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Starting out amending my soil — The Grow Network Community
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Starting out amending my soil

Errickah FucileErrickah Fucile Posts: 11
Hi Errickah

While a soil test is definitely not mandatory it will show you if you have an underlying problem without having to wait for the plants to tell you.  I was resistant to doing a soil test when I moved to my new place 8 years ago, but several years of vegetables that I had been growing well at my other house just not producing as well I did a soil test and discovered that the soil on my property had almost no phosphorus.  Once I knew what was wrong I was able to target the deficiency by adding bonemeal for the short term and rock phosphate for long term.  It immediately improved plant growth.  Without a soil test I would not have known what the problem was.

 

Happy Gardening.  :)

Comments

  • Errickah FucileErrickah Fucile Posts: 11
    edited August 2018
    Thank you so much for sharing your experience with me. I will definitely look into getting a soil test. I have been doing research on it, and it is worth it to know exactly what my soil needs.
  • CherlynnCherlynn Posts: 149 ✭✭✭
    edited August 2018
    Your local extension service can do your soil test OR you can buy a soil testing kit and test it yourself.  Won't be as good as a sent in test is but it will alert you to certain problem areas.  I got a test kit at my local farm store for $35 and it tests for 8 different things.  It lasted me for several years.  But I now use the extension service.     But now that I am switching from a traditional garden to gardening around my trees I might go back to testing myself.

     
  • Errickah FucileErrickah Fucile Posts: 11
    edited August 2018
    Thank you for the advice, I was looking into just doing one myself, but you brought good points to light. I think I will try my local extension service. I spprapprecyour input.
  • NanCNanC Posts: 53 ✭✭
    edited August 2018
    Getting "scientific" results is always more efficient, especially when getting started.  I had my soil tested the first year and added specified amendments, but stopped testing once I started the Paul Gautschi "Back to Eden" gardening method.  I decided to be very patient instead of analytical (cons ignored), to watch garden productivity expand each year.  Amazingly, it has.

    Likewise, I find that it takes several years to get the soil really into shape, so consistent composting will always be on the agenda come fall/spring.  I too have dealt with clay soil and get to notice improvement each year, but it takes time.  I'm thinking I may need to add more sand next year to speed the process, especially for my root crops.

    I layer a lot in the fall, dumping leaves, green and cow manure, Azomite powder (sprinkling), heaving several inches of woodchips on top of all that, then pouring fresh urine in water over all that during the winter to help it decompose.  In the spring, I sprinkle wood ash from the wood stove all winter and start to loosen and aerate the soil with a pitch or broad fork pushed far into the ground and gently raised (not tilling though).

    As you can imagine, I get a lot of exercise from gardening!

     

     
  • tomandcaratomandcara Colorado front range- Denver MetroPosts: 589 ✭✭✭
    edited August 2018
    Hi Errickah,

    I live in Colorado with a VERY HEAVY clay soil.  A soil test can help you know a particular deficiency, but my advise is to read NC Colbert's post carefully and consider how you can add Lot's of organic material to the clay.  It takes time to change heavy clay into fertile garden soil, but the more organic material you add, the faster it will happen.  My suggestion is to hold off on testing at this point and start adding leaves, manure, wood chips, urine in water, etc.   Water during the winter to accelerate the decomposition.  Personally I would hold off on the wood ashes unless you know the pH of your soil.  My clay soil is pretty alkaline to begin with and the wood ashes will definitely lower the pH.  As I have added the organic material, the soil has become less acid.

    Good luck with your new adventure.

    Tom

     
  • Errickah FucileErrickah Fucile Posts: 11
    edited August 2018
    Thank you so much NC Colbert for your detailed response. This is exactly the advice I am looking for. Is that human urine in water over the winter? Or cow urine and manure? If you think of any further information you can provide, I would be so grateful.
  • Errickah FucileErrickah Fucile Posts: 11
    edited August 2018
    Also thank you tomandcara for your response. I do understand it will take time for my soil to be able to get to the perfect look I keep hearing about. If you think of annanythelse specific to your experience with clay soil, that would be so helpful. And the post before,was that human urine over the winter? Or cow? Thank you in advance.
  • JensJens Posts: 384 ✭✭✭
    edited August 2018
    Errickah as long as you are not on heavy "Industrial medicine" you can safely use human urine for the above mentioned method.

     

    You can also add bedding from pet rabbits to the garden if you have some use the cuttings from the ornamental garden as mulch. In my town we have public compost delivery places where you can pick up compost made from the local organic matter garden owners can deposit at the landfill. Only disadvantage is that it sometimes contains a heavy load of seeds.

     

    Otherwise I would second NC Colberts post on adding as much organic material as possible and go slowly.
  • Errickah FucileErrickah Fucile Posts: 11
    edited August 2018
    Thank you so much for the clarification Jens. It is really good to know. I am looking into getting rabbits, but do not have them yet. I really do appreciate everyone's response and experience shared. Keep it up, I'm eager to learn.
  • tomandcaratomandcara Colorado front range- Denver MetroPosts: 589 ✭✭✭
    edited September 2018
    Hi Errichah,

    You already heard human urine, as long as the human not taking heavy industrial medicine.  The hardest part about converting the clay to good garden soil is really just the waiting.  It will get better every year you follow the advice that NC posted.

     
  • peppypoblanopeppypoblano Posts: 92
    edited September 2018
    Lots of great info.  It's the waiting that seems most difficult.  We have mostly rocks here.  What little bit of clay there is washes down the hill with each rain.  I run leaves and twigs through the chipper and spread it around, along with any kitchen scraps that aren't eaten by the wildlife (our deer love watermelon rinds and apple cores).  I also toss in any sawdust as long as it wasn't pretreated.  My bats are kind enough to leave piles of droppings under their bat houses so that goes in as well.  Pretty much anything I can gather has helped somehow.  Best of luck.
  • NanCNanC Posts: 53 ✭✭
    edited September 2018
    Wondering about your using permaculture principles -- swales to keep water from running off too fast, but in fact slowing it down and collecting

    https://www.tenthacrefarm.com/2014/02/how-to-construct-a-swale/

     

     
  • peppypoblanopeppypoblano Posts: 92
    edited September 2018
    Thanks for sharing the link on the swale.  Our neighbor dammed up the natural drainage on one side and during a heavy rain we get a small creek with mini waterfalls it moves so fast.  Definitely worth looking into using it to our advantage.
  • GrammyprepperGrammyprepper Mamaw, retired RN, jack of all trades master of none Zone 5BPosts: 172 ✭✭✭
    edited September 2018
    YoErrickah Fucile, you might want to consider lasagna gardening and/ or raised bed gardening. I live in OH with heavy clay soil. I laid down cardboard in the fall in the area I wanted to garden. Top that with leaves/grass clippings. You would then build your garden base (a combo of peat, compost and topsoil) on top of that. The cost to do so is equivalent to what you would spend trying to till a garden, with a lot less work. You are essentially building the soil to plant in, and with careful crop rotation, and use of cover crops, can reuse these beds over and over again. Mulching these beds is essential to keeping weeds down, and will also aid in building the soil. Lasagna methods allow the plants to help break up the lower clay soil as well, if they have deep root systems. Soil tests have their place, but knowing you have clay heavy soil, THAT is the first thing you need to address/think about working around.
  • karenkaren Posts: 78 ✭✭
    edited September 2018
    Yaaay Grammypreppe and I are on the same team LOL lasagna gardening and raised beds.  I cant add anymore to what has been said except putting cardboard on the next to last layer, before mulching - it is an idea picked up from another blog.  I am trying it and believe me with a 12 month growing season anything that helps to suppress weeds is useful info!  LOL  However, in a cold climate putting cardboard down first may be a much better idea in the hope that it will break down faster.  I will add that it is important to hose down each carbon/nitrogen layer as you build the lasagna way.  by spring you should have a wonderful growing bed.

    But I think it is important to ask about your plans for your garden - obviously mulching, composting etc is good no matter what but are you continuing with a showy ornamentals garden, a food forest, is it level ground, uneven or with hills? what is your budget, physical state, available time, age, etc. The advice given here needs to be taken into the context of your particular landscapes. My raised beds are made from outer cuts of trees to avoid rotting away once a years and my ground is level and stony and in the Andes. Brick or concrete blocks would have been better but they dont fit into my budget, and certainly a better idea for ornamentals.  if your land is hilly, swales are a wonderful idea against erosion.  These are just some considerations.
  • deejcvedeejcve Posts: 10 ✭✭✭

    I'm struggling with our soil in TN. We live in town and have a small garden area (about 20' x 20') but by the end of the growing season, all the top soil, mulch, and manure that had been put on before planting seeds/plants, is totally gone and now I'm back to hard, rocky soil that doesn't grow much. The first year we were here, I had double dug it quite deep and the garden had fair produce. The last two years have had very little production.

  • ines871ines871 zn8APosts: 1,401 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited October 2019

    Hi there,

    To get that "disappearing act" challenge to Stop, consider these tried & true methods:

    1. Stop digging, as you already found out that was more or less a wasted effort.
    2. Tho alot of cardboard now has glyphosate in it, you might want to start out by just laying down a very wet Skin of it, & then Layer it with your aged manure, compost, as @Grammyprepper above also said. Keep piling on the layers, year-round... why? Because this is how a native Forest exactly does its thing. Like you know the 378+ feet TALL Hyperion redwood tree in northern California. What man couldn't do, the Forests have, & still do. Follow the forest leads... Copy what it does. And especially pile on Autumn leaves, the deeper the richer your soil will be:
    3. Forget truckin in (unnecessary & expensive "top-soil".) Why? Because whatever DIRT you have is Native... to your area already, so you Enrich it; (but don't need an 'organ transplant' as it were). You want to help what you have REgain "optimum Immunity" just like your own physical body. Understand?

    May you find this helpful :)

  • deejcvedeejcve Posts: 10 ✭✭✭

    Thanks. I have tested the soil and it definitely needs some organic compost added. They had some home-mechanics living on the property at some point in the past and we are trying to build up the soil again. Your ideas sound great ... working on doing more composting after taking the class in Nutrient Dense Soil.

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