how to amend soil

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by eenymeeny, Mar 28, 2020.

  1. eenymeeny

    eenymeeny Member

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    Hi...we live in south vancouver and our lot is very soggy. We have undertaken the huge job of removing all the landscaping fabric and small pebbles so that we can hopefully get rid of some invasive species of perennials.
    This should make weeding and planting in the future easier.

    The question is what we should add to the beds once we have removed all this stuff. Compost, Sand, Mulch, Top soil ???

    Thanks for any suggestions.
     

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  2. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Don't dig anything into muddy soil. Looking at the grade and all the existing features still in place I don't see that much scope for digging in additional material there, even if it was July and the ground had dried. If there is any possible place on your lot to drain the excess water into, via a drainage line that is probably what is most needed in this instance.
     
  3. Margot

    Margot Well-Known Member

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    Overall, this looks like a very attractive garden bed. Good for you to get rid of the landscape fabric and stones.

    Is this area of your garden normally so wet or have you been washing away with the hose visible in one photo? My eyes aren't so great but I see what looks like a sprinkler head in the first picture which leads me to think your garden does experience some dry spells. Also, the fact that there are lots of healthy-looking shrubs (perhaps Aucuba, Rhododendron and Lonicera???) indicates that excess water isn't causing root rot problems.

    I do agree that draining excess water is the key. If anything, add coarse sand as you plant new things but you can't really raise the grade much overall. Mulch with composted bark mulch and perhaps place interesting containers here and there if you want to grow things that can't handle wet conditions.
     
  4. eenymeeny

    eenymeeny Member

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    Thank you for the suggestions! I forgot to add that the muck you see in the photo is largely due to the washing off of pebbles so that we could gift them to a friend. Normally the areas are not like this and yes you are right we have a sprinkle system that does weekly soaking in the early summer and fall. During this time the area is quite dry. We don’t seem to grow grass in the lawn portion just moss but at least it is green and our quite large bed landscaping takes the eye away from the grass. Many of my neighbours have an ongoing problem with their lawns being upturned by crows hunting for the Chaffee beetles but somehow we are spared...not sure why bWhat I was hoping to do was to enrich the existing soil but perhaps that isn’t necessary as things seem to be growing fine. Worried about putting down mulch if I would have to remove and reapply yearly although my reading on the subject suggests that it is not necessary. Any suggestion about type of mulch? Many thanks!
     
  5. eenymeeny

    eenymeeny Member

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    Ps. I see you recommended bark mulch !
     
  6. eenymeeny

    eenymeeny Member

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    Thank you for your reply. Trying to avoid drainage pipes and the like and the photos show an abnormally wet situation due to our washing of the pebbles. I see your logic in there being no room to add more soil so I suspect that we have to let the area rest for a while...no more water, keep removing the pebbles and churn up the existing soil aerating it. Hoping that all this work will result in easier weed clearing. Wish nurseries wouldn’t sell invasive species such as the one we are trying to eradicate. Can’t remember the the name of the one which has gone rampant in our garden. Is deciduous has a lovely smell when rubbed and has pink cream and green chameleon colouring...brutal! Also afflicted with horsetail which is a losing battle.
     
  7. Margot

    Margot Well-Known Member

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    It would be worth your while to read some of the many articles Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott has written about soil amendments and mulches. Just search her by name and you'll find lots of good advice, based on scientific research.

    The Myth of Soil Amendments, Part III
    https://s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/403/2015/03/soil-amendments-3.pdf

    Building Healthy Soils
    Building healthy soils?

    PS The invasive plant you mention sounds like Houttuynia cordata (Chameleon Plant). I dug up most of mine many years ago - except the stems coming up through the asphalt driveway. Over time you may be able to eradicate it by never letting it see the light of day. Horsetail is another story!
     
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  8. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Sand doesn't affect aeration and drainage until it starts to become more than half of soil volume. And it is never desirable to leave anything other than small plants with permanently quite small root systems sitting in holes, pockets or strips of texturally modified soil surrounded by much larger areas of unaltered soil, of different texture. Due to how movement of water into and out of these altered sections is affected by these textural differences.

    Organic mulches are left in place to decompose and melt into the soil, improving it the same as in a natural community where the organic debris falling onto the ground is a fundamental component of the soil building process. This breaking down of garden mulch is addressed by topping off the existing mulch periodically, as needed.

    Cultivation of beds planted with woody plants results in damage to their fine roots and is therefore best not undertaken. Also bare soils disturbed by cultivation function as germination sites for weed seeds.

    The spreading perennial plant you are describing is Houttuynia cordata 'Chameleon'. It is a variegated horticultural selection of what is otherwise a green leaved species.
     
  9. Margot

    Margot Well-Known Member

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    You're right - I doubted my advice almost as soon as I wrote it, especially after recommending Linda Chalker-Scott's articles.
     
  10. eenymeeny

    eenymeeny Member

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    Thanks so much everyone...food for thought and all of this makes sense. Will definitely go the organic mulch route...any suggestions where to buy quality mulch that is budget friendly?
     
  11. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Active Member

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    Absolutely agree w Margot suggestion to read the articles by Washington State Univ prof (linked above)
     
  12. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Active Member

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    PS - I looked at your photos again

    And I like the bones of your garden

    Did I miss what you hope to plant if you had amended soil?

    Maybe some strong focal point containers would take your eye from what you think is a negative currently

    I saw this a few years ago at UBC Botanical and I have kept the photo because this container uses the classic 3 design approach and it’s very striking

    Well after all that blurb I cannot find container image in my library — it was a canna lily in red orange w the burgundy leaves plus an orange echinacea - plus something low around rim of pot. I think it was June 2016 at UBC little sales area.

    EDIT - found photo - July 2015
     

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  13. eenymeeny

    eenymeeny Member

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    Yes, the bones are very good...was professionally done before we bought the house. When all is in bloom, it looks quite beautiful but it has become increasingly difficult to maintain (weeds)
    I have some lovely deep red astillbe and some black=eyed susans that come up but am hoping to add some more evergreens that have a long blooming time. Love the red/orange colours and the lime green of
    the euphorbias that I can transplant...I find them self seeding everywhere and these are welcome :-) I am going to either make or buy a soil sifting frame (small wire) to sift the soil once it dries and hopefully
    remove the rest of the pebbles and weeds. The colours you mentioned will look lovely with the colour of our house. As you can see from the new photos that I have uploaded...love the orange and bright green combos.
     

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  14. Georgia Strait

    Georgia Strait Active Member

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    Are you basically a south slope ... ie can see the river (ok maybe if you stood on your roof)

    You get great sunlight even in winter

    So if your front door faces toward river or sunshine ... then have a look at Sunset magazine website

    Granted - it is fr Calif tho it was an old tradition for BC down to San Diego and east to Rockies. Their very popular ;Sunset Western Garden Book was the thing to have in reference pre-internet. (Among other books)

    Anyway - have a look and see the front entry yard ideas for privacy and car park and so forth

    EDIT - I meant to include look for ideas for a south sun winter covered outdoor seat area so you can enjoy your revamped garden ... it is amazing how often we sit inside and forget how nice it is if we bundle up outside !

    (I realize we tend to divert to Pinterest these days for lots of pix ... I would still look at Sunset site too.)

    www.sunset.com
     
  15. eenymeeny

    eenymeeny Member

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    Our front faces North and as we have tall trees on the property line on the west side, we do not get a lot of direct sun. We face a park and are on a dead end street so we have a lot of privacy, as well as a large entryway patio which
    can sit out on if desired...all covered by our overhangs. Everything is pretty much perfect except for these large beds that were difficult to maintain. Will take the recommendations of bark mulch once we have sifted the existing
    soil. Project for tomorrow is buying materials to make a large sifter to fit over our wheelbarrow. thanks

    ps...the photos that I added are of the back yard which does face south but quite shaded due to enormous pine trees.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 30, 2020

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