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Friday, January 05, 2007

Concerned about soil?

When we bought our land, the previous owners neglected to inform us that the top soil had been stripped away. This is something, that had I known about, would have broke the deal. We were informed of this by neighbors, and by then it was too late to do anything about it. {I know, because I called my real-estate agent freaking out, not just over the soil, but the water heater exploding, and the well bladder leaking} The soil my garden has to deal with is a mixed bag.

One thing that we lucked out on, was that the previous owners had horses, and didn't do a good job on the upkeep of the manure. They left it were it laid, though they did clean up the barn and had a nice pile for us to clean. This all went out into our garden area to be tilled in.

We looked about our property and found an area where weeds, grass and renegade grain was growing. This was our starting point, as these weeds were the healthiest. We piled the manure up close to the area and began to till up the dirt, things went smoothly for awhile. The blade of the tiller suddenly stopped and bent. Someone had used the area we wanted to pour out the excess concrete. Wonderful! Here was the best soil on the acreage and it had this huge piece of poured concrete in the middle of it. And apparently we were determined to use it. With sledge hammers in hand, and the boys radio flyer in reach, we diligently removed the concrete and used it to fill in deep tire tracks that my husband's cousin left for us to deal with. It took the entire weekend to remove it {and 3 years later we still find chunks to remove}.

We could have left it and worked a different spot, but things like that don't happen here. We get something in our heads, and we will move land and rock {concrete} to accomplish it. As it turns out, we did good by sticking with our plan. This spot turned out to be wonderful for our tomatoes, but with the removal of the top soil we ran into problems with several different types of soil, ranging from hard clay to loam to sand.

This is actually a situation that is easy to deal with. The sandy areas hold our root vegetables {except for sweet potatoes, they are planted in areas were things do not grow so well}, and with the clay, the larger the seed the more likely it will grow. Clay is actually a great place to put your squashes in. Clay holds water longer that normal soil, which is a plus. By strategically placing plants and seeds to match up with the soil, we have a decent crop every year. Of course it could be better.

For those of you in Kansas, especially those with a new house, the extension office has a soil testing program. It will cost you $17 USD, not too awful bad. I have heard that in some places, local extension offices will do the tests for free. Contact your local extension office to see what they do offer.

Thank you for the kinds words. I am feeling better today, and might just take some of you up on your offers.


Caroline said...

Wow, you know a lot more about growing plants than I do. I have one area (now two) for the garden. The soil is whatever has been there for the last 12 years, plus whatever I clean out of the barn (goats, alpacas, chickens) and dump there over the winter. It grew brush and weeds well enough, I'm pretty sure it will grow vegetables.

Oh, I know that sunflowers have good roots, and can help break up difficult soil. Learned that from Organic Gardening magazine.

Phelan said...

Sunflowers are wonderful help in adding needed nutrients to your clay soil. They do very well in clay as does corn.

Cheryl said...

That sucks about the top soil.
We have quite a bit of clay here too. It doesn't drain well, but it's very rich.
I'm glad you're feeling better today.

Anonymous said...

Glad you're feeling better, too. I do hope you use the extension service for any and all your questions about homesteading - from putting foods up, making pickles, sewing, gardening, ponds, etc. It is part of every state's state university system and is usually in every county - and since it is part of the state, your tax dollars pay for it. And usually most stuff is free!!

Anonymous said...


I wish I could somehow give you a portion of our soil. We live on top of a hill and we have the nicest, darkest soil I have ever seen. It is too bad that I don't garden anymore, but when I decided to go to work full time I decided against trying to do it all. I didn't really enjoy gardening and canning and freezing anyway, but I do miss having fresh veggies in the summer. But in that, I can just go down the street in any direction and many of the "plain people" in the area have produce stands and I can have fresh veggies without the work.

But, really, if I could somehow share our soil with you, I would.

Hope you are feeling better.


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