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Old June 10, 2012   #1
jerryinfla
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Default Amending Florida Soil

My first attempt at growing vegetables in Florida was a disaster due to our poor soil, bugs, heat, frequent rains and foliar diseases so I gave up on trying to grow veggies here for several years. Then one day my barber told me about "mushroom compost" available at the mushroom farm not all that far from the house. Soon thereafter a neighbor who has a pickup truck took me over there and we got two pickup truck loads of spent mushroom substrate, one for me and another for him, for $5 a load. One look at the stuff and I was convinced this was what I needed to fix my poor Florida soil. However, I needed a lot more than a couple pickup truck loads, so I found a guy with a tri-axle dump truck who brought me 36 cubic yards of the stuff for $400.

I spent most of last winter removing my Florida sand (pics 1 and 2) and replacing it with spent mushroom substrate (pic 3) mixed about 50/50 with the topsoil I removed to get to the subsoil. I built 4'x 8'X 6" beds with 3' paths between them laid in a 3x3 square -- 288 square feet of beds in a plot 30' x 18'. The soil in the beds is not raised above the soil level adjacent to them; however, the borders keep me from walking in the beds and compacting the soil. I laid a layer of newspapers with a layer of cardboard on top and added about 4" of wood chips in the paths (pic 4).

My crops are far better than my first attempts to grow veggies here (pics 5-9); however, I still have white flies, as you can see in pic 9 of the tomatoes, and other pests. They are my next challenge but I think I have a handle on the poor soil problem.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 1_digging_120123_125636_1.jpg (196.3 KB, 33 views)
File Type: jpg 2_subsoil_120123_125916_1.jpg (155.5 KB, 34 views)
File Type: jpg 3_spent mushroom substrate_120123_131146_1.jpg (194.7 KB, 36 views)
File Type: jpg 4_beds1 and 4_120609_134732_1.jpg (203.5 KB, 33 views)
File Type: jpg 5_field peas_120609_134335_1.jpg (204.8 KB, 32 views)
File Type: jpg 6_eggplants_120609_134704_1.jpg (180.2 KB, 28 views)
File Type: jpg 7_cucumbers_120508_115744_1.jpg (216.4 KB, 31 views)
File Type: jpg 8_corn_120609_134424_1.jpg (187.6 KB, 28 views)
File Type: jpg 9_tomatoes_120508_115931_1.jpg (116.3 KB, 32 views)
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Old June 10, 2012   #2
rxkeith
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one florida grower said that you should place compost, manure or whatever you have on top of the soil. if you mix it in, the stuff will disappear due to the large spaces in the sandy soil. you also may want to check out the you tube video greening the desert. they used similar methods. they were able to grow crops where nothing was able to grow previously.



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Old June 10, 2012   #3
jerryinfla
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Keith - I started off by digging out about a foot or so of the subsoil and disposing of it in order to make room for the stuff I added. I fully expect a big part of the spent mushroom substrate to leach out and I know I'll be adding organic matter forever if I want to have good soil. I'm composting more of the stuff mixed with leaves and kitchen waste to add between plantings. I also mulch every crop with about 4" of shredded leaves most of which goes into the soil during the growing cycle.

Thanks for the Greening the Desert video tip. I had not seen it -- interesting.
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Old June 10, 2012   #4
dpurdy
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Jerry,
Nice looking garden. It looks as though your hard work will pay off for years to come. Great job.
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Old June 10, 2012   #5
RayR
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Nice work Jerry. Whether you have sand or heavy clay soils, we all have to put organic matter back into the soil somehow every year since most of the crops we grow we either eat or dispose of the dead plants at the end of the season.
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Old June 10, 2012   #6
stonysoilseeds
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great job jerry you should be veryproud what your hard work and dedication accomplished
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Old June 11, 2012   #7
jerryinfla
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Thanks folks -- it was labor intensive but I'm pleased with the results. The hard work is finished now, unless I decide to add more beds, but if I do it will be another winter project. We'll see how it goes. Among the things I've learned with these bordered beds (I hesitate to call them raised beds because they're not) is that crop rotation and intensive use of beds is much easier to manage. No space goes fallow now as I immediately plant a new crop of something as soon as I remove the previous crop. And, luckily we can grow something all the time here in Central Florida -- it's just a matter of planting the right stuff at the right time. I still have a bit to learn about exactly when to plant everything but I'll get there in time.
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Old June 12, 2012   #8
dustdevil
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I'm sure all of your hard work will pay off with dividends. Does your garden smell like mushroom soup when it rains?
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Old June 12, 2012   #9
jerryinfla
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dustdevil View Post
I'm sure all of your hard work will pay off with dividends. Does your garden smell like mushroom soup when it rains?

-- No, but the stuff sure stinks when it's fresh. I let it settle several weeks before I incorporate it into the soil and by then the odor has dissipated. My wife calls the stuff mushroom poop .
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Old June 12, 2012   #10
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Jerry when you say central are you by any chance close to me? I'm central west coast FL and would kill for some mushroom compost. Up north I used it all the time. First time I purchase some was a close out sale at a local garden shop, the manager said he couldn't sell it, go 26 bags of it and then put it everywhen in my veggie beds, what I had left over I added to the flower beds. Best stuff in the world, so I'm hoping you are close to me, I would like to go and get some for my up coming growing season this year.

I will say it most certainly is a challenge getting started down here gardening. But now that some other kind Florida folks informed me about the right times for maters, I'm good to go.
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Old June 13, 2012   #11
jerryinfla
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Jan -

I live in DeLand, East Central Florida near Daytona Beach, and the mushroom farm is West of me near Mount Dora. It would be about a 130 mile trip one way for you from Bradenton to Mount Dora. PM me if you want details -- address, phone number, etc of the mushroom farm.
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Old June 14, 2012   #12
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just sent pm

thanks
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Old June 14, 2012   #13
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Reply sent.
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