Which is a better amendment...garden soil or soil conditioner?

redecoratingmom(8 GA)October 10, 2011

Hope everyone is doing well. I have a quick question. I'm renovating a bed in my front yard. It has been a real beast ripping out plants and I'm still in the process of removing landscape plastic and well as gravel(used as a mulch!) but I digress. The soil seems to be severely lacking "life" and I was wondering what would be the better amendment to add to it. I have the option of buying Scotts premium garden soil or purchasing soil conditioner like Nature's Helpers or the Scotchman's brand. What do you guys think is best?

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Soil conditioner; it's better and it should be cheaper. And then use organic mulch (not colored stuff)or pine straw around the plants when you are finished. These things will attract bugs that eat organic material and their activity and poop will aerate and enrich the soil (I'm talking about earthworms, roly poly pill bugs and the usual well behaved critters). The presence of these bugs will then attract birds that eat bugs that live in organic litter like Brown Thrashers. Their search for bugs will further aerate the soil.

Now that leaves are starting to fall, let me remind everyone that leaves are a premium source of organic material. If you have to pick them up (like off the grass), they make good mulch around the base of trees and shrubs. Try not to bag them up and send them away with the garbage man. It's like throwing away the interest you earned on your savings account.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 7:31AM
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My vote is also for soil conditioner. If you aren't planting the bed now you can continue to add goodies to it all winter - especially ground leaves as Esh recommended, the more the better. Add the grass clippings from your last mowings too. The Nature's Helper needs to be incorporated into the soil then top dress with the leaves.

HTH, Rosie

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 8:33AM
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redecoratingmom(8 GA)

Thanks guys. I bought some of the garden soil yesterday before I read your replies but I'm returning it tomorrow and buying the soil conditioner like y'all advised. Is there a difference in the one at Lowes (Scotchman's brand I think) and the HD one (nature's helper)? I ask because the HD one comes in 1.5 cubic ft. while the other is 2 cubic feet. Just looking to get more bang for my buck.
I'm going to use pine straw to mulch the bed. There are two pine trees in my front yard that are dropping needles anyway, so putting anything else down would be silly on my part. But not quite as ridiculous as dumping a truckload of gravel on the beds without any concern for the integrity of the soil or the next homeowner who has to spend many hours of back breaking tedious work to dig it all out after it has spent many years sinking into the ground! ...Sorry about the rant, can you tell how much I hate the gravel heehee.
Are there any other amendments I should add? I purchased a bag of MOO-nure also for some added goodness(the store didn't have Black Kow).
In case you need some info:
the soil is going to be slightly rocky since I won't be able to get out all the gravel, besides that it appears to be kinda sandy on the top layer and as I dig deeper it appears more yellowish orange, almost like there could be some clay. I'm going to plant some dwarf gardenias in that area along with some tulip bulbs and some annuals for now.
Thanks in advance!

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 10:25AM
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I think either brand is fine - I'd buy whichever looks like a good value too.

Sorry about the gravel but it is not too bad to have some left in there: good drainage.

After the beds are established, I will sometimes top dress with a little composted manure, but you don't have to use that initially.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 3:39PM
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redecoratingmom(8 GA)

Thank you Esh. That makes me feel better about the gravel. I will head to the store soon to get the bigger bag of conditioner and maybe, just maybe, I will have the bed finished and beautiful by the end of this weekend. Thanks for all the insight!

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 10:25PM
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woody_ga(7a GA)

I know I'm seconding all the other posts...

Buy the soil conditioner. Buy a lot, and buy it as cheap as you can.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 9:25PM
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buford(7 NE GA)

I think you can use both. The soil conditioner I would use in mass quantity to mix in with the soil. The garden soil I use mostly when planting annuals or other plants to add to the bed (build it up).

I can sympathize about the gravel. I moved into a new construction home and of course they used a lot of gravel for traction when building the homes and it's all over my beds. I have a huge pile of it in the back yard from when I've dug through the beds and removed it.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 8:50AM
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redecoratingmom(8 GA)

Thanks guys for the answers. I've taken your advice and went with the soil conditioner. @buford I'm glad you know my pain lol! The backyard is where I've relocated my gravel to as well. Problem is that now I've kinda dug myself a little hole from removing the gravel so I'm gonna have to build up my bed again. Is top soil okay for this? Cash flow is getting thin so the garden soil is a little too much.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2011 at 11:37PM
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I use the top soil from Lowe's and Home Depot all the time - $1.14 a bag at either place usually. It is perfectly good.

Home Depot's is heavier stuff, very good for filling an area that you want to really "be filled"; seems to be more "sandy". Lowe's is lighter stuff, seems to have more organic material not fully broken down. Sometimes I mix the two bags for a "custom mix"!

    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 12:18PM
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redecoratingmom(8 GA)

Thanks Esh! Now that I know the difference I think I want the Lowes stuff becasue I need a bit more of the soil conditioner but if I can get organic material in a top soil then that's killing two birds with one stone.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2011 at 3:32PM
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buford(7 NE GA)

Top soil is ok. Also if you can collect and shred any falling leaves you can mix those in as well. That's free!

    Bookmark   October 28, 2011 at 9:47PM
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If you are looking for topsoil, check with your local landfill. I know at mine they take all the shrubs and trees and things like that and let them break down. Now it wont be completely turned into topsoil when you get it.....but hey it's free.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2012 at 11:53AM
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