Messages posted to thread:

From:Date:Zone:
Judy29-Aug-01 01:22 PM EST 4b   
Brian @ P&P Plants29-Aug-01 03:06 PM EST 3   
Susan29-Aug-01 05:07 PM EST 6a   
Judy29-Aug-01 06:47 PM EST 4b   
Ed29-Aug-01 08:56 PM EST 5   
Annie D30-Aug-01 10:15 PM EST 5b   
Susan31-Aug-01 08:46 AM EST 6a   
Bill31-Aug-01 12:50 PM EST 5a   
Trudy31-Aug-01 01:14 PM EST 6b   
Betty03-Sep-01 04:18 PM EST 5a   
Gail03-Sep-01 11:40 PM EST 3a   
Brian @ P&P Plants04-Sep-01 12:16 AM EST 3   
Judy04-Sep-01 06:57 AM EST 4b   
Dave04-Sep-01 10:08 AM EST   
Susan04-Sep-01 01:28 PM EST 6a   


Subject: Calling All Clay/Sand Gardeners
From: Judy
Zone: 4b
Date: 29-Aug-01 01:22 PM EST

I don't want to get into any "regional wars"!! Can we start a thread on how people cope with soil problems? I live in the country and can't buy masses of composted manure and bags of it sure add up! OF COURSE I compost, but it sure doesn't produce a lot! Maybe we could start exchanging ideas to help each other to cope.


Subject: RE: Calling All Clay/Sand Gardeners
From: Brian @ P&P Plants
Zone: 3
Date: 29-Aug-01 03:06 PM EST

Judy; You can increase the blk of your compost by adding shredded newspapers. It decomposes easily. If each time you get a newpaper, just tear it up into strips about 2 inched wide and mix into your other materials for composting. If you have access to a sawmill or wood working shop, you can get sawdust and shavings. With the wood products, you will have to increase the nitrogen as the wood uses nitrogen to compost. You grass clippings, and other green materials will have some nitrogen to help. If you require more nitrogen, you can use 20-0-0 commercial fertilizer. Sprinkle the 20-0-0 onto the wood products, mix and then add to your compost heap. I found a site that may be helpful for your situation. It is, http://www.calgaryparks-rec.com/parks_pathways/Hort_Line.asp


Subject: RE: Calling All Clay/Sand Gardeners
From: Susan
Zone: 6a
Date: 29-Aug-01 05:07 PM EST

Judy - Are you adding compost to ammend clay or sandy soil? I have horrible clay - I swear you could make pots out of it! When we moved here two years ago, my husband was super-nice and dug out about 6 cubic yards of it so I could have a decent flowerbed along the driveway - the only sunny spot in the whole yard... We replaced the clay with a good triple mix. He removed smaller quanbties in a few other places too so I have a couple of good beds (and a permanently rutted driveway from the gouges made by the truck that took away the clay!) I've added compost to some areas but, like you, we find it hard to produce enough volume, so this spring we had a big load of a good soil mix dumped in an area that I wanted to make new beds in. That seems to be working out well. In the future, I think I'll save my compost for top dressing and adding to planting holes and just add new soil if I need new beds. I've concluded that the work required to modify large volumes of clay soil is just not worth the effort! (OK, so I'm lazy...!)


Subject: RE: Calling All Clay/Sand Gardeners
From: Judy
Zone: 4b
Date: 29-Aug-01 06:47 PM EST

We replaced the clay in one area in front of the house but we have a lot of landscaping to do. (2-year old house) I got a load of topsoil but I find it to be very sandy. I live in a village on an island 50 km. from anywhere and have few choices re where to get stuff because of high delivery costs. Too bad Sears doesn't sell topsoil! I am going to try newspaper in my compost to boost the volume. Keep the ideas coming! by the way, We also have almost no sun.....


Subject: RE: Calling All Clay/Sand Gardeners
From: Ed
Zone: 5
Date: 29-Aug-01 08:56 PM EST

I, too have had my problems with clay, so hard a spade could not penetrate it. Incorporting course " builders sand ", the kind used for plastering, has been my salvation on more than one occasion. Now I would never consider replacing clay with so-called topsoil; I would amend it with sand, and whatever humus is available.


Subject: RE: Calling All Clay/Sand Gardeners
From: Annie D
Zone: 5b
Date: 30-Aug-01 10:15 PM EST

I am also landscaping a large 1.5 acre lot of clay soil. I could never afford to replace it with triple mix so I amend with sand, compost and whatever free manure I can get. I found a great site www.waterloogardens.com/care_sheets/cs_spec_cond/cs_clay_soil.htm. They recommend trees, shrubs and plants that tolerate clay soil. It is much easier to plant to suit your soil than try and change the soil to suit the plant. Those roots from trees and shrubs are going to reach that clay soil sooner or later!


Subject: RE: Calling All Clay/Sand Gardeners
From: Susan
Zone: 6a
Date: 31-Aug-01 08:46 AM EST

Annie - I agree absolutely that it is better to plant things adapted to the soil condition as much as possible and I have many of the things listed on the site you included in your posting (a very useful site...). I also find the Heritage Perennials site's Advanced Search function very useful as you can specify soil type, light, moisture etc and it gives you a plant list. (Also, I know I can get their plants from a local garden center who will custom order things for me if they don't have them in stock...) To 'convert' to USDA zone, I use my zone minus 1 (i.e. USDA zone 5 for my Cdn zone 6..) For clay, it gives me the results on the following page: http://www.perennials.com/results.html?searchtype=advanced&name=&zone=5&height=any&stclay=1&submit=+Search+ Not all my garden beds have had soil mix added and, as you point out, the plants' roots will eventually hit clay, so I do try to plant things with a reasonable chance of succeeding although I also have special beds for some must-have favorites like rhododendrons, blueberies and a few other things that need special soil conditions.


Subject: RE: Calling All Clay/Sand Gardeners
From: Bill
Zone: 5a
Date: 31-Aug-01 12:50 PM EST

Judy, your problem is familiar to me. Our problem is sand - the soil is not sandy - it is sand - only sand.

We just moved here and have already had two 20 cubic yard loads of garden mix brought in - but we simply cannot afford to continue this - each load was over 400 bucks! (and I am not sure that it is all that great!) Like you, our compost pile looks pretty petit when we start to plan all the new flowerbeds that we would like.

Our local dump near Ottawa (or rather recycling facility) does offer cheap compost made from the stuff collected at curbside. Now, the bags can add up but you can fill a pick-up truck for 15 or 20 dollars! And as an added bonus the wood chips are free - these make an excellent mulch to retain water and to keep the weeds down.

I know that I will be back and forth to the dump quite a bit this fall as I prepare a few more beds. Perhaps your municipality might have a similar program.

- best wishes -Bill


Subject: RE: Calling All Clay/Sand Gardeners
From: Trudy
Zone: 6b
Date: 31-Aug-01 01:14 PM EST

Good Luck. I just keep digging, composting, and buy up walmarts clearance soils now as they are usually less than half price. we have a cousin who owns a horse stable and we get 1/2 ton truck box filled up once a year.... flowers love it. it is free so check around your area... many farmers are willing to let you have it if you will do the work and shovel it away for them.


Subject: RE: Calling All Clay/Sand Gardeners
From: Betty
Zone: 5a
Date: 03-Sep-01 04:18 PM EST

My best source of "extra" soil has been a nursery, which is close to me. In the spring, any potted plants or trees that have failed the winter get dumped; I will even dump the pots for them into my wheelbarrow. They also grow tree seedlings and when grading, have many loads of little seedlings that are thrown out. Again, if allowed to compost, add to the soil. Of course the soil is a bit acid but it provides welcome bulk to my garden that is basically build on and around rock. I usually mix the soil from the nursery with bought topsoil as I find most topsoil too sandy. My suggestion is check with your local nursery, if you have one, of how they dispose of used potting soil. You should be aware that it could contain weeds and disease but if you know the nursery, you should know if it was simply winter kill or an disease. I also get quite bold when I see sawdust piles. I had a neighbour who was doing some planing of oak boards, I asked what he planned on doing with the sawdust, and since he wished to dispose of it, I was the lucky recipient. Keep your eyes peeled for anything that can be used, as another one's trash, could be your treasure.


Subject: RE: Calling All Clay/Sand Gardeners
From: Gail
Zone: 3a
Date: 03-Sep-01 11:40 PM EST

Ken Beattie from Get Growing says you can mix cat litter to amend clay soil. Has anyone used that?


Subject: RE: Calling All Clay/Sand Gardeners
From: Brian @ P&P Plants
Zone: 3
Date: 04-Sep-01 12:16 AM EST

Firstly, there are different kinds of Cat Litter, there is the Lumping kind, it is made from Bentonite Clay. Using it would only add to your clay. There is another made of recycled paper, it would work, but it would be less costly to use your own newspaper. The other is a granular dry type that would work. If you have a very small area it may do but for a large flower/vegetable garden the cost would be high. It is an idea that may suit a certain situation. Lets keep the ideas coming. I have different situations in my yard and my nursery. In my yard it is an old garden where the fibre has not been replaced in probably 70 years, I am reconditioning it with compost and digging in the current years vegetation. In my nursery there is an area where clay was placed over the top soil, in places it is 1 foot thick, I have to rebuild it as it doesn't have any fibre whatsoever. It takes time and continuous work, but it is worth it.


Subject: RE: Calling All Clay/Sand Gardeners
From: Judy
Zone: 4b
Date: 04-Sep-01 06:57 AM EST

This is getting really good! I'd like to know more about "digging in" stuff. What is suitable? For example I grew some annual ornamental grasses in this one area just to see what they looked like. They are in one of the few areas where my soil is okay. Could I dig them in in one of the sand areas? Would it help?


Subject: RE: Calling All Clay/Sand Gardeners
From: Dave
Zone:
Date: 04-Sep-01 10:08 AM EST

Three years ago I started putting leaves directly on my garden in the fall. I wait for a dry day and break up the leaves with my chipper/mulcher and then spread the leaves about an inch to two inches thick all over the garden. I find that it helps build up humus, encourages worm action, retains moisture and reduces weed growth. I was originally worried about mold and diseases getting to my perrenials and the possibility of the leaves blocking the gerination of my reseeding annuals but so far have had nothing but great results. If you don't have a chipper the bag attachment to a lawnmower works too. I leave all vegetation on the garden until the spring . This prevents the winds from blowing the leaves off the garden and helps mound snow over it all to protect the garden from sudden temperature changes. By mid-summer most of the leaves have broken down and the garden is ready for a new layer of leaves. It's also really good exercise and very cheap. My neighbour love it when I ask if I can rake/mulch their leaves for them. You still need to fertilize etc as the leaves provide minimal nutrients and I've found that you should avoid oak and some maple leaves as they are difficult to break down.


Subject: RE: Calling All Clay/Sand Gardeners
From: Susan
Zone: 6a
Date: 04-Sep-01 01:28 PM EST

Dave, I do the same thing and, you're right, it works great. Oak leaves are a bit acid too - I put mine on the rhododendrons and the blueberry bed. They don't pack down much so keep things light and airy for them too. Norway Maple leaves are very bad - they pack down to form a layer of felt! At our previous house we had two large old trees and we never put th leavesm in the garden. Here we have a huge Ash tree and its leaves break down easily (although its seed keys germinate easily too and I have thousands of ash seedlings - my new 'weeds'!) I have about 6 mature white pines that are the canopy layer of my woodland garden. They drop an incredible layer of needles every October. They are good for the rhodos and blueberries and, as long as your plants like a bit of acidity, they are good dug into the soil too as they form a light cross-hatched mesh which keeps air pockets in the soil and allows for easy drainage.


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