Help on amending the soil

Tue Jul 09, 2013 5:05 am

I added on to my garden by spreading about 6 inches of clay based soil creating an area about 20 x 100 to my existing plot....( I had a lot of clay pushed up I had to use, I know not a wise choice)....Of course we have had a little :shock: rain.....So then I covered it with 6/8 inches of well seasoned horse manure....It is a bit tricky to run the cub thru with a york rake behind it, I might add....Gotta get some front wheel weights :mrgreen: ...But its done....I plan on leaving it as is till it drys out, but then....Should I plow it to mix it up and then attempt to run the roto-tiller thru it....Or just run the tiller thru it...And should I plant a cover crop like winter rye on it or just leave it till next year...I'm thinking just leave it till it drys out, roto till it and plant it next spring and see what happens, but I am open to all suggestions as always.....Thanks Dave

Re: Help on amending the soil

Tue Jul 09, 2013 6:33 am

I don't think plowing with a moldboard plow will get you the results that you want. I'd till the area with a 3 point tiller and make several passes. A walk-behind tiller won't get deep enough. If you don't have a 3 point setup, find someone in your area that does and tills for a fee. Shouldn't be too expensive. Costs $40-$50 in this area. I would definitely plant a cover crop early this fall. Rye as a first choice or triticale as a second. Triticale is a hybrid of rye and wheat. When things dry out next spring, spray the cover crop to kill it and till again.

Re: Help on amending the soil

Tue Jul 09, 2013 7:19 am

I agree tilling is better than moldboard plowing, chisel plowing would be second choice. Even a walk behind should be able to mix the manure and soil and begin the breakdown. This should be done as quickly as possible. Remember manure, to a lesser extent when aged, and anything brown will temporarily tie up nitrogen for the decay process. While rye is probably the better cover crop if you don't like herbiciding the cover use oats which winter will kill. Good luck. Vern

Re: Help on amending the soil

Tue Jul 09, 2013 7:37 am

A Gravely rotary plow is perfect for deep soil blending. Beastly to handle if you have handlebar-whipping rocks.

Re: Help on amending the soil

Tue Jul 09, 2013 7:43 am

Tilling with a good quality rear tined tiller, should give a decent blending. I don't like to use herbicides, so i mow and disk the rye,prior to spring plowing, if Mother Nature allows it. Plowing alone, will turn over most of the rye, if not too tall. Don't plant "deer magnets", like clover, vetch, or other legumes. They produce more nitrogen, bit attract the pesky, antlered rodents! Ed

Re: Help on amending the soil

Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:08 am

Just thinking. I would do two soil tests. One on the clay, currently top soil, and the second test on the soil below the clay level.

Cover crop of green manure for sure. Type of green manure would depend on the results of both tests. Depending on both soil conditions, I might do a green manure with deep roots, such as turnips.

Results of the soil test would determine my course of action.

Re: Help on amending the soil

Tue Jul 09, 2013 12:55 pm

Thanks for the replies....Great information....It will definitely help me with my project....Thanks again...Dave

Re: Help on amending the soil

Tue Jul 16, 2013 5:08 am

Thanks guys....My uphill neighbor came down with his Kubota 3120 and rear tine tiller and Ker chunked the garden extension :{_}: .....I had plowed it beforehand just to see how it worked out....As you said it didn't mix it at all, but was fun...He offered me a set of disc harrows to use but his were a bit to large for a cub....And then I ventured up to my home town and an old friend has a gravely walk behind he doesn't use anymore but has sat for many years....He called me last night and has decided to part with it so after he pulls it out of his shed and checks it out, I'm off to pick that up...So I've used most of your advise, now just to decide on a cover crop... I guess I need one to offset the straw less horse manure....Brown and Green thing....Never thought I'd retrace my childhood with tractors and back to gardening etc....Thanks again for all your advice and help.....Dave :big afro:

Re: Help on amending the soil

Tue Jul 16, 2013 7:13 am

I just ordered some Sorghum Sudan grass hybrid seed, for summer cover crop. An annual, grows tall, producing large amounts of organic matter. Recommendation, is to mow it to about 8 inches, when it reaches 3 feet. Mow several times, to prevent seed formation. May be left til spring, or plowed under in the fall, and winter rye, planted. I plan to fall plow, so the stalks can start to break down, over the winter. (Cow farmers use it as a silage crop, or for hay, due to its large amount of vegetation, and fast growth.) Ed ... Sudangrass

Re: Help on amending the soil

Tue Jul 16, 2013 5:35 pm

Thanks Ed

Re: Help on amending the soil

Tue Jul 16, 2013 6:00 pm

Horse dung and clay ? Good luck

Re: Help on amending the soil

Wed Jul 17, 2013 5:48 am

Its a long story Boss....But I ain't a quitter...Just "Makin the best of a bad situation" as the song goes....LOL..

Re: Help on amending the soil

Wed Jul 17, 2013 6:42 am

Boss Hog is right. If that clay has any moisture in it it will turn to rock if turned. Timing is very important.

Re: Help on amending the soil

Wed Jul 17, 2013 9:18 am

If he can build up the organic content, it will turn into good soil. We had a plow day, at a farm, in town. That soil was terrible clay, yet it grew crops. With some work,it would grow good crops. He cover cropped with rye, then mowed and baled the rye, for sale, as straw. Plowing it in, would have improved it. (rental land, he didn't want to "invest" in it) Ed

Re: Help on amending the soil

Wed Jul 17, 2013 9:48 am


I assume you are familiar with Maritime Potato Farms and how well known we are for our taters. And for our truck gardens and orchards. Many places in the Maritimes are like my garden. Clay is the base soil structure with little top soil especially in newly cleared areas. Over time Mother Nature amends clays with green manure as well as other biologicals. That takes time. What my father-in-law has done for years is to amend with bio-mass, natural sourced pelletized fertilizers and lots of manure as well as wood ash from the wood furnace. Seaweed, fish, lobster etc., are all useful materials to amend the soil, even the traces of salt are beneficial. As soon as it is down, it needs to be harrowed in. It can take time to do this especially when the greens are not broken down. Broken down greens will not do well with tillers especially walk behinds. Multiple passes with a disc harrow is about the best way, it just takes time. Also you will probably have to run a peg tooth or a spike tooth harrow over to level the ground a few times. Again .. seat time :D This type of amendment typically takes about 2 years to return the garden to a good level of nutrients to produce good veggies.

Our plan is to harrow, add fresh greens, harrow, add well seasoned goat manure, harrow for the garden plots. The plan for our fields is somewhat similar. The fields are where we backfilled a number of years ago. It is clay, some sand, gravel .. all kinds of matter. It is growing buckwheat, red rye grass, vetch and other stuff on it's own. I did seed one section around the pond with red rye a couple years ago .. but haven't lately. The plan here is to disc both field and plant green manure cover crops .. either buckwheat or red clover. When it gets semi mature, it will get disced back in. Plant second crop of cover. That will be disced in sometime in the fall. Also plan on spreading ripened goat manure on this are as well. A couple years of regular feeding with green and goat manure and these fields should make great paddocks for our Alpacas.

Soil analysis is a good idea I guess .. most of us here do not go that route. We do not have what y'all have .. as in Extension Agents, so we do it the old way. Worked for 4 hundred years ... so it is good enough for me. We have had some amazing crops over the years when we do the work that is needed in amending the gardens/fields. The years that we have not .. it became readily apparent the following year with greatly reduced yields. Oh and these are simply family gardens, large but we do not sell any of our produce. Yields are still very important.

As Ed said .. build up the organics and you will have a good garden. Just keep at it and you will not be disappointed.