[Market-farming] garlic spacing -- soil prep

Alliums garlicgrower at green-logic.com
Mon Nov 7 09:25:44 EST 2005

Hi, Folks!

Marty wrote:

<<I am exploring ways to get the most out of precious little urban space.>>

Yes, this is my life, too -- community garden on subsoil lot behind housing

<<My neighbor has a lawn service and provides all the chopped up leaves 
that I can use.>>

This is excellent -- your soil will love you for it.

<<I have an 18X4 foot bed with a yard of last years 
leaves mixed with ground alfalfa composting in a pile on that bed which 
I will till in very soon.>>

Ground alfalfa is good, but if you can get your hands on manure, especially
this time of year so that it has time to compost down over the winter, I'd
grab whatever I could get, especially for garlic.

If you can't get manure, I strongly suggest that you look into worm
composting -- a mix of kitchen trimmings and newspaper will give you the
best fertilizer possible.

<<About two months ago I fertilized the bed with Bioform fertilizer.>>

It's cheaper and probably gives a better nutrient mix to use worm castings.
I strongly discourage my gardeners from using purchased fertilizers -- of
course, here in Chester County, PA, we are awash in horses and each gardener
has their own composter, so we have plenty of the raw materials

<< I have been told that when I till I will introduce air 
and the soil's nitrogen will be used as microbes eat the organic 

I'm not sure why you are tilling in KS in fall.  I'd sheet composting over
the winter and then till in the Spring if I was going to till.  Right now,
left-over Halloween pumpkins and fallen leaves are our friends in the
community garden.  If you're in an urban area, you ought to be able to get
the materials you need, cover your soil AND replace your organic matter for
the winter.

Cover cropping is always better, but in a small urban area, I find we're
using the land until heavy frost, so there's no time for the cover crop to
take hold.  Sheet composting is an nice compromise.

<<I thought that I had to replace both every year.>>

There are folks who disagree with me, but if you're in an urban area with 3
season production on a clay-based soil, I don't think you can add too much
organic matter, especially over the winter.

<<I'm not sure about how the information about soil temperature above 60 
translates into what I do in the beds or when in the year I do it.>>

If the soil is below 60 degrees, the microbes aren't as efficient at
converting the organic matter.  However, I find that sheet composting over
the winter, when all I'm doing is pulling out leeks, kale and root crops,
works just fine -- although it's more "efficient" to do all your soil
amending in the Spring when the soil microbes are converting everything
faster, in urban areas, you have to use that soil, so being "inefficient" by
providing organic matter from November to March when I'm not using the soil,
but the microbes are only taking a bite now and then, still works better
than trying to plant peas in April AND feed all those microbes.  Your land,
of course, may vary, but this is what works for us.

Hope this helps!


Dorene Pasekoff, Coordinator
St. John's United Church of Christ Organic Community Garden and Labyrinth

A mission of 
St. John's United Church of Christ, 315 Gay Street, Phoenixville, PA  19460

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