preparing beds

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qshoefarmer
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preparing beds

Postby qshoefarmer » Tue Jan 30, 2018 12:58 pm

I'm going to be putting in more potatoes so I want to know how I should prepare the soil for them. Up until now for all my other plants ive basically just been hacking at the soil with a digging hoe and pulling out the big weeds by hand. The land im on had huge weeds that I mowed down but their root structures are still embedded in the soil everywhere. Also a ton of green tea roots are left over from the previous owner. Theres also long bamboo roots running everywhere. So ive been hacking at the soil with this digging hoe and removing this stuff by hand. Then i just rake the soil a bit to flatten it out and plant things as seeds or transplants. I also havent been adding any compost or fertilizer. I know obviously this isnt the best way to be doing this and ive been reading about using a digging fork. I was going to buy a rototiller but ive heard that they destroy the soil and its better to just use a digging fork to loosen the soil without inverting it. So i bought a digging fork and even though its pretty small ive been using that to loosen the soil up. Still there are a huge amount of weeds. My question is do I have to remove all these weeds? If i cover them with compost will they die? Also any other advice for preparing soil is very much appreciated. thank you.

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Zasso Nouka
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Re: preparing beds

Postby Zasso Nouka » Wed Jan 31, 2018 7:24 am

This can be quite a contentious area for proponents of different farming styles :lol: but at the end of the day it really just boils down to your own preference. If you don't want to invest in machinery you could well go with a no dig style as championed by Charles Dowding and give his Youtube Channel a watch or you could opt for something a little more like Eliot Coleman's intensive market gardening or Curtis Stone or you could go full on mechanical using lashings of industrial fertilisers. There's really no wrong or right way just what works for you in your situation.

Personally I favour an intensive market garden type approach but that's not to say other methods are not equally valid, perhaps others can tell you what they do as well and then pick a style that suits your needs or take elements from each that appeal to you. On our farm we started with soil that was mineral rich but macro nutrient poor so to get farming quickly we added plenty of composted manures, biochar and mineral supplements in the form of oyster shell. That gets laid on the soil and turned in with our tractor or rototiller and then left as a Stale Seed Bed which will be flame weeded when the weeds have sprouted and then seeded with the intended crop. We try to vary the manure we use to bring a balanced mix of nutrients to our soil rather than relying on just one type of manure, practically speaking we alternate between cow manure and chicken manure.

As for weeds, I still haven't won that battle. Remove what you can and use cultural practices to limit them further but don't be surprised if they still run riot once the weather warms up. In the heat of summer it can be incredible how quickly they can appear and take over, we sometimes seem to spend most of our time fighting them and not always winning. Most bamboo will only send up shoots at a particular time of the year, so knock or snip the shoots off during those few weeks and then for the rest of the year it won't bother you, you will gradually weaken the root system under the soil and kill it off that way. No idea about tea bushes coming back from the roots as I've never had to deal with them as a pest.

I've heard that tilling the soil can damage it but haven't found that to be the case on our land, we grow healthy vegetables that don't seem to have any particular problems and even Charles Dowding suggests that tilling soil is beneficial when you are first getting started to incorporate fertiliser and mineral supplements. At the end of the day no till methods probably are less work once good soil fertility has been established but for my personal situation we need to till in manure to maintain intensive growing through the growing season.

On our farm we also use the black plastic mulch and have found it to be quite beneficial. It suppresses weeds, retains moisture, warms the soil in colder months and stops soil compaction from heavy rain in the rainy season and summer. I couldn't farm our land without using it as I would have to spend far more time on weed control, also use a lot more water for irrigation and wouldn't be able to start crops so early or push them into the colder months for so long. A lot of folk seem against it but it works in our situation.

Hope that helps, see what other folk suggest and then pick a style or elements that appeal to you and try them out.

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Eric in Japan
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Re: preparing beds

Postby Eric in Japan » Wed Jan 31, 2018 10:44 am

Zasso Nouka wrote:This can be quite a contentious area....... pick a style or elements that appeal to you and try them out.


What he said.
"... so, the cucumbers said to the cabbage, `Lettuce Go.`"

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Re: preparing beds

Postby Zasso Nouka » Fri Feb 02, 2018 7:34 am

Just realised I didn't actually answer your question on preparing for potatoes, so here goes.

The way most Japanese farmers do it is to create long hills and cover with black plastic mulch, if you are going to use this method you'll need to incorporate all your fertiliser as you are making the hills. either specific potato fertiliser or chicken manure from your local home centre. Then when it comes time to plant punch holes in the mulch and plant your potatoes about 20 - 30 cm deep.

The method I use is to dig trenches with one of our rototillers, that has a trench digging/hilling facility, but you can do it by hand and then place your potatoes in the trench and cover with a few cm of soil and lightly sprinkle with chicken manure from the home centre. Then once some shoots have come up cover again, repeat this process several times until the soil level in the trench is back up to the original soil level and then add some more chicken manure and then hill up some more soil over the emerging shoots. When covering the shoots you don't want to bury them deeply but ideally have them just poking through the surface.

When choosing your chicken manure check out the NPK (Nitrogen - 窒素, Phosphorous - リン, Potassium - カリウム) ratios. It's on the bottom right hand corner on sacks sold here but maybe in a different spot where you are. You want something that is higher in phosphorous and potassium and lower in nitrogen if available. Otherwise go with whatever they have. Too much nitrogen will just promote excessive leaf growth rather than forming lots of tubers. Also on the sacks is the amount of fertiliser to use per 'Are' which is 100 square metres. If you are using mulch put that amount in when making the hills if you are using my method half of that amount the first time you sprinkle the manure and half the second time.

Potatoes are fairly quick growing and will smother a lot of weeds if you give them a little helping hand at the beginning to try removing what you can and weed around them when they first start growing. Also when you cover the shoots with more soil you cover any emerging weeds but the potato shoots should push through that covering layer while small weeds will be smothered and die.

As the rainy season approaches you need to start watching out for blight, as soon as you spot it either start your harvest or run along with a brush cutter at soil level and cut off all the top growth and then harvest at your leisure.


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