starting a garden in a farm (cropped) field

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by Kris in MI, Aug 1, 2005.

  1. Kris in MI

    Kris in MI Well-Known Member Supporter

    May 29, 2002
    Has anyone else started a garden in what had previously been a field used for crops (soybeans and wheat)? What did you do (if anything) to make it good for gardening? How long did it take to get a good yield of a variety of garden plants?

    We bought land in 2002. It had been previously farmed for who-knows-how-long for grain crops. It was in soybeans when we bought it. Tried our first garden in 2003, with really poor results (little came up, most that did sprout died before maturing). In 2004 my oldest ds took a soil sample in to his high school environmental studies class to run tests on. Turns up with next to no nitrogen (barely turned the test solution pink, was supposed to be red to indicate nitrogen). Ph was ok, and we knew the soil had alot of clay. I added aged horse manure and mulched with about 3" straw last year. Very good cucumber crop, so-so green beans, at least got a few tomatoes and enough corn for one meal. Everything else (including zucchini!) was a bust. At the end of the year, let all the 'trash' sit on top of the soil (the dead plants after frost, pulled weeds, etc) and tilled it in this spring. Also buried the chicken guts and feathers from butchering out some roosters, and the deer hair from soaking deerhides in lime solution in the garden. Parked my portable chicken coop on the edge of the garden in the fall and let them run around (and poop) on the garden until spring this year.

    This year, added lots more old horse manure, about a dozen pickup loads. Things germinated much much better (except the cukes and squash, darn it!), but despite watering they just haven't grown well. Now if I can't even grow zucchini, something has got to be wrong here :bash:

    I am pretty much resigned to adding manure, mulch, etc for several more years before I expect a decent harvest. Is there something I'm missing (other than patience, lol)? Do not use chemical fertilizers, etc due to kids and my chemical sensitivities.
  2. BearCreekFarm

    BearCreekFarm Well-Known Member

    Jun 23, 2005

    The only thing I can suggest that you aren't already doing is this- place your chicken tractor over your garden beds, one at a time. Leave it in one spot for several weeks, and every day go out and add a couple of bushels of organic material (leaves, grass clippings, kitchen waste, stable bedding, etc). After a few weeks the litter should be about 12" deep. Move the tractor to the next bed and repeat. You can plant right in the deep litter if you place a handful of potting soil or finished compost in each planting spot- a little more if setting transplants. By the time the roots grow out of the soil area the mulch/litter will not burn them. Make sure you provide enough water- I pre-soak most of my seeds for 20 minutes or so before planting- seems to work really well for me.

    Good luck.

  3. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

    Sep 19, 2004
    There shouldn't be too much different about gardening on a crop field of soybeans than what to do in rotational planting between green manure cover crop like oats followed by buckwheat and till that in. The rotted horse manure is grand also, but nutrients from adding compost or tilling in a knee high growth of buckwheat can do wonders.
    I once had the garden planted up in millet and buckwheat that went to seed as a 'crop'. Once that was harvested, I reseeded with annual rye to let it grow in fall to winterkill. Was easy to till the next spring and sew oats which grows fast and that was tilled in along with the staw/manure mix from cleaning out the turkey and chicken pens. That grew a tremendous garden of a mixed bag. For squash and pumpkins, I planted on hills with extra manure around each plant rather than broadcasting. Water with 'manure tea' or 'compost tea' about once a week during the growing season and things should flourish.
  4. travlnusa

    travlnusa Well-Known Member

    Dec 12, 2004
    Horse manure has very little Nitrogen avaliable. What is there is bound up quite tightly. Great for organic matter, but pretty low in avaliable N. Use another souce and you should be in good shape.

    If you care to, have tissue samples done. Most Universities will do them at a very low cost. You will then know EXACTLY how much of anything and everything you will need. We did that and found that our N,P and K were good, but there minerals were nowhere to be found. That is why we could never quite get to were we wanted to. Added what we needed, and have had bumper crops ever since.