21

A few months ago I called my local nursery to ask if they carried ammonium sulfate. He said "Oh, you want aluminum sulfate to acidify the soil for blueberries." I cringed in horror that this advice is being dispensed so regularly. Is aluminum a nutrient or do plants use aluminum in any way? Aluminum is not known to be a nutrient for plant ...


21

No, in your lifetime, normal amounts of pine needles will not measurably acidify your soil. They are somewhat acidic, and acidify soil over long periods of time, unless the soil base is extremely alkaline. They don't acidify soil more than other deciduous tree leaves, and oak leaves in particular (they have a pH of 4.5 to 4.7). Rain does leach the acid out, ...


17

Legumes are often used for this purpose. From Wikipedia: Legumes are notable in that most of them have symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria in structures called root nodules. And Within legume nodules, nitrogen gas from the atmosphere is converted into ammonia, which is then assimilated into amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), nucleotides (...


13

Clay soil is composed of extremely small clay particles formed by the breakdown of rocks by erosion and organic activity. The particles have a high surface area with the capacity to hold lots of positive ions (cations) such as calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium which are essential for plant growth. And it has a capacity to hold a lot of water. The ...


13

This reference says that you need to add prohibitive amounts of sand to remediate clay soils. And if you don't get it right, you get a soil like concrete The problems occur when sand and clay are mixed in incorrect proportions. An ideal soil has 50% pore space (with the remainder consisting of minerals and organic matter). The pore spaces in a clay soil are ...


12

I have a similar problem in my garden. The clay soil is at least six feet deep and can only be broken up with a pickaxe or power machinery. Why? as the glaciers melted in Ontario about 14,000 to 10,000 years ago they dropped the silt (clay) in huge moraines and drifts. Post ice age plants started building soil and took thousands of years to do so. then, as ...


12

You could try seaweed which has been used as a soil additive. Just chop it up and wash it with freshwater or compost it before using. Depending on where you are you should find varieties of palm trees. The fibre found between the hard outer shell and the inner nut is also used as a soil additive. Animal manure from goats, pigs, sheep or chickens is also ...


11

We amended a similar plot of dense clay on a half-acre in zone 7a in North Carolina. The main work was done by a flock of about 60 chickens. We fenced the chickens in on the half-acre, and then spread leaves over the whole area. The town public works department delivered two giant truckloads of shredded leaves (mostly deciduous) from street-cleaning to our ...


10

If it doesn't contain manufactured materials, plastics or anti-rot pressure treatment, burnt woody material when thoroughly consumed will leave behind the wood mineral content and charcoal. You're burning off carbohydrates, cellulose and lignins which are complex molecules of mostly hydrogen, carbon and with any protein content nitrogen. Of course all the ...


10

Good quality topsoil is probably best, preferably with some organic or humus rich composted materials added (composted animal manures, leaf mould, spent mushroom compost, garden compost, anything like that), though the latter component should only be added if you're not growing root crops like carrots, which will fork badly in manured or very rich soil. ...


9

I don't know of anything ubiquitous off-hand in the kitchen that is both high in potassium and ready to use on plants without composting or some other such. Kelp is supposed to have some. So, maybe if you have kelp in the kitchen, it could work. If you have any potassium bicarbonate (used for leavening) in your kitchen, that might work, but I don't know how ...


9

Unless harmful elements fell into your manure during those 20 years without your knowledge, it certainly shouldn't hurt anything. It might not be as potent as properly matured and composted manure, that's all. Concerning your clay soil : don't work in your garden if it rained in the last 2 days to avoid compacting the soil.


8

What you need is a fast growing, fast spreading ground cover which is suitable to your environment. A suitable ground cover has the following benefits: Lock in moisture and nutrients at ground level Provide habitat for beneficial insects (think moist and decomposing versus hot dry and sandy, bugs are going to prefer to stay underground if there is little ...


8

I have the same situation. For garden beds, I've had the best luck with lasagna gardening. I leave the grass in place, and cover it with several layers of cardboard and/or newspaper. I think I am well known at the grocery store as the lady who asks to raid the bin where they dump the broken-down boxes. If I have enough compostable material, I'll add that ...


8

Potassium is easily obtained via wood (or other plant material) fire ashes - "pot-ash" is the source of the name potassium (and while "potash" is now used more to refer to mined material, the ashes were the original source that the mined material is also named after.)


8

I think applying gypsum or horticultural lime is an easy and effective way to loosen up clay soil. Covering pathways with wood or bark chips will alleviate compaction from foot traffic and can be tilled into the soil at some future time or not.


8

No; the current fad for coffee grounds use is just that, a fad, and its not helpful for almost all potted plants. Remove the coffee grounds, or as many as you can, they don't do any good at all and are often positively detrimental. This was confirmed by James Wong (a professional and famous British ethnobotanist and garden designer) who once touted coffee ...


8

This link (10 Ingredients to Make Your Own Potting Soil) lists ten ingredients for making your own potting soil. The only thing I would add is, where it talks about compost you've made yourself, it does not make it clear that the compost should be produced using a hot, aerobic method, which will kill major pathogens and weed seeds - cold, anaerobically ...


7

Composting is usually a layering of green high-nitrogen materials with brown high-carbon materials. Leaves tend to take longer to break down in a low nitrogen environment and work best when shredded so their breakdown is started mechanically. Also, their breakdown is best facilitated by fungal content to the heap. Why use soil/dirt in your compost? Dirt isn'...


7

I do it every year and always have great vegetable gardens. If the forest does not die from leaves your garden will not. I just till then in several times over the fall and winter then have a great garden in the spring. They will build your garden soil. I collected probably 500 bags this past year (fall 2014) and will do the same this year. They are great ...


7

Randy's given a very scientific explanation of the causes and what it means, but in simple terms, it refers to soil ph, which runs on a scale from 0 - 14, the lowest number being highly acidic, and the highest alkaline, and 7 being neutral. If your soil is acidic, then certain plants will do very well in it, things like rhododendrons, pieris, blueberries, ...


7

Hydrophobic soils repel water or absorb it weakly. The opposite term is hydrophilic.


7

I find that raised beds are best for: early spring production drainage square foot garden (limited space) older people And I have also found that I can grow more per plant in the ground beds, but they start a bit later. If you have the time and energy to heavily amend a ground bed, I think you will like the reults better. That is just my experience. I ...


7

First, I have to say that many of these are so similar, you really won't find a lot of pros and cons between them. They are very similar, and though some might do better than others in certain situations, I haven't really found a reason to differentiate when using as a soil helper, and they all work. Azomite: Can cost over twice what basalt or glacial rock ...


7

Although much root activity occupies the top 6 inches of soil, many vegetables need 2 feet of soil or more. Janet Beal The depth of your bed will be determined by what you want to grow. Shallow roots - 12-18" - Leafy greens, broccoli, cabbage, raddish Medium roots - 18-24" - beans, cantaloupe, cucumbers, summer squash and carrots. Deep roots - 24-36" - ...


7

Patience. One of the hardest parts of being a gardener. Strawberry plants rarely produce berries the first year they are transplanted. Instead they spend most of their resources and nutrients establishing a strong root system so they are ready to fruit next year. By that time most of the Nitrogen content of the manure will have either been A) taken up by ...


7

It's quite difficult to give a straight, simple answer - fertilizers are formulated differently in terms of how quickly they break down, so liquid formulations will be almost instantaneous, whereas a granular or capsule form may take up to six months to dispense its load of fertilizer, with other granular formulations lasting 6-8 weeks. This might explain ...


7

Sounds like perfect stuff. You are going into winter, yes? If you are, just put it on top of the beds thickly. This will help keep the weed seeds already in the soil from germinating as well. In the spring, when your soil has dried, double dig your vegetable beds 3' in width throwing the clay soil on top of the manure. Micro and macro organisms have ...


7

The trouble with introducing 'life' by inoculating with garden soil is you have no control over which life forms you are introducing, and some of them might be pathogenic when contained inside a pot or grow bag. That is why there are commercially produced potting composts, to avoid that risk. Some people actually grow plants in soil they've dug from the ...


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