Author Topic: Frustrated. Angry. About to give up and go full chemlawn.  (Read 17127 times)

Offline Skunkeye

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Re: Frustrated. Angry. About to give up and go full chemlawn.
« Reply #30 on: November 13, 2013, 01:26:04 PM »
Mixing the type of soil I had purchased from a nursery and mixing it with tree bark wood chips mulch creates soil which hardens like concrete.

Interesting.  Do you remember what type of soil that was?  Was it bulk, or purchased in bags?

Offline ag2

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Re: Frustrated. Angry. About to give up and go full chemlawn.
« Reply #31 on: November 13, 2013, 03:00:54 PM »
No, I don't.  I purchased 2 yards (cubic).  Loader dumped it into my truck.  I was supposed to be their very best soil for raised beds.  It was loamy, soft and seemed excellent when I got it.  A few years later, very hard.

Offline busymomx3

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Re: Frustrated. Angry. About to give up and go full chemlawn.
« Reply #32 on: November 18, 2013, 05:43:50 PM »
Hopefully by now you have some stuff growing and are doing better.  But just in case I thought I might jump in :).  I just moved to Central Texas and really wanted a garden.  I knew it would be nothing like my one in WA (which I killed last summer).  My first year growing anything I lose everything.  It's just what happens to me.  I'm not a green thumb.  But I was hopeful this year I could do better.  First thing my sister and I did was to research companion plantings in our zone and when we could plant/grow for our zone.  Then I went to Barnes and Noble and picked up Texas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening by Greg Grant.  So far the deer are doing more damage than anything.  Our garden seems to be doing ok.  But again last year I lost everything and we just started and started small.  The zone planting online helped us the most.  I agree keep trying you will get it.

Offline BillyS

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Re: Frustrated. Angry. About to give up and go full chemlawn.
« Reply #33 on: November 18, 2013, 06:44:42 PM »
Thanks for all the responses, everyone. I've actually been a bit distracted. I had to get knee surgery and we have a new baby due Thursday so I haven't been working in the gardens much. I did remove the vestiges of the wood mulch and put down a thick layer of hay. Since most everything is dead, dying, or looks like it should be, I'm basically just letting it go and I'll start over in spring.


Offline ag2

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Re: Frustrated. Angry. About to give up and go full chemlawn.
« Reply #34 on: November 18, 2013, 10:31:42 PM »
I can't help but wonder if your garden's demise was the result of a neighbor's overspray of week killer.  Perhaps a neighbor used a garden hose attachment with weed killer and a gust of wind blew the mist onto your garden.

Offline BillyS

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Re: Frustrated. Angry. About to give up and go full chemlawn.
« Reply #35 on: November 19, 2013, 06:45:43 AM »
I'm thinking that had to be it. I asked and they said no, but I can't think of anything else. Either that or the dirt and/or the mulch had something in it. I got testers but haven't gotten around to doing the testing yet. Been pretty busy with other things.

Offline busymomx3

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Re: Frustrated. Angry. About to give up and go full chemlawn.
« Reply #36 on: November 19, 2013, 05:27:51 PM »
Congrats on the soon to be new baby in your life :).  Hope in the Spring you will get a great crop of veggies to feed the family.  You could even start in January if I am recalling correctly that you are in Houston.

Offline Moonvalleyprepper

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Re: Frustrated. Angry. About to give up and go full chemlawn.
« Reply #37 on: November 20, 2013, 09:56:02 AM »
About 10 years ago, I picked up a couple of yards of soil for a raised bed from my local nursery.   I also had some leftover wood chip mulch and mixed that into the soil while filling the raised beds.  All the plants did poorly and the ground was hard as a rock. 


A year or two later, I stumbled across an article.  As it turns out, someone else wrote about the same experience I had.  Mixing the type of soil I had purchased from a nursery and mixing it with tree bark wood chips mulch creates soil which hardens like concrete.  And chances are the Ph was all messed up also but I don't know that for a fact.

Interesting.  Do you remember what type of soil that was?  Was it bulk, or purchased in bags?

I have read that turning wood chips into the soil is a major no no, and leads to soil that is like concrete for a time. It was generalized in a way that sounded like all soil, but I'm sure there are instances where this would not happen.

Thanks for all the responses, everyone. I've actually been a bit distracted. I had to get knee surgery and we have a new baby due Thursday so I haven't been working in the gardens much. I did remove the vestiges of the wood mulch and put down a thick layer of hay. Since most everything is dead, dying, or looks like it should be, I'm basically just letting it go and I'll start over in spring.

Congrats on the baby! Sounds like a good plan letting it rest. Was this hay or straw that you put down? Did you put anything below it to block weeds from coming up? cardboard, newspaper, etc..

Offline BillyS

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Re: Frustrated. Angry. About to give up and go full chemlawn.
« Reply #38 on: November 20, 2013, 02:25:24 PM »
It's hay, just field grass and no, I didn't attempt to prevent weeds.

I thought about weeds but  if they come up, that's actually a good thing because it means there's life and perhaps they can suck up and neutralize whatever gik is in there. In the spring I'll pull the mulch back, pull any weeds, top dress with a rich compost/soil mixture (my own compost) and then plant new stuff.

Offline Moonvalleyprepper

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Re: Frustrated. Angry. About to give up and go full chemlawn.
« Reply #39 on: November 20, 2013, 04:02:48 PM »
It's hay, just field grass and no, I didn't attempt to prevent weeds.

I thought about weeds but  if they come up, that's actually a good thing because it means there's life and perhaps they can suck up and neutralize whatever gik is in there. In the spring I'll pull the mulch back, pull any weeds, top dress with a rich compost/soil mixture (my own compost) and then plant new stuff.

Sounds like a great plan.

Offline Skunkeye

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Re: Frustrated. Angry. About to give up and go full chemlawn.
« Reply #40 on: November 20, 2013, 06:09:20 PM »
I have read that turning wood chips into the soil is a major no no, and leads to soil that is like concrete for a time. It was generalized in a way that sounded like all soil, but I'm sure there are instances where this would not happen.

I can see where mixing wood chips into the soil wouldn't be a good idea, but a couple folks on this thread said not to use wood chips as mulch at all.  I'm still curious what the reasoning behind that is.  Like I said, I've been using it for years with great results (not mixing it into the soil, just on top as mulch).  If I can get better results using something else, I'll happily switch, but I haven't had any problems with using it as mulch.

From what I can tell of this thread, BillyS didn't mix in the wood chips, he was just using them as mulch.  I can't see how a layer of wood chips on top of the soil would result in the problems he had.

Offline Cedar

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Re: Frustrated. Angry. About to give up and go full chemlawn.
« Reply #41 on: November 20, 2013, 06:40:42 PM »
.  I can't see how a layer of wood chips on top of the soil would result in the problems he had.

Leeching for one. I know I was warned about using pine shavings from the mill for my garden as they can turn to Formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring organic compound; composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen molecules. This was not a plywood mill, but lumber mill. I never thought about it until they told me it would likely kill my garden.

Two. If they mix with the soil and decompose too fast, they suck all the nitrogen out of your soil.

Depending on what chips he got. Some of the 'wood chips' being sold are from old wooden pallets—millions of them—are ground up for mulch every year. An industry report shows that the volume of ground or chipped wood pallets increased from 92 million in 1992 to 303 million board feet in 1999. Industry experts estimate that more than one-half of the pallets ground or chipped by the pallet industry in 1999 went into the production of mulch. This mulch ends up in myriad places—from bulk mulch sold by landscape wholesalers and nurseries to bags sold at home improvement stores.

What is in those pallets?
*Methyl bromide is applied to wood pallets to kill invasive pests on shipments coming into the U.S. Because it is so toxic, methyl bromide will soon be banned through the UN’s Montreal Protocol.

*The chemical 2,4,6 tribromophenol, which is banned in the U.S. because of its toxicity, is applied to wooden pallets in other countries as a wood preservative and flame retardant. The chemical was applied to wooden pallets transporting J&J medicines, which contaminated millions of Tylenol, Benadryl, Motrin and other J&J products. The chemical is blamed for the largest series of product recalls in J&J’s history, which began in December 2009 and continues today.

* Formaldehyde is used in the manufacture of composite blocks, or “engineered wood,” used in millions of wooden pallets. Formaldehyde is listed as a potential carcinogen.

Cedar

Offline Cedar

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Re: Frustrated. Angry. About to give up and go full chemlawn.
« Reply #42 on: November 20, 2013, 06:48:37 PM »
And if you could use straw instead of grass hay, you will not be cussing as much in the spring, when all that grass seed from the grass hay starts sprouting in your raised beds.

Cedar

Offline BillyS

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Re: Frustrated. Angry. About to give up and go full chemlawn.
« Reply #43 on: November 20, 2013, 07:02:03 PM »
And if you could use straw instead of grass hay, you will not be cussing as much in the spring, when all that grass seed from the grass hay starts sprouting in your raised beds.

Cedar

Eh, the wife likes pulling weeds.  ;)

Offline Skunkeye

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Re: Frustrated. Angry. About to give up and go full chemlawn.
« Reply #44 on: November 20, 2013, 09:38:03 PM »
Leeching for one. I know I was warned about using pine shavings from the mill for my garden as they can turn to Formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring organic compound; composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen molecules. This was not a plywood mill, but lumber mill. I never thought about it until they told me it would likely kill my garden.

I can see this being an issue with fresh chips from "green" wood, or shavings fresh from the mill.  The mulch I use is aged, from a local producer (Austin Wood Recycling), and it looks like it's already about half-composted by the time it's sold.  It's also shredded, not large chunks, which I assume would help off-gas any formaldehyde more quickly in the aging process.

Two. If they mix with the soil and decompose too fast, they suck all the nitrogen out of your soil.

Not really an issue with using it as mulch, I wouldn't think.  I don't till, so there's not much chance of it getting mixed in in large quantities.

*Methyl bromide is applied to wood pallets to kill invasive pests on shipments coming into the U.S. Because it is so toxic, methyl bromide will soon be banned through the UN’s Montreal Protocol.

Methyl bromide is bad stuff, but its toxicity is not why it's being phased out.  It breaks down readily in sunlight, releasing bromine, which is very destructive to the ozone layer.  That's what the Montreal Protocol is about: ozone depleting substances.  Since it breaks down quickly and boils off at a very low temperature, I can't imagine MB being present in used, mulched pallets in very high concentrations.

*The chemical 2,4,6 tribromophenol, which is banned in the U.S. because of its toxicity, is applied to wooden pallets in other countries as a wood preservative and flame retardant.

* Formaldehyde is used in the manufacture of composite blocks, or “engineered wood,” used in millions of wooden pallets. Formaldehyde is listed as a potential carcinogen.

Those two could be concerns.  I guess it boils down to (like most things), knowing your source.  It's the same reason I don't use manure from animals whose diets I don't personally know.  There's been a rash locally of composted manure from nurseries and landscaping suppliers containing residual herbicides and killing people's gardens.  Not cool!

Thanks for the info about pallets being ground up for mulch.  I wasn't aware that was a common practice, so I'll make sure to stick with what I've been using and not be tempted by other suppliers, just in case.

Offline Kansas Terri

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Re: Frustrated. Angry. About to give up and go full chemlawn.
« Reply #45 on: November 23, 2013, 01:19:26 PM »
The weather this year bites. I usually plant tomatos in May? In may we got 24 inches of snow. I usually get three pickings of icebox melons? This year I got one.

Billy, part of your trouble might be the weather. We do certain things in certain areas to get a crop, and if the weather suddenly decides to act like it is on the equator or the Sahara or the North Pole, then what we usually do will not be correct. And, did I mention that this year the weather bites?????

That being said, I ALSO suspect either fertility or soil toxicity, because usually what you have done will work.

A few things that I have learned, often the hard way:
1. When you water, set up a sprinkler and a jar. When the jar has an inch of water in it you can move the sprinkler. Because, if you sprinkle by hand, often the surface will be soaking wet but just below the surface has not yet had a chance to get wet. Mud on top of the soil means nothing if most of the roots are dry. Or, I sometimes plant something like a tomato in a hollow and then I fill the hollow with water.

2. Wood chips or shavings of either cedar or walnut kills plants. Neither tree cares for competition and so they excrete something that hurts the surrounding plants so that they have the edge.

3. Wood shavings will use fertilizer as they rot, and a wood mulch will grab it before the vegetables do. The cure for that is to pour the fertilizer on if you mulch with wood, which can be a very good thing as when the wood finishes rotting it will release all of the nutrients into the soil. If you add fresh wood every year then you will always have the oldest wood releasing nutrients onto the soil.

4. Some organic fertilizer is weak, puny, and no darned good! I once got some tomato fertilizer that said that it would release nutrients all summer long: the problem was it had not finished composting and so very little nutrition was released to the seedling tomatos when I first put it on, and so the tomatos got of to a VERY bad start! I am more careful now, and I read the fine print. It is better to fertilize more than once than it is to get the vegetables off to a bad start: you want the vegetables to have deep roots when the summer heat hits!

Lastly, because the lawn was also affected, I suspect either a lack of fertility or a lack of water soaking into where most of the roots are. I know that you fertilized and watered, but it is possible that you also got useless fertilizer and that the water did not soak in deep enough. Usually an inch of water will do an established garden for a week IN MY AREA! Your summers are hotter than mine, and so it may be different where you live.

Lastly, the weather this year bites. I did OK, but I am an experienced gardener and I had trouble also.

Oh, yes, I forgot.

Do not worry about plant guilds in vegetable gardens. Instead remember to rotate, and that large plants will bully small plants.

I like the plant guilds and I sometimes use it, but not in the vegetables. In my opinion, by the time the legumes can help the heavy feeders it is at the end of the growing season anyways, and you get almost as much good when you just be sure to rotate the heavy feeders next year where the beans were this year. Texas has longer growing seasons than Kansas does, so this might be different for you.

I got virtually no broccoli this year, and it was my own fault. I absent mindedly planted it where cabbage had grown the year before. Was it a disease? Was it because fertility was depleted by growing 2 years in a row of heavy feeders? I do not know, I will just remember next year to not plant a cabbage family where a cabbage family grew the year before!!!!!

What *IS* important is that a large plant will shade a small plant and suck up the moisture and fertilizer. I do not worry about guilds in the vegetables, but I do worry about size. Big vegetables will deprive small ones.

« Last Edit: November 23, 2013, 01:35:05 PM by Kansas Terri »

Offline BillyS

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Re: Frustrated. Angry. About to give up and go full chemlawn.
« Reply #46 on: November 24, 2013, 07:23:32 AM »
The primary trigger for the OP was the episode wherein Jack and Nick and Josiah were doing the permaculture workshop and at least two different people asked about guilds and what were some easy plantings that can lead one to some early success. I don't think this is a difficult question, but the answer was evasive and condescending. It was essentially, "Google" and it made me furious.

If I enrolled in a guitar class and I asked my teacher what were some chords I could use to play some songs and that teacher told me to go look it up, I would quit and ask for my money back.

I stand by my assertion that that was a BS answer. Some of us have had heavy losses and could benefit from an easy win. The three of them hold a vast wealth of knowledge and could have made a few generic suggestions that work in most areas. Or, they could have said something like, "You know, I really don't know, that's not what I do."

But to nudge and wink and basically say, "I know but I'm choosing not to tell you.."

Well, that's  :censored:

I really do appreciate all the advice you guys, I just didn't want you to think I was angry at organic or permaculture itself.  :)
« Last Edit: November 24, 2013, 07:36:50 AM by BillyS »

Offline Kansas Terri

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Re: Frustrated. Angry. About to give up and go full chemlawn.
« Reply #47 on: November 24, 2013, 10:47:22 AM »
I do not know about the others, but Jack lives on a different part of the continent with different growing conditions. Anything that does well for him MIGHT do well in your area, but it might fail entirely. So, a guild that works for him might not work for you.

This year, for instance, I alternated okra with alfalfa, but I have heard that alfalfa does poorly down South. So, he might not have wanted to give you bad advice and so he did not say. That may be why no details were given.

Speaking of down South, can you garden in the winter where you live?

Offline Skunkeye

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Re: Frustrated. Angry. About to give up and go full chemlawn.
« Reply #48 on: November 24, 2013, 11:57:02 AM »
I've noticed this to be a fairly common thing in the permaculture world.  Rather than give you specific examples, a lot of practitioners give the same kind of answers that were in the podcast BillyS is referrring to.  I find it just as frustrating.  I get why they're giving answers like that, because A) any answer they give won't be universal and might not work in some climates and B) they're trying to push you into studying your own land and working with what you've got.  I understand that.  But, like BillyS, I don't think that's the most helpful approach. 

If you're trying to get someone to do something that's alien to them, the best approach is usually to offer initial guidance, with fairly specific "baby steps" to get them started, not "do hundreds of hours of research and then synthesize all that information".  From an agricultural standpoint, there aren't that many different climate types that would cover the vast majority of people, to the point where just offering a few examples of well-proven combinations (with the caveats that some plants just won't grow in certain climates, YMMV, etc) would go a long way to helping people understand the concepts involved.  That understanding can help lead them to making substitutions better suited to their climate and needs.

"Just Google it" isn't very good advice in most cases, because most of us know that the internet is filled with just as much B.S. and misinformation as good info.  Gardening, especially, is such a long game that any failure is particularly painful and disheartening to a newbie.  Nothing kills a first-year gardener's enthusiasm like carefully tending a plant for several months only to find it dead one morning, or stripped of its fruit overnight, etc.  I wish more gardening books/shows/etc would be more candid and realistic about what you should expect in your first attempts.  Most people get started with the enthusiastic encouragement of authors/hosts/friends, and go into it thinking of the huge harvests of fresh veggies they'll be bringing in all summer, because nobody told them about squash vine borers, tomato hornworms, aphids, squirrels, nitrogen deficiency, blossom end rot, etc...


Offline halh

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Re: Frustrated. Angry. About to give up and go full chemlawn.
« Reply #49 on: November 25, 2013, 12:31:38 AM »
The primary trigger for the OP was the episode wherein Jack and Nick and Josiah were doing the permaculture workshop and at least two different people asked about guilds and what were some easy plantings that can lead one to some early success. I don't think this is a difficult question, but the answer was evasive and condescending. It was essentially, "Google" and it made me furious. =

Hmmm... seems like that was something Jack RIPPED on a certain well know permaculturalist some time ago... Holtzer gave the same kind of answer and Jack got real upset about it. Don't know about you, but it's my feeling that Jack lacks enough experience in actually doing permaculture to be holding a workshop. He is practicing and learning right now, not exactly sure that qualifies him to teach it. Your mileage may vary...