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LIFE ON THE
actually have a pretty nutritious soil, it just has no tilth to speak of. (In other words - it is a mucky mess that cakes
up on your shoes and tools when it is wet - or breaks them in half when dry.)
But wait! Don't dig it up and haul it away. All it is really lacking
is an abundance of organic matter. That is, compost. Decaying matter
that will add texture and nutrients to the soil making it workable for you and
very healthy for your plants. Remember, do NOT dig in clay soils when they
are wet and soggy. You'll end up ruining the structure of the soil and end
up with hard rocks that are very difficult to return to a workable state.
What you'll need
- Tools - shovel, metal rake, wheelbarrow, pitchfork, oh and a good
back or a young helper helps a little.
- Compost - and lots of it! Make your own for free or
buy it by the bag. You can even have it delivered by the yard, right to
You will need to add about 4" - 6" to the top 6" - 8" of the soil to really
make a difference. (About the depth of the garden fork is usually
sufficient, no need to dig to the other side of the world!) And oh what a difference it will make! Don't
skimp here on compost. An average bag of compost is 2 cubic feet and at
4" deep it will
cover an area of 6 square feet. Check out Soil Building Systems handy
- Lava sand - no trip to a volcano necessary. We have here it in 40lb
bags. You'll use about 4# per 100 square feet. So a whole bag will cover
an area that is 10' x 100'. Lava sand adds a special paramagnetic value
to the soil that really seems to speed up the process at which nutrients are
available to the plants. So whereas it isn't a fertilizer in its own
right, it sure helps make fertilizers work better. Not to mention its
water holding capacity and added benefit of helping to break up that clay soil
a bit. Don't think you can add too much of this wonder amendment.
It is great stuff and not very expensive either.
- Greensand - no, not what's in the kid's sandbox after the neighbor's cat
gets done. This greensand is chocked full of trace minerals and a great
source of iron that won't be so harsh like the synthetic iron supplements you
may have been used to. It can go out at a rate of 2 - 4 lbs per 100
square feet. You shouldn't need to add this amendment but once in a
while as most of the nutrients it contains are not readily leached or used up
by the plants. We have it in 40lb bags and it is very reasonably priced.
- Dry Molasses - this ain't the stuff Grandma baked with - but boy will the
microbes in your soil eat it up! We don't want to spoil them too much,
so it only goes out at about 5lbs per 1000 square feet. This amendment
can also be sprayed on afterwards in a liquid molasses form.
- Cornmeal - not the kind you'd make muffins out of! This is an
animal food grade cornmeal that still contains all the good parts of the
meal. It helps control and kill fungi that grow in the soil and often
cause root problems. Common brown patch, Phytophthora, a fungus
that can take out a bed of periwinkles, and other various fungal diseases can
all be controlled with corn meal. We add it to our soil preparation just
as a preventative measure and it adds a bit of nutrition, too. Much of
the black gumbo soil around here grew cotton many years ago. Therefore,
we have the potential for cotton root rot and all its problems. Like a
bad penny, some fungi just keep coming back. Shouldn't need more than
about 10lbs per 1,000 square feet. Comes in various sizes.
- General Organic Fertilizer - you pick your favorite. We suggest a
nicely balanced one like Maestro Gro's Texas Tea or Biofrom Dry. Just
stay away from the synthetic based high nitrogen mixes. Most of them
will just leach away after a good rain anyway. (Leach a way into your
water tank, drinking water system or our rivers and streams that is. More
about why that is bad on our environmental page.)
- Earthworm Castings - that's worm poop for you newbies. Earthworms
eat, well, they eat earth. So what a better place to find a nice wide variety of
nutrients, minerals and even some earthworm eggs! You can double up on
this one. Put it out at 10 - 20 lbs per 1,000 square feet - and then put
a pinch in each hole before you put the seed or plant in. All that
eating will help keep your black gumbo soil aerated.
Now you are ready to
Prepare the Soil