rain, rain go away....

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I have this mental picture of us trying to find the garden through a forest of ten foot tall weeds...:)

Seriously, our area (sw MO) is again getting soaked with beaucoup rain. We just dried up enough to get back intothe garden after the last torrential rain...

So this brings a couple of problems/questions:

First-our soil is sandy, and we are building it up as fast as we possibly can, though it is not fast enough. When we get anything more than about an inch of rain it is like pudding out there. I have read and read and thought that by mulching and comost etc that we will build up the soil well so it doesn't seperate. How long is this gonna take? How many years? We have been gardening here three years now and no improvement that I can see. any suggestions?

We thought of raised beds, but then the problem with that is that it lways gets dry in the late summer, I tried it and it was a disaster-unless we can irrigate. And still the weeds get absolutely junglelike! What might be other ways to work with this soil?

And a dumb question...if we can't get some of those weeds out of there-will it really affect our harvest *that* much? Anything we can do to eliminate weeds without buying lots of chemicals?

It is frustrating-there is no set pattern to rely on here-sems it is rainiest in May and June, but then sometimes it is rainer earlier and others well...you know how it is. I wish there was some way to figure this all out!

thanks for any ideas anyone might have.


-- Sarah (heartsongacres@juno.com), June 14, 2001


In addition to the compost try adding some basic, no additive natural clay kitty litter. KittyDri brand is fairly cheap at about $1 for 25 lbs and its the same stuff as zeolite and will help to improve the clay content of the soil gradually. It also would help if you introduced wormcast with it. Ground level walkways may help you also. I put my SFG walkways so that the beds were only raised about 1 inch and after the initial weedings the weeds are minimal and the walks help keep the moisture up during dry periods. BTW, the clay kitty litter will also help to equalize moisture in the soil.

-- Jay Blair in N. AL (jayblair678@yahoo.com), June 14, 2001.

Somebody else with sandy soil and weeds a foot high!!!! I can empathize!!! One day....sand..nothing growing..it rains, and weeds shoot up 10 feet high!!! Charles Sheen came out by surprise and we had been having rain for two weeks, I had not been able to get out and do anything. The front yard was covered with black eyed susans, but the rain had knocked off all the blooms so it looked terrible!! I got quite a scolding about my weeds!! I imagine he was trying to help...anyway...the worm casting does help! I have been out here only a year in April, and an still having trouble with my sand. Nothing is really growing but the potatoes. Everything else is real small, but the things that I have put some worm dirt on are getting better. I will try the kitty litter idea, hadn't thought of that! It makes perfect sense! Good luck! and my heart goes out to you! My Dad just would cut the weeds back , lay boxes (broken down) and just walk on those over the weeds. In a little bit, the weeds would die off, no cutting!! I haven't even gotten to town to get the boxes to try it yet, but it is worth a try. When my broken ankle heals enough I can walk, then I will get back to work! Good luck! Cindy

-- Cindy in Ok (cynthiacluck@yahoo.com), June 14, 2001.

I'll take your rain, we need some now. Had to water the garden with buckets tonight. Had to wash a load of clothes to get the water to water the garden. I still don't like to use good well water for most of the garden, just the strawberrys, no pototoes this year.

-- Cindy in KY (solid_rock_ranch@yahoo.com), June 14, 2001.

I dont think that there is an easy way with the weeds. I have had some success with newspaper. Alot will depend upon what types of crops you are growing, how they are spaced, etc. I have, in the past, used an entire section, and laid it down between the plants in the rows. (You will not want to use the glossy papers with color pictures, they may contain oil based inks. The other sections should be printed with soy based inks.) I then shovel enough dirt on top of the paper to keep it from blowing away. Rainfall will help 'paste' the paper to the ground, and prevent weeds from growing. You will be surprised at how long a newspaper will last and how much it will help. The paper will also help retain ground moisture, much like mulch does. In the fall, just till in the paper for mulch. clovis

-- clovis (clovis97@Yahoo.com), June 14, 2001.

Do you think the clay kitty litter would be a good mulch for onions? I can't think of anything small enough to scatter between the closely planted onions. Maybe I will do an experiment and let you know how it works...unless someone already knows. Lots of little tiny weeds, too small to pick.

-- Shannon at Grateful Acres Animal Sanctuary (gratacres@aol.com), June 15, 2001.

Does your local recycle center have compost area? I have loaded many times to add to my garden. Any time you add organic matter to sandy areas it will help. We started with sand, added compsted material from the towns compost area, horse apples, and have had top soil hauled in. It does take a couple of seasons to improve the soil but the end result is well worth it. Our local recycle center posts on each of the piles when ready, and they do turn the pile with a loader as the piles are quite large.

-- Barb (bralsteen@ez-net.com), June 15, 2001.

what is SGF?

I will try the kitty litter-that makes lots of sense.

whre do I find worm castings? I have actually thought about starting to raise some worms, but we are not set up for it just yet. what is the easiest and cheapest way to get into vermiculture? :) (hubby will love this-another project!)

thanks for the help, and I am sorry to complain about the rain-I know some people are in sore need of it. and it is likely that later on this summer we will be too. We humans like to complain too much sometimes...


-- Sarah (heartsongacres@juno.com), June 15, 2001.

Sorry to inform you I think MORE rain is heading your way. I live in Montana and we just had three days of pouring rain, which is wonderful news for us who've been in a drought statis for 5 yrs. It seems to be heading your way, maybe it's there already. This storm hit Nebraska with sheets of rain hail( as big as softballs) and tornadoes. Just wanted to warn you to be prepared for more, you might have to put on your mudders and go pick weeds :o(

-- Kelle in MT. (kvent1729@aol.com), June 15, 2001.

SFG is the SquareFoot Garden layout utilizing walkways enclosing 4 x 4 ft areas. A great no till biointensive small farming technique. Look at my thread on 121 corn plants in 32 sq ft for more on it. I am becoming a full convert to it. Much more pluses than minuses.

-- Jay Blair in N. AL (jayblair678@yahoo.com), June 15, 2001.

For the person wondering what to mulch onions with, try sawdust from a mill or your own wood cutting endeavors and or the finely chopped grass from your lawn. I've used both here in Minnesota and they work equally well. The only caveat is you have to weed the onions before you mulch them.

-- Sandra Nelson (Magin@starband.net), June 15, 2001.

Won't the neighborhood cats love the kitty litter?

-- Cindy in Ok (cynthiacluck@yahoo.com), June 15, 2001.

Thank you for your rain! We got plenty this evening to water the garden again. Hope your weather is getting sunny.

-- Cindy in KY (solid_rock_ranch@yahoo.com), June 15, 2001.

It's a little late this year with the weeds already waist-high, but you might consider my system in the future. I rake up lots of leaves in the Fall and corral them in a wire cage so they don't blow away. In the spring when I plant transplants I mulch right away with two pages of newspaper topped with the leaves which make it look a little more natural. For direct seeded plants I mulch as soon as the seeds sprout. At the end of the season I till in the newspaper and leaves and thus add lots of organic matter to the soil. The only weeds that come up are those in unmulched areas which are easily dispensed with using a hoe. With respect to the kitty litter, be sure to get the right kind. I used to empty the cat litter boxes along the periphery of the garden to deter garden pests. That was fine until I decided to enlarge the garden and tilled that area. The litter forms gluey clumps that don't do anything but gum up the soil. The cardboard box suggestion is a good one too in areas that won't be worked for a while as they take longer to break down. About a year before I enlarged my garden I covered the area, which was completely weedy, with cardboard boxes. I cut down the really tall weeds first so the cardboard would lay flat. Then over the year I threw weeds and manure on top of the cardboard. When I finally got around to tilling the area, the cardboard had disintegrated, and the soil is amazingly rich for never having been worked. I think cardboard would be good for garden paths, maybe covered with chips to look a little better.

-- Katherine Montgomery (KyKatherine@Yahoo.com), June 16, 2001.

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