building garden soil

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by shorty'smom, Feb 20, 2005.

  1. shorty'smom

    shorty'smom Well-Known Member

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    This year will be my 4th year to garden here. My garden was native tallgrass prairie before. The soil was neutral as to pH. It was mostly clay. hen it's wet it's a mess, when it's dry, it's a brick, until it gets dry enough to be a fine powder. I've added several tons of coarse river sand to it. I can buy it for 8 dollars a yard just a few miles away. (I can't believe that 3 miles away there are light, sandy soils.) I added 15 bales of wheat straw last summer. In the fall we put all the spoiled hay, bedding and manure on it when we cleaned out the goat pens, and houses, and the henhouse. My dh hitched up the disc harrow and turned it all with the tractor. I was able to run my tiller over part of it before the constant rains set in. It's a sea of mud now. Dh broadcast winter wheat over the soil so it wouldn't wash my soil away. My MIL says I should put the wood ash from the wood stove on it. Is that a good thing? It doesn't sound like it. I always get blossom end rot on my tomatoes, squash and melons. Last year it wasn't as bad, but still had a little trouble. Is there anything else I can do to help the soil? I've been told I might put sulfur on it, but other folks told me that powdered sulphur is dangerous.
     
  2. Ravenlost

    Ravenlost Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Definitely put the wood ash on it. Are you composting your kitchen waste?
     

  3. bonnie lass

    bonnie lass Semper Fi

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    Blossom end rot is usually caused by low levels of calcium in the soil. You can bring calcium levels up with gypsum (CaSO4), which is also an excellent soil conditioner for clay soils. Wood ash is a good organic source of potassium. Sulphur is used to lower the pH of your soil, it's good for things like blueberries, rhodies, azaleas, etc. Sounds like you're on the right path adding all that organic matter. Consider having your soil tested, it costs $9 in these parts. Good luck :)
     
  4. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    You might want to retest your soil for ph again if adding lots of wood ash. It will add to the alkaline level, but it would take an awful lot of wood ash to do that. Wood ash is great for asparagus, by the way. Don't use too much wood ash if planting potatoes as it can cause some 'rust'.

    I would plant buckwheat as soon as you can, then till it in before it goes to blossom (about 8" height). This will add green manure and soil amendment. Just the more organic that you can keep adding to the garden, the more your soil will improve. Plant deep root crops that also help to penetrate and break down hard soil. Encourage earthworms (nature's rototiller) by mulching, etc.
     
  5. MaineFarmMom

    MaineFarmMom Columnist, Feature Writer

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    You shouldn't add sand to clay soil. As you see now, you have a mess. Continue to add the organic matter. A soil test is inexpensive and will tell you what you need to add.
     
  6. fordson major

    fordson major construction and Garden b Supporter

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    we added sand and organic matter to a small garden 14years ago . best move we ever made! good drainage and freability of the soil. are planning on doing our big garden but last year was to wet. wait till dry or before winter, till in and let settle.the big garden is trucked in heavy clay on a clay/rock substrata. the clay was wet when dug and rough leveled.added manure and loam but still needs better drainage. year 6 for a garden on this site.
     
  7. gccrook

    gccrook Well-Known Member

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    Sounds like my soil. I gave up opn adding stuff to improve the soil. I started getting as much composted manure and other materials as I could, and built raised beds last year. Best garden I have had yet. Easy and workable even when everything else was too wet. An added benefit, I noticed that the soil under the raised beds is imroving faster. I did the lazy man's raised beds by just piling the soil in a row about 3 feet wide and the length of my garden. I slumps on the edges, but I just use a hoe to gather it back up a couple of times during the year. I piled it so that I had small ridges on the outside, so that when I watered the water would stay in the center an not run off.