My garden soil is horrible and I need to order a truckload of good stuff. Has anyone used American Soil? I want soil that's not made from green waste, so it won't have unknown ingredients.
I'm in SoCal, LA area.
Sellers of top soil usually mix several components into the finished product. I would like to know just what are they putting together? Al
Your soil probably isn't so horrible. What's the problem that's bothering you? Have you had a soil test done? Remediation with compost is most likely the way to go.
The problem that's bothering me is that things aren't growing well. I did get a lot of zucchini, but hardly any tomatoes, a couple small cucumbers, stunted plants in general. The only test I've done is the mason jar test and the soil is mostly silt. I agree that adding compost would be ideal, but my idea of compost is nice and loamy, like what I could find in my hometown of Chicago, but here in SoCal all I've seen is "compost" that's mostly wood chips. I want to have real soil and have a successful garden!
Almost all compost is made from green waste. Most mulch is made from wood chips, because it will last longer used as mulch. Green waste can be made into a finished compost much faster than woody waste, and if proper temperatures are reached, very few weed seeds will be left. I am sure good compost is available where you live. Al
Below is a link we have on the Orange Couty Master Gardeners website. Perhaps LA Master Gardeners has something similar.
Here is a link that might be useful: Where to buy soil ammendments
Calistoga, sorry--I misspoke when I said green waste. I meant yard waste, where you don't have control over what is used. I am also sure there is good compost out there, I was just asking if anyone has had experience with local companies.
Lgteacher, thanks for reminding me about master gardeners. The Ventura County cooperative extension service gives descriptions of local companies offering compost. Now I know who's organic and who uses biosolids (yuck!).
Here is a link that might be useful: Ventura County Gardening Resources
I found organic compost (from wood shavings) for between $25-$30/yard, depending on the ratio of compost-to-topsoil. I went to the site to look at the options, and the 100% compost looked great, the 70% compost mix was great, the "vegetable garden" mix I wasn't thrilled with because the topsoil seemed too heavy and wasn't a nice dark color. Same with the 50/50 mix etc. They only deliver 10 yards or more, so add the price of a rental truck, and it's still a pretty good deal, I think.
As soon as I excavate the current garden soil, I'm ready to get the 70/30 mix!
P.S. I'm still not happy with the fact that I haven't found what I consider "real" soil--even this seems like chopped up wood shavings, but I'll try it and cross my fingers...
P.P.S. I dug down about 3 feet into the garden and found that my native soil is definitely in layers. The top layer is silty, the next layer is a black clay, next is a layer of sand, then more silt. Fascinating, but not for a garden.
Well actually California grows an enormous percentage of the country's vegetables. Rather than going to a lot of work to excavate your perfectly good soil and replace it with a mixture of who knows what and compost made from yard waste of unknown origin, why not just keep your native soil and add the compost? You can add more of your own compost as you make it. I had a crappy tomato year last year too despite having built a pretty good soil with compost. I've also built some pretty good soil with green manure in the past.
Almost everyone thinks their native soil is horrible. I have never seen any that was not in distinct layers, usually called "horizons" and your sounds very typical. I agree with jxbrown, and would concentrate on improving my native soil. In three years your soil could be rated EXCELLENT. Al
The 70/30 mix is undoubtedly made from soil scraped off of construction sites that is just like the soil you are getting rid of mixed with compost. Soils are always layered, even in the midwest, you just have to dig down deeper in Illinois to find a discernible layer. Your soil will never look like the black soil you think you need because the mineral content is different and the organic content is lower. Additionally, here in the (much!) warmer climate of southern California organic matter will not last as long and will need to be replenished more frequently. Spreading it on the top of your growing area will work fine without the heavy labor of digging it in. Really, we've been doing this a long time. Buy or make some compost ( pull weeds, trim hedges, steal your neighbor's grass clippings, grow green manure, whatever), spread it on your soil. Add water (from drip irrigation, not the sky, this is not the midwest), grow your vegetables in full sun, plant them on a California schedule and you will do fine.
There is a place in Chino, that everyone raves about.
Here is a link that might be useful: Wolfinbarger's
Cool music on the Wolfinbarger's home page!
Another good place to get soils and mulches is Aguinaga Green in Irvine. They are on construction circle near Jamboree X Barranca. Right near the 5 fwy. They are super nice and in the office they have baggies of all their mixes. They seem to have a specialty mix for everything. I like their mixes because they add in nitrogen to balance what gets used up by decomposition. You won't get any unknown stuff. They tell you exactly what's in it.
70/30 or 50/50 is what we use when we need fillfor an area that needs planting right away. If we are just going to make existing soil better, we till in compost. The 70/30 is just 70%compost and 30% soil. So if you already have soil, why pay to export it and then pay to import more?
But before you go further, get a soil test. Did you do a settlement test to determine that the top layer is silty? Because silty doesn't sound bad to me.
All soil is in layers. Nothing unusual about that.
jxbrown, trust me, there are places in California that have terrible soil. Like my hillside of 86% sand. It's not the San Jaochin everywhere, lol.
LA gives away free mulch that's sewage sludge-free from about 10 locations. I pile it on in late summer for water retention and I compost mounds of it behind the garage until it's fully finished. I mix the finished compost 60/40 with native soil in raised beds or germinate with it 50/50 with vermiculite with good success.
Here is a link that might be useful: LA compost
John Jeavon's who has been researching biointensive methods in norcal says just 2% organic matter in the soil is enough to grow good veggies. When they double-dig the beds, I think they add something around 1 inch of finished compost to the top of soil that is cultivated 2 feet deep. The rest is 'mineral' soil, whatever you've got sand, silt or clay.
One of the bigger issues than lack of organic matter may be acid/alkaline balance. California soils tend to be alkaline, which some veggies don't like.
If it were me, I'd go with the free mulch and a liberal amount of coffee grounds from local coffee shops and aim for 10% organic matter. The green waste is probably mostly organic anyway and once the soil biota start to kick in, they will break down any chemical residues. Same goes for the coffee grounds. The coffee grounds will add nitrogen to balance the woody mulch, and also acidify the soil slightly.
Here is a link that might be useful: John Jeavon's youtube - great intro videos!
Start composting, it takes a while, but my soil was awful and is now great. Try the compost soil forum on garden web, there are people who will help you there.
I used the lasagne method to make some good soil. It's an easy way. Dig up some soil. Put down some leaves. Sprinkle on some soil until leaves are covered, put down a layer of manure, sprinkle on some soil, put a layer of twigs down or dried up leaves. Whatever you can get. Repeat. Sprinkle it now and then with water during summer. By this time next year you will have good soil. Or you can compost and mix it in. I tried this for the first time last year and liked it because it didn't seem like hard work. You just do a little now and then and pretty soon you have a big hump of lasagne soil. I planted nasturtiums and alyssum on mine and it was pretty.