[Market-farming] Hard soil inside the High tunnels

Tradingpost tradingpost at gilanet.com
Tue Nov 23 17:37:01 EST 2004

But don't add any kind of sand to a heavy, clayey soil. It turns out more like concrete. Use compost of any sort rather than sand, or add better soil to the mix.

paul at largocreekfarms.com

*********** REPLY SEPARATOR  ***********

On 11/23/2004 at 2:20 PM Bill Shoemaker wrote:

>I think it might be possible that the tunnel is part of the problem re:
>soil in Hi-Tunnels. We've experienced the same thing in our tunnel at the
>research center. I think at least two things are contributing to the
>problem. First, lack of moisture from Fall til Spring means the ground
>thoroughly dries out, especially with the warm temps that often come during
>the day inside the tunnels. In our area we can't provide moisture because
>the constant freezing conditions, which would break up the pipelines and
>water control systems. Second, we use a tiller to prepare the soil, which,
>by the way, is a very black silt loam soil, not usually a soil with
>friability problems. Tillers break up soil too much, leading to collapse of
>the soil structure, unless roughage (compost, green manures, aged manure,
>other organic matter) is added. So I've come to the conclusion that soil
>management, and especially moisture management, is a critical issue in
>tunnels. I'd almost like to see tunnels that can be opened up in the off
>season to allow natural sources of moisture to enter the tunnel. We lift
>roll-up sides all the way for the Winter.
>By the way, the sand discussed earlier is called mason's sand around here.
>It's also called sharp sand because it has sharp corners, unlike beach
>which is highly eroded and very round. I used to be a concrete finisher and
>when it was explained to me they said the sharp edges work better in mortar
>and concrete because the cement "grabs" it better. In soil it likewise
>better structurally.
>Bill Shoemaker
>Sr Research Specialist, Food Crops
>Univ of Illinois - St Charles Hort Research Center
>>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
>good growing medium.  Due to its structure, some soil has been compacted
>much before trying to compost and grow in it.
>>paul at largocreekfarms.com
>>*********** REPLY SEPARATOR  ***********
>>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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