How to improve condo garden soil?

Discussion in 'Soils, Fertilizers and Composting' started by Gursk, Aug 29, 2007.

  1. Gursk

    Gursk Active Member

    Messages:
    52
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Vancouver
    Hi all,

    It sounds crazy, but my small condo garden seems to have 3 distinct sections, each containing a different type of soil. I imagine the builder just threw in whatever was on hand.

    My problem is that one of the sections has passable topsoil, covering deep, almost solid clay base layer with a bit sand way down below that. Plants seem to plod along, but do not flourish as they do in other areas of the garden.

    Each time I move or plant new, I've been digging about 3 inches deeper than necessary, discarding the existing soil and using fresh, newly purchased soil, adding some of my own vermicompost. Essentially, slowly replacing the old soil.

    Sadly, this approach hasn't seemed to really improve the problem.

    What else can I do to improve this nasty soil? Is this a drainage issue because of the clay? Being in a condo, large scale soil replacement isn't currently an option.

    Thanks for all your help!
     
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2007
  2. Debby

    Debby Active Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    285
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Vancouver, Canada
    Seasoil is great. It's available from Home Depot, David Hunter, Southlands, and probably many other garden centres. Composted bark (the living part of logging waste) and fish-processing waste, seasoil really improves soil tilth and fertility. Like any humus, it helps sandy soil hold water and it helps clay soil breathe and drain.

    For the clay section of your garden, you could put in plants that appreciate a moist situation...
     
  3. M. D. Vaden

    M. D. Vaden Active Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    843
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Beaverton, Oregon
    Can you make planter boxes to raise the area?

    I can imagine what you are talking about. Years ago, I worked on a condo construction site. The big multi-ton four wheel drive forklift drove through the soil, churning it to mud and destroying its soil structure. As well as causing a compaction layer about 16" under the surface.
     
  4. Gursk

    Gursk Active Member

    Messages:
    52
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Vancouver
    Thanks M.D.,

    The garden is already made of of raised beds. I've got a very happy Tasmanian Tree Fern (Dicksonia antarctica) in a whiskey barrel, but am hesitant to add more containers. It would make the garden quite high!

    W.
     
  5. alabama

    alabama Active Member

    Messages:
    47
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    ashville alabama
    If you can find some good composted manure to mix with that clay would be perfect. I used to dig the soil up into a wheelbarrow and mix it like cement. Then I would shovel it back in. If you can't get any manure use any kind of compost and it will help. When you place your plants remember: "a fifty dollar hole for a fifty cent plant". You can dig a very large area for your plant and add compost and organic matter that way.

    Good Luck! Bama
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2007
  6. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

    Messages:
    20,764
    Likes Received:
    581
    Location:
    WA USA (Z8)
    Put soil with desired characteristics on top of existing soil and plant in that, rather than messing with existing soil.
     
  7. Newt

    Newt Well-Known Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    1,275
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Maryland USA zone 7
  8. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

    Messages:
    20,764
    Likes Received:
    581
    Location:
    WA USA (Z8)
    Mixing subsoil into topsoil undesirable, double-digging counterproductive. Natural processes have developed topsoil from subsoil - on some sites over a very long time - and double digging involves bringing subsoil up into that topsoil and fouling it with additional subsoil. Especially on heavy claylike soils a small amount of the fine material will dominate a much larger amount of coarse material if all are thoroughly blended, finest particles forming a sort of coating over the rest.
     
  9. Newt

    Newt Well-Known Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    1,275
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Maryland USA zone 7
    Well, the process worked for me. I don't recommend the use of peat moss as in that site though. I forgot to mention that. Just use compost.

    Newt
     
  10. Debby

    Debby Active Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    285
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Vancouver, Canada
    Okay, so if you just add compost to the topsoil, the microbes and other critters will do the processing/mixing, right?
     
  11. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

    Messages:
    20,764
    Likes Received:
    581
    Location:
    WA USA (Z8)
    "Well the process worked for me"

    Did you treat half the bed, in the same area, and not the other half? If not, no control to demonstrate change made by treatment. Same as using a placebo in drug tests.

    Common natural process is for organic debris to fall on top of ground, where it forms a protective blanket until it is integrated into the topsoil by decomposers. This is how barren areas are made productive in nature, the top of raw mineral soil is colonized by plants able to grow on it, with the litter they generate and that which comes in from outside being trapped by them to slowly build a new topsoil layer.

    In local forests tall trees and shrubs grow in quite superficial humus soil layers over deep glacial subsoil, the dramatic stratification there easily viewed along roadsides and other places where the earth has been cut through and made visible. All the action is at the top, where the air is. Double-digging such material would be like running a cheesecake through a blender.
     

Share This Page