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Need help with ammending garden soil

columbia, TN(Zone 7a)

Have been gardening the same property for 25 years and have added (by the way of planting) way too much potting mix. Gardens now dry out very quickly. Potting mix is the type that contains 80% canadian peat moss, perlite and some type of wettting agent, LC1 Sunshine mix. Plants do ok, but what can I add to bulk up the soil? Thanks, Annette

SE Houston (Hobby), TX(Zone 9a)

Annette,
Copy this post and put in this thread, where the GURU of all things "dirt, soil, composting, and potting mixes" lives. His name is Tapla and we're in a current discussion right now about how to amend soils. And we're ALL getting a free education about how this stuff works! Come on over and post your question, so we can all benefit from his answer.

http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1095346/

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> 80% canadian peat moss,

If it dries out too fast, how can you beat a little heavy clay? If you add too much clay in order to retain water, then add some sand to get some drainage and aeration back.

I would have expected peat to break down over a few years and provide some very fine silt, which should have retained wtaer. Maybe that has been washing out due to excessively-well-draining soil.

Have you tried digging some test holes down 2-3 feet, to see if too many fines are washing out of the top layer your soil? A post-hole digger would let you see what's down there. Maybe just a deep turning would bring back some finely divided minerals, enough to give the sponge more body.

I don't have tons of experience, and it has all been with heavy clay soil.

If it is raised beds that dry too fast, try lining parts of the walls of the beds, out of sight, with heavy plastic. I just started using strips from empty manure bags for that, because I have thin concrete pavers for raised-bed walls, and the corners of beds dry out days before the rest of the bed. Leave the bottoms free of plastic, so it still drains out the bottom!

Corey

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

So we understand: You've added a considerable volume of potting soil to your gardens/beds, and now it doesn't retain enough water? How are you adding this - buying it in bales & spreading it on the soil? incorporating? is it just the old soil from your year-end plantings that is being added? What is your soil type - clay- silt - loam - sand?

Al

columbia, TN(Zone 7a)

I start seeds in the winter, grow them out in 6 packs when they get to big for the 6 packs I move them into 4 and 5 inch pots using professionals growers mix(Sunshine LC1) and when the weather is good I plant them in my beds. the same beds for 25 years. that's how I've gotton so much of it in my beds.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

Something isn't adding up, Annette. The organic fraction of the soil should break down from year to year, and soil life should mix it into the mineral fraction of your soil. The only reasons I can see for the issue you describe is if there is a considerable presence of perlite now in the surface soil of the beds, or if the soil is for some reason devoid (or nearly so) of the living presence of microbes and small animals that break down organic amendments. Is the underlying or surrounding soil sandy? Do you encounter plenty of worms as you work in the beds?

Al

columbia, TN(Zone 7a)

Al, not in the beds I'm talking about no worms, yes there is a lot of perlite and peat moss from the LC1. Have tons of tulips planted so am leary of digging too deep and messing them up, although I may have to . would be easy if there we something I could just spread on top? Thanks for any help.Annette

Glenwood Springs, CO(Zone 5b)

Annette,

If you wet your soil down and then take a handfull and make a fist with the wet soil, what happens? Does it ball up and hold together or does it just fall apart? Your question sounds like a soil structure problem, but a healthy soil environment is a key component to any soil.

Al is touching on some key issues about soil environment that will need to be addressed later. Al is right though, a good healthy soil should have plenty of critters, retain water while not becoming waterlogged and have a healthy qoutient of humus.

If you have been using the same "soil" for twenty five years it may be time to renovate your bed and bring life back to the soil. After twenty five years, the soil may be lacking some key components. A grower's mix is generally sterilized or can be readily sterilized.

After everything freezes to the ground, try piling up about 3-4 inches of leaves & grass and get some nightcrawlers from the local bait shop. Let the snow pile up over the winter and see what Spring brings. You will definately want to add a PROBIOTIC organic fertilizer.

I am a wastewater treatment operator and the importance of bacteria in the soil can not be understated. You just need to get the right bacteria.

Sonny

columbia, TN(Zone 7a)

thanks, Sonny, sounds like a good idea. Annette

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