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May 5, 2020 9:38 AM CST
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So I thought it would be a good idea to dig up my boxes and really loosen up soil. I added compost and a bag of garden soil to each box and really worked soil. Now I've learned about soil structure and I see a crust on top. It's hard to water with out run off.

Now I've learned the best way to remedy this is by heavy mulching. The problem is my carrots have just sprouted and are very tiny. Any ideas on how I could help them?

My ideas are to sprinkle some grass clippings between rows. I also have a lot of charcoal and ash at my disposal. I have a pile of unfinished compost too. Also a woods area with lots of leaves.

I'm concerned about pH if I use charcoal or ash. I think my pH is around a 7 right now. I'm also concerned about unfinished compost stealing nitrogen from seedlings.

I have beds that are still empty that I can cover for a month.

Any advice?
May 5, 2020 9:58 AM CST
Name: Christie
Central Ohio 43016 (Zone 6a)
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Welcome! A little ash or charcoal is fine, but be careful with that ash - it will lower the pH a lot. I would go with the charcoal - have you read about biochar? Biochar should be activated first though, before putting it in the garden. But once activated, it works very well. You might find these 4 videos on YouTube helpful - there are a bunch more there - keyword: biochar.

Biochar Workshop: What, Why and How?
Biochar Workshop Part 1, How to Make Biochar
Biochar Workshop Part 2, Why to Make Biochar
Biochar Workshop Part 3, The Carbon Cycle

It is best not to till the soil - interferes with soil structure and the micro-organisms. The layering or "lasagna" method is much better. At this point, I guess I would just leave it as is for now. When you water, water lightly at first to let the crust soften up. Then you can water more once that top crust is wet and more absorbent. I would keep the grass clipping away - They will burn your tender new carrots. Put them in your compost pile and let them compost - after that, you can add them to the top of the soil. If the crust gets too hard, maybe just gently hoe the top now and then, preferably just before watering, for the time being.
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Avatar for thommesM
May 9, 2020 9:29 AM CST
Name: Thomas Mitchell
Central Ohio (Zone 6a)
Hi and Welcome Welcome!

Good info from Christie. I switched to no dig a large number of years ago. One of my issues after doing such was leaving the soil bare. Naked soil! As you said you have access to a lot of leaves, I'd recommend getting some leaves, shredding them, a lawnmower will work, and putting an inch or so of leaves on top of the soil. Maybe let your compost keep aging and apply it to the beds at the end of the season would be the best use for it. Saying that... I have used unfinished compost as a mulch around plants and it works well.

As far as the carrots, what I think I'd do is put the shredded leaves close to the carrots but not on top of them and as the carrots grow gradually push the shredded leaves around the carrots.

I tried an experiment a couple years ago. I places a three inch layer of leaves on top of each raised bed, hoping they would decompose and attract beneficials by spring. Three inch layer was just toooo much. The top inch or so was starting to break down but everything under it was dry. I don't remember if we had a lot of precipitation that winter or not. Didn't have time last year to try again, but best thing in my opinion with the no dig, is to add compost at the end of the season and letting the soil organisms enjoy it and transport it through the soil column throughout the late fall and winter.

The charcoal and ash... I add those to the compost. You could add the charcoal directly to the bed, and I did when I took the ash the compost pile and saw a large chunk of the charcoal in it. I break it up with my hands. The ash.. I just add it to the compost. Takes away all the worry about pH levels when applying the ash directly to the bed/plants.

Grass clippings will work, I'd let them dry out for a couple days before applying. To dry out the clippings, spread them out in a thin layer. If you don't the grass clippings will clump, might go anaerobic on you, and could burn your plants. Also apply the dry clippings in a thin layer so water doesn't run off.

Lasagna beds are the coolest! If you don't need one of those empty beds this season, I'd encourage you to build one to experience it for yourself.

Sounds like you're already a believer in not disturbing the soil structure going forward. Thumbs up
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