|Everything takes time especially when you seed, not sod, but I will add that cow manure and compost would be the best additives to add to build up the soil. If you have loads of soil delivered there must be compost or manure available by the truckload, they may not be the most pleasant smelling, but they will do the job better. Just make certain that you fertilize.|
|Hi! I live in nearby Meridian, so I have a pretty good idea of what you're up against. First, I want to say that you have obviously done alot of work already, and I don't think your landscape is bad looking at all, except perhaps in the barren side yard. Still....you're doing some really nice work there. |
From what you say, and what I see, it sounds like your number one need is good soil preparation. Not easy, no. But if you do it right ONE time, you won't have to do it again. Your beds that are tight, poorly draining clay are the ones I am referring to. You will continually lose plants until you loosen and lighten it up. I learned this the hard way.
If you are strong and patient, you can do it yourself. I dig new beds in spring or fall. I try to do one each season (have only lived here five years). My way is time consuming, but cheap and effective.
If possible, do this work about three or four days after rain. I use a good sharp shovel and plunge it all the way down into the soil, making a "grid" pattern about six inches apart all over the area. I don't jump on the shovel. I balance on it, wiggling the handle forward and backward as I stand. My weight and the movement of the blade will make the shovel sink slowly into the ground. (My clay is so tight it always smells sour the first time I dig it like this. But never again.) Once I do my "shovel dance" and the blade is all the way in (about a foot), I pull back and break, but don't lift. Then I move the shovel over and do it again. I take it a section at a time and only work a couple of hours at a time.
Once I have broken the soil, I lay as many soil "amendments" over it as I can get my hands on: manure, compost, leaves chopped up by the lawn mower, grass clippings, etc. In our area, you can go to the county landfill and fill your pickup truck with their compost for free. It's black as can be, and is good stuff. Occasionally, you may find roots of spiderwort, etc. and it may contain seeds of briars or thistles, but if you stay on top of that kind of thing, it's not much trouble to clean it up, and it's FREE. (Did I say that already? :)
Anyway, I lay several inches (six is a good number) over the top of the broken soil and then I use my little mini tiller to mix it all in and pulverize it real good. Even a monster tiller will not break up my clay without doing the spade-breaking thing first, but once it's done, my mini does great. If you don't have a tiller and can't afford one, you can work the amendments into the soil by hand with your spade (unimaginably hard work). Or, you can let them sit on top of the soil for about three months and then work it in with the spade. (Check out the lasagna gardening forum.) Personally, I'd make it a high priority to get a mini tiller. I paid about $200 for my Honda and it's a honey. Do NOT buy a Troy Bilt mini. They are the most frustrating junk imaginable.
Once you have done this process, you can plant. Always mulch with a good organic mulch. Pinestraw is what I use, but leaves or shredded bark are good too. Just use plenty. I put down about three to five inches of straw each fall and that will last a year. I lay the next year's mulch right over the previous year's. Every few years, I top dress the bed with compost or manure. I put it down right over the old mulch and then lay fresh mulch over that. I have perfectly lovely soil.
This method of soil prep really works, and like I said, you only have to do it once. I have been digging and dividing daylilies the last two weeks and have been gloating continually over my butter soft soil.
By the way, your sideyard appears to be on the north side of your house. That would be an ideal place for camellias, nandinas, hydrangeas, and shade loving perennials. I have my northside done with these plants on what would be your fence side, and, on the foundation side, with a curving path running approximately down the middle. No grass at all. It's a lovely, cool place. Just be sure to prep the soil well before you plant. :)
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