proper soil for transplants

reddingJuly 3, 2011

I've complained that the buddleia I set out this year seems to be dying, and it brings up the question of soil. We all know that ours is not the greatest. I first tried putting the plant into a clay area, but the soil either turned brick hard or held way too much water. The poor little plant was turning up its toes. Then I picked it up and put it in a pot with good potting soil, which temporarily saved it, but then it became unhappy again, so moved it to a much looser garden soil with good drainage, still in full sun, thinking it might have a better chance there. Apparently not. It's determined to die, no matter what I do. BUT, when I moved it to the new spot, I once again used a nursery potting soil (Bonnie's) that is high in peat, vermiculite and so on, with the thought that it might help it to get started. It's not working. By trying to baby the plant into surviving, is that what is managing to kill it? Could I possibly still save it by digging it up once more and planting it in a sand and humus native soil?

I think we've all at one time or another had to deal with the wretched fir bark planting medium that so many companies use. Once it's fully dry, it's all but impossible to ever get it to take up moisture again. Water just runs down the outside of the rootball and leaves the inside bone dry. I've learned with azaleas and rhodies to soak them and work like crazy to get all of that stuff gone before putting them in the ground. Otherwise they will more than likely die, no matter what else you might do for them.


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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


It sure is hot to be transplanting anything. I try to avoid transplanting anything at all once the temperatures are hitting the 90s unless whatever I'm planting is in a plantable pot, and I am not one to dig up plants and move them around when they're struggling in the kind of heat and lack of moisture we're having this year. If I think something needs to be moved, I try to move it sometime between October and February.

Unless you have the really excellent sandy loam soil found in some parts of northeastern or central Oklahoma, you likely will find buddleia struggles in our extreme heat, and that's especially true if you have clay soil. Many of the types of clay found in Oklahoma do not drain well enough for buddleia. You might have success building a raised bed well above grade-level for improved drainage. However, if you are in an open, well-exposed area, a raised bed may dry out too quickly on hot, windy days.

I don't worry too much about the soilless mix a plant is grown in before it goes into the ground. The roots are going to grow out of that mix and into my compost-enriched clay in a relatively short time anyway.

If you don't like the bagged soils available or the soilless mixes used in the nursery industry, you can mix up your own custom mix. I did that for several years while filling large containers, and what I like best is that if I guessed correctly about whether it was going to be a wet year versus a dry year, I could tailor my mix to either hold more water or to drain better. There's great soilless mix recipes over on the Container Forum here at GW.

Your point about some potting mixes drying out too quickly reinforces what I always say about the use of peat moss---that I prefer compost to peat moss for several reasons, with one of them being that when peat moss is dry it repels water instead of absorbing it.


    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 5:45PM
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Thanks, Dawn. I think what I have in the front garden was probably brought in years ago. The sand content is pretty high and it's really easy to dig, down to about 12", where it hits clay. There's a certain amount of humus build-up because of the oak trees that have lived along the edge for years. The rest of the property is clay that would probably take a pickaxe to break up . . . or break the tool, whichever came first.
Although it's completely the wrong time to do it, I hate to sacrifice the little buddleia that's obviously going to die if I don't do something to help it. My thought on that was, if it's going to die anyway, what do I have to lose?

Like you, I often make up my own potting mix. This year I got lazy and just bought a big bale of the Bonnie's and used it right out of the bag. Do you know if anyone has tried mixing in some of the Miracle Grow Moisture Control with their soil before planting? Do you think it might give the plants some time to become acclimatized after they are transplanted? I've wondered about it but never tried it.
I agree about the peat that repels moisture once it's really dry, but the one I really have trouble with is the big chunky fir bark stuff. It can be just awful.

I do have a raised bed for my strawberries, but that's all. It seems to be holding up fairly well, although a few days ago it dried out enough that they all went limp and needed a good soak. It may need more work next spring to raise the soil level a bit more. If possible, next year I'll have also raised brick planters all across the front of the house, if for no other reason than to try to control the crabgrass that's climbing right over the top of the mulch. If we could ever turn that stuff into a commercial crop, we'd all be rich!


    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 6:52PM
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I've bought that awful barky stuff you are describing. Really awful. Reminded me of what I rake up under the leaves in spring, the smaller debris stuff that has smaller sticks and crap in it. It seemed like about the same thing, a bag of yard waste.

I bought some Miracle Grow soil amendment in big bags at Home Depot. I liked it and it made the texture much better in a high spot that is heavy on the clay (heavy clay loam I guess). I dug up the plants and then I dug three bigger holes, mixed in the amendment good and I made a well with the high ridges mounded around the three plants. I used one large bag for three plants. It sure made watering easier and it seems to be working good. The plants improved noticeably after about three weeks. It was already pretty hot when I did this and I did it at night so they wouldn't be so stressed. Some people really holler when you even mention Miracle Grow but I am not so snobby.

I tried growing a B. Black Knight some years ago and it died but that doesn't really mean they won't grow here. I see them at Will Rogers Park here in OKC and theirs look good and well established so they will definitely grow here. Probably just takes some time to get one established. I'd try again if you fail. High Country Gardens carries them so that means they must be at least somewhat drought tolerant. You know, I used to do a lot of shrubs and it seemed like every time I would plant barberries at least one would always die and they all got the same treatment. If it was the yellow ones, I'd always loose half of them.

I would wait until Fall to try again if that one does succumb. Sounds like the poor fella has been through a lot already. I think if it was me, I'd try putting it in a larger pot, trim it back some to take some stress off the top and to allow the roots to develop and put it in a dappled shade area and then plant it in fall or late August.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 12:55AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Pat, I should have kept all the tools we broke the first couple of years trying to penetrate our heavy red clay. I could have built a fence from them.

You might not have much to lose if you're convinced it is going to die anyway, but I've had plants hang in there and survive at times when I thought they wouldn't make it. I wouldn't count on that happening to anything this year though. The heat is just so brutal so early in the summer. It isn't usually quite this bad this early. In my county in southern OK, our high temps have been running 10-15 degrees above average for 5 or 6 weeks at the very least.

I don't know if anyone has had luck mixing in the Moisture Control Soil into soil in the ground, but remember that if you do that and you have clay soil, your unimproved clay will form a "bowl" that holds water, so your area enriched with the Moisture Control soil will be sitting in that bowl and may hold more water than you intended.

It took me seven years of amending clay soil well enough for the shrub/perennial border beside our wraparound porch before I could get it to drain well enough that it wasn't a 'bowl'. I just kept adding organic matter, rototilling it into the soil and planting annual and a few perennials. We're so far back from the road that you can't see the house from the road, so I only had to please us with the appearance of that bed or I never would have spent 7 years building the soil. By the time I had the soil "just right" I already knew what would survive in that soil and what didn't stand a chance, even with well-amended soil and good drainage. The shrubs and perennials planted there are thriving, but I still remember all those springs and summers of nursing plants through the rainy season and wondering if "this year" would be the year the drainage finally was perfect. And, ever since then, the drainage has been perfect. The first couple of years it held water for up to a month after a very heavy rainfall...I mean standing water---like a pond. When we had 9.25" of rain in one day in April 2006, I held my breath and waited for the 'bowl' effect to kill all my plants. It didn't. With the kind of red clay that we have here, you have to be persistent and amend, amend, amend. I hope your clay isn't as thick and dense as ours, but it sounds like it might be. On the other hand, it is really easy to put in ponds for the wildlife because whatever hole you dig will hold water....even if you don't want it to.

Amending soil can seem like a never-ending and thankless task while you're doing it. However it does pay off. In April 2009 we had record rainfall of 12.89" in a 24-hour period. My clay was so wet it is beyond description. Then we had 6 to 8" more over the next six weeks. Practically nothing died, and that includes plants in well-amended clay, in lightly amended clay high on a slope, and in the veggie garden which is mostly raised beds. When that rain started falling, I was delighted---for the first 4 or 5 inches. After that, I just started worrying about everything drowning. The fact that most plants survived the heavy deluge was encouraging. I still can't plant a lot of things that need good drainage but I can plant a wider variety of plants now than I could in 1999.

We have pastures of mixed native grasses and forbs, and I love them, but their performance varies wildly. In a very wet year, the ones that need very good drainage virtually disappear, so that the ones that can tolerate poor drainage thrive and take over. Then, in a dry year, the plants that prefer wetter soil pretty much brown out and go away. It is interesting to watch the ebb and flow of what survives, what dies back, what goes dormant and what reseeds over the years and to see how it relates to the weather conditions. This year has been highly variable and the plants that were very happy in our only wet month (May) are now brown and dormant. In fact, there's not a lot of wildflowers in bloom in unirrigated pastures here. But the good thing about native plants is that they rebound as soon as rain falls, or at least they do most years.

About the crabgrass....someone in Ardmore is marketing it as a rangeland grass for cattle. Now I know what my problem is....I live in a cow pasture! We actually do. The cows walked this ground the last few years before we bought this place, and before that it was a farm. We grow great crabgrass here without even trying, but that's nothing to brag about, is it?

Cactusgarden, I think the MG soil amendment you bought likely is the one labeled "Garden Soil"? That's what it is meant for....improving soil. Some people have bought it and tried to use it in raised beds without adding native soil to it and when they do that it drains too quickly, so I think it could be exactly what Pat needs to add to her clay.

Barberries haven't grown well here for me, so I took the survivors out. After about 5 years they didn't look much bigger or healthier than when I bought them. I think they need better drainage than I can give them.

The heat is really cranking up here. It was 104 yesterday and we moved all our containers, even the ones with "full sun" plants into the shade. They're only going to get 3-4 hours of morning sun, but they were roasting in full sun. Some years I have as many as 80 containers of plants. This year I have less than a dozen. I expected drought, so tried to cut back a lot of what I would have that would need watering.


    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 8:25AM
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Sometimes I just bring stuff inside. I dug up some passionflowers from my grandfather's garden a couple weeks back and couldn't keep them from wilting outside so they're inside now and recovering pretty well.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 1:41PM
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Cactus and Dawn, many thanks for the input. I know exactly what you mean about the clay soil 'bowl' holding water, since that's what happened in the first location for the buddleia. I scooped out a nice big hole, I thought, and filled it with potting mix and put in the plant, but we got two of the only rains we've had this year and the poor plant nearly drowned. I won't make that mistake again.
Cactus, I do happen to have a very large empty pot in the garden and can drag it into a part-shade area without too much trouble. Since the plant is clearly going to die if I don't do something about it, I have very little to lose. It's certainly worth a try. With any luck at all, I might be able to salvage it if I put it in the pot where I can keep an eye on it. Cutting it back is a good idea also. Thanks!
And as to that nasty fir bark potting medium, we've lost more azaleas to that than for any other reason. I've learned to never, ever plant an azalea that has been grown in it without first getting rid of as much of it as possible. If that isn't done, the plant is nearly guaranteed to die. Only the external half inch or so will take up any water, while the rest of the whole root ball stays bone dry. It's really awful, and nearly impossible to get out. Soaking, picking, shaking, and more soaking and picking. It can take hours of work. Yuck!
When I look for a potting medium, I never take the advertising for granted. I read the label to see exactly what's really in it. Too many of them are composed mainly of bark, and some of it is large. No thanks.

Dawn, I know what you mean about the crabgrass pasture. The place we have used to be a chicken farm or something like that. Nearly 1,200 birds. Yikes. I'm not quite sure what the management practices were, but apparently the owners likes to plant some sort of sunflowers across the fronts of the pens. Gigantic, huge things that can reach 12' tall and have a cane that's nearly 2" thick, and a lot of them. They make a very effective barrier to just about anything, including people and mowers. It's taken several years for me to get them under control.

One of the really odd things I've noticed is the curious soil in those old pens. It seems to be very fine sandy stuff that's light and an amazing texture. It looks really good. Not at all what you'd think would come out of chicken pens. It's been sitting there aging for nearly 10 years, so I thought it would make a great addition to the garden. (I can just hear the other gardeners drooling over the idea.) However, when I tried putting it in, I found that it doesn't like to take up any water. It doesn't immediately soak through like ordinary coarser sand. It's really weird. It will soak up eventually, but it takes some doing. Does anyone have any ideas or comments on that? I have several thousand square feet of it available, so I'd really like to be able to use it to amend the clay. I'm just puzzled by the way it behaves.

Dawn, we had almost no wildflowers in our pasture this year. If there were any at all, I never saw them. In a good year we have big carpeted areas of huge paintbrush and several others. Even the wild yarrow was pitiful.
It was 106 here yesterday and all the plants are struggling. The only thing that seems content without any care at all is the big trumpet vine that hasn't slowed down, even though it gets blasting sun until late afternoon.

Cactus, I have to ask . . . how in the world do you manage to keep the weeds out of your beautiful garden?


    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 1:59PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


We had good rainfall last September with about about 9" at our house (and a tiny tornado nearby), mostly from a plume of tropical moisture that came across Texas from a tropical storm or hurricane down on the Gulf Coast. That moisture held in the soil a good long time and saved the day after a dry summer, so lots of tiny rosettes of leaves for the various forbs germinated in about Nov. or Dec. and sat there teeny-tiny all winter long. We had decent wildflowers in late winter and early spring, than nothing in April because it wasn't raining at all, then great wildflowers in May, and nothing since. We also have cracks in the ground in the pasture that vary from 1" wide to 3" wide.

I suspect the soil in the chicken pen area is just too sandy or silty and water runs right through it. I'd do the jar soil test (see the link below) to see what it shows. A lot of times people here tell me they have no silt or no sand in their clay, and then they do the jar soil test and discover they do have sand or silt or both. If it is just a finely-grained clay or silty-clay dust, my best guess would be that something is terribly wrong with it. Whatever it is, the soil in our fenced chicken run is like that. It is the most finely grained silty sand I've ever seen, and I don't think it was that bad when we built the new chicken coop and fenced run there in 2003. When it rains or when you water, the water runs downhill on the surface of the ground just as if you'd poured water on a tabletop or a tile beads up and doesn't soak in.

The big sunflowers may have been planted to help shade the birds from the hot afternoon sun. I planted "Sunforest" sunflowers around our dog yard for the same purpose in the early years so the dogs could have shade even though the trees were, at that point, shorter than the dogs. Sunflowers make great temporary shade, at least until the deer get hungry enough that they eat the leaves, flowers, buds and even the stalks at night...not the big huge stalks at the ground, but the slimmer stalks further up on the plant.

We did put the chicken coop it its specific location so they could dust in the sandy soil in their chicken run, but there has to be a reason it stays so fine. Of course, since we can't put any organic matter in there because they scratch up, kick it out through the fence, or eat it, etc., maybe it is just pure silt or pure sand. I wouldn't
use the soil from our chicken run for anything because I don't think anything will grow in it. We do rake out the hay/manure from the chicken coop and add it to the compost pile. My compost pile at the present time is about 20' long, 6' wide and 4' tall. I can't turn it over, though, because there's usually copperheads and rattlesnakes hanging around it. In the winter I turn it over, etc., and cart it off to the garden to be used. During snake season I just throw stuff onto it.


Here is a link that might be useful: Jar Soil Texture Test From Fine Gardening Magazine

    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 3:06PM
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Okiedawn, sounds like you live on a prairie. I'm jealous. Also you sound like a very experienced gardener. I remember very well that wet year you mentioned. I had just put in my xeriscape the previous fall and had algae growing on top of the sand. Lovely. It smelled like Mississippi and fish. Everything made it, cactus all survived, but I was worried. I had to retrieve a lot of my sand that ran down the street in many trips with a wheel barrow but I had bought it the year before, hauled it endlessly and by golly, I wasn't going to let it go.

Redding, the chicken coop stuff is interesting. I have always heard its too rich to use chicken droppings until they are well composted because its very very hot, more so than cow manure. You would think its very rich stuff to add to existing soil and to have that much of it! Its weird about the repelling water quality it has though. I'm stumped on that one. Maybe there is some kind of mineral in it? Don't they throw something (this is an ancient hazy memory) like some kind of gravel in where chickens are? I seem to remember my grandmother tossing something on the ground for them to scratch around in.

What I did was bring in a lot of tons of sand, delivered in a a couple of dump truck loads. I have sand fairly deep on top of typical unamended soil except where the beds once were which is highest up and has a lot of sand mixed in along wih organic matter. When I plant something, I buy a 99 cent bag of soil at Home Depot or Lowe's and mix it in the sand planting hole. Its always more light colored than dark after I mix it in, so its heavier on the sand. The river rock holds in moisture and it keeps the sand from running down the slight slope I live on. My goal was DRAINAGE, with a capital "D" and very lean soil that would grow desert plants. I have found a lot of my natives, Okies and NM ones easily grow in pure sand and have naturalized happily. Its surprising.

As to weeding, I work at home and when I take a break I weed. Its one of those relaxing things that I like to do to clear my head. I am the type who cannot stand to see a weed growing without pulling it and thats anywhere. I don't have as many as I had expected. Its very easy to pull weeds out of the sand, not like when I used to have to pull them out of the lawn. The worst is spring and those hated volunteer trees my lazy neighbor has coming up everywhere. I must pull them by the thousands each spring and I really do wish this guy would move and sell his house to someone who will do something, at least clean and mow. Currently I am spraying brush killer over the fence trying to kill a wide line of volunteer trees, vines, and just awful stuff and we need another tree (to pay to trim) coming up back there in his "yard" like I need a case of red spider mites. Its a nightmare over there.

I couldn't get the Indian Paintbrush to germinate. Wow, you have huge areas. I need a prairie so bad. You guys are lucky. I'm working on a baby prairie in the back. Lots of little bluestem (my favorite) and others. The challenge is keeping it from looking like a mess and the trick I found is keep it simple with large areas of the same kind of grass. I call it "The Savannah". I'm so besotted by the prairie grasses currently I ride down the road in fall with my eyeballs peeled on the countryside saying "Stop, whats that?" "Oh whats that one>>>>?"

    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 3:53PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Cactusgarden, I live in an area with mixed prairie/post oak-hickory woodlands. Our specific acreage is 14.4 acres, of which about 10 acres is heavily wooded and we have left it mostly in its native state. We did spend a lot of time clearing out undergrowth, especially non-native invasive crap, every winter until we started having trouble with feral pigs at the back of the property, and cougars elsewhere. Nowadays, I stay in the civilized more-open acreage near the house. I like wildlife in general but there's a few animals I do not want to encounter when I am alone outside. : )

We have horrid Red River clay, which is logical because we're in the part of Love County that sticks down into Texas, and we have the Red River to our west, south, and east. Our rainfall varies from 18-23" in a dry year to 48-53" in a really well year. So, the plants that tolerate poor-draining clay in a wet year aren't happy in a dry year and vice versa. And, landscaping with grasses is out, out, out for us because we're surrounded by grassland infested with cedars in an area prone to wildfires. When wildfires start occurring frequently, you have to go out with a weedeater and cut everything in the pastures down low to the ground (so low that bare soil shows) with a string trimmer to about 1/4" tall. This greatly lessens the chance wildfire will destroy your home. We did cut it that low in 2005-2006 but not in 2008-2009. We've removed all the cedars in the civilized area because they explode when they burn and send burning resin through the air. Living in a prairie is interesting to say the least, but it is a lot more fun in wet years than in dry years.

Chicken grit is what you throw in the pen, but not all that much of it. I'm inclined to think that the chickens eat all the organic matter and constantly take dust baths which fluffs up the soil and you're left with dusty, silty stuff in which very little will grow.

We ordered a load of topsoil once and it was more sand than topsoil. Because sandy soils in our area are prone to root knot nematodes, we spead it out carefully so there wouldn't be too much of it in any one spot. The last thing I wanted here was nematodes, and we rototilled the sand and compost into the soil together. Drainage is a problem here and always will be, but I'd still rather deal with drainage issues in clay than with nematodes in sandy soil.

Indian Paintbrush has to have Grama grass in order to survive as the paintbrush is a parasitic plant, so you need to find someone who has a stand of Indian Paintbrush and who is willing to let you dig up 'plugs' from their place so you can get the grass and flower together. Or, if you have seed and you have Grama grass, scatter sow the paintbrush seed in the grama grass area in Nov. or Dec. and you should have Indian Paintbrush sprouting in the spring.

I love the prairie grasses, but in an actual prairie setting they often burn like crazy, and that is something I didn't understand when we moved here. When you're standing and watching a wind-blown wall of flame heading in your direction with flames 40 feet high being pushed by 60 mph winds, you start promising yourself that if you and your place survive this fire, you'll take out all those grasses and put in big slabs of stone or something. Then, of course, you never do because you moved here because you wanted to live on the prairie! See David Salman's comments on the symbiotic relationship between Indian Paintbrush and Grama grass in the last paragraph of the linked page.


Here is a link that might be useful: How To Grow Indian Paintbrush

    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 6:57PM
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I've driven down through there after and during the fires and I absolutely understand what you are saying. I think of the cedars as public enemy No. 1 and even got into a heated argument once on this subject with someone. They are taking over here. I am in the city so I rather like the change from the typical type of plants and its my way of being in the country in a small enclave. I have a sort of anti-garden or "un-garden". I'd be doing it the other way around if I actually lived on a prairie. I like that part of the state (visually speaking) much better than here in Central. My sister used to live in Lamont, which is by Pond Creek. Now you talk about good dirt. She could just stick it in the ground and grow anything. Even huge brocolli with perfect florets and gigantic, straight carrots. Its sandy and deep. That is the dirt I want.

I have the blue gramma and had read about that when I looked it up in total frustration of failure. My problem was getting any of the seeds to germinate at all and I tried twice. I think if I want any, I will have to do what you suggested and go dig some up. I did that with the "snaking" laitris a couple autumns ago. I do have some other liatris I grew from seed that is standing up so I don't know what is the deal with this other crazy one. Maybe its telling me it didn't like being moved because it was growing in sticky clay and now its in clay loam and sandier. I sort of like that snakey one though, its by a big macrocentra cactus and its an interesting combo, like the liatris is doing a dance around the cactus.

Do you have any Mormon Tea or Plains Greasebush growing down there? I have one Mormon Tea growing on steep slope I ordered from Utah and its done OK for three years so far. I want the Greasebush and I read they both grow down there around the Okla/Texas border. Along with quite a few others choice species. I'd like to take a plant finding expedition down there.

Nematodes in sand. Gee, I hadn't heard that one. I hope I don't get that! I think thats about as bad as it gets.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 7:54PM
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Oh, boy. I was thinking of some lovely grasses and then you guys had to go and mention fire. You all know that I'm from CA, and I've been through some massive wildfires on the west coast. Planting the wrong things is a real bugaboo with me. People out there are enamored with Scotch Broom, and it burns like a torch. Likewise manzanita (one of the arctostaphylos). I agree that I hate all the cedars here, and I offended a lot of people when I first moved here because I used to call them junipers. We had huge cedars in CA, over 150' tall and with trunks that two men together couldn't wrap their arms around. Giant things. But, the cedars are lethal for fire, and I do HATE fire. Last year, when fires got to within less than 1/2 mile of us, I had my grandson out on the big mower, cutting a perimeter down just as low as he could get it. There are actually some landscape plants that are fire retardant, other than just the succulents, but I'll have to ask my daughter about it. I think she did a college report on them. Sometimes it pays to know what to plant, and what NOT to plant in your landscape.

Dawn, I think you're exactly right about the soil in my chicken coops. Water just runs off the top and doesn't seem to sink down into it, unless we get a steady rain that goes on for a while. I hadn't thought about it, but it IS more like silt than it is regular soil. I had not thought to put some in a jar and do a water test on it. I suspect the water would sit on top for a really long time. Rats! I had hoped to make some use of it. So much for that idea.
Like you, we scrape out the pens that are in use and put it on the compost heap. I usually have pens where we've bedded the sheep during lambing also, and that all gets composted, along with grass clippings that I'm not using for mulch. For the veggie garden, I'll be tilling in all of this years mulch also.

I got tired of having snakes in the henhouse, eating the eggs and killing my chickens, particularly after I reached into a nest box and grabbed a big handful of black rat snake . . . Two of them, each about 6' long, were coiled up in there and at dusk I couldn't see them. Things got a little lively that evening. I found a product at Atwood's that's a snake repellant and I'm trying it out. It's a sort of cedar dust that the label says the snakes don't like. Since we have cedar all over the place here, I tend to have my doubts about it, but anything's worth a try. I can't stuff bird netting in all the places they can get in, although it's a very effective way of trapping them. If we had any garter snakes, gopher snakes or king snakes around here, I'd like to keep them. As it is, all we seem to have are a lot of the egg-stealing black rat snakes. They look so much like a cottonmouth that it tends to make me nervous, even though I know that the bad guys like to be around water. So far I haven't seen a rattlesnake in OK, though my neighbor up the road says he has had them.


    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 8:57PM
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Redding, I forgot to mention. Actually, I'd posted some pictures, answered your post and spent a lot of time and then accidentally deleted it all. I will try again later some time. My way of blowing out the cobwebs is weeding. I work at home and on breaks I weed and I find it relaxing. That way I get to see anything new and volunteer coming up and the way I toss out seeds its like a little adventure. My life is truly exciting. I have a large yard, but remember, its still just a yard. No chicken coops. prairie or anything really fun. Just that hideous overgrown mess next door that I declared silent chemical war on because I can't actually enter the yard. He says he doesn't care. Oh really?

I think we all have some kind of impossible to fix situation we need to learn to just live with. Thats life I guess. I have to try to stop all those new trees on the property line though before they get too big. I hate chemicals but am at a loss on what else to do and am too "nice" to call the city. Talking to him is an exercise in futility, we tried and offered names of persons who will clean for cheap. Really, I'm not all that nice on this particular subject. I think a person should shoulder responsibility for their own property.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 9:24PM
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Cactus, I absolutely agree that folks need to take responsibility for their own space. They also need to be aware of what they're planting, which is why I'm enjoying this forum so much. I am hoping you guys can give me enough tips to avoid any giant errors.

I remember years ago when my aunt wanted to plant bamboo in her yard in town (also in CA). Everyone warned her about what it would do, but she thought it was 'pretty' and planted it anyway. Several years later, I was called in to try to eradicate it, since it had taken over all of the front yard that wasn't already buried in ivy, had moved outside her fence and was headed for the street. Just go ahead and try to discourage rampant bamboo! I had visions of her being fined by the city as it came up in the middle of the street. I finally did get it under control enough that we were able to sell the property, but I never stopped there again to see how the new owners were faring. I just felt too guilty about it. I can see a novice making an error in judgement on plants, but when they are repeatedly warned and they do it anyway?? It just makes no sense to me.

The CA Forestry Service has actually issued bulletins on plants to avoid because of the fire danger. Do people listen and pay attention? Unfortunately it doesn't happen very often. Only the ones who were knowledgeable, responsible gardeners to begin with, and they all too often have to worry about the idiot next door who planted a bunch of Scotch Broom right up next to his wood fence and the wood shingles on his house. The culprit will be the loudest to yell when a fire strikes. They are the same ones who fail to trim a big old tree leaning over a fence, and want to deny responsibility when a limb crashes through a neighbor's roof. It gives me a headache to think about it.

Best of luck in dealing with the tree situation. Sigh.


    Bookmark   July 4, 2011 at 10:33PM
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Thanks Redding. I don't know if the tree situation makes me want to scream or cry. I think both simultaneously. Its so frustrating and the view is just awful. We have spent so much money having the big ones trimmed and they are ugly too. He has a derelict man-made pond that is ignored. I may have to end up calling the city on that. This is the first year there are not a zillion mosquitos out there and its only a temporary situation due to the drought.

Bamboo should be illegal. Period. I have a list of what should be illegal to plant in the city but that one is way up toward the top. Another is a Pin Oak in a small front yard with a small house. I mean, do people just not have a sense of scale?

Maybe we should start a thread about the ugliest, the dumbest, the worst, the most invasive etc etc.

Or our biggest "I'll never do THAT again" worst garden choices.


    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 12:56AM
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Hi Janet,

Ah, yes, the people who don't have a clue what they're doing with a pool or pond. My parents had a tenant put one in, without asking, directly in front of the front door of a house in the mountains. The gal coated it with concrete and then stocked it with goldfish, which lasted about 3 days before the raccoons found them all. She put more fish in it a couple of times before she finally caught on. The water stood there and attracted mosquitoes for a while before it finally drained out through the cracks. When she moved, we were left to deal with covering and filling it all in again.

And talking about inappropriate plants, I think the best I've ever heard was done by a hort instructor at the college. He proudly explained how he had designed a border for a city building and planted trees in it. The border was about 8' deep if I remember correctly, and he planted 3 giant sequoia trees in it!! I think I may have sat there with my mouth hanging open. What can you say to something like that? The trees grow slowly, so the guy will probably be gone before they become enough of a problem that they have to be removed, but it's going to happen . . . unless the growing conditions are so bad that they have already died. WHY don't people stop and think? This guy was supposed to know what he was doing, if he could teach a horticulture class. But it was on pruning and management, and he wasn't so hot at that either. Sheeesh.


    Bookmark   July 5, 2011 at 12:10PM
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