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<  Composting, Mulch, and Soils  ~  Stout-style experiment

PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 7:15 pm
Joined: Fri Feb 26, 2010 7:50 pmPosts: 57Location: SE Michigan
We have reshuffled all the garden beds over the last year or so, and are looking at putting in the new veggie garden this spring. I am very interested in trying a variation on Ruth Stout's heavy mulch method in deep raised beds. (Less work over the season! Please!!)

One thing I always have in *abundance* in the early spring are the piles of the previous fall's mixed species leaves that I clean out of all the shade garden areas in the early spring. In future, I would love to dump them directly onto the raised beds as deep mulch, and then plant in cleared pockets per Ruth. Each spring, there are enough partially rotted but loose leaves to cover all the planned veg beds to at least an 8" depth. More stuff could be added as things slumped, but I would love to use these leaves as the base.

Am I crazy? Is this some kind of 'fever dream'? Or might it work?



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 17, 2010 9:44 pm
Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 5:35 pmPosts: 162Location: NH zone 4/5
Your sig says you're in southern MI/ Were you in Yooper UP your soil might stay too cold for a permanent mulch. I say go fer it!



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Tom C
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 18, 2010 7:15 pm
Joined: Fri Feb 26, 2010 7:50 pmPosts: 57Location: SE Michigan
Thanks, Tom.
Hadn't even thought about the soil-temp issue. (The whole reason I asked about this here. There may be many *other* things I haven't thought about... )

Yeah, we're not only southern MI, but SE. Climate more like northern Ohio. No prob with soil temps, or short-season in terms of decomp.

Unless someone has a good reason not to, I'm going to give it try. Usually I clear out all the *piles* of leaves, move them to all compost, weed all summer, spread compost in the spring after clearing early weeds.... Read a post at "A Way To Garden" http://awaytogarden.com a few days ago that reminded me of Ruth Stout's methods.

I hope to cut out a couple of labor-intensive steps, and at least reduce the unendingness of a couple more. Just clear out leaves, dump them in veggie garden. Go have a cup of tea :D
We'll see how it goes....



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 19, 2010 9:13 am
Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 5:35 pmPosts: 162Location: NH zone 4/5
If you poke a pencil at the middle of a map of New Hampshire, you will come right close to the Monadnock region. Its zone is something more'n 4 and less'n 5. I keep my beds in permanent mulch alla R Stout. With NO problem.

Way back when I lived in the northeast kingdom (Essex county VT) which is much more reminicent of the upper peninsula; and the summer legend of having six weeks of bad sledding (as a summer). Up der a permanent mulch DID keep soil too cold.

*If* there is a down side to permanent mulched beds it is ideal habitat for slugs. So if pouring off a bit of beer (into a saucer) to drown slugs in is too dear for you, then you may want to reconcider.



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Tom C
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 19, 2010 7:20 pm
Joined: Fri Feb 26, 2010 7:50 pmPosts: 57Location: SE Michigan
(Six weeks of bad sledding... :lol: :lol: )

Slugs are yet another thing I hadn't considered. But we tend to have some years when there aren't many at all, and then have a year when they are *everywhere*. Yes, weather, certainly. And the previous spring's weather. But also seems to be some kind of 'cycle' here.

I'll keep an eye out to see just where in their 'happy cycle' they are.

Have no problem putting out *lots* of little containers of beer around the plants/beds, as long as it is really cheap beer. Not willing to share the good stuff. But I understand that slugs are not connoisseurs :D



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To find your roots, get your hands in soil. To live fully in the present, imagine your garden and make it happen. To see all of reality, spend some time sitting quietly in the garden.... Then get your hands back in the dirt.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 21, 2010 9:44 pm
Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 5:35 pmPosts: 162Location: NH zone 4/5
FWIW slugs do not like scratchy feet. If Hubbs or any other regular contributor uses an electric shaver. knock out the stubble onto your mulched beds.



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Tom C
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 4:37 pm
Joined: Fri Feb 26, 2010 7:50 pmPosts: 57Location: SE Michigan
"FWIW slugs do not like scratchy feet."

('That brings *great* pictures to mind, she says, giggling...)

Unfortunately, the Hubbs has a beard down to the middle of his chest. But there was a **substantial** amount of cut-up thistle debris that got mixed into one batch of the compost last summer. (Without flowers, seeds or roots, of course.)

I think I may have that whole scratchy-feet thing taken care of if I just spread some of this batch of compost around the plants, eh? I'm certainly not planning on putting that compost anywhere where *I* will be going in bare feet....



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To find your roots, get your hands in soil. To live fully in the present, imagine your garden and make it happen. To see all of reality, spend some time sitting quietly in the garden.... Then get your hands back in the dirt.
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 22, 2010 10:12 pm
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2008 10:08 pmPosts: 187Location: Zone 5
I've lived most of my life in Zone 5, and never had any trouble with Ruth Stout's methods, but one area of the garden that you might consider pulling back the mulch for an early spring warm up is where you plan to plant tomatoes. You don't have to strip the entire bed, just pull it back around where you intend to place your plants.

Alternatively, you could cover the area with plastic. I do that anyways in my personal little ecosystem because I have unresolvable shade issues in the fall with my vegetable patch, so like to give the toms as much an edge as I can in the spring. Once the soil is warm and the plants are established, I remove the plastic and shove the mulch back in around the plants. They seem to like that as by then the roots stay warm, but they don't get baked by hot summer sun either.

Everything else does fine, but those tomatoes sure like warm feet.

Now re the slugs. Definitely will have slugs if you live in a moist climate and use mulch. The beer worked wonders in one area that we lived for a few years, but in this particular neck of the woods, the slugs don't seem to have a taste for beer. I've never found more than 5 or 6 slugs in several containers I've put out in 3 years of trying. Last year I didn't even bother. Just went out early and hand picked.

Any ideas as to why that might be? Would love to use my early mornings in something more pleasant than slug duty.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 6:10 pm
Joined: Fri Feb 26, 2010 7:50 pmPosts: 57Location: SE Michigan
Good point about early soil warming for tomatoes. I expect peppers would appreciate this, too, but certainly tomatoes. Thanks for the heads-up!

As to why your slugs don't like beer, couldn't tell you. I have never used the beer method, as in past years, even bad slug years, about all they feasted on were hostas in some shade areas. I mostly explained to the hostas that they would just have to figure it out on their own.

This year, I just might be trading 'weeds' for 'slugs' in the veggie garden, and I don't know if mine will bother with beer either. In our area, spring and very early summer can be moist, but then everything seems to get much drier than we'd like.

But there's *got* to be a better early morning hobby than slug-picking....

Slugs like moisture but can they swim? I'm thinking narrow, plastic-lined "moat" :lol:



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PostPosted: Tue Mar 23, 2010 7:11 pm
Joined: Wed Feb 08, 2006 6:02 pmPosts: 1927Location: PNW
I live in slug country and have used the iron based baits for several years now. Sluggo, Worry Free and other brand names. It works well. I just scatter a little around any plants I want to protect. We just have so many that I'll always have some slug damage, but I can live with that. Starlings come in about once a year and feast on the young slugs in the grass and beds. It's very helpful and once they're done, they're gone. They feed their young, keeping mom and dad very busy.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 2:05 pm
Joined: Wed Feb 10, 2010 12:51 pmPosts: 3
I usually try to either let the chickens break up the leaves a bit before using them for mulch, or put them in a metal garbage can and weed whack them a bit. Otherwise, if you're using maple or other large sized leaves then they get wet and pack down. Under the broken up leaves the soil stays moist and warm, with lots of worms.

As for the slugs, there's an old saying; there's no such thing as an excess of slugs, just a dearth of ducks!


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 24, 2010 7:58 pm
Joined: Fri Feb 26, 2010 7:50 pmPosts: 57Location: SE Michigan
Starlings.... Ducks.... Thanks for the :D

If slugs become a problem, I just need to attract slug-loving birds! Honestly, I don't expect that slugs will be a huge problem here. If they do, I think I will use the iron-based baits (thanks!) and drink the beer.

And I do have some larger leaves, some maple and some basswood, but most are a mix of smaller leaves, and lots of shrub leaves. In early spring, the lowest level does mat, but by the time I get them off the shade garden, dump the wet and dry together in the path, get around to raking them up a week later, and mash them into the wheel barrow for transport, I mostly have busted up, mostly dry/drying leaves.

The starlings brought a memory to mind. A few years ago, a couple of herb blocks got infested with a huge ant nest, and I turned the blocks over, and went after the nest with a garden fork, and then went off to sit on a bench for a while, waiting for the ants to stop boiling so much. The wrens from the birdhouse next door went crazy! Apparently, they have a great appreciation for ant larvae... For two hours, they went back and forth, carrying ant larvae to the kids, and that wren house was rockin'! Every half hour or so, they would slow some, finding less, and I would wander over, put the fork to good use, and then go back to the bench. Great whoop-de-hollers in the wren house again! After the first few times, when they slowed, Dad would sit on the top of the house, and just look at me.... I could feel him humphing at me to do my job.... Went over and forked up more of the nest. Sat down on the bench. And more larvae went into little wrens. Absolutely the best fun I have ever had 'feeding the birds".
I'll never forget it....



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To find your roots, get your hands in soil. To live fully in the present, imagine your garden and make it happen. To see all of reality, spend some time sitting quietly in the garden.... Then get your hands back in the dirt.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:09 am
Joined: Wed Feb 08, 2006 6:02 pmPosts: 1927Location: PNW
Sounds like a fun experience with the wrens. the babies must've plumped up with all that food!

I have some chickadees that will let me know when the bird bath needs filling and I sure get a kick out of them communicating with me. They follow me around chattering at me until I get the clue, then when I fill it, they sound much happier and go about their business.


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 27, 2010 6:46 pm
Joined: Fri Feb 26, 2010 7:50 pmPosts: 57Location: SE Michigan
"They follow me around chattering at me until I get the clue..."

Very cool. Isn't that fun!!

The 'birdbrains' in my yard undoubtedly pay much more attention to me that I do to them, and they are not stupid. They do connect the things that happen in our yards with *us*, and can get downright huffy if we don't keep up with the program.... :)

Some years ago, we were out camping and had cooked some angelhair pasta for dinner, and I rinsed out the pasta pot and dumped the water in the bushes. There were maybe six long pieces left in the water. Next morning, a pair of cardinals that were apparently nesting in the bushes nearby were harvesting pieces of the pasta and carrying it off, as if it were pieces of worms.

We were there for about a week, and it's true, we were then 'cooking for the birds'. Not much, but just a noodle or two to temp them. At days three and four, the fledglings were brought in. Apparently, we were safe to be around....



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To find your roots, get your hands in soil. To live fully in the present, imagine your garden and make it happen. To see all of reality, spend some time sitting quietly in the garden.... Then get your hands back in the dirt.
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