Fixing my soil?

ferretladyApril 23, 2014


New here, and I'm just starting to garden again after some years away from it.

I dug out a small island bed in my tiny front yard. Knowing that our native "soil" is sandy, and we're heading into the heat of the summer soon, I selected some plants that are supposed to be drought-tolerant & do well in "well-drained soil".

Curious to see just how quickly my soil drained on it's own, before adding any amendments, I filled a few pots with the dirt from the bed -- much to my surprise & dismay, the water simply floats/sits on top of it & does not seem to penetrate the surface barely at all! Even after vigorously "stirring" the pot, there were still big patches of bone-dry dirt here & there.

What would be the best thing for me to add to my little bed, to get it to absorb the water well - but without adding so much "water-retention" that my "needs well-drained soil" plants would suffer?

I've never run into this problem when gardening before, so I'm stumped as to the best thing to do!

Thanks in advance for any advice you can give me! Any amendments or supplies I need would have to be available at big-box stores, as they are the only places I am currently aware of in my immediate area, and driving long distances is out of the question for me right now.

I do have on hand already - app. 1/2 a bag of cow manure, a bag of MG potting soil, a 2cf bag of MG "garden soil". I've seen mushroom compost at the local Lowes, along with most of the other standard items they carry. Oh, and some bags of Florimulch to put down.

I read some mention elsewhere about wetting the bed down with soapy water? (Soap, not detergent!) I'm not sure about that, as I don't know what effect soap, even in very diluted form, would have on the soil.

Thank you again!!!

This post was edited by ferretlady on Wed, Apr 23, 14 at 17:02

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
rednofl(9b Goldenrod Fl hz 10)

Soap is an emulsifier usually you mix it in sprays to help break up up whatever you are spraying and make it stick... a humic, fulvic acid product would be good to mix with it . You will need to find a garden center or go online to get it.....
Then add Earth worm castings , compost and peat as much as you can up to half.
Add some organic fertilizer wet it down with your spray , mulch it and keep it damp for a month
Good luck

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 6:13AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

I have noticed the super slow, standing water effect you mention. It always happens when my soil is dry. For this reason I do two things.

First, when I mulch, I rake the first layer into the soil, breaking it up and improving the drainage. Then I add the other two layers for a depth of 3-4 inches of mulch. This helps to contain the water rather than having it trickle away across the soil.

Second, when I spot water my plants (most of mine are established and don't really need extra water) I do a fairly light pass with the sprayer, hitting all the plants that need water. When I get to the last plant, I go back to the first and start over, giving a fair bit more water on this second pass. The first pass primes the soil, breaking up that impermeable dusty layer which then allows the second pass to actually penetrate the soil and go deeper.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 8:13AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
carolb_w_fl(zone 9/10)

When putting in plants, I always fill the hole w/ water 1st - & make it a bit larger than necessary - also soak the plant's roots well & keep a trickle from the hose @ the base of larger plants/trees for a few days.

If the 'soil' is dusty & nonabsorbent, I mix the water in to make mud before planting in it. It is more work, but definitely worth it.

Once plants are growing, the root systems seem to help the soil hold moisture. & of course, adding compost & mulching thickly helps build tilth.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 9:48AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

The famous non-wetting florida sand phenomenon. Nevertheless, you'll notice when it downpours or you run the hose on the ground, water does not stand for any length of time - it finds the lowest spot and soaks right in (as it will in the pots if you let it sit, often unevenly if the surface is not very level). I aim to make vegetable beds quite level or even a little concave and plant near the center for this reason.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 12:50PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I agree with all of the above and, unfortunately, it will all have to be repeated from time to time. Another good ingredient is greensand - it is a source of potassium but also holds all the above amendments together and with the sandy soil.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2014 at 9:45PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

A method I've tried which works fair is "Lasaga gardening" Basicly what you do is lay down cardboard,newspaper over the area . Put your appropriate mix on top of this and plant. saves digging removing weeds and is ready to go for the first year.
Naturally you will need some type of edging to contain the soil and make it deep enough to contain whatever you're growing. It will breakdown and need renewing the second year but works far better than "mixing" and is far less labor intensive for sure .. Unless you have LOTS of newspapers would suggest heavy cardboard as it's much slower to break down and will last well into the second year. Google "Lasagna gardening" lots of info !!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 6:10AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

In addition, and this may be more than you want to deal with, applying a wetting agent, which you allude to above, will very quickly eliminate this problem. Now wetting agents are not soaps. They are rather advanced detergents. Still, for your small-scale problem, it might not be unwise to just try some of your dish detergent. The reason pros don't tend to do that is that, say you're Proctor and Gamble or whatever mega corporation marketing household products: You may vary your recipe from time to time as supply prices change, etc. But the companies that make professional horticultural wetting agents lock down their formulas and go for consistency. In addition, and you would quickly see this if you held a jug of pro product, these formulas use rather obscure and advanced chemicals, far beyond "dish soap". Nevertheless, for your small area, it might not be a bad idea to just try a solution of whatever dish detergent you've got.

All that being said, if you really want to get serious-and have the budget for it-there are pro-grade wetting agents. I've used these in water-repellant soil situations and the difference is striking.....but doesn't come cheap.

Well-made and well-cured compost is the number-one best soil additive. I don't know that any of the bagged products are really all that good. But if your municipality has a composting program, you may be able to find actual compost.


    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 12:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


What location in Central FL are you? Locals can point you to local suppliers and educational resources.

Veronica in Thonotosassa

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 3:21PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I take my finger and draw a deep circle around the base of the plant. Water will pool and then soak in....

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 5:07PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
To garyfla_gw, need help
garyfla_gw can you contact me @ coowpoow@gmail. I have...
Mystery tree
Has small silvery/gray leaves, almost furry looking......
Winter Tomatoes in Miami Florida
I am planning to torture the northern gardeners with...
Lonicera "Mandarin"
I'm interested in the observations of anyone who has...
juneroses Z9a Cntrl Fl
Central Florida garden sites?
Hey all, I'm posting the lessons I learn on my central...
Sponsored Products
3 Lights Modern Style Chrome Wall Sconce with Acrylic Shade
Commercial Electric 3-Light 4 ft. Fluorescent Wraparound White Surface Mount Fix
$35.00 | Home Depot
Chrome Triple Thermostatic Shower Valve Mixer, Rail Kit & Round Head
Hudson Reed
Montclaire Mystic 10-Light Chandelier
$799.90 | Bellacor
Montclaire Mystic One-Light Wall Sconce with Misty White Glass
$75.90 | Bellacor
Outdoor Lighting. Surrey Collection Hanging Outdoor 4-Light Black Gold Light Fix
Home Depot
Thermostatic Twin Shower Valve 2 Outlets, Head, Rail Kit & Handset
Hudson Reed
You're My Only Hope Gallery-Wrapped Canvas
$59.99 | zulily
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™