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Mid-Atlantic Gardening: To increase soil porosity, does LeafGro=compost?

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VioletV
Baltimore, MD

October 16, 2012
8:20 PM

Post #9307557

The soil delivered to my garden last year turned out to be not- so- good. Now I am trying to repair it. I need to make the soil lighter, "fluffier", easier to dig into. Now the soil is so dense and sticky that it clings to my trowel in big hunks when I try to plant something. I am wondering, does LeafGro improve soil like compost does? LeafGro is listed as a soil conditioner rather than compost. Is there another product/material rather than LeafGro that would be more beneficial to my dense, sticky garden soil?

Thank you for any suggestions you might have to offer.

flowAjen

flowAjen
central, NJ
(Zone 6b)

October 17, 2012
11:37 AM

Post #9308057

I never heard of Leaf gro so had to look it up, but it IS compost so does the work that adding compost would to

happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

October 17, 2012
4:08 PM

Post #9308254

In my opinon, LeafGro is too broken-down -- the beneficial effect would be short-lived. I used to buy tons of it to put on top of grass seed on our yard, but I decided it wasn't worth it.

If you can find it, you'd do better to get pine bark fines, which are small pieces of pine bark -- not nuggets. My locally nursery sells it labeled as "soil conditioner." It will last a lot longer than compost, which like LeafGro breaks down fast. This website has photos (look towards the end): http://www.mulchcompany.com/products.php. It says to use it for acid loving plants, but I haven't found that to be an issue when it is used as a soil conditioner - you could always toss in lime if you were worried about that.
ssgardener
Silver Spring, MD
(Zone 7a)

October 17, 2012
4:32 PM

Post #9308284

Violet, I have the same kind of sticky clay.

I was told to use LeafGro as an amendment to improve drainage. LeafGro looks and feels like screened compost. It occasionally has large chunks of bark, but the individual particles are very fine. When I amend with LeafGro and nothing else, the LeafGro "disappears" into the clay soil very quickly. I was told that this is because the micro organisms that live in the clay soil break down the organic matter. You're left with humus, which is great stuff, but there just isn't enough of it for my clay, which started with almost no organic matter.

Now I'm trying to mix in larger particles like pine bark fines, as happy mentioned, and partially composted materials that will take different amounts to time to break down.

I also think it depends what you're planting. I used a *lot* of LeafGro when planting roses. They're just common Knockouts, but since my soil is so poor, I don't think they would have done as well if I hadn't amended so heavily with LeafGro. I even mulch the roses with LeafGro instead of bark or hardwood.

For plants that require faster draining soil, I mixed in sharp sand/grit with the LeafGro, which seemed to help.

I'm still trying to figure out the best way to improve this terrible soil.

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

October 17, 2012
4:47 PM

Post #9308299

My HD carries "Leaf Gro"--don't know if all of them do??? Probably...

You will find it outside where all the mulch bags are. It is very reasonable--compared to other
soil conditioners. Just $4.97 a bag--which is the same size as all the mulch bags.

From what I have heard--it is made from all the leaves picked up on the curb on recycling day.
Possibly other garden waste as well--not sure...leaves would not have chunks in them...

I have always thought it was mostly recommended when planting trees and shrubs.

Happy--
Home Depot ( and Lowes) also sell bags of "Clay Breaker" which is, basically, a lot of peat moss with Hydrated Lime mixed in.
Please go and check these products out. See what you think. Buy one bag and try it out.

Gita
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

October 17, 2012
7:20 PM

Post #9308456

Gita: I'm really happy with using the pine bark fines. They seem to take a long time to break down, and they do aerate the soil. I used peat moss for years (actually, a 50/50 mix of peat moss and coarse sand), but stopped because of environmental concerns (see, for example, http://www.naturallifemagazine.com/0712/asknlpeat.html).

I have a huge compost pit, but I have found that compost breaks down pretty fast. The pine bark fines work slower, which is good.

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

October 17, 2012
7:36 PM

Post #9308472

Happy--that is good to know.
I can get Pine Fines in a local nursery here--about 3 miles from my house.

I actually have 2 bags right now. Just today--I used it as a light mulch on about 6 pots
of transplanted/divided Tall bearded iris.

Plugging away at my fall garden doings. Always get side-tracked doing stuff that i did not
have on my schedule to do...I guess, with this good weather, seems like there is all kinds of time left...
Probably NOT!
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

October 17, 2012
7:42 PM

Post #9308478

Gita: At what nursery do you get the pine bark fines? They can be hard to find, and my local nursery where I buy them can be pricey (though they do have a good early spring sale if I remember to take advantage of it).
ssgardener
Silver Spring, MD
(Zone 7a)

October 18, 2012
3:06 AM

Post #9308611

Happy, I used to buy pine fines at Behnkes, but they're pricey there.

Meadows Farms in Columbia has them for much cheaper. Maybe 3.99?
sempervirens
Northern, NJ
(Zone 6b)

October 18, 2012
3:20 AM

Post #9308616

The pine bark fines are just the suggestion I need to replace peat due to the previously mentioned environmental concerns. Thanks.

I also noticed that pine needles ( collected roadside before the town leaf pickup) added as a mulch in the fall break down into the soil by midsummer as do the leaves (except maybe oak) that I allow to cover the garden beds in the fall.
I then cut the branches off as many Christmas trees as I can find close by in the winter for application to the garden
after the the ground is frozen and part of those needles break down too by the time spring rolls around and they are removed.

In the photo you can see the needles and leaves already breaking down in March around the bluets.
Layers of duff slowly build up and slowly enrich the soil.
It takes a little time but you have a rich soil after a few years and less work.


Thumbnail by sempervirens
Click the image for an enlarged view.

happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

October 18, 2012
6:43 AM

Post #9308727

ssgardener -- I love Behnkes, but it is a little pricey and a bit of a drive for me. Now I shop more at American Plant, or buy on-line. I'm doing a major Tapla container plant restoration project -- for that I got the Turface near me (do you need more, by the way?), and grit at a Southern States store. I'll call Meadow Farms - $3.99 would be a fabulous price for pine bark fines.

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

October 18, 2012
6:43 AM

Post #9308728

Happy--

The Nursery is called "Chapel Hills" and it is a small, non-commercial, family owned Nursery right here in Perry Hall
where I live. They have been around forever. They hold fall festivals, kids go there on school trips,
they have a petting zoo and the owner also raises Clydesdales.

When he still had his BIG annual fall festivals--I used to face paint for them--for 17 years!!!!

Their bags of Fine Pines or Pine Fines is $4.99 or $5.99. Don't remember...
If you know of anyone that comes this way (White Marsh) I could meet up with them and take them there.

I was there a few days ago--and noticed that they no longer had stacks of mulch and other bagged stuff.
Perhaps they only sell these things in the growing season. Now it is millions of Pumpkins, Mums and all kinds of fall things.

I will see the next time I go there--or I can call too. Their phone # is: 410-256-5335.

Gita
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

October 18, 2012
6:44 AM

Post #9308729

Thanks! If I can't get it locally, I might drive up. Though probably not this fall -- I have a bunch of bags of pine bark fines for this fall's needs. On my dreaded front hill project I'm just using compost -- it would take too many bags of pine bark fines to make a dent, and I made tons and tons of compost.
ssgardener
Silver Spring, MD
(Zone 7a)

October 18, 2012
7:05 AM

Post #9308753

I've found Meadows Farms to be a quarter to a third cheaper than Behnkes. I stocked up on the pine fines so that I'd have enough potting mix for wintersowing. I'm pretty sure the Columbia store closes in the winter.

I have enough Turface to last me a couple of years, I think!
happy_macomb
Chevy Chase, MD
(Zone 7a)

October 18, 2012
8:45 AM

Post #9308847

I didn't realize Meadow Farms closed in the winter -- thanks for the heads up!!!

I just called them (I called the Burtonsville store) and found out:

Meadow Farms used to carry a brand of pine bark fines called Norfleet -- they have just changed to a new brand. I can't read my writing -- looks like Canlow but I didn't find it on line. The person I spoke to said the fines are better than the prior brand, but she also said they are mixed with mulch. So I'm confused.

But if the quality is good, the price is great. She said it was $3.99 for a 2 cubic foot bag.

I may go to their Leonardtown location this weekend to check it out -- I may be in that vicinity.

She also confirmed that most of their stores close for January and February. The Dulles and Richmond stores might stay open.

And look what I found, googling pine bark: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/pine-bark-recipe/index.html. Guess that's off-topic!
ssgardener
Silver Spring, MD
(Zone 7a)

October 18, 2012
11:38 AM

Post #9308969

Oh I know for sure that both behnkes and meadows carry the exact same brand that say "pine mulch" or something like that on the packaging. And yes it's a great price!

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