HELP! I can't work my soil

JackieBlue61September 19, 2013

Greetings all. We just built a home and moved beautiful eastern TN (go Vols) and I want to do some fall landscaping and plan a garden for next spring, but our soil (I use that term loosely) is unlike anything I've ever seen. There's maybe 2-3 inches of dirt and under that either hardpan or shale! So far I have been unable to get down past this super hard layer with a shovel to see what's underneath. I think there is some clay soil down deep as I saw the red stuff when the builder was excavating. I am open to suggestions, but am wondering do you think using a broadfork would help me get thru? Does anyone have experience with this kind of poor soil? I am already certain I will need truckloads of topsoil and compost delivered but I need to break up the existing soil first. I want to get those bushes and trees in the ground! Thank you :)

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Can you snap a picture?

    Bookmark   September 20, 2013 at 7:44PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Depending on the specifics of your plantings (types of plants, location and size of beds, etc), it sounds like raised beds or berms might be something to consider. A lot will also depend on drainage. If you are on rock, you may have very good drainage. If it's just hardpan soil, you may have poor drainage. There are just too many variables without more info and specifics.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2013 at 10:58PM
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I would pile up leaves this fall where you want your garden beds, as much as realistically possible, maybe next when they get wet with rain sprinkle some topsoil on them and sow winter rye or winter wheat. Turn it under in spring. This way you are actually making your own soil. If there is rock down there, it may be the only way. If it is hard-pan clay, can't hurt either, it will be easier to dig in spring. I had to do this in my yard and after a few years people admire the soil where I did it - where I didn't it is still red clay. My additional important reason was that my place is very steep - can't really dig for geometric and erosion reasons.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 7:34PM
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