No dig gardens

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George.com wrote:

I tried planting butternut and acorn squash in a thickly mulched plot last year and had mixed results. The acorn squash plants all turned yellow and died. The weeds still grew, just a bit more slowly. The butternut produced modestly. What else has to be done and how much attention has to be given to soil testing? Thanks.
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Dave wrote:

I don't know about acorn, but I did grow butternut once, before I was told it was impossible! It was a heat-wave year, and they did rather well. Others here will tell you not to bother, as (unless they've produced a variety suitable for the British climate) they want a long hot summer. If you don't get many replies, a Google Groups search of the group archive will bring up a lot of stuff from the past couple of years.
I don't think soil testing is worth the expense for most amateurs: if your garden grows stuff, and you do the usual feeding routine, it's OK.
--
Mike.



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Mike Lyle wrote:

Oh, this thread is being cross-posted across three groups. I'm located in the midwest US. The Summer here can be quite hot and dry. In fact it was rather difficult to judge when the mulched plot needed water. UK weather is probably similar to the northwest US.
Dave
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Hi All, I have grown butternut squash [ Butternut Sprinter ] with success in most years. Hope this helps you.
Richard M. Watkin.

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R M. Watkin wrote:

So what plants are thought to be optimal for a no-till plot? My hope was that the weeds would be kept under control for squash -- which are difficult to weed -- but as the season wore on the weeds got pretty thick. Some weeds seem to be effective mulch penetrators. Also I guess I didn't really employ "no-till" but till once in the Spring and then add another layer of mulch on top of that. With that is mind is there anything else should I till in, such as lime? I have a source of horse manure but figure that will be loaded with weed seeds. Thanks.
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If you lay down a piece of cardboard, punch a central hole for the squash plant, and then cover with mulch, brambles might make it through, but most weeds won't.
When you ask about which plants are optimal for a no-till plot, I assume you mean "clay plot". A sandy plot will be OK with any plant. Plants that break the soil effectively include radicchio, fava, cardoon, mache, and potato. Anything with a taproot, though the latter two do not have one. Even carrot, parsnip, and beets, if you don't mind the misshapen roots too much.
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simy1 wrote:

Yes, I might try some sort of barrier this year. How about newspaper? I guess my question has more to do with the quality of the mulch soil. The several layers of mulch are still deteriorating so I presume this may favor plants which tolerate acidic low-nitrogen soils??? Thanks.
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Newspapers are fine, but if you want to kill brambles and grass, cardboard is better. But more important than cardboard vs newspapers, The secret to a good kill is to apply the mulch after growth has resumed. That way you push down the shoot, and you have a long time before the paper breaks down and lets perennials through.
There are plants that like degrading mulch, most notably tomatoes, garlic, potatoes, squash. Degrading mulch tends to be acidic, but not all the time, and not necessarily low nitrogen unless you use very brown materials. Lettuce, for example, is sensitive to acidity, but it will be very happy if planted directly through six month old leaves mixed with some manure. In practice I always give wood ash to just about anything i grow except potatoes (I have acid soil, and I prefer wood chips, the most acid mulch of all, because I plant most everything in seedling form).
Over time the pH of the degrading mulch climbs up to near neutral values as it becomes soil. It will start to look like soil. There are tricks that you can play. First, if you use leaves as mulch, they will be 99% gone by next year, with a decent pH, so you can seed directly in the resulting soil. If you use chunkier mulch, like wood chips, you will have weed protection for two years or more, but you will have to plant through the chips until they are gone. Wood chips start quite low in pH but when they are done their soil is similar to that made of other mulches, if possible with a stronger humus. If you use cardboard covered with leaves or mulch, the cardboard is 99% gone the next year. if your mulch is not quite done, and you want to seed directly there, gently rake it to one side of the bed. Use that side for potatoes or garlic, and the raked part for carrots and beets. The raked part will have more weed seeds than if you had not raked it, but still less than the soil underneath it.
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