Author Topic: Amending soil?  (Read 1241 times)

Offline 4kidsmom

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Amending soil?
« on: May 20, 2014, 08:35:16 AM »
Hi ladies.

I need some help and advice.

For the past 5 years or so I have had garden boxes on the south side of my house, which gets the most sunlight.  Because of the tall trees on both my property and the south neighbor's property, the boxes are shaded through the morning but get pretty good afternoon sun.  I have attempted, with little success, to grow a garden.  I have tried tomatoes, peppers, zucchini and squash.  The zucchini and squash died off pretty quick.  The tomato and pepper plants grew, but not as much as I know they can (based on previous experience gardening in other homes).  I got a few jalapeno peppers, no red or green peppers, and maybe 3 tomatoes one year. 

That year, I made sure to water plenty, so I am sure that was not the problem.  I have been thinking that maybe the garden doesn't get enough sunlight, especially since I know tomatoes, peppers and squashes are heat lovers.  But I have a small herb garden in one box.  I  have sage, thyme, rosemary and oregano.  I also have planted chives and basil.  They've all done well.  My thyme and sage plants in particular are going gangbusters.  So now I'm thinking it's the soil.  When I set up the boxes, I bought a cubic yard of regular dirt (not garden soil or anything like that)  from a bulk place.  I didn't plant a garden last year so my boys have been using it as a sandbox and I've noticed the dirt is pretty compacted, even in the box with the herbs.

Am I right that it's the soil that's the problem and not the sun or water?  What would you recommend to "lighten" up what seems to be rather clayey soil?  I've also learned that I probably didn't plant my tomatoes deep enough so I will remedy that this year.

Once I get plants in the ground, is it best to just leave the dirt alone except to pull weeds?  Or should I gently till around the plants to keep the soil loose?

Thanks for any advice!


Offline Rooney

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Re: Amending soil?
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2014, 09:39:19 AM »
Hi Merilee,
I am no expert gardener and get lots of advice from these ladies around here, but I have lots of plant beds that I am thankful that they all are running over with veggies right now.  Sounds like you have just run the nutrients/nitrogen out of your soil to me.  Some good organic compost of some type might just do the trick. (couldn't hurt right?)  The sunlight may be part of the issue too.  Most of your veggie plants require at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. (except stuff like you lettuces that do better in cooler temps and more shade).  One of the girls on here once recommended I get a soil test kit from Lowes to see exactly what the soil is needing.  That might give you a direction to go in.  Good luck! :)

Oh and what we do as far as breaking up the soil in the beds is just to use one of those hand held tools that breaks up soil(can't think of the name of it right now) before planting.  Then we just weed around the plants.  I would think if you tilled around the plants it might hurt the root system.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2014, 10:34:35 AM by Rooney »

Offline MoWin

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Re: Amending soil?
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2014, 12:21:32 PM »
I think Lindsay is right. I would get a soil test kit. Your soil is just worn out, more than likely. You can build it back up. Compost is great to use. We have a compost pile that we put all the peels, ect. from the kitchen. It takes it a while, but we should get some amazing compost from this. The test kit should tell you what you are low in. You might also be a little short on sunlight for the heat loving veggies. Once veggies take off, you need to be very careful when weeding around them , not to disturb their root system. We have plenty of land so we plant in rows. Kevin does till between the rows, but I use a hoe with tines to just kind of break up the dirt around the plants and bring up weeds just starting. I get such a good feeling when I bring up those little white grass roots. Every one I see means one less I have to pull.  ;) Good luck.

Winona in northwest Missouri
Wife to Kevin
Mom to Carolyn, Cathryn, Isaiah, Hazel, and Jon
Grandma to Ashton, Ava, Noah, Izabella, and Maddison
Furbabies: Aeris, Buddy, and Callie