Sponges for Gardens

scarletdaisies(6)February 11, 2010

I am cheap and stubborn, so the Mel Bartholamew methods got me a little confused. I'm one of those people who have a garden that needs to correct the soil, about to sulfur for the first time at the end of this month. Never tried this, but it's costing me about 35 dollars or more to do this.

About beds, made with raised dirt built up with straw and dirt around the sides instead of wood, no vermiculite or peat moss, but what about a few sponges planted with the plant?

How insane is this? Peat moss is a dying resource, so am also a little bit of an environmentalist. I don't like the idea at all.

The vermiculite or what ever it is, is not very environmental either. Isn't that little plastic pellets? I don't want that in my garden soil. I'm thinking of burying pieces of sponges to absorb water, maybe like a sheet of shamwow, but cheaper, with each plant.

Does that sound possible? Let me why it's not possible!

Thank you beforehand!

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To retain water, it's better to add more compost, then mulch well.

I'm not sure what his methods entail, but if you substitute some cheap or free local source of organic material whenever you hear "peat moss", you will do fine.

Most of those layering and blending methods are way too complicated.

Here is a link that might be useful: My mulched garden in desert dirt.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2010 at 4:13PM
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jordan_and_slippy(NW USA)

Vermiculite isn't plastic, it's a natural occurring mineral that expands and becomes porous when exposed to heat. Like perlite, minus the volcanoes. It's totally fine for soils, but what's best to improve drainage in your soil really depends on the soil's particle consistency. You may need small particles like course sand or large particles like perlite or something in between or maybe just some organic matter like compost and peat moss (organic material is usually for breaking up true clay).

Burying Sham-wows, sponges, or even diapers isn't going to help improve either drainage or water retention. They'll soak up all they can and sit there, bloated, until they start to partially disintegrate and THOSE will leave plastic and other un-organic, synthetic materials in the soil. Worse off, they may create pockets where soil doesn't drain, and gas exchange is prevented due to saturated soil, which will rot most plants quickly and with a vicious efficiency.

A good alternative to peat moss is coir fiber, which is the processed remnants of coconut shells. It won't increase acidity like peat moss will (and peat does still have it's importance, but I agree it does need to be better managed), but coir is becoming more common as a peat replacement in potting mixes and such. You usually buy it in a brick, in various sizes, but upon adding water to these bricks they easily expand 15x there size.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2010 at 11:07PM
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linda_schreiber(z5/6 MI)

I understand cheap and stubborn (grins). Me, too!
But I also like to work smarter (and cheaper) instead of harder.

I went to your site to get more clues (very nice). Yeah, you really need to amend the soil. But you might be thinking too hard here. You said you have lots and lots of half-composted leaves, and other at-least-piled compostables.

Those are your *sponges*.... And even only half-composted, and with a sort of high pH, they are the best thing you can dig into to your soil.

Really depleted soil like this doesn't have any *buffering* capacity left. Sort of like a child's swing, after a good hard push. 'Too acid' on the forward push and 'too alkaline' on the swing back. It's moves easily, and sometimes swings a little wild.

With lots and lots of leaves and other compost added, over just a little time, the soil is *buffered* against the changes. Sort of like tying three concrete blocks to the bottom of the swing.... It stays a lot more stable, and isn't easy to throw out of balance. Darn hard for just a little bit of change to move it at all, even a little.

For this year, you might want to do the 'sulfuring' recommended by the local farmers, to help your yield. But dig in as much compost and manure as you can get. Also, try to get even shovelfuls of richer soils.... along creekbeds? Anywhere that might have a less depleted soil, and mix it in with your compost pile. Compost depends on worms, and fungi, and other critters that aren't abundant on depleted soil.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2010 at 7:46PM
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I sulfured half the garden, planted in it even with the leaves not completely finished decaying, so now I'm looking at onion seeds that started growing I think from last year when they wouldn't sprout at all. I did something right, compost or sulfur, but nothing good yet, it's very early to be putting out a garden, but no frost in sight, and most that I planted so far is cold hardy like cabbage, broccoli, peas, etc..

Yeah, agree about compost, I had a good batch I worked at last year and it balled up and was sticky. I let it dry out, then dumped it on the ground under the leaves.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2010 at 3:47AM
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