Vegetables and Fruit forum: First post, maybe over my head? Church garden!

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SeedHound8675309
May 28, 2018 6:57 PM CST
I was going to volunteer for the gardening program but it looks like I'm going to be running it. It seems as though I "know the most about gardening" Lol. The summer program is for kids to learn to garden and eat healthy.

I just now started my account here and am hoping this is the correct section to be posting in. I know people on other forums have said "use the search feature" but I'm kinda freaking and will search later after I learn the site more. I'm just more or less wanting to make some connections and make sure I get off on the right foot. I'm not the best gardener but out of all the people at my church I'm "the best candidite." A lady literally asked me if we were going to plant "green tomatoes". I assured her that all started out green! Lol. Plus, I have experience in the classroom so that's a plus. It gets a lot of sun. My friend just disced it. So far that's it. I have financial backing so far 50 bucks but I will have more donations as the program starts within the next couple weeks. I have a lot of personal tools/seeds and am going to put money towards it too. The soil is very hard and I'm afraid that probably means clay. Right now I just want to know how to prepare the soil for your basic garden veggies. I have been reading a lot and plan on searching the forum, but, like I said, I'm also looking to find some expertise here which would be very nice, and make some connections for when I need help.

If anyone has any books they would suggest I buy, or websites I can read that would be appreciated or maybe online videos?

Thank you in advanced. Your knowledge and expertise will be benefiting the lives of children in a town that could desperately use a program like this.
[Last edited by SeedHound8675309 - Jul 31, 2018 3:24 PM (+)]
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Name: Caroline Scott
Calgary (Zone 4a)
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CarolineScott
May 29, 2018 6:37 AM CST
A good project ! that you have stepped up to lead.
There are many experienced gardeners on the forums here.
You do not say where you are ? Which gardening zone ?

My first thought is that you probably need to add organic matter to that clay soil. Compost, well rotted manure...

Welcome!

There are some varieties of tomatoes which are green when ripe too. Green Zebra is one.
[Last edited by CarolineScott - May 29, 2018 6:40 AM (+)]
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Name: Paul Fish
Brownville, Nebraska (Zone 5b)
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PaulF
May 29, 2018 7:31 AM CST
Expertise comes quickly...help does not. The first couple of years are difficult to get participation, but with a well intentioned community garden project the rewards are many. I suggest starting smaller in scope and building on it. Good Luck!
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Birds Garden Ideas: Master Level Butterflies Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Roses Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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Newyorkrita
May 29, 2018 9:13 AM CST
If that soil is clay try to get lots of organic material added in.

Not sure what to say would be best to plant now as we don't yet know where you are located.

Get that soil improved. It's not that excited but it will pay great divedens as far as the garden is concerned.
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
Charter ATP Member Vegetable Grower Region: Maryland Composter Region: Mid-Atlantic Native Plants and Wildflowers
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sallyg
May 29, 2018 4:14 PM CST
One idea- get the whole thing covered in shredded hardwood mulch, then buy starter plants and plant through that. it blocks many weeds and will be your 'added organic matter' Even non gardeners can spread mulch, it's not as much labor as digging compost in (but the friend who disced might be able to till compost in of you can spread it?) and plant might just do OK.

Acc to Wikipedia, Indiana is the only state with 92 counties

..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)

SeedHound8675309
May 29, 2018 6:15 PM CST
Yes, it's Indiana, southern Indiana to be exact. Thanks for all the replies. I will be getting compost/manure soon and hopefully off on a good start.

SeedHound8675309
May 29, 2018 7:39 PM CST
Ok, I just went and looked at it. It's about 6" deep with clumps about fist size and smaller, and lots of dead/dying grass and clover. The plot is an east/west facing rectangle with 2 larger trees about 50 feet to the west side of the garden and nothing blocking the east side. So it may get a little less sun on the west side as the sun sets. I'm currently skimming facebook for farmers who may have manure they want to donate. Thus far, my only concern, and please tell me if this is a valid one, but it looks as though the dirt, is effectively, for lack of better words, sitting in a clay trough. As I pushed the dirt aside to see how deep it went, there was a very clear and defined solid clay bottom. Is this common? A perfect set up for swamping my garden? I've never really done this so I can't say what will happen, but it looks as though I have a 20x60 soon-to-be-shallow-kiddie-pool when it rains. I mean I guess I could have it tilled deeper but I don't see the dirt getting any more well drained as it goes down?

CarolineScott: I will definitely have to let the lady know about these fully ripe green tomatoes. Now she can prove them otherwise!! Smiling

Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Birds Garden Ideas: Master Level Butterflies Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Roses Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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Newyorkrita
May 29, 2018 7:43 PM CST
It sounds like it needs a lot of work before planting.
Name: Dillard Haley
Augusta Georgia (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Master Level Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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farmerdill
May 30, 2018 5:41 AM CST
If your plot is not in a depression , a clay bottom is not a problem. For many plants a plus as it will hold water in dry spells. hopefully your plot is level or slightly elevated above the surrounding area. On soils which have slow drainage, plants which don't like wet feet are planted on lists or mounds (hills). As a beginner I would suggest that start with plants that have high output per plant like tomatoes, peppers, melons, cucumbers , squash. Of course the first rule is grow what you like to eat. Leave the exotics for a later time when your comfort level is higher. Relax and enjoy the experience. Yesteryears farmers just plowed up any field available and planted. If they had any extra money they put a little 5-10-5 and manure they had into the soil when planting. They depended on their crop to put food on the table. Enriching the soil with lots of organic matter is highly desirable, but they did not have that luxury.

SeedHound8675309
May 31, 2018 1:02 PM CST
I put 4 stakes up for the guy to disc and it was the levelest spot I could find. I asked another lady who had been going there for quite some time and she said she never knew of any water to standing there.

UPDATE: My mom found a guy on facebook who raises organic cattle. Somehow we are friends with them. The manure has been there "for quite some time" and is a "rather large pile"... As far as I know the manure is kept in an empty stall inside a barn. I'm not sure exactly how old it is or what type of bedding the guy uses. I do know the stalls are where he uses grain to fatten them up so more than likely the stalls manure is mostly grain and not grass. They said we are welcome to look at it before hand if we want. He apparently has at least a truck load of it. How old should it be? I've read one place that says a year one that says 6 months and one that says 90-120 days. One farmer said a month...? Do you think it's safe? I mean it would be at least a month or so before stuff starts to really fruit and from what they say it's already pretty old. What should I look for if I go look at it. I just don't want to be responsible for giving 20 or 30 people in my community e-coli you know..

Farmerdill: I especially enjoyed you comment about how farmers of yesteryear did things and relied so greatly on their own hard work. I hope i can instill some of this into the children of the church program.. Lord knows it's greatly needed.
Name: Dillard Haley
Augusta Georgia (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Master Level Avid Green Pages Reviewer Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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farmerdill
May 31, 2018 1:19 PM CST
To be on the safe side. I would use the manure in fall work it into ground and let over winter for next years crop.
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Birds Garden Ideas: Master Level Butterflies Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Roses Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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Newyorkrita
May 31, 2018 1:20 PM CST
Sounds perfect to me!!
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
Charter ATP Member Vegetable Grower Region: Maryland Composter Region: Mid-Atlantic Native Plants and Wildflowers
Keeper of Poultry Region: United States of America Dog Lover Cat Lover Birds
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sallyg
May 31, 2018 8:32 PM CST
Given that other people's children will be in the garden, I'd suggest an overabundance of caution about the manure. As Farmer Dill said..
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)

SeedHound8675309
Jun 1, 2018 1:08 PM CST
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.
Name: Ed
Crenshaw County, South Alabama (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Vegetable Grower Zinnias
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Intheswamp
Jun 3, 2018 7:03 AM CST
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. Crying

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. Smiling

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" situation.

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. Big Grin

But, the first thing you need to quickly do is...get a soil test. Smiling 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. Smiling

God bless you, the kids, the church, and the garden. Have fun!!!!!
Ed
"My old socks smell like cilantro..."
South Alabama - 8a/8b
The Enchanted Land of Humidity
www.beeweather.com
2017 Garden Photo Album: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm1zSVfK
“It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.”
― Rod Serling
Name: Ed
Crenshaw County, South Alabama (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Vegetable Grower Zinnias
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Intheswamp
Jun 3, 2018 7:05 AM CST
Ooooh, looks like I rambled quiet a bit. I forgot to add my usual disclaimer...I'm basically a rank newbie that these other folks have helped tremendously over the last couple of years. Great group here!!!!!!!!

Take my advice with a grain (maybe a whole pinch?) of salt. nodding

Ed
"My old socks smell like cilantro..."
South Alabama - 8a/8b
The Enchanted Land of Humidity
www.beeweather.com
2017 Garden Photo Album: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm1zSVfK
“It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.”
― Rod Serling
Name: Ed
Crenshaw County, South Alabama (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Vegetable Grower Zinnias
Image
Intheswamp
Jun 3, 2018 7:13 AM CST
Will each child have a small plot that will be "their's" or will it be a community garden where each of them works the entire garden and shares the entire bounty? Or, will the harvests be used for church dinners? Or,....????

Just curious about the end use/dispersal of the produce. :)

Ed
"My old socks smell like cilantro..."
South Alabama - 8a/8b
The Enchanted Land of Humidity
www.beeweather.com
2017 Garden Photo Album: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm1zSVfK
“It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.”
― Rod Serling
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
Charter ATP Member Vegetable Grower Region: Maryland Composter Region: Mid-Atlantic Native Plants and Wildflowers
Keeper of Poultry Region: United States of America Dog Lover Cat Lover Birds
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sallyg
Jun 3, 2018 7:55 AM CST
With all due respect- managing composting of leaves in this zone (similar to my zone) is a whole nother labor intensive thing. It would be best if any church members specifically SHRED their leaves with a mower and will bring them to you. Think about that in fall, and the kids can learn about compost and worms and fungus and gnats. Ask them to eat more fruit and vegetables so they can contribute the scraps and peels to the worms.

FarmerDill has great advice, here, specifically, don't overthink it, or overstress, I'm sure you will produce something and that is enough to impress people. (I have ordinary potted plants at the library and people think I'm Ms Horticulture Queen)

the cat herd will be happy to plant little starter plants or large seeds like beans, but NOT necessarily happy with lengthy forced labor of major dirt work. Be sure to reward with food and drink after a digging session.

as Ed suggested, if there's a tree/shrub shredder company that will dump a load, might do that. The goal is cover everything with 2-3 inches of mulch and then dig it aside where each plant will go. (Some of the boys may like impressing you with their mighty diggin and wheelbarrow pushing power. !) I started my new plot that way two years ago, worked great. Maybe throw some basic general fertilizer all over before the wood chips. Here's some general info about Indiana soil - includes a link to a soil test lab, though a soil test will delay everything and summer is here now.

http://www.spottsgardens.com/g...

Where's the water? Plants now might be facing hot weather pretty soon.
..come into the peace of wild things..-Wendell Berry
Life is a buffet (anon)
Name: Ed
Crenshaw County, South Alabama (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Vegetable Grower Zinnias
Image
Intheswamp
Jun 4, 2018 7:52 AM CST
Yes, I don't know how decomposition works in more northern areas...around here it doesn't take long, apparently.

Good point on the water!!!

@Churchgarden812, do those fist-sized clods of dirt break up fairly easily or are they hard? Very hard? Indiana has a variety of soils, some of which is very good. Clay is not necessarily bad. Smiling Has this area been possibly used for a parking area in the past? That could have compressed/packed the soil a good bit.
"My old socks smell like cilantro..."
South Alabama - 8a/8b
The Enchanted Land of Humidity
www.beeweather.com
2017 Garden Photo Album: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm1zSVfK
“It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.”
― Rod Serling
Name: Ed
Crenshaw County, South Alabama (Zone 8b)
Region: Alabama Vegetable Grower Zinnias
Image
Intheswamp
Jun 6, 2018 7:17 AM CST
@Churchgarden812 , you still around? Any progress, thoughts about the garden? Smiling
"My old socks smell like cilantro..."
South Alabama - 8a/8b
The Enchanted Land of Humidity
www.beeweather.com
2017 Garden Photo Album: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm1zSVfK
“It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.”
― Rod Serling

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