3.20.2007

The Long Term Garden Plan: Amending Soil Part 1

Almost exactly eleven years ago I moved to the place I live now. I wanted to take the natural landscape and grow cut flowers, fruit trees, and perennials. The original owners had planted some trees and shrubs, but not much else.

I didn't know much about serious gardening at that point. Previously gardening was buying pony packs of annual plants at the nursery and putting them in pots, beds, and borders every year for color. They were beautiful, but it was expensive and short term. I knew I wanted a long term plan with the gardens at this new place. I took a class on landscaping and read, researched, and continued to refine the plan.

I ran into a huge glitch early on. My soil was not even really soil in my mind. It was sand. When you hear the term "sandy soil" you imagine a soil that is a bit gritty that water flows through easily. Mine was sand... pure and simple. The good news was I didn't have to get my soil analyzed. I knew what I was dealing with and just had to figure out how to amend it. I started to compost, but didn't have enough "green stuff" to make it work quickly. Lots of brown stuff, but since I was living alone there were not enough vegetable peelings and coffee grounds to work.

Through my research I found a combination of amendments that worked best for sandy soil. If you have a different kind of soil you can adjust this recipe easily. Obviously I didn't have to add sand to the mix. I started by amending small gardens and raised beds and each year the soil turned richer and healthier. Since that early start I (and now we) have also used lots of manure and continued with compost. We had chickens that provided rich, "hot" manure that had to rest before use. We also keep rabbits because they have a "cold" manure that can be added immediately. Flowers love rabbit pellets... but alas, another glitch. The dogs love rabbit pellets also.

Inland Empire Girl's Soil Mix Recipe

for Sandy Soil

1 1/2 bushels peat moss

1 bushel perlite or vermiculite

2 bushels compost

1 cup blood meal

1 cup green sand

1/2 cup lime

2 cups bone meal

Soak the peat moss. Add the other ingredients in a large wheelbarrow or tub. Add time release fertilizer. ( We like Osmocote... use according to package directions.)

Use as top dressing in garden beds or containers. We have read that deer don't like blood meal and it keeps them away. We have fencing, so I cannot say if that is true. I look forward to mixing up my first batch in a few weeks! I find the ingredients at my local feed store, but most gardening centers carry these products. This is not a quick fix and it is not cheap. Amending soil is a slow process, but I am glad eleven years ago I decided on a long term plan. It has been well worth the patience and time it has taken. This is the first in a series of posts on soil amending. Please pass on your tried and true methods for enriching your soil. I always love to learn from other gardeners.

4 comments :

  1. I don't have sandy soil but I have a friend who does. I'm sending her over here for your recipe.
    What is "green sand"? Clumping cat litter?

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  2. I didn't even want to start on "kitty amending" in the soil. Maybe they think the greensand is kitty litter! I love greensand. It is a potash high in potassium and it helps hold water in... which I need. I just throw the extra out in the flower beds in fall and let it work in all winter. It also helps stimulate action in the compost heap.

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  3. I'll take your sand over my rocky prairie soil!

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  4. You are right about that. Sandy soil is one of the easiest to amend! Sorry about the rocky prairie soil!

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