chilling bulbs in zone 8/amending clay soil with sand

Columbus, GA

John Scheepers website recommends chilling Allium, Lilium, and other bulbs for planting in this hot climate. I understand the refrigerator will do and Scheepers sent back a response to my e-mail right away suggesting how many weeks each type bulb should be chilled. Questlon: Who has experience chilling alliums and liliums for this area and do you advise doing so?

Also, they suggested for growing lilies in clay soil (which is what we have in Georgia) that sand as well as peat should be used for amending. What is your experience with this? Where does one get the sand? Will any sand do?

Thanks for your help and your experience.

Clarksville, TN(Zone 6b)

You can get horticultural grade sand at most garden centers.

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

CvilleGardener is correct where you can buy Horticultural sand for amending soil types.
Builders soil has too many chemical or unwashed sand plus bits of rubble within it to be used for garden plantings.

To amend clay soil is quite a big on-going job and can be done over a period of time, The problem with Clay soil is it is colder, stays wet and there are no nutrients held within it. it is made up of much larger sticky particles,
What plants Like and need is soil that can warm up in the spring / summer months, has freer draining smaller particles and has plenty of rich loom within it's structure.
The loom / Humus rich additive gives the soil enriching nutrients, helps break up the larger particles allowing air into the soil and it helps retain moisture BUT lets water drain away freer rather than be held within the clay.

What I would do for this year is, do as has been instructed for chilling the bulbs, while at the same time, begin to prepare your clay soil for growing bulbs and plants of different types.

To prepare your soil where you wish to plant, either a border or flower bed, it's the same type of prep work that needs done and will give your new plants the best chance to grow and bloom for many years to come.

Use the garden spade / fork, dig out the soil making a trench and try to go down to the depth of 2 spaded deep (best to lay a sheet of plastic down close to where your starting to dig) how it works is, you remove a row of soil 1 spade deep, place the soil onto the plastic, when you have dug out the 1st spade deep along the length. Next go back and dig the 2nd spade depth, Now you have removed 2nd spade deep. Drop this soil on top of the plastic sheet also.
Now add manure / humus to 1st trench, about 6-8 inches into the ditch / long trench.
Then you gig out 2 spades deep to make next / 2nd trench, and add another 6-8 inches into that trench, you keep digging 2 spades deep adding the humus or manure and throwing on top of the manured trench the soil from the next trench to be dug.
You will eventually come to the end of the bed / border and your left with a trench with no more soil, this is where you dig in the soil laying on the plastic sheet, like 1st dug out= last dug into the last trench.

Buy some Garden lime in packet from garden centre, read / use the dosage as given on box / packet, scatter this lime on the soil as well as either some small grit / gravel, Use gloves and a mask if possible for the lime use and a still day so the lime don't travel all over the garden, IT wont harm anything but why waste the lime.

Last part of prep is to use your fork, dig and mix in the added humus/manure / lime and gravel grit, as you dig mixing all together, you will find the soil is beginning to break up into smaller / finer particles, you will have to maybe dig this over a couple of times as you wont be able to get ALL the larger clumps broken up into smaller particles 1st time round, please be assured as the seasons go on, your soil structure will improve to an unbelievable fine tilth and you will enjoy gardening within this soil,
As each season goes on, you can add more humus / manure, BUT, don't over use the garden lime, The lime is a great way of helping to break up large clumps of soil which is what you have when you dig into Clay soil.

After you have dug this way for THIS year, you should be able to plant into the soil all types of plants / bulbs . shrubs etc, end of summer or spring next year.

IF your worried about NOT being able to plant your bulbs in the garden this year due to ground NOT ready, plant them into larger pots etc with good quality compost and they will be fine after they have been through there chill period.
Cant help you with chilling BULBS as here in UK we never have that problem, a coll garage or shed if all we need.

By the way, Manure is horse droppings, you should call any stables etc and ask IF they have any WELL ROTTED MANURE to let you take away FREE, they normally like to give this continual product away as they have a daily supply. this manure should NOT smell like fresh laid poo, it should be dark brown, when picked up and rubbed between thumb and fingers, it should crumble, this is like gardeners gold.

I know all this sounds like a lot of work BUT, believe me, it's well worth the effort AND you will have the best growing plants EVER !!!!!.

Hope this gives you an idea re clay soil and growing / amending this type of soil for flowers, fruit, veg etc.
Best Regards.

Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

I strongly urge you to not waste time, effort, $ adding sand to clay. Sand + clay = concrete.

Your soil needs organic matter, compost. It's not necessary to till or dig it in, just put it on top. Within a year, (especially over winter, if you're able to put a nice cover of leaves,) you should notice a huge difference. By spring, your soil should be darker, more moderate regarding too much/too little moisture.

Sand has nothing to offer plants. OM *is* mother nature's fertilizer. It can be "finished" compost, any materials one would put in a compost pile from inside the house, leaves, grass from the mower bag (when you've mowed before the grass makes seeds,) pine needles, small trimmings from shrubs/trees, pulled weeds that have not made seeds yet, if it decomposes, let it do so on your garden.

Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

Excellent link, Cville!

Hendersonville, NC(Zone 7a)

I'm "holding" lilium and allium bulbs right now as they arrived several weeks before my gardener was scheduled to come plant them (I must have someone plant for me, then I can do the rest of the gardening). AND I have been amending my clay soil, too!!!

First things, first: take the bulbs OUT of their little shipping bags!

The allium bulbs are being stored in a paper bag, under my sink (a cool, dry, dark place). They were shipped with sawdust so I've left the it in: it keeps the onion smell from permeating my house!

The lilium bulbs are buried in plastic bags of KEPT moist Miracle Gro dirt in my refrigerator's crisper. They will survive this way for up to 3 months, BUT the soil MUST be checked about every 3 days to make sure it stays MOIST (not wet or drippy, mud). The bulbs should be completely buried (i.e. not visible) and that includes their roots (yes, they will grow tender roots - be careful not to break them off. . .and if some bulbs are not ENTIRELY buried for several days, just cover them with a handful of soil: don't worry!!)

The clay soil: unless you're willing and able to spend a lot of time and money up front (waiting to plant until later), amend it a little each season as you go. My soil was extremely poor, in addition to the clay soil. Every year, new plants were nestled into this soil - but surrounded by MG soil. When bulbs were planted, the designated area was dug out to 2 inches deeper than required - and pine bark mulch was mixed in with the soil. Every spring and fall (for water loss during hot summer and protection from cold in winter), pine bark mulch is spread 1-2 in thick. What with new plantings and moving plants, the topping of mulch gets mixed in.

From Soil Science, forgo the sand. The relative amounts of clay, silt, and sand particles determine your soil texture: Clay particles are microscopic and flat. Silt particles are more angular and larger than clay but still microscopic. Sand particles are the largest of the three types. Clay soil is dense and rich, holding a lot of the nutrients plants need to thrive. Sand. however, provides no nutrients.

My advice? Start planting and enjoy! Good gardening practices (plus a bit) will fairly quickly give you rich (non-clay) soil that will attract and maintain fat worms for local fishermen! (And the worms will further loosen up the soil and their castings will enrich it, too.)

Contra Costa County, CA(Zone 9b)

Think about it this way:
The benefit of sand is the large space between particles. (called pore space)
If you blend it with clay, then the clay fills all those pores, and you have...

Clay soil.

So add more sand... and more.... and more....

It is not until you are over 50% sand that you start to see the benefits of blending sand with clay soil.

So, if you want to 'double dig' as described by WeeNel, and you dig 16" deep you will have to add 16" deep of sand to the soil you have removed to make what you put back into the hole 50% original soil and 50% sand. But organic matter is important, too. Lets add more... you have now raised the level about 2'. Some of that will settle as the organic matter decomposes. Not much, though.
Are you willing to raise the planter areas that much? Fill planter boxes? Make mounds?

And you still have not done ANYTHING to help the clay particles.

Much better to add organic matter, compost, mulch, anything from plants such as leaves, grass trimmings...
If you want to get a head start on this you could rototill as much as you possibly can into the soil, as deep as you can.
Yes, this will also raise the level. If you can add a foot of compost and rototill it with a foot of your soil (Takes a tractor for large areas, or double digging for beds) it will then settle as the organic matter decomposes, so you will probably end up raising the area about 6". This is a nice, gentle mound that will improve the drainage without making it look like you are building mountains.
Organic matter will help the particles of clay clump together into small, workable bits. There is pore space between these bits of clumped clay+organic matter.

This is very delicate soil. Establish walkways, perhaps flagstone or anything else, so you do not compact the soil by walking on it.

Clay can be a very fertile soil. It has very high cationic exchange capacity. This means that it will hold onto fertilizers in a way that plants can get them. Very fine organic matter does this, too. Sand does not do this.

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