any wheat seeds in a bale of straw. It therefore is good for your garden an mulch.
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If you choose to buy one of those big round bales be very careful. We are organic, and bought one for mulch to find it was laced heavily with some sort of herbicide. I would suggest amending your soil with compost, lava sand, (if available) a hefty amount of dried molasses, and some good quality organic fertilizer. That will put you much farther ahead toward producing good crops than mulch. Now having said that, the mulch is certainly good for moisture retention, and a good thick layer of mulch can reduce summertime soil temps dramatically. What zone are you in? Thomas

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Thanks for all the advice.
I am located in North West Missouri. I am not for sure what zone I am in for I have heard that zones have recently changed boundaries.
I plan to check into obtaining wood chips, but have my doubts that I will be able to obtain any unless I do so at another location far from here; for I am located along way away from where most people live. If I can't get wood chips I thought I might try to buy straw from local farmers for ground cover, and use cattle panels in rows for the tomatoes to climb on. Most likely though the straw will contain chemical residue, so I might as well just use chemicals. Come to think about it, the wood chips may also contain chemical residue...well, and I was just thinking about opening me a quart of tomato juice that I caned the year before last...
Sincerely, Rick Hurd.
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Rick:
Just ask the farmers what they spray. Straw will most likely have less, being a byproduct rather than the primary crop as in hay. Seed content is fairly high in the straw we get in NE GA. But if any does sprout it dies in the heat.
Good Luck!
John!
snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

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I use 2 foot wide carpet strips from remenents, after the growing season they can be rolled up and used next year. Keeps the moisture in and the weeds out, without herbicides, and no hay or straw spores to grow from within.
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On 3/18/05 8:46 AM, in article snipped-for-privacy@f14g2000cwb.googlegroups.com,

Do you have a lawn mower? Do you have or could you afford to buy a drip line watering system? I have an idea but whether it will work could depend upon your answers to my questions. Cheers, Gary
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My roto-tiller makes about a 12" wide cut.
I do have a good water supply.
I do have a lawn mower.
Perhaps I could afford to buy a drip line watering system.
Here in Missouri, I have seldom watered anything, especially if using mulch.
Thank you for the replies.
Sincerely, Rick Hurd.
Rick's Indexing 16984 State HWY UU Jameson, Mo 64647 snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com
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On 3/23/05 1:05 PM, in article snipped-for-privacy@g14g2000cwa.googlegroups.com,

roll out the paper along the row. Weigh it down with soil along all the edges (if you don't, wind will lift it and send it a flying). Cut holes big enough to plant your plants using an exacto knife on dry paper...if it is wet it will tear. As the paper gets weathered it will shrink so it may be best to not plant anything until the paper has done that. (If you cut the paper and plant right away, when the paper shrinks your plants will have disappeared...the holes have moved). Use your lawn mower to cut the grass etc. between your rows. There will be some growth of weeds coming up through the holes you have cut...do not pull them out. Just cut them off as close to the paper as possible. As your plants grow they will shade the hole and inhibit weed growth. We hope they grow fast enough! :) The paper will break down over time but can be composted when it gets too beaten up. That's the general idea. Gary
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