Mar 19, 2011 8:50 am
What do I do about hard dirt (clayish) and planting in it.
DH is making a little garden outside the alfresco and we want to put plants in however the dirt is quite hard. Do we just put in a layer of the good stuff and dump it on top? Dig around and mix it through (which is what I want to do, someone else is too impatient) or just put in plants that can take to the hard dirt?
Pics to follow soon!
Any idea of what plants that would suit this little area? We are getting Sir Walter layed on tuesday so it'll hopefully be a lush greeen lawn soon and not a pile of doggy landmines!
Sending you a link Fu via Twitter (maybe you have some good sites I can go have a look at)
Re: Dirt Help - Alfresco garden!4
Mar 19, 2011 10:49 am
New build sites are often backfilled with clay and then, once the build is 'finished', the contractor spreads a thin layer of pretty poor soil over the top. Clay has very, very, very small particles and when wet it binds together and dries rock hard. Clay is very good at holding water and tends to have lots of minerals that are good for the plants, but unfortunately the structure makes it difficult for the plant roots to penetrate. It will also have a pretty poor biomass - by that I mean that there will not be very much living in it.
You should always aim to improve the soil first before you plant, otherwise you will lose many plants before things start to take off and even then it will be slow going.
In the simplest terms: the more life in your soil=the better the soil=the better the roots of plants can penetrate=the more nutrients and water are available=the better the plants will grow=the happier you will be!
The best soils are known as 'loams', which is a mixture of silt or sand, clay and organic matter or humus. Your soil cannot be a loam unless it has all these things. These soils have about 50% solid material (the clay, sand, silt and humus) and about 50% pore spaces, which are air and water. These soils will be what is known as 'friable', or to you and me nice and cumbly!! (the sandier a soil, the more it fall freely through your hands when picked up, the more clay it has the more it will remain as a solid piece that can be molded into shapes like playdough)
If your soil is pretty much clay, you will need to add sand and organic matter to improve it. Clays can make the best loams so from that point you're pretty lucky. With good preparation you will have the richest, most productive, soil you can imagine - a little bit of effort and patience is all you need
Organic compost and sand can both be obtained easily and fairly cheaply from the garden centre for an area the size you are looking at, when it comes to the rest of your garden, you might want to consider getting trailors of it delivered as it's more cost effective.
Having a clay soil will mean that you will be building the bed up to a higher level, perhaps as much as 30cm, above the current ground level. This will aid drainage and air flow, which will help to improve the soil. Plus, the more organic matter and sand you add, the less dense your soil will become and the more volume it will have.
I would suggest you do the following:
1) Dig up a handful of soil (don't just take the easy to get top stuff!) and give it a good squeeze. Does it stay together (clay) or fall apart (sand)? When you open your hand, does it fall apart (has sand with organic matter), does it just collapse and try to dribble out of your fingers (pretty sandy) or does it stay in the same squeezed shape (clay)? Rub it between your finger and thumb, is it crumbly and soft (good organic matter content) or gritty (high sand content)?
2) Grab another handful and add it to a straight-sided lided jar filled with water. Give it a good shake and leave it for several hours to settle. You will then be able to see exactly what makes up your soil and what the rough proportions are. It will separate like this: coarse sand at the bottom, finer sands, then silts, then clays and finally organic matter. You should therefore have 4 or 5 distinctive layers. The sand, silts and clay layers should be roughly equal and the organic matter should be a much thicker (it's the darkest one) layer. If you haven't, or the sand, silt or clay layers are much thicker than the others, then you need to do some soil improving
Once you've determined whether it is a heavy clay soil or not, you will need to begin improving it.
1) Wet the clay (DO NOT STAND ON IT OR YOU'LL COMPACT IT MORE!), use a mattock to break it up into the smallest size pieces you can, continuing to wet it when things get difficult. Wet it again and go over it with a fork, then again and go over it with a rake until you have it as small as possible.
2) Spread out a good amount of sand and use your fork to mix it through. Rake it again and keep breaking up any lumps you find.
3) Spread out a good layer of fresh manure (this will have lots of nice soil creatures in it to get you kick started and you'll soon see lots of worms wriggling round) and again use your fork to mix it through. Rake it again.
4) Get some soil amendments in there (do a search for soil amendments, in particular Zeolite, using the username 'Fu Manchu' for lots of info - read this as you'll see why it's important!). Zeolite is the main one you will need for clay. You can buy bags from Clarke's Rubber that cost about $25 for 15kg. Buy a few and add them all. You can't overdo this so lay it on thick then rake it through so it goes in the top 10cm of the (now steadily improving!) soil.
5) Cover the whole area with a good mulch with lots of fresh vegetation in it. Treelopper mulch is always the best and generally free from roadsides. If you can't get some fresh mulch, then lucerne hay is excellent as it has a high protein content which will add lots to your soil as it breaks down.
6) Drench the whole area with powerfeed and molasses. Powerfeed acts us a clay breaker and the molasses will give the bacteria and other life forms in your soil a good feed to get them going.
7) The hard bit.... Avoid planting anything!!
The reason for not planting is the fresh manure will be breaking down and could, in the initial stages, damage any plants you put in. You should wait at least 2 weeks, preferably longer, before planting.
If you want to plant straight away, use organic compost instead of fresh manure. It will do pretty much the same job and you can plant in it right away if you want.
HOWEVER, if you want this to really improve the soil, the longer you wait and more organic matter you add to the soil, the better it will be. As it's pretty much winter (what happened to summer?!), you could spend the months until spring allowing your lucerne hay to break down and then topping it up or adding whatever other good fresh mulches you can get. Try mixing them up a bit (lucerne, treelopper, sugar cane) to get the best effect. Then wait till spring to plant.
You might be interested in the green manure thread that has been active the past week, so check that out.
Now, how does it feel knowing that you know best and your hubby was wrong...?
Re: Dirt Help - Alfresco garden!5
Mar 19, 2011 2:45 pm
Dig, dig, dig. I'm impatient too, so I'd probably dump in a heap of manure and compost, dig it through like mad, add some soil improvers/activators (Fu has lots of advice about good products in threads here), mulch heavily then plant.
It's worked pretty well for me so far.
Built PD Bridgeport 35; moved in December 2008.
Moving on up
Re: Dirt Help - Alfresco garden!6
Mar 20, 2011 4:31 pm
Get some cheap mulch in bulk, the plywood coloured stuff. It breaks down fast, is light weight and when decomposed is fluffy. Sticks, mashed up tree barks, someones hedge clippings. Try to create at least 3 inches of green and dry compost.
Add to it anything you can get. Scrape up gum leaves along the street (these are really good blotters) or winter leaves from neighbors. If you can get cardboard from shops and other paper stuff. Combine all these with sand and gravel. Blue stone dust / fie gravel is awesome - it contains most trace minerals both macro and micro. Silicate sands are ok but mudstone gravel seems to contain as much mineral content as blue stone. Mix these all together. Layer in the winter leaves, clippings anything you can get and then cover again. In 4 months you will have rich black free draining loam with little lumps of blue stone and mud stone mineral bombs. If you can get carbon char or wood ash.
The gum leaves will layer out and create layered cavities which suck water in and hold it. As they break down they release carbon in a controlled steady rate. A much undervalued much and when covered does magic things.
Dirt Help - Alfresco garden!7
Mar 20, 2011 4:36 pm
Thank you very much for all of your replies. We have held off on planting anything for at least a month or two so we can get the ground nice for some plants.
Will try an do as much of above as I can.. Thank you for the help!
I will update what we've done as we go along.
Re: Dirt Help - Alfresco garden!8
Apr 05, 2011 3:00 am
Acacia Limelights and Correa pink mist or dusky bells.
mix in perlite or spongolite first, zeolite then of course about 10-15 bags of certified organic compost (has the BFA or NASAA symbol on the bag) Mulch heavily with straw, hose it down and bed it in. Seasol and molasses and powerfeed. Some molasses for the muttley will go a treat too
Re: Dirt Help - Alfresco garden!10
May 02, 2011 11:49 pm
All that might seem excessive but when it gets hot, your plants will cope far better, when it gets flooded, your plants will survive. You will need less aeration and that is just too much hard work. When it rains lots you won't have nutrients being flushed away from the soil. When its wet the plants won't do what next doors does. You will have healthy living soil. You will have a sustainable garden and one that needs stuff all money and care into the foreseeable future
Re: Dirt Help - Alfresco garden!12
May 03, 2011 10:57 am
As a side note Fu, can the LimeLights be shaped/pruned as required?
GLW wants these in our frond yard but the location she wants is directly over Drain Inspection pipe.
Thanks and sorry for Hijacking Cooped07
Re: Dirt Help - Alfresco garden!13
May 03, 2011 11:03 am
They sure can but as the grow you will see that you may not want to do that
They do make for an excellent clipped hedge too.
Re: Dirt Help - Alfresco garden!15
May 03, 2011 5:07 pm
Thanks Fu. I was going to leave the back of the bed exposed so probably 600-1000mm off either side of the inspection pipe. They won't be directly over it.
It would be much easier if the drainer would have put the inspection pipe where I asked.
Dirt Help - Alfresco garden!16
Aug 26, 2011 12:50 pm
I'm still plantless.. Still deciding on what will look good!
Oh & the 2 plants on the pots are hibiscus clippings that I managed to kill! Oops..
Re: Dirt Help - Alfresco garden!17
Aug 26, 2011 1:11 pm
Go with kangaroo paws - they flower for ages and are easy to look after and they come in loads of different colours ... looking good!! Apart from the dead plants
For info on our build: viewtopic.php?f=31&t=43093
Built the McLaren by Dechellis - slab down 22 Feb - handover 30 Aug 2011 - and gardens finished 9 Dec 2012!!
Re: Dirt Help - Alfresco garden!18
Aug 26, 2011 2:08 pm
Bugger me Cooped07, that lawn is looking the Shiz isn't it
Some guy got back to me the other day and was just laughing at how good his lawn is having used my advice. He went from hating it to loving it.
Dirt Help - Alfresco garden!19
Aug 26, 2011 2:54 pm
I'm going with the red velvet kanga paws out the front with some acacia limelights I didn't know wether I should continue them out the back too.
The family & I are in love with the lawn. I am not so in love with the dog pooping on it!
Re: Dirt Help - Alfresco garden!20
Aug 26, 2011 5:51 pm
If you can keep an eye out for Federation Flame. This has a fairly unique look as far as the Kanga paws go. Deep green leaves are made to look a little blue green due to the silver fur that is very prominent over the flower stems and margins of the leaves. Deep ochre orangey/red flowers. Way better than Red Velvet. Tougher too.
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