[Market-farming] Hard soil inside the High tunnels

Tradingpost tradingpost at gilanet.com
Tue Nov 23 10:36:09 EST 2004

It's unlikely the hoop house is the reason for poor soil condition.  What is the soil like growing *outside* the hoophouse?  Have you had the soil structure tested? Is it caliche?  It may be that it's just not enough compost, or that it will take much longer and much more mixing with the right amount of moisture present. Not all soil can be amended enough to make good growing medium.  Due to its structure, some soil has been compacted too much before trying to compost and grow in it. 

paul at largocreekfarms.com

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On 11/23/2004 at 9:30 AM robert schuler wrote:

>Hoop house growers around here  plant on plastic covered raised beds
>with drip. There is little compaction after the plastic is in place.
>Sunny Meadow Farm
>Bridgeton, NJ.
>Marlin Burkholder wrote:
>>      While this "High Tunnels" thread is going strong, I have yet
>>      another question I would like to insert.  In 2000 I built my
>>      first permanent hoophouse.  I chose the site primarily
>>      because of it's proximity to the house and water supply and
>>      because it fit well into the building landscape.  The soil
>>      on the site was of high sticky clay content, not my best
>>      soil.  I reasoned that because of the high cation exchange
>>      content of dominantly clay soils, I would eventually be able
>>      to build it into a highly productive soil by the diligent
>>      application of compost. It is now four years later, and
>>      despite what I thought was a valiant attempt to improve the
>>      soil by yearly deep digging in of compost and earthworm
>>      castings, I am still a little underwhelmed by the quality of
>>      the soil inside that hoophouse.  Rather than acquiring a
>>      soft crumbly structuture, the soil has gravitated more
>>      towards an aggregate of hard gravel sized clay lumps mixed
>>      with a dark brown dusty, almost gritty residue which I
>>      presume to be the remains of the compost applications.
>>      When I began to dig up the beds this fall,  I found the soil
>>      to be tight, and it dug up as head sized mottled red and
>>      brown clods that were difficult to break apart.  I ended up
>>      loading up most of these clods into a wheelbarrow and
>>      dumping them outside the hoophouse.   There they will be
>>      exposed to freezing temperatures this winter which I hope
>>      will soften them up.  I then replaced this soil with an
>>      equal volumne (about 15 wheelbarrow loads in 220 square
>>      feet) of fresh compost and worked it in once again.  Despite
>>      all my efforts, I still feel like I am working with dirty
>>      gravel instead of real soil. Could it be that the lack of
>>      normal freezing and thawing of the soil inside the hoophouse
>>      during the winter, and the baking effect of summer's heat be
>>      the cause of the hard soil?  I have had some kind of mulch
>>      (old hay or cardboard) on the soil during the summer, and
>>      usually a pretty good gound cover of salad greens during
>>      much of the winter.  I walk on the beds as little as
>>      possible.   I wonder if this isn't a common problem for
>>      hoophouse growers. Marlin BurkholderVirginia Shenandoah
>>      Valley
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