Breaking Sod for a New Vegetable Garden

Discussion in 'Soils, Fertilizers and Composting' started by akwx, Oct 13, 2006.

  1. akwx

    akwx Member

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    I have plans to break sod in the back yard for a small patch of garden. The area in mind is along a 3' high concrete retaining wall, with a 5' cedar fence on top. The dimension of this small garden is approximately 4' wide (starting from the concrete wall) and about 16' in length. The soil underneath a thin layer of top soil is hard pan (I've dug deeper, 3', at various spots in this back yard, the drainage is very poor; a drainage system, complete with an in-ground sump, for the lawn has been put in place, since). This new garden is on the higher side of the backyard.

    Here are the concerns:

    1. When would be the best time for the sod-breaking?

    2. Would it be best to do it now, and try to work with the soil over the mild winters in Vancouver?

    3. What would be the best way to prepare the soil for growing veggies in the Spring?

    There also the adjacent berm area under the shades of a 10' high bush which name is unbeknowns to me, a 10' weeping willow, and a 30' cedar tree. This area is about 16' x 20', and is constantly the recipient of cedar, and pine (beyond the back fence) droppings. I'm wondering what to do to dress up this area with some colors, other than green!

    akwx
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2006
  2. globalist1789

    globalist1789 Active Member

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    Hi akwx,

    You can pull up the sod when ever you want. Doesn't matter as long as it is done in time to plant. It's always a good idea to add lots of compost and/or manure to the soil. Perhaps some bone meal. It's also a good idea to take your time and rake out as much of the rocky material as you can. If you plan to grow root vegetables they will grow in strange shapes if they hit rocks as they grow down.

    Do an soil PH test or take a sample to a good garden centre and have them do it. You might need to add some lime to the soil if it is too acid. It make a big difference to your crop.

    As for colour, think about planting some rhododendrons and or red japanese maples under and around those other trees. They would do well on the eastern side of those bigger trees where they will be saved from the hot afternoon sun.

    Sound good?

    M.
     
  3. KarinL

    KarinL Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    I'll just answer the veggie bed question for now. I agree any time is sod-turning time in the lower mainland, but there is one constraint: never work the soil when it is wet, as you will basically squish all the air out of it and turn it to clay. Today is an excellent day, as the soil has been dry for many days, and hasn't even gotten soaked in autumn rains yet. But as rain becomes more frequent, the soil won't even dry out enough between rains to be worked.

    For your veggie bed, I would go with a raised bed if that concrete retaining wall allows it for better soil and rock-free too. I also agree with much of the rest of what globalist says except that I am not a big fan of bonemeal, having heard that some cases of mad cow disease have been attributed to its use - maybe breathing it in while applying it, but even if not, for edible crops, it would spoil my appetite. And lime... isn't concrete basic? don't know if lime would be needed there.
     
  4. akwx

    akwx Member

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    On another look at the berm, there is already a 3' Japanese maple shrub under the shades of the willow. I was thinking in terms of which type of flower can be grown successfully in the shades (only in the afternoons), and all that cedar and pine droppings!!! As the trees are just tall enough to shade the back 16' of the back yard, the bigger part of the back yard is in full sun all day long.

    Perhaps it is best to post a few photos to give you a better idea.

    Thanks for the help, and the help to come.

    akwx
     
  5. hildegard Richter

    hildegard Richter Member

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    For me the best method to convert a grass growing area into a flourishing vegetable area is to make the first crop potatoes.
    Remove all the sod and keep in a pile near the new bed. Dig the area over and incorporate a liberal amount of compost or manure. Add no lime! Now dig trenches about 10 in deep.Cover the bottom of the trench with sod. Spread a little of the enriched soil over this. Sprinkle Green Sand and Rock Phosphate along the trench and add another thin layer of soil. Now plant the potatoes with the rose-end (sprouts) up1ft apart. Cover the newly planted potatoes with a layer of 3 in soil. The next row for the potatoes should be 2 ft apart. Make as many rows of potatoes as you have space . As the potatoes grow keep hilling them up. It is important that no direct sunlight reaches them. Otherwise they become green and produce the toxin Solanin, which makes the potatoes poisenous.
     
  6. Durgan

    Durgan Contributor 10 Years

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    http://www.botanicalgarden.ubc.ca/forums/showthread.php?t=13781



    The thread indicates the soil conditioning procedure for an addition to the main vegetable bed. The sod is easier to handle when the ground is wet. The kick sod removal tool makes the job easy. The sod was torn up into small chunks and put through a yard machine and re-worked into the bed. I have a yard machine but they can be rented, 8 by 36 feet took only about three hours. The sod cannot be soaking but normal moisture is fine, since it will go through the yard machine without jamming. If too dry it creates too much dust. The yard machine effectively destroys the grass roots and absolutely no grass came up during the growing season.

    Have a look at this tread. I have heavy clay almost good enough to make brick blocks for building. At first on the main garden I tried mixing sand which was a disaster since I ended up with cement. When watering all I had was a pond.

    Later I worked in about 30 yards of compost, which I dragged in a half yard at a time. This was 60 trips and about 240 wheelbarrels full. This I did over about three years. Since wood chips were available from the city in a local park, I applied a few yards to improve the drainage.

    The final analysis is that the compost is the main ingredient for conditioning the clay about 40% at a guess. The wood chips improve drainage and resist compacting to some degree. I ended up with a friable bed, and water sinks down into the soil without puddling.

    Conditioning a small bed is relatively easy, and not too expensive if you have to buy the compost and wood chips. If the bed is raised, a foot or so, drainage will be much improved.

    Durgan.
     
  7. hildegard Richter

    hildegard Richter Member

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    Adding compost and manure to heavy clay in my garden made a big improvement to the soil. My neighbour on the northside has a mature cedar (50 to 60 ft high) growth along the fence. Along my side of the fence I grow sucessfully:
    pyracantha, black elderberry, austrian pine, weigelia, aucuba and mock orange. For the clematis the roots were protected with tin sheeting to keep the cedar roots away , this works somewhat but I noticed that the cedar roots are trying to find a way in.
     

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