I read somewhere that when you plant a (bare root) tree that you should
use the same soil that came out of the hole to fill it . The reasoning was
that if you use nice soil when the roots hit the edge of the hole they would
treat it as if it were a planter/pot and just fill the "good soil" with
roots until it is root bound .
I'm wondering if the same principle applies to the veggies I've grown
here . I dig a hole a good bit larger than the root ball/soil in the small
pots I use for seedlings and fill it with a mixture of manure and soil from
the hole when I transplant . We don't have much topsoil here , and in my
inexperience when I first started my garden I think I let a lot of it wash
away (the garden is on a slope) .
I'm amending that now by tilling straw into the soil after using it as a
thick mulch to retard runoff and keep weeds down . But the soil is still
mostly in pretty poor condition so I still dig the holes and fill with an
"enriched" mixture . I just got to wondering , thinking back on the size of
the root balls in past years . Seems like they never get any bigger than the
otiginal hole ...
it depends a lot upon the plant/species as
to how far the roots may go.
i usually plant the tomato plants in a
fairly small but deep hole, but by the time
the summer is over i cannot usually pull the
plants out by hand. most the time i just cut
them off and leave the roots in the soil to
rot in place.
onions on the other hand, the roots don't
go much beyond six to eight inches. beans
look to go about a foot and a half. some i
can pull out by hand and others i can't.
remember, the soil community can be much
larger than the plant root itself, tilling can
destroy it. i try to avoid digging as much as
possible, but do it when i have good reasons
(burying organic materials is one of them).
for any bare soil spaces that are on a slope
i would terrace them or make ridges to prevent
my nutrients from escaping. the ridges can be
planted with alfalfa or other green manure
sources and they can also act as a refuge for
friendly garden bugs like the ladybug. you'll
also find worms in there around those roots as
the plants get established.
straw is better than nothing. yet if you
can find other things to mulch with that will
improve your soil more. chopped alfalfa (right
as it is blooming) is great, plus birdsfoot trefoil
and clovers are the three biggies that grow well
for me in the green manure patch.
rabbit nerds are also excellent, whatever else
you can scrounge for organic materials is usually
a great help as long as it doesn't come from a
feedlot where drugs are used.
any composted food scraps. keep a worm farm
and use the worms/pee/poo under your heavy
also, growing cover crops during the off season
will help. winter rye and winter wheat turned
under in the spring, cowpeas, hairy vetch, ...
if you have room for growing any nitrogen fixing
trees you can also chop some of those leaves for
using as mulches.
my other main amendment is partially decayed
wood chips. turns into excellent humus and
brings along a whole range of fungal hyphae.
i've been amending patches around the garden
and you can see the gradual improvement over the
years, but when you have a large space and not
much to amend with each season it can take several
seasons for much to be obvious.
like one garden i am getting into shape that we
combined with another last year will probably take
two or three more years just to get some kind of
worm populations established.
notice the last picture in that... the garden
that used to be very poor throughout and had that
poor soil is probably a few shades darker now as
i've kept adding my garden scraps, organic materials
like leaves and twigs, the partially decayed wood
rotational planting stretches any amending
(different plant groups use different soil
nutrient profiles). most of the patches will
not be amended each season other than the burying
of whatever is grown there (which disturbs 1/10th
or less of most garden patches).
Ma is not into leaving mulches on the soil so
that does defeat some of my gains, but even still
the garden soils are gradually improving. a cover
crop of radishes, buckwheat or turnips are fairly
quick but very helpful. any time you can harvest
sunlight and turn that into plant materials or
exhudates given off by roots for your soil community
to eventually digest it is a big gain.
When I was a small boy I used to go in the summer to stay at my Aunt's
place and her son and myself would go into the woods and poke around
under rotting logs for earthworms. That was my first and last time to
ever see such large worms. Big around as a pencil and about 12 inches
long. Very good fish bait in the nearby river and you only needed a few.
You jogged a very old memory songbird, thank you for that. My aunt, my
Mother's elder sister, her husband, my Dad's younger brother, lived
about a half mile from the river so it was easy to go out and get a mess
of fish PDQ.
It's warm again here in SE Texas and I'm really ticked off. Went off to
get handicap plates at a courthouse annex that no longer exists, even if
the county's webpage says it's there. That location is now a large
airport. Damned shame the county can't remove things from their website.
Now I find I can mail it.
i wonder if they were what we call night crawlers
up around here. they do get to that size or larger.
there weren't many around in our yard when i first
started gardening, but i do find them now after i let
some go into the gardens. they've seemed happy enough
here to keep making more. they do like soil with at
least a little clay in it for building their burrows.
yw. i have fond memories of fishing various places
but by far the best were when i was up north and able
to walk those streams/rivers.
it seems that with handicap plates they'd make it
easier for people to get them.
the only time i go to the secretary of state office
here is when i need a new driver's license or new
plates. the rest of the time it all gets done on-line
and they send the tags in the mail. we're fairly lucky
that so far they have not removed our local small town
Here in Texas and next door in Louisiana drivers licenses are pretty
much good forever or until you're gone. Plates last a long time but car
inspections are every year and you get another sticker and they're on
the windshield. Luckily we have an inspection place half a mile from the
house and they also do car washes. We drive one car over and one
follows, then they call us and we go back and pick the other one back.
We get the sticker, a car wash, mine was a $90 detail as the car is
covered with dog hair and old man hair and both are hard to get off of
things. <G> I might do that about every three or four years thoughl
Once again it sometimes works that way and then it doesn't. Our "soil"
is two inches of sand on top of five feet of Houston gumbo clay. The
hole I had dug to plant the pear tree ended up being eight feet deep and
six feet wide. Hired a crew to do the digging and then they stayed to
help me seat the six foot tall pear. We used a lot of expensive soil
that was heavily amended. Put enough in the hole and then soaked it,
then put more amended soil and watered again. Took three tries to get it
above grade then planted the pear tree. The first year we got a few
pears, the second year we got two bushels. I'm waiting for spring to see
what the third year brings us.
The kumquat tree was planted into the clay layer about two feet, it
still hasn't grown much since it was planted. As soon as spring leaps up
I intend to use an auger and drill holes around the perimeter of the
tree and then amend those holes with citrus fertilizer and some "real"
soil, mostly the compost we've been making. This is in hopes the tree
will grow bigger.
Straw isn't the best thing to use to build soil as, in my opinion, it
takes a longer time to rot and turn into humus. You're probably going to
have to keep up the amending for a goodly amount of time Snag. It takes
a lot of humus to finally get good soil. If you want to keep using straw
I would chop it very small to help rot quicker.
We lived in Saudi Arabia for several years and our yard was pure sand.
We mixed in a lot of camel and donkey poop that was well rotted and
actually bought bags of dirt. After about a year of amending the beds
they become good dirt and our plants and gardens did well.
It's all about amending, amending, and then more amending. Our gardens
in Saudi were amended every week when we pot holed all the vegetable
trash that was going into the composter we made.
George, in chilly SE Texas
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