Can I use wood ashes in my garden?

by Mari
(Florida)

I burn leaves, pine needles, wood, etc. every year and have a huge pile of ashes. Can these ashes be used in my vegetable garden?


ANSWER:

Hi Mari,

As long as the ashes contain only organic material such as wood, leaves, pine needles etc., yes, they can be used as fertilizer in your garden!

Acid soils benefit most from an application of wood ashes. It has the same effect as adding lime to the garden soil.

You can apply one 5-gallon bucket of ashes to approximately 1,000 square feet of garden space.

Apply the ash to your garden in the spring before tilling the soil. Then it should be worked into the soil.

You can also add ash to your compost pile if you have one. It helps promote the break down of organic material in your compost pile.

It's best not to mix ash in the soil where your potato plants will grow, as it can promote the growth of potato scab.

Also, acid-loving plants such as blueberries will not benefit from ashes.



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Is it Safe to Grow Vegetables in Compost and Manure?

Is it safe to plant vegetables in pots with store-bought compost and cow manure without adding soil? Would it be safe to eat the vegetables?



ANSWER:

If you buy the compost and cow manure from the store, it should say on the package that it has been "sterilized". This means that there should not be any harmful bacteria in the compost or manure.

You will want to mix the compost and cow manure with potting soil so that it is not too rich for your plants.

Some potting soil is already enriched with fertilizer, so ask someone at the garden center to help you calculate how much compost and manure you will need to mix with the soil.

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Manure Tea Ingredients

by Keith

Why do you add epsom salts and dishwashing soap to manure tea?

Thanks,
Keith


ANSWER:

Epsom salts contain magnesium and sulphur, which are a fertilizer.

The dish-washing liquid soap is called a "spreader" which means that it helps the tea stick to the plant foliage.

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Vegetable Gardening in Clay Soil

What kind of vegetables can I grow in clay soil?


ANSWER:

Most vegetables will grow in clay soil. The problem with clay soil, is getting the weeds out of your garden, and drainage problems if you have a lot of rain.

Also, carrots grown in clay soil are really difficult to harvest, as they will break when you are pulling them. They will also be stunted, and tend to grow crooked.

If you have clay soil, you can amend it by adding mulch, compost, straw, peat moss, and/or vermiculite. Each winter, add some more organic matter to your garden and let it over-winter.

It is really worth going to the trouble and expense of amending clay-type garden soil, as your garden plants will be healthier and more productive.

Also, it is much easier to pull weeds (which will rob your garden plants of moisture and nutrients) if you have nice loose, crumbly soil.

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Mushroom Compost Soil Mix

by Tom
(Gulfport, Ms )

Hi, can I use only spent mushroom compost in my garden bed? Or do I need to mix any other soil like top soil or garden soil?


ANSWER:

You will want to mix the mushroom compost with some other ingredients. A good rule of thumb is 2 parts garden or top soil, and one part mushroom compost.

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Spaghnum Moss or Sand?

by Gin

The soil in my vegetable garden was crumbly-hard and stayed packed down around the plants.

The garden center told me to add top-soil, but now it stays mucky wet for days before drying out and the plants look terrible.

Now the garden center says to add sand, but the farmer in the next aisle said to add sphagnum moss.

What is your opinion?

Thanks for your time.

Gin


ANSWER:

I think I would go with the farmer, if you can only do one thing. But, adding sand may also help.

It seems like the more organic materials in your garden soil, the better. Sand will help with drainage, while the sphagnum moss will help retain moisture and help condition the soil.

It seems like the garden center should have recommended adding compost in the beginning, instead of top-soil. But it is easy to second-guess, isn't it?

Good luck!

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What is 10-10-10?

What is 10-10-10? I was told to add it to my vegetable garden, a few weeks prior to planting along with lime and peat moss. Please advise. Thank you.

Bob
Charlotte, NC

Answer:

Hi Bob,

10-10-10 is fertilizer that is equally combined parts of NPK--nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

It is a balanced fertilizer that will help promote root, plant, and fruit growth in your vegetable plants.

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Removing Lawn and Yard Grass Organically

I want to start a garden in an area of St. Augustine grass and want to do this without use of herbicides like Roundup.

Can you help?


ANSWER:

It is pretty easy to kill grass without chemicals, but it can take some time. Eventually a lack of light and water will do the job.

You can take black plastic, and cover the area of lawn that you want to kill. Stake the corners of the plastic, or use rocks or bricks to hold it down.

Leave it for as long as you can wait; it may take 6 months to a year to kill the roots. St. Augustine grass is not drought resistant, so the lack of water will help.

When you remove the plastic, the grass underneath will be dead, and can easily be raked or scraped from the surface.

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Rabbit Manure vs. Chicken Manure

by Myron Gercken
(Watseka, Illinios USA)

I'd like to know which of the two manures is the best all around natural fertilizer for a poorly productive garden ....rabbit or chicken?


ANSWER:

They are both good fertilizers. But chicken manure is the richest of the animal manures, and therefore probably best. It has a horrid smell, which fortunately goes away after a few days in the garden. It needs to be aged or composted before being used in the garden, or it will burn your plants.

Rabbit manure is high in nitrogen and phosphorus, which is good for your garden, and it doesn't have much of an odor. It won't "burn" your plants if used fresh.

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Should I Add Worms to My Compost?

Is it a good idea to add worms to the compost bin or pile?

Answer:

Yes, it is a good idea to add redworms to your compost bin or pile, as worms help speed up the break-down process of organic matter.


Redworms are found in most yards, gardens, and under mulch piles, so you might check your compost to see if worms are finding it on their own.


If needed, you can also order worms online or from a garden catalog if you don't fancy doing some worm hunting yourself!

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Fertilzers and Pesticides

My garden abuts my neighbors yard, with a 6ft wood fence separating the properties. I don't use pesticides or fertilizers for my lawn near my garden, but my neighbor does.

My concern isn't so much that the chemicals will blow over (the fence will prevent this) but of leeching through the soil and into my garden.

I really like the location of my garden, but should I move it to prevent the pesticides and fertilizers from leeching over?


ANSWER:

I would not worry about this. The chemicals that your neighbor uses for his lawn are most likely absorbed by the grass plants on his side of the fence. He would have to be using huge amounts of chemicals for them to soak into the soil and spread sideways into your garden.

If you like the location of your vegetable garden where it is, I would leave it there.

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Can Hot Peppers Go into Compost?

Is it okay to put hot peppers into the compost pile?



ANSWER:



Yes, it is fine to put hot peppers into your compost pile. They will not cause any problems that I know of.

It is fine to compost any unneeded vegetable or fruit scraps in your compost pile.

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What is the Best Garden Fertilizer?

Hello.
What would you recommend as the best natural way to fertilize a vegetable garden?

ANSWER:

Adding compost is a great way to condition and fertilize your garden soil. The organic compounds in the compost add nutrients, and also help retain moisture.

In our area, we have access to dairy compost that also contains aged manure as well as composted straw and other organic materials.

Aged manure is a great natural fertilizer. Just be sure that it is well-aged, and sterilized so that it doesn't contain a lot of weed seeds that can create a problem in your garden.

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Using Moldy Soil

by Cheryl
(Winnipeg)

I have some lightly used soil (for stuff like herbs--used only once) that has been stored too long in bags and has gotten slightly moldy.

Is it going to cause problems if I throw it in my garden boxes? I know it's not ideal but I can't afford to buy soil now and I have a lot stored.

In a garden, the soil gets reused over and over again, and there's really always mold present so if the conditions are changed (dark, warm, moist, low air - to airy, sunny and well drained) the mold should just die right?


ANSWER:

Yes, the mold will die when exposed to sunshine and good air circulation.

I would add the soil to your planters a small 2-3 inch layer at a time, so that the sunshine will have a chance to kill all the mold. Leave each layer for a few sunny days before adding the next layer.

Mix the last layer well before adding the next layer.

If you add a deep layer of moldy soil all at once, the sun won't reach and kill all the mold. Moldy soil could have an adverse effect on your garden plants.

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Pecan Shells as Mulch?

by Monica
(Christoval, TX, USA)

I am starting a garden and I have heard of people using pecan shells as mulch.

But would this be good for the plants in my garden? I thought the shells are high in acid.

I know people put them in compost. What do you think? Thank you!!

AMSWER:

I have heard that pecan shells make great garden mulch. The shells' high acid content can help stop weed seeds from germinating.

Pecan shells also act as a slug deterrent and help hold moisture in the soil.

The acid that is released as the shells decompose will be beneficial to acid-loving garden plants. I haven't heard of it being a problem for the other plants.

Here in Oregon, we use filbert (also called hazelnuts) shells as mulch for the same reasons.

Not everyone uses them in the garden. They can also be used as a landscape mulch in borders and flower beds.



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Fertilizer

by Bates
(Marsing, Idaho)

If one is using horse manure in a vegetable garden, will it require additional types of fertilizer? We are in SW Idaho desert area.


ANSWER:

The horse manure should be sufficient. Just be sure when using any manure as fertilizer, that it has been well-aged and/or composted. It also helps to work it into the soil in the fall, so that it can break-down over the winter months.

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Fertilizing Beets and Sweet Potatoes

What is the best way to fertilize beets and sweet potatoes? This is the first year we have tried either of these plants.


ANSWER:

It's always good to mix compost into the soil before planting the beet seeds or sweet potatoes.

You can also mix some Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potassium fertilizer (NPK) into the soil before planting. Follow the directions on the fertilizer container regarding the proper amount to apply.

It is helpful to know if your soil is more acidic, less acidic, or balanced when adding fertilizer.

If you haven't had your soil pH tested, you can use an all-purpose NPK fertilizer such as 10-10-10 for the beets.

The sweet potato plants should have lower nitrogen fertilizer such as 5-10-10, as this will encourage them to develop more roots with less emphasis on foliage.

Additional fertilizer can be added every 3 weeks during the growing season.

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How and When to Winterize a Raised Bed

I live in Los Angeles California.

This year I built a raised planter bed 4' x 7' x 2' tall.

I backed-filled the raised bed with an Organic Planter Mix.

I planted corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs. It is now the middle of October and the tomato plants are still green and I have some green tomatoes still on them.

When would it be the right time to take everything out and winterize the raised bed?

I am not going to plant any winter vegetables.

So what would you suggest I do to protect the the surface of the raised bed?

Do you suggest I spread some kind of mulch or something over the Top?

Or should I cover the bed with plastic tarps?

I want to protect it from pathogens and weeds for when I plant in the spring.

Answer:

You can leave your tomato plants as long as they are green and still bearing tomatoes.

The other plants, if not producing any more, can be pulled out, or you can cut the tops off and leave the roots to decompose in the soil over winter.

I usually pull mine out, then cover the bed with two or three inches of organic compost. Then I cover the compost with a layer of leaf mulch.

This keeps the garden clean-looking, and allows the compost to slowly fertilize and re-condition the soil over winter.

If you want the raised bed garden soil to warm up more quickly for planting in the spring, you can put a layer of black plastic on top of the garden at the end of winter. However, in your climate that might not be necessary.

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Composting and Fertilizing in the Fall

by Rocky
(T.Bay,Ontario, Canada)

Is it better to compost and fertilize my vegetable garden in the fall, or is it better to do it in spring, or both?

Answer:

It is best to add a 2-3 inch layer of compost to your garden soil in the fall, so that over the winter the nutrients from the compost can leach into the soil.

Also, the compost will break-down further over winter, replacing lost nutrients from your previous garden, and helping to condition the garden soil for next year's garden.

You can also add a two or three inch layer of leaf or some other kind of mulch over the top of the compost.

This will protect the compost from blowing away in windy weather, and the mulch will also help condition your soil when you work it into the garden in the spring.

If you don't take time to do this in the fall, then you can work compost and mulch into the soil in the spring.

But it works best if you compost and mulch your garden in the fall so that the nutrients have time to work into the soil over the winter months.

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