Roots in Raised Bed

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I've been doing SFG in raised beds for a couple of years now, and there is now an accumulation of left over roots in the beds from past plantings. I imagine they compost at some time, but do they compost quickly in the beds? Is it OK to leave the old roots in the beds or are they going to hinder roots/plants of future plantings?
Thanks.
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Mike wrote:

The old roots will be fine. They will break down, worms will eat them etc, pull out any that are obvious before you replant but generally don't worry.
Who or what is SFG?
David
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My guess is "Square Foot Gardening" seems to go with raised beds.
I have found too many roots causes the soil to be too light. Taller heavier plants may fall over and uproot themselves (like tomatoes). Some plants just love the lighter soil (like celery). Could add the lighter soil to the compost pile and put in the older compost in the beds. This may help in recharging (if thats the right word) the nutrients to the lighter soil.
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Enjoy Life... Dan

Garden in Zone 5 South East Michigan.
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Why don't you just pull them out? Aren't you amending the beds each new year with compost, new organic matter and amendments? I would think you would need to dig the new amendments in and the old roots would be in the way. In an organic bed, the organic material is consumed by natural biodiversity, so new material should be added. This isn't rocket surgery.

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Yeah, well, that may be what you think, but some of us think that you destroy soil structure and reduce humus in the soil when you dig or rototill.

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Billy wrote:

That is a completely new concept for me.
But I have soil that is less than nutritious and I work in amendments just to loosen it up. My best soil last year gave me 2" carrots.
Leaving that aside, is there some layering in biological activity that gets disturbed by digging? I'm just trying to wrap my mind around that.
Jeff

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Thanks for all comments.
SFG is Square Foot Gardening. I do pull most of the roots, but the finer ones inevitably get left behind. Like I mentioned, I've only been doing this for a couple of years so just looking for advice and trying to learn from the folks here with the experience and knowledge. I am trying to be "natural" by not using artificial fertilizers or pesticides (compost instead), so thanks George for introducing "Fukuoka Farming" - that's a new one to me and I'll check it out.
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In article

The book you may want to peruse is "The One-straw revolution" by Masanobu Fukuoka. If inclined check out Wendell Berry who wrote the preface. Not so much a how to but a why for kind of book. Leading to more why for and how to adventures.
Have Fun!
Bill
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wrote:

in my vege garden fukuoka translates to leaving weeds (not yet at seed stage) and crop detritus in the garden beds. No wholesale clearing away to a compost bin. It may be move to another garden as mulch but will stay in the vege garden system itself. Somethings, like tomatos, I do move to another part of the section every year but that is simply due to the possibility of disease. I mulch the gardens through the year with grass, leaves, spent crop residue etc. Not fully fukuoka but I have lifted some of his techniques. Why move it if it breaks down in situ.
rob
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wrote:

and that gives you more time to brew and drink home made cider.
rob
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I do this too. Any time I pull up some grass or a weed, I just lay it back down over the mulch whence it came. I do have a compost pile for kitchen scraps, but I see no point in moving yard wastes that were taken from a bed to anywhere other than back in the bed itself. (Maybe I am just lazy!) --S.
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Better people have said it, than I, so let me use their words.
Gaia's Garden, Second Edition: A Guide To Home-Scale Permaculture (Paperback) by Toby Hemenway (Amazon.com product link shortened) 580298/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid71266976&sr=1-1
p.74 Earthworms are the most visible and among the most important primary decomposers, so let's watch one as it feeds on our leaf.
The earthworm grabs a leaf chunk and slithers into its burrow. With its rasping mouthparts, the worm pulverizes the leaf fragment, sucking in soil at the same time. The mixture churns its way to the worm's gizzard, where surging muscles grind the leaf and soil mixture into a fine paste. The paste moves deeper into the earthworm's gut. Here bacteria help with digestion, much as our own gut flora helps us process otherwise unavailable nutrients from our food. When the worm has wrung all the nutrients from the paste, it excretes what remains of the leaf and soil, along with gut bacteria caught in the paste. These worm castings coat the burrow with fertile, organically enriched earth. Before long, hungry bacteria, fungi, and microscopic soil animals will find this cache of organic matter and flourish in walls of the burrow, adding their own excretions and dead bodies to the supply.
Fueled by the leaf's nutrients, the worm tunnels deeper into the ground, loosening, aerating, and fertilizing the soil. Rain will trickle down the burrow, threading moisture deeper into the earth than previously. The soil will stay damp a little longer between rains. In spring, a growing root from the oak tree will find this burrow, and, coaxed by the easy passage and the tunnel's lining of organic food, will extend deep enough to tap that stored moisture. The worm, with its fertile castings and a burrow that lets air, water, and roots penetrate the earth, will have aided the oak tree and much of the other life in the soil. Worms are among the most beneficial of soil animals: They turn over as much as twenty-five tons of soil per acre per year, or the equivalent of one inch of lopsoil over Earth's land surface every ten years.
Meanwhile, on the surface, the feasting inver-
p.75 tebrates continue to shred the leaf into tiny bitsor comminute it, in soil-specialist parlance. Comminution exposes more leaf surfacetender inner edges at thatto attack by bacteria and fungi, further hastening decomposition. Also, the small army of mites, larvae, and other invertebrates feeding on the leaf deposit a fair load of droppings, or frass, which also becomes food for other decomposers (a microscope reveals that many decomposing leaves are thickly covered with frass, which adds up to an enormous amount of fertile manure). Any leaf bits that aren't fully digested un their first passage through a decomposer's gut are eaten again and again by one tiny being after another until the organic matter is mashed into microscopic particles. Soil invertebrates such as worms and mites don't really alter the chemical composition of the leaftheir job is principally to pulverize litter. Their scurrying and tunneling also mixes the leaf particles with soil, where the fragments stay moist and palatable for others. In some cases, the animals' gut microbes can break down tenacious large molecules such as chitin, keratin, and cellulose into their simpler sugarlike components. The real alchemythe chemical transformation of the leaf into humus and plant foodis done by microorganisms.
As the soil animals reduce the leaf to droppings and microscopic particles, a second wave of
The soil food web. 1=primary decomposers; 2=secondary; 3=tertiary.
p.76 bacteria, fungi, and other microbes descends on the remains. Using enzymes and the rest of their metabolic chemistry sets, these microbes snap large molecules into small, edible fragments. Cellulose and lignin, the tough components of plant cell walls, are cleaved into tasty sugars and aromatic carbon rings. Other microbes hack long chains of leaf protein into short ammo acid pieces. Some of these microbes are highly specialized, able to break down only a few types of molecules, but soil diversity is immensea teaspoon of soil may hold 5,000 species of bacteria, each with a different set of chemical tools. Thus, working together, this veritable orchestra of thousands of species of bacteria, fungi, algae, and others fully decompose not only our sample leaf but almost anything else it encounters.
Besides breaking down organic matter, these microbes also build up soil structure. As they feed, certain soil bacteria secrete gums, waxes, and gels that hold tiny particles of earth together. Dividing fungal cells lengthen into long fingers of hyphae that surround crumbs of soil and bind them to each other. These mini-clumps give microbially rich soil its good "tilth": the loose, crumbly structure that gardeners and farmers strive for. Also, these gooey microbial by-products protect soil from drying and allow it to hold huge volumes of water. Without soil life, earth just dries up and blows away or clumps together after a rain and forms clay-bound, root-thwarting clods.
Microbes don't live longjust hours or days. As they die, larger microbes and soil animals consume their bodies. Also, predators abound in the soil ecosystem. Voracious amoebae lurk in films of soil moisture, ready to engulf a hapless bacterium. Mold mites, springtails, certain beetles, and a host of others feed on the primary decomposers and are called, in turn, secondary decomposers. Larger predators feed on the secondary (and some primary) decomposers that have come to our leaf. These are centipedes, ground beetles, pseudoscorpions, predatory mites, ants, and spiders, also known as the tertiary decomposers. ------
Teaming with Microbes: A Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis (Amazon.com product link shortened) /ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid06815176&sr=1-1
Chapter 1 . . . Soil life produces soil nutrients When any member of a soil food web dies, it becomes fodder for other members of the community. The nutrients in these bodies are passed on to other_ members of the community. A larger predator may eat them alive, or they may _be decayed after they die. One way or the other, fungi and bacteria get involved,_ be it decaying the organism directly or working on the dung of the successful_ eater. It makes no difference. Nutrients are preserved and eventually are retained in the bodies of even the smallest fungi and bacteria. When these are in_the rhizosphere, they release nutrients in plant-available form when they, in_ turn, are consumed or die.
. . . . A healthy soil_ food web won't allow one set of members to get so strong as to destroy the web._ If there are too many nematodes and protozoa, the bacteria and fungi on_ which they prey are in trouble and, ultimately, so are the plants in the area. And there are other benefits. The nets or webs fungi form around roots act_ as physical barriers to invasion and protect plants from pathogenic fungi and_ bacteria. Bacteria coat surfaces so thoroughly, there is no room for others to attach themselves. If something impacts these fungi or bacteria and their numbers drop or they disappear, the plant can easily be attacked.
Special soil fungi, called mycorrhizal fungi, establish themselves in a symbiotic relationship with roots, providing them not only with-physical protection but with nutrient delivery as well. In return for exudates, these fungi provide water, phosphorus, and other necessary plant nutrients. Soil food web populations must be in balance, or these fungi are eaten and the plant suffers.
Bacteria produce exudates of their own, and the slime they use to attach to surfaces traps pathogens. Sometimes, bacteria work in conjunction with fungi to form protective layers, not only around roots in the rhizosphere but on an_ equivalent area around leaf surfaces, the phyllosphere. Leaves produce exudates that attract microorganisms in exactly the same way roots do; these act as a barrier to invasion, preventing disease-causing organisms from entering the plant's system. Some fungi and bacteria produce inhibitory compounds, things like vitamins and antibiotics, which help maintain or improve plant health; penicillin and streptomycin, for example, are produced by a soil-borne fungus and a soil-borne bacterium, respectively. ------
Gaia's Garden, Second Edition: A Guide To Home-Scale Permaculture p.81 To Till or Not to Till
We've seen that organic matter keeps soil light and fluffy and easy for roots to penetrate. What then about the mechanical methods used for breaking up soil?
The invention of the plow ranks as one of the great steps forward for humanity. Farmers know that plowing releases locked-up soil fertility. Plowing also keeps down weeds and thoroughly mingles surface litter with the soil. We do all this, too, when we drag our power-tiller out of the garage and push the snorting beast through the garden beds in a cloud of blue smoke.
What's really happening during tilling? By churning the soil, we're flushing it with fresh air. All that oxygen invigorates the soil life, which zooms into action, breaking down organic matter and plucking minerals from humus and rock particles. Tilling also breaks up the soil, greatly increasing its surface area by creating many small clumps out of big ones. Soil microbes then colonize these fresh surfaces, extracting more nutrients and exploding in population.
p.82 This is great for the first season. The blast of nutrients fuels stunning plant growth, and the harvest is bountiful. But the life in tilled soil releases far more nutrients than the plants can use. Unused fertility leaches away in rains. The next year's tilling burns up more organic matter, again releasing a surfeit of fertility that is washed away. After a few seasons, the soil is depleted. The humus is gone, the mineral ores are played out, and the artificially stimulated soil life is impoverished. Now the gardener must renew the soil with bales of organic matter, fertilizer, and plenty of work.
Thus, tilling releases far more nutrients than plants can use. Also, the constant mechanical battering destroys the soil structure, especially when perpetrated on too-wet soil (and we're all impatient to get those seeds in, so this happens often). Frequent tilling smashes loamy soil crumbs to powder and compacts clayey clods into hardpan. And one tilling session consumes far more calories of energy than are in a year's worth of garden grown food. That's not a sustainable arrangement.
Better to let humus fluff your soil naturally and to use mulches to smother weeds and renew nutrients. Instead of unleashing fertility at a breakneck, mechanical pace, we can allow plant roots to do the job. Questing roots will split nuggets of earth in their own time, opening the soil to microbial colonization, loosening- nutrients at just the right rate. Once again, nature makes a better partner than a slave.
-----
So my advice would be to dig your soil the first year, especially if it is clay soil, and mix in your organic material, and other amendments (rock phosphates, wood ash, charcoal left from wood fires, not briquettes) and let that be your last time to dig. Afterwards, practice what is called "lasagna gardening", a.k.a. sheet mulching. If you can, plant "green manure" over winter. Some place are too cold for this, and my sun dips below the tree line in Dec. Another alternative is using perennial white clover as a living mulch. The mulch, added or grown, will be decomposed and turned into soil humus, which will create the "tilth" that you need.
Anyway, that's the way it looks to me.
If you want to see how my garden is coming along see: alt.binaries.pictures.gardens.
--
- Billy
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the
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Jeff Thies wrote:

Carrots are not a good starting point for hard or compacted soil.

There are a number of things going on and that includes changes to biological activity and physical changes to the soil.. Broadly, too frequent working of the soil tends to destroy the structure of it. Frequently tilled soils lose water and organic matter more quickly, in large part due to exposure to the atmosphere. See "no dig", "no till", "zero till" etc for details. Using power equipment is more likely to do damage than hand tilling.
Here is one ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No-till_farming
The purists never till but this can take a long time to develop deep soil with good tilth particularly on compacted or degraded soils. Some compromises that work quicker are to only till when establishing the bed or to only till at major renovations, eg annually or less often.
It follows from trying to get and maintain good tilth that you do not compact the soil, so you make your beds such that you never need to walk on them or wheel the loaded barrow over them.
David
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I concur with all David said. I'd just like to add that the nurturing depth of the garden beds will increase with time, but this can be accelerated in the first season with double digging. It will be your first and last time to dig. This step isn't necessary to reap the rewards of "lasagna gardening/sheet mulching". <http://www.organicgardening.com/feature/0,7518,s-5-19-934,00.html <http://www.wikihow.com/Double-Dig-a-Garden
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Pulling plants out by the roots can disturb the soil structure, so it should be avoided if possible. I usually cut my big plants down to a stub, and let the roots rot over the winter, then carefully remove any big lumps if I need to use that bed for seeds later. If I am using it for transplants, I just leave the leftover roots in and plant around them. --S.
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Fukuoka farming - leave the roots in the soil to break down. Spread above soil grown plant detritus on the surface of the soil and your friendly worm mates will take care of the rest. Job done, sit back and enjoy a bottle of home brew cider.
rob
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wrote:

ANd then piss on any deserving fruit trees ;O)
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Billy wrote:

\
This thread subject had me pulling my international hat right down over my eyes. How to explain? In the USA if a young woman said she was rooting for her team it would be perfectly normal, in Australia she would be given a quick language lesson
David.
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On Thu, 6 May 2010 09:44:32 +1000, "David Hare-Scott" wrote:

I dunno David, I've found that a raised bed can help alleviate hip strain, as can a few ciders. Old roots can sometimes be a problem, however...
--
Ross McKay, Toronto, NSW Australia
"Since when were you so generously inarticulate?" - Elvis Costello
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Sooo, what then do Australians call the terrestrial moiety of the plant?
The closest comparison that I can think of in Am. English is screw (the noun), which can also be a verb.
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