Clay Clay Go Away! Suggestions needed please

ricksample(6)March 16, 2014

Last year I cleared off 2 acres of land at the end of my property. After hard rains it would drain quick. I would dig holes in multiple spots, dump water and it would drain pretty quick. I was pretty happy with this newly found 2 acres of good soil... it didn't show it's true form until winter showed up. I don't know if it's the extreme wet weather we've had this year or what... but here is what I found.

A week ago the snow melted and it's been 45 for the high ever since with no precip. I figured the ground should be solid back on this 2 acres. I stepped foot on the ground and it's like a sponge. I didn't know what to think so I got my shovel out. I scooped the top 2-3" off and it was very wet. Then I dug my 2' hole. This soil seems moderately dry for some reason. It's clay, but not to bad. The color is a dark brown. After a short while you can see water start to seep in from the cracks in this hole. So it fills the hole.

What are my options at this point? Is this what I thought was good soil really bad or do I just think it's really bad because of the extreme we weather we've had this year? I have 40 plants here waiting to be put in the ground next month. My gut is telling me:

To plant these 40 plants into larger containers & store them until next spring. Then buy a $700 rototiller, 20 yards of top soil at a time, and get going path by path. Maybe rototill and spread dirt for a 100x100 section this spring and maybe a 100x100 section in the fall until it's completed. The rototiller I'm looking at is a rear tine tiller that won't beet you up like a front tiller. Not sure how much a hand tiller can take or if I should find someone with a tractor. But before I bought a hand tiller, I would get a cost from a farmer.

Do I have any other options??

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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i dont think you need to till it in ... and in fact.. something tells me.. its counter-productive .... but i dont know where i heard that ...... [spend the money on more soil]

i would mound on top ...

i had a very good friend.. GRHS ... in very bad OH [avon] clay ... and he just added 12 to 15 inches of well rotted manure and good soil on top ... and had the best garden i ever saw ... [i do not know how high he piled it.. to get the 12 to 15 inches ..]

in fact.. i was there after a bad rain.. and the entire acreage was under water.. but for the raised beds ...

he grew both hosta and conifers to perfection ...


ps: if you insist.. hire a local guy with a PTO rotovator equipped on his JDeere ... and let him go to town ... thats what i did when i needed to plant 1650 hosta when i moved here ... BECAUSE I KNEW IT WOULD BE A NIGHTMARE WITH MY 8HP REAR TINED ARIENS ROTOTILLER ....

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 4:26PM
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I wouldn't mind adding a foot or so of topsoil with a little compost mixed in, that would give me a nice raised bed. But I would be concerned with water going through the newly added topsoil and sitting on the clay. If the water does sit here and sit here long enough, I fear that it may make the clay worse and the roots won't want to penetrate the native soil.

Then again, I'm also reading in time, the organisms, tree roots, weeds, etc will naturally mix the topsoil/compost in with the native soil.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 8:06PM
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Rick, I think you need to get more scientific with your analysis. When you dig your hole, make it 1ft x 1ft, fill it to the top and let it drain, once empty fill it again, this time have your stopwatch ready and record how long it takes to drain. Anything Second, take a soil sample at least 4 inches below the surface and send it to your local extension office for testing. Don't buy one of those cheap DIY kits they don't work. Near me Umass does an excellent analysis. They take out of state sample too, if you have trouble finding a good local resource. It costs like 15 or 20 bucks, well worth it. I usually mix the soil from multiple holes within about 1000sq ft or so, beyond that soil conditions could shift and would probably merit additional samples, but your call.

If drainage is good in the hole, you may have compaction at the surface. This will be made worse by rototilling, which can also damage soil structure and bring weed seed to the surface. Instead, I would recommend you spend your money hiring someone to come in and core aerate your field. It's the process where a machine punches thousands of 4 inch deep holes in the ground, relieving compaction and allowing oxygen, organic matter, and organic fertilizers to reach the soil.

The final thing to look at is a condition called hydrophobic soil. This sort of goes hand and hand with compaction and would be greatly improved by core aerating alone. But in addition to this, you could consider spraying the field with a wetting agent or surfactant. This process uses a detergent like liquid to strip the soil of it's oily properties that can repels water and prevent it from seeping past the surface level. You could probably have this sprayed professional or just rig something up to your ride mower as well.

Hopefully this helps, I think the hole test and soil analysis will help you understand what you are actually dealing with before you take any unnecessary action.


    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 8:19PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Are you familiar with the term 'mud season'. It's where the snow has melted, but the underlying ground isn't totally thawed yet. So instead of sinking in, the water is held by a layer of ice.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 8:31PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

I was just going to say the same thing. You likely have frost in the ground yet. I had the same issues with clay soil during wet winters. With the exception of certain species, its one of the reasons conifers aren't widespread in the Milwaukee area.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 9:03PM
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Shawn - Thanks... I'll dig a hole hopefully in a month or so to see how fast the water drains from the hole. Right now after I dig a hole it fills up with water on it's own.

hydrophobic soil is something for me to look into... the soil is somewhat dry underneath. Dry as in you can hold it in your hands and it won't leave any soil or water behind. The top inch or two at the most is very wet to where you can actually take your hand and pull the grass roots & wet soil up by hand. After you pull it up by hand you will have water dripping from this section of grass.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 9:39PM
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mad_gallica & Will - I thought the same thing... but I dug down about 2' into the ground. Everything appears to be thawed out. Water for some reason is being held in the first inch or two of dirt. My front yard is completely dry... normally it's the one I have the clay issue with. Last year the field drained so well... unless it has something to do with the extreme cold temps & clay or maybe there was frost in parts of the soil I didn't see. But we've been dry the last week and a lot of those days were sunny and we hit 60. The ground should have been thawed out.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 9:47PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

If I had to guess, I'd agree you might have a frozen layer under there - thin enough that your shovel penetrated it, but dense enough that the water hasn't soaked in.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 10:24PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

The KMOX radio garden guy was talking about the possibility of a damp top soil/dry subsoil condition thanks to our actual winter. Whaas and Ken will be more familiar. Just something we don't experience every year.

I know I was out the other day. A sixty degree day at the end of a week of fifties and sixties. I have a 30" slice of silver maple layin on the grass I picked u. It was STILL frozen to the ground. Pulled a few inches of dirt up with it. Ao to avoid having to fill in a spot I just set it back down lol.

Lord knows what it would be like to dig a hole in the permafrost out there.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 8:41AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Public works acquaintance told me we still have roughly 5' of frost in the ground. With the upcoming forecast its quite possible the ground won't thaw until mid to late April at best. It has got to be alot warmer down there than here?

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 10:17AM
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I think tonight I'll take a scoop inside for evaluation to see what's going on. I'll look at it closer under the light and do the bottle test to see how much is actually clay. Perhaps their could be a thin later of ice that the shovel easily broke through.

The more I think about adding soil, the better off I think I'll be in the long term. When you walk in the front yard, you can tell the soil is higher. It feels solid and drains quick. When you walk into the field, you can tell that you are on a lower ground.

The topsoil I can get from a local company is a mixture of topsoil, sand & leaf compost. I think maybe it wouldn't be a bad thing to do a 100' x 100' section each spring. After I toss the topsoil and mix it in, toss a little more topsoil where the bed is going to give it a slightly raised look instead of the flat look. I'm looking at maybe a couple weekends to get this 100x100 section completed.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 10:21AM
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I'm in red clay country, and my soil amendment of choice is a mixture of composted leaves and pine bark fines. This gives a fairly balanced pH neutral amendment, but does require thorough soil incorporation. You never mentioned if your area is dead flat or has a natural pitch. Hopefully you have a hillside of some sort, otherwise higher than normal raised beds would provide some insurance. Build beds higher than you would expect, maybe up to 12 inches, because things will settle considerably over time. Be very careful rototilling large areas on any kind of incline as the soil will head downhill fast during hard rains if not mulched. If you are worried your soils are compacted badly, and were inclined to hire a tractor, sub-soiling is better that rotor tilling. They can drop a huge steel shank 18" to 24" inches down and really break up the root zone. Good luck

    Bookmark   March 17, 2014 at 12:48PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

why dont you just make individual mounds for individual plants ....

it seems .... on some level.. limited only to the words you use ... that you have acreage.. but you want beds ... this was one of the hardest lessons to learn.. for me.. moving from limited property suburbia.. to acreage .. i had to change my thought processes...

but if you properly space these things.. like 10.. or 20 feet apart ... think of all the soil you are theoretically wasting ....

of course.. mini's .... a bed would be preferable ...

in other words.. you are in a box .. a 'bed' box... and you are not looking outside of it ... well.. you are.. thats why you asked us.. good work ...

and do keep in mind ... the trees.. will gladly root into WHATEVER your soil is ... over the decades .... the lifting of the root flare ... is a way.. to offset us screwing with mother nature and forcing the issue thru transplanting ... it is done.. so as to give.. the transplant 'time' to get established.. and get over the insult of our planting ... and settle its roots into native soil.. whatever it might be ....

i have to imagine.. that this spot .. is not barren ... only that it has transitional drainage issues.. during a certain part of the growing season ... and your solution.. lies in addressing that season ..

but if you want to go all martha stewart ... you knock yourself out .... live your dream ...

BTW .. if you had a trailer.. and a day to waste traveling up here .. and mechanical inclination to repairing small engines ... i would sell you my 8 hp ariens cheap .... for all i know.. it might start on the first pull .... but something tells me.. the puller might be the issue .... or was that the old snowblower... lol ...


    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 7:33AM
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Thanks everyone for the helpful information. I pulled up a foot by foot soil sample yesterday to evaluate it under the florescent lights.

I put it on the counter upright and pushed down on the grass. You can see water seeping above your fingers (and all over the counter for that matter... oops lol). The entire soil sample was damper than what I thought when I evaluated it in the field. The bottom 10" is moist to where you can roll it in a ball. The top 2" is wet.

I did the jar test last night on the soil right below the wet spot (I thought that maybe it might be high in clay not letting the water penetrate through.) The soil sample contained 0% sand, 1% clay and 99% silt. I did find a few frozen crystals in the sample... but I don't think it's enough to allow water not to penetrate through. Unless the cold soil is compressing somehow not letting the water pass.

Ken - I planted my very first bed like this some 3 years ago. I planted all the plants high and added 10 yards of mulch. The soil wasn't great to work with from the start, but now it's very nasty. This spring I'm going to tear that bed up and plant some grass. Before I added mulch, you had all the grass roots breaking up the soil. Now with no grass roots it became extremely compacted. In this bed, you can actually lift some dirt with a shovel and hear like a suction sound. It also has a real nasty smell. I just don't want to make the same mistake with the new beds.

I was watching videos on rear tine tillers and it doesn't look to bad... I operated front tine tillers years ago and it gave you a real beating. Not 100% sure what I'm doing yet, but leaning towards adding compost/soil and tilling it in. Just because I plan to be here for the next 50 years and would rather fix the problem as best as know how rather than to try to live with it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tiller Video

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 8:10AM
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The more I think about it... I have two options. The first being that I can add compost to EACH new bed only and till it in, then plant/mulch. OR I may just add a few inches of compost on top, then plant/mulch. A few have said compost added on top will eventually work it's way down into the native soil.

Right now I have the rope layed out on the yard to where these beds are, I could just add topsoil/compost to each bed & either mix it in or leave it on top. Ultimately controlling the height to a small slope maybe 3" above the native soil + another 2" in mulch. Giving myself a nice 5" raised bed. Something like what Glaciers End did in the link below without the rocks. I just don't know if this would be bad like amending each planting hole since I'm not doing the entire field, just each bed.

No need of me doing the entire area... that just more grass I have to plant. I'm trying my best to get rid of this stuff... why would I want to seed more?

Here is a link that might be useful: Glaciers End

This post was edited by ricksample on Wed, Mar 19, 14 at 7:41

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 4:48PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

at least the moron in your video is wearing his safety boots ...


    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 8:44AM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

"hire a local guy with a PTO rotovator equipped on his JDeer"
Yes, or rent a Barreto walk-behind hydrostatic tiller if you are lucky enough to have a local rental depot that stocks them. (in Chicago, probably yes) Why buy one when you will never need it again for that area?

"Rick, I think you need to get more scientific with your analysis"
Yes, and you don't even give us enough information in the first posting to really know how to help you. Where in the country are you, roughly? Is your clay acidic, neutral or alkaline, for example. If, and only if, it's acidic, calcinic limestone (NOT dolomitic) can help open the clay soil to drain better. There is controversy about this, but only because people have different clay soils. Here on my marine and slightly silty, sodium charged acidic clays, it literally works wonders. Area that became mucky swamps vaguely reminscent of quicksand are now terra firma, no matter how much rain falls. Sodium ions there for millions of years are replaced by calcium ions, which rearrange the clay aggregates in a way that favors drainage. OTOH some finer, older clays like those in the western US are already charged with calcium, adding more calcium won't help.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 10:58AM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

BTW, as for rototilling...
I actually own a very nice PTO rototiller. I use it to rototill a permanent aeration/drainage enhancer like Turface into the soil. However, as SC77 says, whether this is actually necessary, or even a good idea, depends on a lot of factors. Your area could seem too wet just because it was overwhelmed by the snowmelt. If it has healthy soil structure, tillng could make it worse. In my specific case, I plan to have acres of Ericaceae, one day, and judicious use of products like turface does seem to be helping improve the soil structure to their liking...versus what I already had. However, if I were already on soil with better drainage like the sandy NJ pine barrens, it would make more sense just to top dress the soil with something organic. So, it really just depends. There is no magic bullet and no one size fits all.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 11:05AM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

BTW, for some reason your user id tripped "Chicago" in my memory banks, that's why I said you were there. Maybe not!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 11:08AM
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Ken - I know... what an idiot... but it was the best video I could find lol.

David - I didn't know HopeDepot rented tillers, but they do. They said a rear tine tiller would be $70/day. I would need to rent it a few times, but it would still be well under the $850 I would need for a new one. Posting this thread just saved me a lot of cash. So that decision's made... now I just need to figure how/what's the best method for my soil and If I actually need a tiller

Here's another jar soil test I did yesterday, I did several within 100' and they have all been almost the same. I can't tell if that dark brown is silt on the bottom & clay on the top or if it's all silt.

I'm from northeast Ohio. I will do an actual soil test, can those be picked up at a big box store or do I need to order those online?

I did run into a small hiccup which will change things. I've contacted several companies to get prices on compost. All have said they don't drive off driveways until July/August which is understandable. So I have all 40 plants already here waiting to go into the ground. I wonder if I should plant these this spring. Then in August have all the compost dumped so I could spread in the fall. Then mulch these beds next year. Doing it this way I won't be able to get any compost under the plant, but I can toss a lot on top of the planting mound.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 12:36PM
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Save your money on the "Big Box Store" Test, they don't work... send the samples to your local extension office for quality analysis. It's probably cheaper than the crap they sell at HD or lowes anyways.

Quality compost is very expensive, make sure your getting legit stuff...I have seem companies dump stuff that wouldn't even pass as topsoil. Do you use synthetics on your field? If not, I would recommend a longer term approach of core aerating and spreading organic fertilizers, compost, ect.

Starbucks gives away their coffee grounds free. If you have one near you, have them hold them and pick um up as frequently as possible. I usually throw them in a big pile to mix in with my household food scraps, then spread around in the fall. All this is free, and my last soil test indicated organic matter over 10% and optimal levels of all nutrients. Drainage test results =

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 4:58PM
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These are my results from Umass, just so you can get an idea of how thorough they are.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2014 at 10:52PM
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beng(z6 western MD)

Posted by mad_gallica Z5 Eastern NY (My Page) on
Sun, Mar 16, 14 at 20:31

Are you familiar with the term 'mud season'. It's where the snow has melted, but the underlying ground isn't totally thawed yet. So instead of sinking in, the water is held by a layer of ice.

Gallica has it.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2014 at 9:02AM
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Gallica & Beng - We can definitely rule that out now... temps have been in the 60's and everything is thawed out to where the ground was almost dry. I was getting ready to plant this past Saturday when we got a lot of rain, aprox 1". It didn't flood the field, but the squishy sound returned and it created puddles in all the low spots.

After walking the property after this hard rain, I noticed a few things. Keep in mind all the soil is pretty much the same. I have several spots that are small hills within the wet area. They are raised aprox 2-3" and have a diameter of 5-6'. These stayed completely dry. I think I need to recreate these small hills for my planting mounds. This type of soil goes deep... I dug a 4' hole and noticed no difference.

I think adding only compost to the few few inches of soil and planting may do more harm than good. It'll fill up like a bathtub... even if the few inches of compost eventually breaks up the silt/clay.... it won't get it 4' deep. Plus I'm not doing the entire area, just the beds. I don't want to deal with replanting grass.

I think I may do a couple beds a year this way... thoughts?
1. Quickly turn the top layer over with a shovel. Will take a couple hours each bed. This is just to help mix the two layers somewhat.
2. I have an huge amount of decaying wood products (sticks/logs/etc). Put a thin later on top of this turned soil
3. Add 6" of compost/topsoil. Aprox 25 yards per bed. This topsoil is a blend of raw topsoil, sand, & 25% leaf compost mixed and stored under roof.
4. Top with 3" of mulch.
With the new soil & mulch, it will create a bed 9" above the native soil. Since I turned most of the soil over the next 3" of bad soil should become better once everything starts to decompose. That's another 3" of good soil I'll have under the topsoil. That's gives me around 12" of good soil in each bed. I can care less if the grassy pathways drain good... the sun will take care of evaporating this water.

Be kind... I've never worked with bulk purchased topsoil.... so my concerns would be that it would still fill up like a bathtub and/or the topsoil may absorb this water and become spongy itself. This entire idea revolves around water running off the new mounds, not absorbing most of it. Some absorption is alright, but I fear the water may flow through like it's going through sand.

Sorry for so many posts regarding this... I'm just trying to get it right the 1st time.

Here's my land and the slopes. You can see why that area stays a little more wet compared to other parts of my land.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 3:42PM
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I think you need to get an expert out to your property so it can be accurately assessed. I wouldn't throw all your money and effort at creating these raised bed with the hope it will solve your problem. I would get a pro to review the situation in person. Get a topographical map drawn up and see if you can improve the situation simply by regrading the area, rather than trying to band-aid one raised bed after another.

Halt the order of new trees, move any that you believe are at risk of drowning to safer beds and then come up with a plan. Changing your soil profile is not a short term task, you need to apply compost yearly in the form of top-dressing, plus compost tea (which should be sprayed as frequently as you can brew it). shred every leave in your yard and throw them in a pile, start building your own compost pile, all household scraps, coffee grounds, ect go in the pile. Don't bag your grass clippings (free nitrogen), apply grains as frequently as you can afford (Alfalfa pellets, Soybean mean, bloodmeal, ect..) find a good local source.

I don't want to turn this into the Organic lawn forum, but that's the type of thing you need to do long term to change your soil profile. Believe it or not, top dressing will work it's way deep into the soil, compost tea does it even faster...once the organic life (worms, microbes, ect) build up in the soil, this process happens faster and faster. Organic matter self-corrects poor drainage in soil

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 10:29PM
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Half of the reason for the raised bed is to add some depth to the land instead of having it flat. The other half would be to add organic mater for better drainage... I was just hoping to kill 2 birds with 1 stone. I was researching a new term called hugelkultur. Where they bury logs under soil to help improve the soil structure through decomposition . I have an unlimited supply of logs & sticks. A lot of these logs are 10' long x 5" diameter. I just figured if I put a few of these logs in each bed along with a bunch of smaller 1" caliper sticks. Then I also have an unlimited supply of shredded paper here at work that I could actually use too. The problem is that I would have to cover it with soil, not just compost. I didn't want straight topsoil... I wanted something with some organic mater mixed in. That's when I found a company that mixes topsoil with sand & leaf compost.

So essentially I'm building the raised beds that I desired to have one day... but in the process adding tons of organic matter to each bed.

I thought of this method after walking through the wooded section of my property. I found a log from a tree I had cut down 4-5 years ago. After picking it up, what was left of the bark was nice and crumbly. This log itself was spongy from being decomposed for so many years. I actually just broke the log in half with little effort. What I found inside was a few worms and other insects. So I thought why don't I just use all of this organic matter that I can from my back yard and bury it... that's when I did some research and discovered the term hugelkultur

Everyone and myself included is telling me I need organic matter. I have an ample supply of this, but the organic mater I have is in the form of logs, sticks, paper and will need buried with other soil/compost. If I'm wrong about this... please let me know. But I think it's worth a shot on at least one of my new beds to see how it works.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 8:07AM
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I would have to go with what SC77 said. "I think you need to get an expert out to your property so it can be accurately assessed. I wouldn't throw all your money and effort at creating these raised bed with the hope it will solve your problem".

You need to address your problem correctly and I don't think you have a handle on it. As expensive as things are today don't throw money at an unknown problem with no guarantees it will work. Get an expert on it and go from there. This is an extensive problem considering the amount of property your are addressing. Getting the correct recommendation on how to correct it could save you a lot of wasted time and dollars down the drain.

Just my 10 cents worth.


    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 10:18AM
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Dave - What do you mean I don't have a handle on it? I've never tried to improve the soil... my posting is about trying to find the best practice to complete the job before I start. When you say, "You don't have a handle on it"... it makes it sound like I've tried & failed, tried & failed and now I want to try again. That isn't the case.... I've never tried. Yeah I've made the mistake and planted some conifers in low spots in the past. That's why I'm trying to do it the right way now. Every site is different... what works here may now work somewhere else and vise versa. How do I know what will work if I don't even try?

After studying the yard, the slopes, the soil... I have 2 problems. The soil contains little organic matter and this spot is a low area of the field. Just thinking logically... I would have to reverse this by adding organic materials and building up the soil.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 11:29AM
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I wasn't familiar with the term hugelkultur, but have heard of this practice. Typically this is used for growing crops, flowers, and maybe small shrubs. I don't think it was intended from growing conifers. There are a couple of problems. First, as the logs, sticks decompose they will also settle and the mound will flatten out. That's the last thing you want for a tree, hence the reason it is recommended to only dig wide, not deep when planting a tree, to avoid settling. Second, the tree will not have solid footing to anchor its roots in and will be very susceptible to toppling over in any type of wind. Third, those large, solid logs and sticks will introduce air pockets into the mount, which is great for decomposition, but bad for live tree roots. If the roots hit an air pocket, the tree will likely die.

That's not a bad method for creating compost long term, and then using it to amend the yard, but for planting on, it's a bad idea in my opinion.

I don't think Dave was suggesting you failed, just that this is a complex issue that really requires expert analysis and review to understand what action needs to be taken.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 12:36PM
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You may be correct... it's all about the learning experience and coming up with a solution to the problem. I wasn't by any means going to fill the bed with logs/sticks... I was just going to add a couple logs per bed and grind up some of sticks to toss on top of the native soil. Nothing like a normal hugelkultur bed where most of it is logs. Just a couple to help add organic matter to each bed. So in a standard 60' x 30' bed I'll add a couple logs and grind up enough brush to fill maybe a large trash bag. So that isn't a ton of wood products, but just enough to help add OM.

Do you think just adding the topsoil/compost to create the raised mounds would also cause the trees to tip in the future or would this topsoil become compacted enough to support the trees?

I don't want to add trees to the raised mounds right now.. I know the topsoil/compost is fluffy. The last thing I want is for it to compact a couple inches leaving the plant uprooted or sunk. Technically I could create these gradually sloped mounds (at least one for now to see how it works). If it turns out good, add more later this summer/fall. Keep them mowed all year so the tractor compacts the soil and maybe plant this fall. You would be surprised at how dry the raised parts of my yard are compared to the soil that just an inch below the hills. It's a night and day difference.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 2:23PM
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Well it's simple rick.

The last three words of you Post title. "Suggestions needed please" Let's rephrase it then. You don't know what to do. Same thing.

I have read everything from up rooting existing beds and recreate them, plant grass, buying a $ 700 rototiller, hauling in top soil with organic matter mixed in, and mulch and amendments and shredded paper. and your words, you said them, " I just don't know".

I didn't say anything about you failing I was just trying to give you some sound advice before you dove head long into a project with two many unknowns.

I will say it again. Get a soil expert that lives locally in your community. He lives there and is familiar with surrounding soils and can advise you to proceed properly to correct the issues. You can't expect people on the GW that live 100's of miles away from you to give the answers you need although some could be correct but how do you know. To many unknowns.

I would also suggest that you don't buy anymore plants till you are satisfied in your own mind you have your soils issues resolved.

The fees for my advice keep going up. Right or wrong.

Just my 15 cents worth now.

I wish you the best. Your soil issues are only temporary so don't stress over it.


    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 3:40PM
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Dave - I was open to suggestions, but was getting so much information that it was overwhelming... especially to a new guy. What I did learn is that I have to find what works in my area and what works for me. That's why I was struggling to come up with a solution of wanting to buy a rototiller, haul in top soil, etc. I personally knew all along what the problem was and it was just to expensive to fix so I was trying to look for the quick fix. I know I needed dump truck after dump truck load of dirt hauled in to raise the soil level... that was going to cost well over 10K by the time I bought the soil, hired someone to spread, seeded, watered, etc. The problem is that the entire area is to low. All the water is running towards this area.

Here's my solution, If you can't beat the clay... work with it.

I'm in the process of pulling all my fall 2013 plants up and reporting them to #3 & #5 containers.

I don't want to spend 10K on hauling in all this topsoil, compost, etc. The spot where my major garden renovation at is low & it needs soil. I can mix all the compost in it I want, but I'm sure I'll still have problems since all the water on the property is running towards this area. Even if you add so much compost that the top 1' of the soil becomes loam.. it'll still fill up like a bathtub since under that is mostly clay. The only way to fix this problem is to build up the soil so the water runs off the property. My front yard is mostly clay... but it's built up that water runs away and I've never had a single problem.

Here's what I'm doing. I've already contacted a few companies and got quotes. I'm meeting with them shortly. I'm digging a 100 x 50' pond in the "wet area" I posted a photo of earlier... out of this pond is going to produce 400 cubic yards of dirt (40 dump truck loads) they said. I'm using this dirt to build up the property and slope it into the wooded area of the property.

Hopefully all goes well... kind of scared me when they said they need to call in the soil scientists to run tests. It's free dirt & the pond is relatively inexpensive compared to the amount of dirt I would have to purchase.

I probably won't plant until I establish all the grass, fill the pond, get the fish, build the dock, build the pergola, etc. I'll probably plant sometime spring or fall 2015 which is why I'm upgrading these #1 size plants to #3 & #5 to give them room to grow. When I do plant these, at least they will be a couple feet taller.

On another note Ken - Looks like you may have been correct when you said not to give up on the ones you think I've lost. Most are still dormant... but one which I'm sure was gone now has soft buds.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 4:12PM
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This is one of the reasons clover is a popular cover crop.

White clover forms tap roots which can be 40 inches deep, which die after the first season, leaving a hole water can seep through.

You also of course get the nitrogen fixation legumes are known for.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 4:26PM
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Sounds like a plan. I especially like the pond idea and the excess dirt used sculpt your garden.

Keep us informed.


    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 8:24PM
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