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a disaster? soil is... ruined?

Posted by greyandamy Pittsburgh, pa (My Page) on
Tue, Sep 18, 12 at 16:05

Hi everyone,
I've had quite a headache situation going on since (winter) and it's not improving..

Warning, very long... I'm a little frusrated...

I may have made things worse. I have/had the typical heavy clay, compacted PA soil full of neighboring diseased tree roots and all...
Then, I lost many (most)things to root rot due to various issues, I've dug out most roots, ammended somewhat, got out countless amounts of GARBAGE from the soil (they must have used it as a dump!) like glass, buried nails, buried wire... things I never knew existed.. Erosion is BAD due to layout of land...

In ammending somewhat, to break through the hardpan, I used gypsum, perlite, some peat... now I struggle as half the back yard is very well drained (you sink in it, it holds water too well?)... trying to grow grass, much is uneven.. and the few times it does rain, there's puddles and places where water puddles and doesn't soak in.. (I learned the issue of THATCH from H@@@... removed lots of that, and old tree roots that were stuck in a MATERIAL that didn't allow penetration...

Now, I have plants, trees in pots as they were getting the root rot still (puddling water).. I did extensive research on plants native to that type of area... but even a freaking RIVER BIRCH died quickly.. they say you have to slowly adjust plants that aren't meant to thrive in poorly drained, sometimes saturated soil... a river birch!! They say all plants need to adjust before they get used to... whatever... and I learned if you injure roots (like root prune), that seems to invite rot, regardless... only I couuld kill 2 summersweets and some other native to wetlands...The nyssa died quickly, they say contaminated spores from root rot swim in soil.. hmmm... I've increased drainage... I'm still working on it..

I can't afford more, honestly, I've been in overdraft fees for 3 months now... my yard looks like a bomb struck, there's instructions for how to plant high, but still, underneath, there's heavy clay... I've been ammending for 6 years... I have a list of plants for poorly drained heavy clay, I'm afraid to plant anymore.. they can't stay in pots... I was told by an arborist (true or not) if an area was affected by root rot, not to replant in that area for at least a year, ammend, improve drainage, remove contaminated media... well, that's most of the yard... and I'm sure most people don't take the time, funds, or energy to do this..

Box stores refund if you kill a tree in a year, garden centers are a lot more picky... there's conflicting info on what grows where, i.e some sources say moist, wet but not saturated. I've thought elderberrys, bayberries (ruled out), viburnums supposed tolerate heavy clay (I have some alleghenies) but they are also listed as prone to root rot.. surely my itea would tolerate? I have the redtwig dogwoods tartarian that I read like moisture but won't due saturated.. (another type does?)... the button bush is the only thing doing okay overthere... I have a bald cypress that I'd hate to move but it may be okay, unless injured roots invite the pathogens... (plus would transplanting kill it?).. I read ninebarks like, then I read they won't take saturated... I've learned hostas can DIE of root rot(yep..).. don't establish grass with trees... I have evergold carex but reading is mixed on if they take occasionally saturated or just moist..snowberry and seven sons were started to get it, and fringe trees, though one was planted too deep...


ANY IDEAS for what's worked for you, I read the variegated willow (Japanese) thrive in clay, wet, then I hear that aren't tolerant to phytoria... please let me know what you'ove tried and it's worked... I know about planting so root flare is exposed.. preferablly deer resistant...

THANKS!!!

Amy


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: a disaster? soil is... ruined?

  • Posted by jcalhoun 8b Mobile County AL (My Page) on
    Thu, Oct 4, 12 at 13:40

Have you contacted your county extension agent? If not I suggest you do so. They will be able to suggest what sorts of soil amendment you'll need and what sorts of plants will grow there.

I also suggest talking to them about a soil test. Your soil may be too acidic, too basic, or almost sterile from the stuff that was dumped in your yard. This is rather common as developers use the property to dispose of almost everything rather than taking it to a landfill. It is also common for new housing developments to be built on top of old dump sites that existed long before the land was incorporated.


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RE: a disaster? soil is... ruined?

There is something truly nasty about digging up garbage. You have my sympathy, indeed.

It sounds that your heart is craving trees and your yard is saying 'I'm too wounded to respond just yet.'

The real hassle, for me, is having to wait like Goldilocks until the soil is 'just right' for digging. And, when I do, it has all the appeal of sticky play doh. Yet I need to break the plough pan and compaction as cautiously as I can. Do you have some sort of iron pan or compaction layer that may be adding to your grief? A leftover from the Ice Age, perhaps? Field drains may be the long term answer when the bank balance is smiley again.

My soil is definitely acid. It grows beautiful Bellis, Rumex, Cyperus and Juncus. It stays visibly wet for days after the last rain drop.

Looking at your list of amendments - I don't think they're bulky enough to do you any good. I'm using bulk rough compost, horse manure (NOT steer because it's too silky. I'd use that on a hungry and sandy soil.) and as much green/brown roughly chopped mulch material as I can gather, scavenge, or scrounge. Even the remains of hay bales, corn straw... whatever is slow to break down and will keep the surface safe over winter and summer.

On my soil (peat and podzol) it's safe to use shingle and sharp sand that's larger than 'builders' sand'. I know from experience I'll have to use gloves when I do a lot of weeding because there'll be an added abrasiveness in the soil. I think it's worth it, though.

If those trees are 'gotta have' - plant on a serious mound and use clean soil. You might want to check out hugelkultur on YouTube, too. It could give you the drainage you're after. It's not orthodox backyard architecture, for sure - yet it could be an appropriate land-healing step to take in your situation. I'm still flirting with it at this point.

If trees and shrubs are rot prone at present are there perennials you could use to make the upheaval look a lot more appealing? Iris ensata and pseudacorus come to mind as they are damp tolerant and would be fine in your zone. Acorus would also be worth a try. If you could keep it under control (mwahahaha!!!) you could try a patch of Ranunculus repens - so long as it's not a weed in your area. It has great roots for breaking through compacted clug. Blueberries on mounds could also be a foundation and dual-purpose planting - little feasts...:-)) Mimulus is also a possibility but it may only be annual for you. Might overwinter, if protected.

In short - do find out whether your soil is acid-trending (pH5.5 and below), or concrete-forming alkaline (pH 9 and above).

See if your local roadside maintenance people offer bulk mulch at reasonable rates and any local sawmills provide coarse untreated sawdust. Mix with horse manure and spread to at least four inches depth. Let it quietly rot. Remove any attempts by some shrubs to start wildly sprouting from the mulched pieces (willow and hydrangea come to mind).

Stay OFF the ground after rain/snow - or install all weather paths or board-walks. It just won't take even the lightest compaction at this point.

Check whether you're coping with some sort of hard pan zone below the surface.

Rethink your garden design to cope with the reality of an undulating yard rather than a conventional smooth one.

Good luck. And keep piling in the compost/mulch every year. It's worth doing.


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