We came from here:
Continuing to share methods and techniques, all welcome!
The last posts were on germination of Orlaya. Has anyone been successful? What worked? What didn't?
Thanks, everyone for all the great contributions so far!
This message was edited Mar 25, 2013 9:19 AM
Starting Seeds 2013, Part 3
We came from here:
Here is link to germinating Orlaya. It is an annual
I would leave off covering with vermiculite if the seeds are tiny. Some of the info makes no sense.
This message was edited Mar 25, 2013 9:05 AM
Thanks! Another site mentioned they are tricky from seed but self-sow prolifically. I wonder if stratification would make a difference?
And I have another question, Kathy might know this one: Is it good to pinch snapdragons to promote fuller plants? I stopped growing the tall ones eczuse of sprawl/ staking, but maybe that would help?
I'm not Kathy, but "yes" it's good to pinch the snapdragons. They will be bushier, and you will get more blooms. However, they still may need to be staked. For me, snaps do very well early in the season, then, they take a break in the really hot weather and start blooming again in the fall. They are one of my favorite annuals.
I wanted to comment so I could keep following this educational thread. :)
Mmmm... Good point. I do love some volunteers, Nicotianas, Verbena Bonariensis especially, but there is a limit. I stopped using Cleomes a while ago. Now they are about gone, and I'm trying to decide if I miss them.
Thanks, Beth, I will pinch. This year I only have 10-12" and 20," not the really tall ones, so no staking, but bushier will still be nice. How early do you start yours? I know you usually WS, are you doing them inside this year? I'm a little late this year compared to others but because of all the perennials I got going early, I didn't have room until shifting things around recently. I really love the early blooms, hope I still get some. Although I think they last longer in my zone, snaps poop out here after a while too, but by then lots of other stuff has kicked in.
Pic is from 2011 with the Casablancas. Last year the lilies took over and the snaps got shaded out.
Oh My, seed germination thread & I'm sunk so bad! What is 'pinching' snapdragons, and what is stratification? I just learned via digging online that I need to cut back my monarda when it's grown about 12" tall. Is that pinching? No clue about stratification, though. I need a 2x4 betwixt the eyes to learn, please? Thanks!
I usually WS and have wonderful results. I don't usually get a good stand of snaps by WS, but last year I had gobs. I believe the difference was a very early warm spring.
I did not WS this year. I am having terrific trouble with my knees. I squatted once too many times last Sept. trying to get all of my Winter Sown perennials tucked into the ground before winter. The ground was too wet for me to "sit" on the ground. I have a muscle disease, and my leg muscles didn't give my knees enough support. I have had PT for several weeks, and now it's been decided I will have to have something else done. Hopefully, I will get something done and will be able to plant my seedlings. Way more than you want to know.
So, this year, I have closely watched this thread trying to learn how to sow inside, because I am not able to get on my deck floor like I need to for the WS seeds. I followed the directions per this thread. I had good germination, but had to go to Fl. to see my son and wouldn't you know, the seeds germinated while I was gone (just 5 days) and the seedings were too lanky. I pulled out my snaps today and re-sowed them. I don't think they will do very well because I have some cells that were okay e.g. seedling aren't to lanky, and some I had to pull out like the snaps.
So, I am not sure if I should put the dome back on for the seeds, or leave it off for the seedlings that made it. It's always something isn't it? Oh well. Hope someone can advise me.
I have to go back to Fl. this week and will be gone for two weeks or so, but my daughter will be in our home and will try to watch the plants.
Because of trips to Fl., I don't think I will have good success this year with the inside seed starting. From my experience, I think snaps actually do better starting them inside. The same goes for heliotrope.
I have to say, for me, Winter Sowing is so much easier than doing it inside. The seedlings require so much more attention and babying inside.
I have tried the last two years to grow Nepeta. It requires darkness to germinate. You have to really watch it, or it germinates and gets leggy before you get it out into the light. I have a few seedlings that made it. I ordered my seed from Swallowtail Seeds. They call it Nepeta 'Select Blue'. In the past, they have described it as "less likely to entice cats". I am a backyard birder with cat neighbors so I chose this one for my garden. What's interesting is, I couldn't find anywhere else that has this Nepeta "Select Blue". http://www.swallowtailgardenseeds.com/perennials/nepeta.html
I think I will try to re-sow it again, but maybe wait until July and plant in the fall. Hopefully the trips to Fl. will end by then!
I really like Nepeta. I use it to "tie" my garden together spacing it apart here and there. I like Lavender too, but it doesn't bloom as long and is a little more formal looking. It has already green up. Awhile back--seems like forever now that we have had non accumulating snow for two days-- I cut off all of the dead twigs. I also took several cuttings and hope they will take off.
Barb, stratification means the seeds have to have very cold temps before they will germinate.
When seeds sprout, they have two leaves that are called cotyledons. These are not true leaves but give the little seeds food (chlorophyll) until the true leaves grow. When the seedling has more than two sets of true leaves, you can "pinch out" the next set of leaves, and it will branch out into two stems - or more making it a bushier plant. This is also when you can pot up your seedlings to larger pots.
Here's a good website that explains stratification and other seed treatments:
Underneath the description, there is a brown high lighted line that gives you even more detail about stratification.
Birder...if wanting to avoid the cats plant anything other than Nepeta cataria which is TRUE catnip, the others are considered as catmint.tho many still call them catnip but aren't (growers, venders etc.)..
And yes Pam, I have grown Orlaya but it's been atleast 10-15 years, got it when T&M first offered. I do remember the flowers are bigger in the umbel of Orlaya than on the Ammi majus or visagna. (Umbel is the style of flower, group of tiny flowers the make up one bigger flower, all on one major stem). But my seed germination book from back then disappeared so no info on how long to G.
And yes to the pinching of Snaps (Antirhinum), I begin pinching after the first or second true pair of leaves, and have been giving them regular haircuts along with the Dianthus too. Personally, I love the tall ones (36"). No need to stake if they've been pinched and other plants are somewhat close to them. That is why I grow my plants to be touching at mature age. And Snaps are a Hardy Annual..they may come back for consecutive years if they like their conditions and yes can reseed.
I do remember many a year ago...lol, that I was growing the tall ones and they flopped over, I didn't cut them back or prop them up..they developed new flower stems from every leaf node...... made them nice and bushy. Sure would like to grow my favs. (in Pix below, the are antirhinum Black something or other, forgot name and tried to find some of my old seed. Did locate some, just not sure if this one tho as the leaves have a red tinge to them and these not so much). And when growing them in the garden, when deadheading or cutting for bouquets cut them low and the stems will regrow. They can bloom the whole season.... this year I'm growing "The Bride" which are from T&M Seed and are the only ones that are fragrant, really looking forward to these, again 36".
Pix 1 &2 are also both umbel style flowers, Achilea milifolium and A. filipendula (yarrow, common name)
Pix 3 is my groupng of snaps that i just love....
Have also grown Lavendula, can't remember if I gave darkness, but I do now have some reseeding in the garden, never got around to sowing more this year. Am also thinking about taking cutting to see if I can get them to root, but many drifts out there at the moment.
>> what is stratification?
Think of it as "start - i - fication". Starting fussy seeds that need a song-and-dance before they will sprout.
Some perennial plants evolved methods of seed "dormancy" so they don't all sprout and die as soon as they fall to earth in the Fall ... or during the first warm spell in late winter, or first sprinkle of rain. Or they don't sprout their first year, at all! Some stay dormant until next year so there is always a crop of seeds waiting for good conditions to sprout.
They need coaxing. Fussy perennials are probably not the easiest seeds to START learning about INDOOR seed sprouting, or direct sowing. Vigorous annuals are easier to start indoors or direct in soil.
"Stratification" can be a several weeks of steady cold and wet (like winter or spring) before they are willing to sprout. Or cycles of cool and warm while damp but not soggy. I guess some seeds must need freezing temperatures. Or some other combination.
Because I'm a nerd, I'm tempted to read Dr. Deno's books and try to simulate all the needed conditions with a fridge and back porch and paper towels and lots of fussing around. Instead, up to now, I've ignored the directions and gotten by with 20-40% germination the indoor lazy way (sow and wait and hope).
But SMART gardeners use winter-sowing for seeds that need startification.
It's like outdoor sowing in a cold frame or sheltered seed bed. They give the seeds good, well-draining soilless mix and a "micro-greenhouse" or "mini-cold-frame". Namely, a milk jug or soda bottle cut in half, or a translucent sweater box with clear lid and lots of small pots in it.
Sow the seeds in the jugs or box, replace the lid, set outside in winter or very early spring.
Maybe keep it in the shade so it does not cook on clear days.
Wait for nature to provide the warm/cool/cold cycles.
Let them get a few inches tall in the jug, then gradually remove the lid over a period of time so they harden off.
Split them apart into individual seedlings, or tear it into four chunks, or plan t the whole big chunk of seedlings in on e place and let the strongest survive.
I was taught to have plenty of drainage and ventilation holes, so that snow melt and rain would water it for me. If the drain holes freeze solid, get them up off the gorund. Keep them from blowing away! Keep dogs from chewing them up. Take pictures of dozens of m ilk jugs lined up in rows and columns, like an army of dwarves with funny hats.
But the best perennial gardener I know (Jonna Sudenious) does her winter-sowing in sealed tubs with no drainage holes or air vents. Since they don't dry out, they need more water! For her soiless mix, she uses pure, coarse vermiculite. Check her web site, she starts LOTS of operennials this way! (She's in the DG Garden watchdog Top Five). http://www.seedsite.eu/
The WS jugs provide good, ventilated soil and steady moisture.
Steady temperatures, but enough variation to meet the seeds' needs.
Protection from extremes of temperature or wet and dry.
Protection from insects, weeds, slugs, birds, pets, worms, wash-away, rot, mold and mildew.
Like nature, but more protected.
BTW, when people say "winter-sowed", they might also mean "spring-sowed". The jugs or tubs are just like small cold frames. They let you start annuals outside in spring EARLIER than you could start them directly in soil.
... AS LONG AS you start them AFTER the cycles of prolonged hard frost and prolonged misleading warm spells are past. Even with WS tubs, annuals need you to avoid weeks of warmth that make them sprout ... followed b y a week of hard frost that kills them dead. Or maybe you could lug them inside during the cold snaps??
Let's see ... yes, DG has a whole WS forum! They can say it better and answer questions from experience.
One year I killed every seed EXCEPT the very "difficult" Penstemon varieties I tried to WS. Those Penstemon fooled me. I thought they were dead, too, and I just didn't throw the soil into a bed until June. Then I saw the TINY P. seedlings. They kept growing SLOWLY through the rest of fall and the next winter, then finally died when I let them dry out (still less than 1" tall).
SparklinBarb, welcome, and don't worry, we've all been there. Just keep asking questions and digging around the forums, and you'll be caught up in no time. Of course that doesn't mean knowing everything, lol. There's always more to learn...
Along with the websites mentioned above, and DG of course, I like http://tomclothier.hort.net/
With something new or tricky, I browse around until I get a feel for what works, then pick the method that best fits into my life and situation. Then over time I refine my methods based on my experience and what I continue to learn from others.
Of the annuals I sow every year, Petunias, Snapdragons, Nicotiana and Verbena Bonariensisare the slowest to get going, so I start them indoors first.
Birder, do you have your seeds set up on self-watering trays? That's one way to get around not being there all the time. For absentee germinating, Deno might be the way to go, instead of starting in soil. I was gone for 2 weeks in December, and left a number of seeds started that way. When I came back some had germinated quite strongly, and once planted they took off. For seeds already in cells, you can prop up the plastic cover so there is some air circulation, and even leave it under lights to prevent stretching. Thats good too if there is already some germination. Last year I tried laying a piece of plastic wrap loosely over cells I'd planted (under lights), reasoning that if seedlings emerged while I was away they'd push it up and get some air. That sort of worked, when I got back they weren't very far along and I just took the plastic off. I may try that again this year as we'll be away again a couple of times before planting out time.
There's more than one way to skin a cat, lol...
Thanks so much, you guys! When you all started out, did you ever think you just weren't gonna get it, discouraged? I'm grateful for your patience.
I take it "stretching" is when you don't have the seedlings under a light, and they get long, sprawling, and lean towards the natural light? That's what my Canterbury Bells are doing, all over the place.
Blomma, last year I had one 4 o'clock plant and fell in love. This year I have seeds (not from that plant, silly me). I'm just starting to look into how to start them. Some sites say easy, some say not so. What say you?
Edited for clarity
This message was edited Mar 26, 2013 9:17 AM
Love the SNAPS Kathy Do Snaps Need to be Planted Now to Bloom this season ? Getting more Snow today Love reading all the Info
Susie, yes, start the snaps now. I did mine last week for the same zone (I'm colder than it says, we're up higher and last to thaw out in the spring).
Thanks, shauna, great pics of a nice big colorful patch! My 4 o'clocks are soaking now, then they go on the mat, etc.
I'm trying something new... I read that seeds don't rot in vermiculite, and seedlings can survive longer than in the paper towels. Also, DH pretty much takes over the refrigerator (it's worth it, he's a great cook!) and my packets get thrown around and/or buried, so stratification isn't as easy as it should be. I have a couple of little mini-propagators hanging around, bought a package of 3 oz cups at the grocery store, and I have looooots of vermiculite and a handy open window in the living room.
... Et Voila!
Box 1: Salvia Transylvanica, Salvia Verticillata, Verbascum Chaixii Album, Veronica Fairytale (Pink), Veronica Goodness Grows
Box 2: Eryngium Miss Willmott's Ghost, Astrantia Major, Lily Formosiana Lancer, Orlaya Grandiflora, Verbena Bonariensis.
The Eryngium and Astrantia have been chilled, frozen, thawed and re-chilled ad infinitum. Directions for Orlaya are all over the place, the latest is Parks says 60 degrees, reason says chilling can't hurt. VB is always slow inside, Spring Sowing works well but they are really little at planting time, at least here it's out of the way. And as far as the decor is concerned, out of sight, out of mind, lol...
Pam, the Salvia verticillata is it the purple or white? Had the puprple many years ago and loved it, so unuual, am thinking I got the seed for white in the trades.
Susie, Can use Pam's advise..lol.....I'm thinking she changed her name...lol...Only kidding.
I LOVE the Backyardgardener.com info on seed starting myself as it's all from Thompsen & Morgan Seed...first seed company I worked with and the info is great!!!!! One day I will print that off.. They (T&M), still give starting info within their catalog for each variety, but have discontinued many..they should bring back more goodies.. What great is there's pix to go with the starting info too....I always suggest that everyone get one of their catalog if they've never seen one. I do like the older catalogs tho, they were more book form and not just catalog form. (Stays nicer on the shelf, in fact I have more than 10 years of their catalogs in my book room for those seed they have discontinued and I still have). T&M is the first book I go to every time when looking for info. (tmseeds.com)
Haven't had much luck with the lilies this year...???? Can't figure that one out as I've done them in the past...Hmmm.
Am working on starting the Annuals today, so far am on #11. Will be starting Mirabilis inside also. I'm starting 3 packs of Salvia farinaceas, just love them, truely they should be perennial for me!!!! LOL. Also doing Ammi visagna, 40", (flower more dome shaped, (umbel form)), am also thinking the flower is more green tinged than the next: and Ammi majus Graceland, 40-56", (flower more flat, (umbel form)), got a new packet of seed this year from Select Seed, so I can compare the two as to which I like best....(not sure what happened to the old seed, disappeared somewhere in moving over the years.
Ok all will check back in later or tomorrow...Have a good day!!!
Pix Ammi visagna, last season sprouted in the garden and never got any taller than about 5-6" due to drought, hoping this year that is a thing of the past.....the D.
I had the self watering set up, "had" the domes on them while I was away. The problem was I did not have the lights on them yet. I started them about 3 days before I left and was only gone 5. I thought it would take longer than -gee-maybe 6 days before the seeds germinated, and I would put the lights on them when I returned. Actually, I was waiting on hubby to set up the lights-I am not very good at that kind of stuff--like Kathy. Wow!
Anyway, the little plants were stretching towards the window--bent over, skinny, long stems-especially the snapdragons. I surmised the snapdragon stems were too tall and skinny-literally "laying" on their sides. I pulled them out of the cells they were in and re-planted back in the same cells.
1. Should I put the dome back on so the new seeds can germinate even though I have some seedlings in the same kit? There were empty cells where I pulled out the snaps.
I s/h asked before I replanted.
Thanks for the tip on germinating Deno while absent. I have been stewing around for a week trying to figure out what to do about re-starting some of my seeds.
I have plenty of snapdragon seeds I saved from last years crops-mostly the 36"-40" ones. I can always start over with the snaps.
I need to plant lobelia seed - I think it would be next to impossible to go Deno with that seed. Man, talk about dust!
Kathy, your dark red snapdragon is probably Antirrinum 'Black Prince'. It is a perennial for me. And, I agree with you about the Nepeta: catmint vs. catnip. The latter is the one I need to stay away from. I was drawn to the Nepeta 'Select Blue' by Swallowtail because they specifically said less likely to entice cats. I wish I had the early catalog of T&M. I have heard how great their instructions were. That was before I was doing much gardening.
Penstemon germinated very well for me. I had it growing like weeds last year-thick as grass in Winter Sown milk jugs. They love the fluctuation of temps.
I am in kind of a dilemma regarding seeds sowing and being absent. Any more suggestions are certainly welcome. I don't know if I should leave the domes: on or: off or: part way when I have seedlings. Plus, I think I messed up putting seeds and seedlings together. The seedlings are too small to pot up, and there's wasted cells and valuable space under the lights if I don't re-use the cells that I had to pull out due too lankiness. Indoor seed sowing is so much more hands on.
For me, one of the very easiest plant to start from seed is Digitalis-a biennial and so pretty when it blooms.
My mom always grew 4 o'clocks, but she lived in a different climate: Oklahoma. My brother grew 4 o'clocks in Missouri and said they were like weeds for him and found the roots very difficult to remove from the garden. Strange how some flowers work in some places and not others.
Four O'Clocks are easy. They winter over against a south wall for me, but I generally save and start seed just in case. I used the Deno method the first time, after that I just plant them, they germinate anywhere.
Great info about the 4 o'clocks, thanks! Mine are still soaking, in the morning I'll plant them and give them heat and light. Should I nick? Or not bother? Sounds like they are pretty straightforward.
For Lobeiia and Sweet Alyssum, I usually cluster sow cells 4 weeks before the frost date, and plant HOS, Hunk Of Seedlings, where ever I want them., usually around the edges of pots, but sometimes in the garden too. Whenever I've bought them in the past, they were always densely seeded in the cells, so I just kept doing it the same way.
Sorry Kathy if I stepped on your turf answering Susie about snaps (wink- how do you do that, anyway?) , lol! But it is one thing I have some experience with...
BTW, Are you having trouble with lilies Formosiana? I think mine rotted in the baggy in the frig, Clothier said 2 weeks and it's been much more than that, so I'm trying again.
I swore off the V's - Veronicas and Verbascums- after failing so miserably a few weeks ago, but just had to try one more time...
Beth, absentee gardening is an art in itself, but far from impossible, I'm here to tell you. As far as the partly sprouted cells, maye cut a piece of plastic wrap to go over the seeded cells so they keep surface moisture, and put the whole thing under lights so the sprouted seedlings get what they need. I guess just keep trying, some things work, some don't.
I can't deal with the jugs, I wintersow everything in flats with 96 count inserts, and a few odd things that resent transplanting in peat pots or inserts. I wintersow some annuals simply because I don't have room to start them indoors. Some annuals (and a few perennials) need warmth to germinate, but I have great luck with them outdoors. By the time I'm ready to transplant, the wintersown plants are not as tall as the plants started indoors, but they don't require hardening off. I have wintersown Verbena bonariensis every year for five? Maybe six? years and it wintersows well for me.
I have Orlaya wintersown already, I'll try some at 60 degrees, too. I really liked the plant, but Annie's Annuals doesn't even have it this year. If it reseeds here, it should wintersow.
Rick, I had the same experience with penstemons. I was ready to pitch the soil in the cells, when I noticed some green sprouts in mid-June. They really aren't large enough to plant out here the first year.
You can set cells on top of cotton flannel in a tray. The flannel carries water to each c ell, like very shallow, continuous bottom-watering.
Started Lobelia siphalitica and cardinalis this year using my method, nothing special done. Just surface sown and a light sprinkle of vermiculite just to let me know there was seed in the pot, then misted and under the dome and lights.
L. c. started 1/6 and Germination was 1/14, potted on into individual pots 3/23, got 42 out of my little 2 1/2" pot.
L. s. 'Great Blue', started 3/1 and germinated 3/7
L. s. started 3/1, germinated 3/5
L.s. perenn mix of blue and white started 3/1, germinated 3/7
These were obtained in some of the seed trades this season, Susies and the Rare seed trade. Since they didn't make a go of it the first round of the L. s. (in Jan.), I thought I should try a couple of sources, now they willl be coming out my ears...but that's ok....lol.
I wait til my babies are strong enough and then begin transplanting, when they are so young and spindly it's easy to mess them up or damage them. And it doesn't hurt them to wait til they grow.....it's just like dividing your perenns in the garden, most don't have a problem with it.... I was transplanting a Verbascum the other day and realized they were a bit too young and stopped in the middle of what I was doing and will give them another week or so and try again.... If too many in a pots for them to stregthen up I may split those in that pot to several and then try again a few weeks later or more if needed.
I started out seeding in insert trays also years ago. Ya the empty cells are a bummer, and that's when I began switching over to the 2 1/2" pots. Then can remove them as needed or add more. (I even went so far as cutting up those little trays, lol.) Pix 1 is the second pot for them. I divided all the little clumps into several more pots for growing up a bit.
Lol, pam, just kidding with you... Ya, I would start now Susie. I've been giving mine haircuts to make them branch out a bit and many need transplanting into individual pots. Mine got some ichies for a while and lost some, but most are doing good now... I know ichies is not a good description but works for me...
I'm having a time of it uploading pix. What's up?
Hey birder, do you have any of the red snaps seed yet?
Never too many L Siphilitica for me, glad to know they're so easy with good seed. They pop up here and there on their own in my garden, now I'd like to have a real clump. Hmmmm... I know the perfect place to plant them, I may just have to go ahead... I know it's late, but...
Hey Pam Hope your about ready to check out the NEXT Robin It is Loaded Hope to have it ready to go back out Next Monday . Red Snaps sound very pretty .
Kathy going to send you a dmail soon .
Oh boy, just what I need, more seeds, lol!! But I still want the robin, can't wait, actually. I'm sure it's full of stuff that wasn't there before, and I'm sure I'll be tempted to try more new stuff. Also, I have a pretty good stash I don't need any more to put in.
So, oh-so-peagreen-newbie here starting seeds for the first time in my adult life. I need to have vermiculite on hand? No, let me rephrase, please. What do you recommend I have on hand for seed-starting, outside the pre-set, pre-filled trays I've purchased at Lowe's? (Sorry, Gitagal, but I'm COUNTRY, and Lowe's is much closer than the nearest HD, which does have a Lowe's directly across the street from it.)
I have to tell you, though, that I've sat here for three days :& created an XL spreadsheet containing everything from the type of plant, to the harvest/bloom time of the plant, with everything in-between listed on the sheet. I've got 99 seed packets diagrammed on the sheet, including notes. The point is my DH has listened to me fussing with myself that he's becoming interested, to the extent he's had me looking online at greenhouse pricing. I finally realized that's a pipe dream, and am continuing on my step-by-step, fitting into my current means style to propagate & plant. SO ..... back to my question - yes, I can definitely be long-winded, sorry -
A) What should I have on hand?
B) can vermiculite be used rationally/logically/whatever in a garden with truly gross, clayish soil?
Thanks, guys; you're wonderful!
Thanks, Blomma, for the info on Lobelia. I have always winter sowed it until this year and it comes up thick as grass.
Thanks, Pam for advice on the seed cells vs. seedlings. That's a good idea. I was hoping someone would suggest something. I couldn't come up with anything! :(
Kathy, I like the idea of the single pots. My problem is not enough area for the seeds to get light.
Doing the seeds indoors is a whole new ballgame
Kathy, Yes, I have red snapdragon seeds:
Antirrhinum majus 'Black Prince'--gets about 18"
Antirrhinum majus 'Ruby'--gets about 36"
Antirrhinum majus 'Plumblossum'--gets about 36"
It would be good for you to look up these up and check on the colors.
I am thinking about doing some Deno seeds while in Fl. I feel like I'm running out of time, even though, the temps have been cold. When Spring does come, it will come and go quickly. :(
So, how does one get in on these "Robins"? I have sooo many seeds.
Birder, check out the Seed Trading forum for swaps and Round Robins. If no one is starting one up right at the moment, you can start one yourself!
>> a garden with truly gross, clayish soil?
Compost is only real cure for clay. Start out by adding a lot (like a layer 2-3 INCHES deep, preferably turned under with a fork or spade or Roto-tiller. Then add another inch every fall (or spring AND fall). After the soil is decent, you won 't need to turn it under: worms and rain will do that for you.
Pine bark fines, sand and grit last longer than compost. However, adding coarse stuff alone to clay won't do anywhere near as much good as compost. I think the combination of compost plus bark shreds plus sand or grit is better than compost alone.
If your soil improvement budget is limited, spend most of it on manure or com post, and a little on fine bark mulch (and maybe chew it up some with a lawn mower.)
This message was edited Mar 27, 2013 5:27 PM