Working the Soil
In Ga, the clay soil packs down to hardpan consistency from year to year.
Sandy soils form a crust the first time that it rains and seedlings are unable to push through the crust and any rain that might fall runs off this impermeable crust.
The solution to both problems is plenty of organic materials.
Everybody who's ever had a compost pile will remember how well plants grow in it...
- How much is plenty?
- How much is too much?
- What kind of organic materials?
I don't think there's a such thing as too much. If I could cover my entire garden 2 or 3 feet deep with compost, it still wouldn't be too much! Remember, a lot is good and more is better...The garden is one of the few places where that philosophy actually works. When adding compost, More is better....With an exception or two.
Mushroom compost, home made compost,
horse, cow, goat, sheep, rabbit manure, are all good. When I'm working a garden bed for the first time, I'll dump wheelbarrow loads of manure in overlaping piles and turn the product under....And then add more to topdress!
Chicken manure and bat guanno are a couple of exceptions. Use sparingly! They are very good at giving stuff an instant boost, but will burn, can make your tomatos produce a lot of stalk and leaves and no blooms, will stop peppers in their tracks. Absolutely do not use poultry manure on peppers!
When there's time, I suggest bringing a load of wood chips and covering the soil several inches deep and waiting a year for the soil micro organisms to do their job.
When there's no time, incorporating plenty of organic materials (after breaking up the soil at least shovel deep), helps to prevent the soil from packing and the sand from crusting. If seeds are planted, a couple inches of manure or compost on top of the bed works wonders.
If plants are moved into the fresh beds, again top dress with manure &/or compost and cover that with wood chips.
Of couse there's always framed in beds. I suggest working the soil that you have and waiting untill you have a feel for the garden before going that route. They're nice, but there's nothing worse than framed in raised beds that are so close together that you are unable to push a wheelbarrow or garden cart between them.
Creating a new bed in turf
soil work in the shade garden
Ruth Stout's no till gardening
This Timber Press book explains very neatly how plants take in nourishment. Be prepared to have your preconceptions de-bunked!
Teaming with microbes A gardener's guide to the soil food web
Blog post on finding free soil amendments Too good to be true, Freebies for the garden
New raised bed.
Here are links to the full-sized pictures on the Flowers and Construction page with additional information about each. There's a few extra links thrown in for good measure.