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Soil Amendments

Q.Preparing an old bed for new planting

Zone 62233 | Anonymous added on April 23, 2020 | Answered

We have what seems to have maybe been a flower bed at one point in time before we moved here. Long time ago. The garden has been covered with landscaping tarp and mulch for about 5 years now but hasn’t completely stopped things from going through. Still looks like an abandoned garden starting to overgrow, the tarp makes it look extra ugly. I started cutting into it last year trying to plant a few flowers and veggies but it was just a pain in the butt and I wanted it off. This year’s it’s coming off. I tested the soil last year and it was almost at a 7 (which is pretty acidic if I’m not mistaken?) The ground underneath the tarp is like packed heavy clay that’s been settling for some time. I’m guessing poor drainage also because the bed is very uneven and gets puddles in it. I want to know what it would take to bring it back to life and nice looking and ready to plant in.

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Answered on April 23, 2020

Clay improves over time with the annual addition of compost. Start off by doing a Jar Test (https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/soil-fertilizers/soil-texture-jar-test.htm) to see just how much clay there is vs. silt and sand. A percolation test is a wise second test; if drainage is poor, you either improve it or use plants that tolerate moisture. (https://extension.tennessee.edu/Williamson/Horticulture/Consumer%20Horticulture/DIY%20Soil%20Drainage%20Perk%20Test%20for%20Your%20Yard%20(2016).pdf) Adding any type of organic (plant) matter improves clay. Sphagnum peat moss and manure are old stand-bys. This first year, dig down one shovel's depth and add both, or coir if you prefer. In subsequent years, add 2 inches of compost on top of the soil. (deep digging and tilling are no longer recommended) A pH of 7 is right in the middle, a perfect pH for growing most flowers and vegetables. These are links that go to more info on clay soil. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/soil-fertilizers/how-to-improve-clay-soil.htm

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