Too Soon??

ajfanAugust 28, 2005

Planning a new garden for next year which is on bedrock & clay, was thinking i would go out & buy some top soil, peat moss and cow/sheep manure & start throwing it on top so i can plant early spring. Is this a good idea or would it be better to wait till spring? I just thought it might give me a head start, any other ideas or suggestions would be helpful. Thank you all. Have learned lots on this forum already.

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It is NEVER too soon to start improving soil conditions, specially if one is working with heavy soils. Clay and hardpan present some challenging gardening conditions that can only benefit from a widespread soil amending and improvement.

Avoid the peat moss - it is not that beneficial and is a very slow to renew resource - and focus in on compost or well-composted manures. If drainage is an issue (and it often is when dealing with clay or heavy soils), consider raised planting areas. You may want to check out "lasagne" gardening or layering of soils and organic matter to create new planting beds. The Soils forum has many references to this technique and other good info about improving and amending soils. Check it out.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2005 at 10:41AM
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username_5(banned for no reason)

one reason to prefer peat moss over compost is when you need to lower the ph of the soil. Peat is very acidic with a ph of 3-4. It is strongly buffered (which is why lime is added to peat based potting soils) and so lowers the ph of soil for years.

compost tends to be near neutral ph and is also moderately buffered.

For acid loving plants I would go with peat.

I agree you can't start too early.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2005 at 10:50AM
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blueheron(z6 PA)

Agree with gardengal about peat moss. It has no nutrients and when dry it's almost impossible to re-wet.

Have you ever had a house plant that got slightly dry and when you watered it, the water ran through it without wetting the soil? This is what happens when the potting soil has too much peat in it.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2005 at 5:24PM
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meldy_nva(z6b VA)

Read up on lasagna gardening; use the 'search' funciton at the bottom of the forum page "lasagna". Lasagna beds can be used almost from the git-go by incorporating soil next to the root ball; but if started now, they will *be* soil next year. Just remember to: make it high enough - lasagna will shrink to about 1/3 of the starting height, use sopping-wet newspaper between each layer, and top well with mulch.

BTW, if you don't want to use a non-renewable resource such as peat moss, coir will give almost the same texture without the acidifying (when needed, soil PH can be lowered with the use of ammonium sulfate).

    Bookmark   August 29, 2005 at 8:34AM
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