Churchgarden812 said:Yea I'll prob just play it safe plus also I read that manure can be contaminated by amino pyride for 5 years or however it's spelled. Said a lot of plants wouldn't grow if it was contaminated.
These folks talking about adding organic are very good gardeners and are giving you very good suggestions.
As to the amino pyride you can add picloram, and 4d2, and... Sadly, a lot of different pesticides (the term "pesticide" includes both insecticides and herbicides) are being used these days that has a very long half-life and are so persistent that they travel through the crops (mostly hay), through the animals guts, through any composting process, and end up looking like some very good compost or manure. Bad chemicals have been found in commercial, nicely bagged "organic" soil amendments from big box stores, too. Sadly, once it's on your garden or field, correcting the situation is nearly impossible unless you have a small garden area.
That said... Get a soil test.
If your community has a dump where the local town's street and sanitation department dumps shredded matter, that can yield some good stuff. But beware. Even using shredded matter from those operations makes me wonder...brush can be sprayed with a number of chemicals and yards "fed" with fertilizer/weed-killer chemical combinations. It seems everybody is using chemicals these days.
I would think that in autumn, when there is freshly fallen leaves, that that would be the safest type and time to gather up. Right now mostly brush clearing and lawngrass will be what is being gathered. Now, if you can find an old part of the dump where they dumped last fall/winter's leaves that would probably be some good stuff. This autumn would be a good time to ride the roads looking for those big bags of leaves that people have raked up and set by the road...or big piles sitting there waiting for the vacuum of the chipping machine to come by. Let it be known at church that the garden needs organic matter and can use everybody's leaves (that they don't use themselves). Maybe even get the kids together to rake leaves for different people...charge the people a few dollars that will go into the "Garden Fund" and get the wonderful leaves, too!! Nice fund-raiser project! Bags of leaves would be good for saving for later to use for mulching, whereas piles would be good to load on a truck or trailer and deposit directly on the garden. If a church member has a chipper/shredder that they can loan out that would be big help in breaking down the leaves...or use a lawnmower to shred them.
Get a soil test done.
You might want to contact a brush removal company. They usually are happy to dump a load of shredded stuff somewhere so they don't have to pay dumping fees or haul the load an extra 20 miles. But, the pesticide caveat exists with them. And having said that, plenty of folks get stuff from these companies and have no issues. If it's all fresh green stuff you would think it hasn't been sprayed with anything. Use it for mulch in the paths between beds.
Oak leaves are good...the more intricate the leaf, the better. The pointy, curled leaves of red oaks and white oaks breakdown good for me (I'm in the humid, warm south, though) whereas water oaks' small, flat, slippery leaves tend to break down a bit slower and can form a waterproof mat if not shredded. It's been said not to use black walnut leaves due to a growth suppressor (juglone) in them that affects some plants, such as tomatoes. Most other leaves seem to be pretty good...the waxier leaves (such as bay or magnolia) will take much longer to break down. Pine straw is good for mulching and will eventually break down and add to the soil. I like my broad leaves, though.
I'm curious about something. Was the ground where the garden is located graded with a dozer during construction of the church to promote drainage or to build up the soil beneath the church? If so, it may have created a "hard pan"
Someone mentioned raised beds/rows (I think). My garden is roughly 24'x52'. I have five 50' rows in it. Each row is 3' wide with a 2' path in between. The rows start out about 8-10 inches high and by summers end have dropped down good bit. It *is* labor intensive...but I'm 60 years old and I'm not going to be discovered by a hollywood agent to be the next Superman character, so If I can take my time and do it then an army of kids should get it done without too much trouble...as long as you're good at herding cats.
But, the first thing you need to quickly do is...get a soil test.
In submitting the test write down your observance of the garden proper...what your intents are (children's church/community vegetable garden), new garden, appears lumpy, clayey, etc, Ask (beg) for any suggestions and recommendations that the lab may have for you.
You could plant a green manure crop on at least part of the garden area. I've planted some buckwheat and it's easy to grow, grows quick, and adds organic matter once cut and tilled in or (slower) used as mulch. Several crops of this can be grown each season but it needs to be cut before it goes to seed. Other green manure crops can add nitrogen to the soil, such as the legumes (clovers and peas come to mind) and they also add organic matter.
For loosening up clayey soil you might look at this article here on garden.org: https://garden.org/learn/artic...
Here's another clayey soil link: https://www.humeseeds.com/gyps...
Even though I probably dwelt on manure and compost contaminants too much, organic amendments *will* be the biggest help for the garden.
Get a soil test done.
God bless you, the kids, the church, and the garden. Have fun!!!!!