Pit Gardening

Discussion in 'The Green Patch' started by Dunbar, Jan 19, 2011.

  1. Dunbar

    Dunbar Monkey++

    We are in Central Oregon 3600FT, has anyone heard of or had direct experiance with pit gardening? I understand that you dig down 5-8 ft and plant. The hole is then covered in some kind of clear material. It takes advantage of the constant earth temp, and extends grow times. I found a short blog at this site.

    Organic Gardening in Central Oregon: Chapter Nine: Juniper and Sage

    Stay Safe
    chelloveck likes this.
  2. Equilibrium

    Equilibrium Monkey++

    Really great concept!!! Many possibilities I think with pits. I've seen the type you're mentioning out west mostly and they looked pretty darn productive to me. I've also seen passive solar greenhouses and chicken coops utilizing the same principles. The idea is to dig well below the frost line. Our frost line is 46" so they're really not practical here unless we create cinder steps to get down into a pit and then we're confronted with other challenges.... folk have had problems with their plants drowning. This kind of a pit wouldn't be a good choice for heavy clay but.... you're ideally located to go for this. You should have decent drainage.
    I've tried one pit on a "modified" basis more so to provide protection from squirrels but they could be used to extend the growing season like a cold frame. I have a small area that's about 3' by 10' that was dug to an 18" depth. Then I borrowed a post hole digger and my husband dug 3 rows of holes to a 10" depth spacing them about 8" or so. I cleaned up the holes and made sure each one would accommodate a 2 liter pop bottle. That was it. The recessed slots hold 2 liter pop bottles that I use to propagate plants from seed that will send out a tap root. I use a utility knife cutting off the tops of the pop bottles and the red hot tines of a fork to make drain holes in the bottom and presto.... home made "free" tree seed pot. I can put chicken wire over the top of my "pit" and hold it down with cinder blocks and the squirrels can't get in to eat my seed.... and they would if they could. It gives the seed a chance to germinate without being "eaten" and provides a little head room until they can be re-potted or transplanted into a permanent location. A pit like this could easily extend the growing season or be used to germinate veggie seed in the spring. Instead of inserting 2 liter pop bottles in the slots.... we could just set our seed flats down there and cover them with plexiglass or old windows to protect them from frost. What ever we use could easily be removed during the day. I hesitate doing this myself because spring rains when the ground's still frozen could easily flood out a pit of seed flats since I'm in heavy clay. In the fall when the squirrels are most active.... it doesn't matter so much. I've got a garden cart and it wasn't hard at all pulling the pop bottles out by hand and taking them into my garage until the water went down.
  3. Dunbar

    Dunbar Monkey++

    Thanks for the response EQ. I agree, the only downside is drainage, but I think a good french drain around bottom and a tight line to lower elevation will fix it. I plan on going down 5' with a 12' x 30' floor area. I will line the walls with rail ties and add about 12" of 3/4- as a bed for drainage.
    We will then build a 3' to 0 angle roof glazed, south facing.
    If your interested in pic's, let me know.

    Stay Safe[winkthumb]
  4. Equilibrium

    Equilibrium Monkey++

    I can't go that route. I wish I could but I can't because of the clay... I was struggling digging out my pit as it was and can't imagine digging down 6' with my shovel into that crap. The only thing I could do would be to use actual pvc running a drain to a lower elevation like you're going to do somewhere IF it wasn't so level around here. There's really no where for me to run it except into a wetlands and that's illegal so ya.... I'd love to see your photos.
  5. hedger

    hedger Monkey+

    Good Soil/Bad Soil


    I can relate to your poor clay soil. I'm in Colorado and this clay soil is not easy to dig in until it has been supplemented with better soil and/or organic material.

    After decades of working to get our garden to a better place, so to speak, I recently read an article that shed some light for me.

    I apologize for not stashing away that article so I could provide a link.

    Anyway, this article discussed soils in the Amazon river basin. I was not aware that this area has (simultaneously) some of the worst and some of the very best soils--and sometimes those are adjacent to each other.

    While digging in the soils, they found some fertile, productive soils with black material in it. After doing chemical analysis, scientists found that these fertile patches of soil were chemically identical to the worst patches of soil--with one exception.

    The exception is that the black material found in the "good" soil is particles of charcoal. Note: Not wood ash, but charcoal.

    After doing some further study about incorporating charcoal particles into soil, it was found that the charcoal (left unmodified) for the first 5 years actually leached/absorbed nutrients out of the soil and plants in such soil did much more poorly than in other locations.

    However, after five years, the soil with the charcoal provided a significantly better and more productive growth medium for plants.

    Now, if you are like me, you're thinking, "I really do not want to set my entire garden back for 5 years while I wait for those positive benefits!" So, what's a gardener to do?

    Not all of us will choose to do this, but it is another way to ramp up the positive effects right from the beginning after adding charcoal to your garden soil. First find a rugged container or surface where you can gently pound or grind unused charcoal into granules.

    Next, place the granules of charcoal into a container. Then add human urine (nothing but urine, please) to the charcoal. Human urine exits the body as a sterile liquid. Please note that charcoal is highly effective at absorbing odors.

    Once the urine has been well absorbed, dig it into your garden soil. This will immediately provide urea (a terrific fertilizer) that will benefit your plants. Be sure to have the area very well weeded prior to adding this to your garden soil--otherwise you will have some very vigorous weeds.

    If you live in an area where your garden soil is less than optimum, you may want to consider this manner of supplementing your soil.
  6. Equilibrium

    Equilibrium Monkey++

    Hiya hedger.... your way definitely works!!! I'm just going to add something.... I tossed burlap over the top then bashed the charcoal on my driveway with a sledge hammer. I enlisted kids to pee into the charcoal buckets then spread the "soil amendment" out on my raised veggie beds as a lasagna layer. Working it in would work as well if not better but I had a boatload of new veggie beds to prep at one time. BTW.... the boys had a blast out back whizzing away into the bucket and none of them were on any prescription meds.
  7. Equilibrium

    Equilibrium Monkey++

    Oh oh oh.... something you might like to try... hugelkultur, Latitude 14 Eastern Australia. Run with the Australian permaculture sites not the American permaculture sites and blogs for information. The Aussies are waaaaaaay ahead of us Americans and they're not into commercializing the industry by playing the "take a weekend certification" course for 1k and get certified game where they use any plant that's hardy in their designs regardless of its documented invasiveness that gets us not much of anything except an official looking piece of paper that we can't do anything with except start up our own permaculture cult to make money certifying others in all things "permaculture". The American permaculturists are mostly out for the dollar and they've done a bang up job bastardizing the underlying philosophies by twisting and contorting them into something that could make money.
  8. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Think about the chemistry of Wood Ash.... It is Plants, minus all the water, and cellulose. So, basically it is all the minerals in plants, and they are there in just the right percentages that plants need to live and grow. Makes perfect sense, that wood Ash would be a very good plant nutrient, when mixed with Urea. (Nitrogen Fixed fertilizer) Isn't chemistry fun....
  9. We just built our own Pit Garden and are enjoying the life of gardening all year! If you want to check it out, we blogged about it at:

    Edited, removed link not vetted before posting. - ghrit
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 31, 2014
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