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Soil Type?

Centre, AL(Zone 8a)

I have lived in various parts of the world, and I have done some gardening in most of them. The longest I lived in one area was in Georgia (USA) where my soil was largely red clay and very acidic. I learned how to deal with that.

Now I live in rural Alabama. My home is on a small hill in the Coosa Valley area in the northeast of the state. The soil here on my hill is virtually non-existent, and the only intentionally-planted things that are thriving are forsythia and crape myrtle. Since living here two of the crape myrtle trees very suddenly died. Because the forsythia are doing so well, I am guessing there is a good deal of alkalinity.

Let me describe what I find digging three feet straight down: The very sparse grass and weeds on the surface are growing in a very light powder of sandy-looking dirt, but mostly pebbles of all sizes. Below that are stones and rocks, mostly smallish in size, surrounded by a slowly increasing amount of red and yellow clays. Even as the clay thickens, the rocks get larger in size and sharper edged. Quite suddenly, below the rocks and reddish and yellow clay, comes a layer (the deepest I have dug) of even larger, sharper rocks (still only about the size of softballs), sticky, hard gray clay and visible, possibly percolating, water. There are large hard areas that were formerly infested with fire ant nests. The smell, which begins near the surface, is unpleasant--a sharp, fetid smell of spoiled garlic, fish and excrement--and it increases with depth.

The first things (vegetables, flowers, shrubs) I planted have not done well--many have died--despite my attempts to remove rocks and use many bags of purchased topsoil, compost, peat and manure.

I cannot think that these rocks and so on are naturally occurring, but this is what I find everywhere within my three acres. I cannot afford the machinery and truckloads of topsoil I would like to have, so I hope someone will have suggestions for me.

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

Sounds like hydric soils.

You should invest in a high quality soil test, to determine all the nutrient levels and other soil chemistry values, pH, organic matter levels, etc.

Come back with some data in addition to your descriptions.

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