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oh my! im new and overwhelmed w/ all the info!

 
pollinator
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Hi!
This is my first post. I live in central east Fl. (10a) and I've been slowly getting addicted to gardening. last year I did a grow bag experiment (plastic underbed storage totes with Walmart totes filled with potting soil) which is still growing strong and thus has given me the confidence for my next project. I made an aluminum raised bed and have filled it with newer and old cut wood and branches (mostly oak), and have filled the nooks and cranies with used bedding pine pellets (used by my 2 bunnies) with urine, rabbit manure and some hay AND coffee grounds. I still have about a foot of space left on top. what else should I add to finish it off? More manure? Compost? Straw? Soil? biochar? leaves? cardboard? (I have access to all of the above) This bed will have irrigation but my goal is that as it establishes itself it will need less and less water (Mostly I filled the bed with wood because it was free and im cheap and did not want to buy a metric butt ton of soil). But I do want a healthy soil in which I can grow tomatoes, peppers, and greens. Thanks in advance for any info you guys can provide me with.
 
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Welcome to Permies, Vanessa! Yes there's lots of info on permies and it's easy to feel overwhelmed. You're in a very different eco-system than I am, but your description of your new raised bed sounds like it has potential.

Was the oak punky or fairly fresh? Oak is generally a hard-wood, so it will take time to decompose and in the meantime will benefit from extra nitrogen which both urine and coffee grounds are known for. The plants will benefit from actual soil near the top to help anchor their roots, but if you have lots of leaves and they decompose fast enough in your climate, that might work. A secondary bin working as a worm compost might give you extra to add just before planting, as I suspect that you will find what you've got will settle a lot.

Good luck!
 
Vanessa Alarcon
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Jay Angler wrote:Welcome to Permies, Vanessa! Yes there's lots of info on permies and it's easy to feel overwhelmed. You're in a very different eco-system than I am, but your description of your new raised bed sounds like it has potential.

Was the oak punky or fairly fresh? Oak is generally a hard-wood, so it will take time to decompose and in the meantime will benefit from extra nitrogen which both urine and coffee grounds are known for. The plants will benefit from actual soil near the top to help anchor their roots, but if you have lots of leaves and they decompose fast enough in your climate, that might work. A secondary bin working as a worm compost might give you extra to add just before planting, as I suspect that you will find what you've got will settle a lot.

Good luck!


Thanks Jay! Copy that! I'll have the whole family peeing in there lol. As far as the wood, the bigger log pieces were fairly fresh but the rest of the twigs an branches were old/dry (punky?). I'll also make sure to stop by Starbucks and get me some more grounds. I do have a couple of worm bins that I gotta go through, so i'll use their castings. I also have a bsfl bin but I worry that the frass/castings on that bin haven't been composted yet. do you think I need a layer of carboard in between the top soil and everything else? BTW this bed is 4 feet deep.
Thanks again!
 
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I would get soil on there and plan to replenish it periodically.  All that organic manure (hay, rabbit manure) is gonna decompose and shrink a lot, maybe exposing the logs. So add soil, and fill soil into holes that develop. I think soil has minerals that the other items lack. Although adding seawater would get those minerals in there also. Seawater is something in my arsenal because i have access to it and it is free.

Cardboard is something that is used to keep weeds from coming through. Mainly used when biulding a garden bed directly on the ground as a barrier. I would not think it needed in your case.

Back to the organic matter. I made a raised bed from 2x6s and filled it with decomposed horse manure. After 1 season that 5.5" of manure was maybe 1/2" deep. It was pretty amazing. So plan for additions. There was speculation and debate here as far as how much volume is lost when making compost. The guesses were in the range of 50 to 90%.i think Pauls prediction was at 90%.
 
Jay Angler
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You mention access to biochar. Is this already microorganism inoculated? If so, it would be good to tuck down into holes around the wood to hold nutrients in your climate, which I've read tends to cycle dead material fairly quickly. If it is "raw" biochar, I'd suggest that when you harvest material from your worm bin, you put the biochar in there to soak up all the microorganisms that the worms poop out, and then add it from there to your new bed. Either way, a little biochar would keep nutrients from leaching.

Wayne Fajkus is totally right - this bed is going to settle a lot, and keep settling. If you don't want to have to buy too much soil, you will have to keep your worms busy producing material to top up the bed. I'm told that worms adore chopped up cardboard - they like the glue - but there are people concerned about toxic chemicals in cardboard also. You will need to keep you eyes out for good, high carbon worm feed-stocks like dead leaves. Being further north than you, this is the "season of leaves" but it takes time to rake and places to stock pile them.
 
Vanessa Alarcon
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wayne fajkus wrote:I would get soil on there and plan to replenish it periodically.  All that organic manure (hay, rabbit manure) is gonna decompose and shrink a lot, maybe exposing the logs. So add soil, and fill soil into holes that develop. I think soil has minerals that the other items lack. Although adding seawater would get those minerals in there also. Seawater is something in my arsenal because i have access to it and it is free.

Cardboard is something that is used to keep weeds from coming through. Mainly used when biulding a garden bed directly on the ground as a barrier. I would not think it needed in your case.

Back to the organic matter. I made a raised bed from 2x6s and filled it with decomposed horse manure. After 1 season that 5.5" of manure was maybe 1/2" deep. It was pretty amazing. So plan for additions. There was speculation and debate here as far as how much volume is lost when making compost. The guesses were in the range of 50 to 90%.i think Pauls prediction was at 90%.



Thanks! yeah, i'll figure there'll be significant shrinkage, but as long as I can add compost with the soil it will offset some of the cost.
 
Vanessa Alarcon
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Jay Angler wrote:You mention access to biochar. Is this already microorganism inoculated? If so, it would be good to tuck down into holes around the wood to hold nutrients in your climate, which I've read tends to cycle dead material fairly quickly. If it is "raw" biochar, I'd suggest that when you harvest material from your worm bin, you put the biochar in there to soak up all the microorganisms that the worms poop out, and then add it from there to your new bed. Either way, a little biochar would keep nutrients from leaching.

Wayne Fajkus is totally right - this bed is going to settle a lot, and keep settling. If you don't want to have to buy too much soil, you will have to keep your worms busy producing material to top up the bed. I'm told that worms adore chopped up cardboard - they like the glue - but there are people concerned about toxic chemicals in cardboard also. You will need to keep you eyes out for good, high carbon worm feed-stocks like dead leaves. Being further north than you, this is the "season of leaves" but it takes time to rake and places to stock pile them.


nope, its not inoculated yet. (really is just wood from our last bonfire that didn't burn down to ash). hope to break it up and mix w/ worm castings and flour. I think that figuring out how to have the soil hold on to micro nutrients in this hot rainy climate is the most important thing, otherwise you are fertilizing all the time! I have read a little on rock dust but don't know enough yet to use it.
 
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Jay Angler wrote:You mention access to biochar. Is this already microorganism inoculated? If so, it would be good to tuck down into holes around the wood to hold nutrients in your climate, which I've read tends to cycle dead material fairly quickly. If it is "raw" biochar, I'd suggest that when you harvest material from your worm bin, you put the biochar in there to soak up all the microorganisms that the worms poop out, and then add it from there to your new bed. Either way, a little biochar would keep nutrients from leaching.



Now you understand why I subscribe to the school of thought that says if it isn't inoculated, it's charcoal, and if it is, it's biochar :)  Staves off all that confusion...

Vanessa, if it were me, I'd take all that stuff you mentioned, mix it together, and throw it in if you aren't planning to plant it immediately.  If you want to plant right away, I would do the same but make the last 4 inches or so soil so you can plant in that.  I would still take as much of all those materials as you can get and throw them in a big pile all mixed together to compost.  You can never have too much compost.
 
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Vanessa,

You said that you are addicted to gardening.  I say no such thing!  An addiction is inherently a self-destructive action.  I see no way that gardening is in any way self-destructive!!  Especially Permies style gardening!!  But that’s just my snarky opinion.  Good job on a great start and the right attitude!!

Ok, so I will throw out some thoughts and suggestions, but please bear in mind that I live much further north so what I have to say would work there, but I don’t know about Florida.

Regarding biochar, I am in full agreement that what you have is charcoal and not biochar—yet.  Go ahead and add it, it will help in the long run.

I love to add leaves.  They can do wonders for soil, no matter what type of soil you have.  However, don’t expect the leaves to add any appreciable bulk or height to your soil.  For years I added a LOT of leaves to my modest sized garden beds.  And I mean a lot of leaves.  As in 2-3’ piles of shredded leaves added each fall for years.  The soil seemed to just eat the leaves.  I never got an appreciable amount of bulk added to my soil.  My soil is much better, looser, more friable, but it is not exactly like there is any more soil than before.  Please, I still say add in those leaves as they will do wonders for the soil, but I have found that they just don’t bulk it up.

Since you are in Florida, may I assume that you have sandy soil?  Leaves will add in lots of organic matter and help it retain water.

Also, I say either compost up all that organic material, preferably in the bed itself.  Soil that hosts a compost heap is magically fertile after the heap is gone.  Even if the compost does not break down all the way, all those microbes will work their way into the soil underneath.  Further, if you have worms in your bed, they too will love that compost pile, coming and going as they please.

These are just my thoughts and and please take them or leave them as you see fit.

Welcome to Permies, and while the information can be overwhelming, please don’t hesitate to ask.  In fact, please keep us updated on your progress.

Eric
 
Vanessa Alarcon
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Thanks Trace and Eric. I agree with all you have said and definitely will follow your directions. One of the hardest things about gardening in Florida is that the soil has so little bio matter! (it took me embarrassingly too long to understand this) and even if you start in potting soil, if you don't amend it continuously (and then keep adding chemical fertilizers, like every week! which first of all yuck! but second: i'm cheap baby! nobody's got time to keep on buying that stuff! if a tomato is going to cost me more than me buying it at the supermarket, then i'm out! (and i know some will say but its not about the cost! its about the flavor! yadayada...but i'm not about to eat a $3.00 tomato!)) your plants just suffer. so far my path in this gardening thing has been like this:

Moved into new house and planted hostas in front flower bed that had no irrigation, no preparation, nothing. everything died.
Started to learn and experiment with succulents (the gateway drug lol), got good at propagating and keeping alive. planted in front flower bed. success!
Started a worm farm. then got another bigger one with part of the colony from the first one.
Started a bsfl bin (amazing voracious eaters and i can feed them to my bearded dragon and hopelly 3 chickens [still talking hubby into it- and i want 2 ducks. we'll see])
Expanded front flower bed and added drip irrigation. everything is looking awesome.
Tried the grow bag method with Walmart shopping totes and underbed storage from goodwill. still have kale and mustard greens going strong. but the plastic is falling apart fast!
I'm also experimenting with Kratky in my kitchen. dream of having a lettuce and microgreens cabinet to supplement meals and not have it wilt in my fridge.

i love diving deep into these rabbit holes of information about permaculture and hugelkulture and biochar and beekeeping! i have so much to learn!!! i love it!!!

my next experiment its going to be to wrap some equine bedding pellets into a heavy duty aluminum "tamale" poke a couple of holes in it and throw it on the grill next time hubby grills, see if i can get charcoal that way.

Thanks again to everyone for all the info!


ooh. edited to add! so we just trimmed the other oak in our yard(boy did it need it) and now have lots of wood to fill the other 2 beds im making (not all the way to the top and i know it still green but i won't be using the beds right away (even though this is our planting season and i would love to) plus i have a pretty good pile of "punky" wood (lol i love that term) and keep stopping my car to pick up more (yes, i'm that crazy person). Anyway, with the branches, of course, came lots of leaves. green leaves. i already have a big container of brown leaves that im going to chop up and put in black bags under my deck and see if i get leaf mould for next year. plus my first bed has a lot of brown leaves too. so my question is: Do i add the green leaves to the other 2 beds? do i collect them, wait for them to turn brown and then add them to the beds? do i collect them, let them turn brown and use them for leaf mold?
 
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