Okay, I'll admit that I am out of my mind, but I have always wanted to make dirt!

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by dla, Oct 23, 2004.

  1. dla

    dla Well-Known Member

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    Our soil is poor and FULL of shale, quartz, you name it. We grow rocks, I guess.

    The corn and soybeans seem to grow okay on the fields, and many areas have very rich soil (especially where the erosion deposits are). But the corn fields almost look as if I mulched them with rocks!

    Sometimes I dream about a big barrel made of metal mesh, scooping big hunks of dirt in there, screening out the rocks, and having soil with NO ROCKS! I actually wish I could have big piles of stuff - coarse sand, manure and SCREENED dirt, wood chips, whatever - and that I could make soil! I know I will do this eventually over time with soil enhancements, but it just seems like somebody has to have make some kind of soil sifter thing to get rid of the rocks!
     
  2. jackie c

    jackie c Well-Known Member

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    How big of an area do you want rock free soil? You could try screening it, just take it a section at a time. Use the heavy duty screens they use for glass sheilds on heavy equipment. It might take a while to do a large patch, but it'll get better eventually. I have heavy clay soil and year by year its gets better and better. I dreamed too of having the neice sandy loam they have 40 miles form here, but am glad I don't now, my soil has way more nutrients. And some rocks in your soil are good, they leach out micro nutrients into the soil.
     

  3. grasshopper

    grasshopper Member

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    I have always wanted to make soil too - out of really bad dirt. I have a friend who did it in her backyard over several years, in the dust of Arizona. She has turned her completely rock-filled, barren dustbowl of a backyard in the city into a jungle.
     
  4. 3girls

    3girls Well-Known Member

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    My place in WA state was the snout of a former glacier. There was very little dirt and LOTS of potato sized rocks in pottery clay. I spent 5 backbreaking and expensive years trying to make something decent with it. If I had it to do over, I would have built as many raised beds as I could afford at a time, build some more the following year, etc until I had the garden I wanted. We had an outfit nearby that would mix 1/2 topsoil, 1/4 sand, and 1/4 compost and sell it quite reasonably. I finally did that in my big hoop house and opened a whole different world. That is my biggest regret about the place. I didn't do it because I thought it cost too much!! You would not believe how much I eventually spent trying to build rockless soil.

    I'm in SE PA now living with my daughter and grandaughter. (3 girls). Good soil, no rocks, plenty of mushroom compost and leaf mulch available. Much easier.

    Sandi
     
  5. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

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    dla,
    How big are the rocks? I would tend to leave them where they are and build atop that, unless you have total escarpment of impenetrable continuous rock layer.
    I also started several gardens on hardpan clay soil. It cost a bit of money. A load of black earth that is usually peat laden was dumped. About 12 cubic yards worth on a garden about 100 x 50 ft. Work from that by spreading around and plant a cover crop like oats, rye, or buckwheat. Before that grows to seed, either till it in or whipper snip it down and layer whatever is available of organic material. After a while what you plant on that area will root down to the 'rock' layer. If it's smaller rocks, your vegetable plants should be rooted okay unless you want very straight and 3' long daikon radish. Encourage the action of earthworms below the organic layers to help do the work of aerating.

    That's what I would think of doing. You also may have an advantage for having a better drained soil than what we deal with heavy clay during a wet season.
     
  6. dla

    dla Well-Known Member

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    I've considered raised gardening, but we have enough space to just dump whatever.
    I was thinking of getting a truckload of sand and tossing the composted manure in there and renting a rototiller and just tossing rocks for awhile.
    None of the rocks are as big as a fist. It's just that they are in every spade of dirt.
    If I make a screen to sift the rockiest scoops, how should I make it? I saw a picture (but with no description of construction) in the Square Foot Gardening book. It was a square wood frame with screen and two wooden supports at the back so it created a small lean-to.
    Jackie, are you talking about the screen with diamond shaped holes a little too small for a pencil?

    I was wondering if I could try using an old gate from a landscaping trailer on some cinderblocks.
     
  7. katydidagain

    katydidagain Adventuress--Definition 2 Supporter

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    Somewhere I have the plans for a soil sifter; H built one for my birthday 10 years ago. It's round and screens out gravel or pebbles nicely...think one of those raffle prize drums...I mount it on my garden cart, spin away and whatever comes out is a winner! But if you can toss the rocks, do so; it gets heavy if you add boulders. Have you considered contacting Gaithersburg about leaf mold deliveries? TP used to scoop onto a truck (free) until I let them know they could charge for deliveries; I think I pay about $70 for a full dumptruck and it's great stuff! Raised beds can be freeform...

    katy *who just negotiated free chipping of brush in return for taking 4 loads of chips (I want and need) from an area tree trimmer you know starts with "A"*
     
  8. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    dla, I spent my first summer here digging out and moving rocks.

    :haha: Although I was very buff by the end of the simmer :D , I realized I could probably dig up rocks and move them for 100 years, and never get anywhere.

    I finally gave up and started doing raised beds, using straw from the old barn and manure.

    One thing you should know is, the more you mow, the more soil you build on top of all those rocks. This works even better if you never rake and burn, but instead just leave all the leaves and whatnot down and mow them. I even mow tree branches. It takes a lot of time, sure --- like years! --- but it does work. I already see a difference after three summers.
     
  9. doc623

    doc623 Well-Known Member

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    Don't know about your area.
    In this area the county/township people come thru every couple of years and
    clean out the ditches along the road.
    As they were near our house I stopped and asked what they were doing with the dirt that they cleaned out of the ditches - run off topsoil that had washed into the ditches - and they said if the land owner did not want or could not use they would dump in a waste area about 4-5 miles one way.
    I asked for the dirt and they were happy to haul @100 yds in stead of miles and dump.
    I got 27 loads of free top soil that we now use as part of our garden.
    Worked for me.
    Doesn't hurt to ask and may be something to consider.
     
  10. countrygrrrl

    countrygrrrl PITA

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    doc, that sounds like a great idea.

    Except the ditches around here --- where there are ditches, which isn't everywhere --- but where there are ditches, they're full of rocks.

    I live next to a place called Rocky Mountain, after all. :haha:

    However, for people in less rocky circumstances, that is a great idea! :)