Peat Moss Substitute?

I'm new to the group and I'm wondering if anyone knows of another way to loosen my hard soil rather than using Peat? I've tried sawdust, leaves, etc but they tend to make it even harder.
Peat works the best so far but I was hoping to find something a little cheaper???
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Pearlite???
It does not decompose so might be cheaper in the long run?
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I did a quick search for Perlite on the web and since it virtually lasts forever it may be a good choice. I couldn't seem to find out however, the amount needed per square foot... any idea what that would be?
wrote:

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If there's a riding stable or race track anywhere near, you've got a great source of soil amendment. Cow manure is good too, but not the processed stuff in the garden stores - that's a last resort.
I even used goat manure once because there was a goat farm just down the road. The farmer even brought over a wagon load and spread it for me. I had to plow it in to avoid a lynching, however, goat manure is odiferous :-).
You will have to kill, pull, or plow under a good crop of weeds before they reseed, but that's just more soil amendment.
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Check with the city or county, they chip and shread a lot wind/storm damaged limbs/trees, etc., and may have a lot of compost for distribution to the citizens for free.
John

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Good idea... I checked with the city and they do have an area for grass clippings as well as leaves in the fall. Do I need to be concerned with chemicals that may have been applied to lawns or will that compost out?

damaged
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I've thought about that also, don't really know, so I just use the grass clipping from my own lawn.
The leaves should be great and even better if you can shread them before composting.
John
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The best price I can find on perlite is $8 for a 4 cu. ft. bag, that's $54 per yard, plus shipping. I can get a truckload of sand, 15 cu. yds., for about $85, delivered. I have very heavy clay soil, I amended my garden with compost and sand, about 1 yd of sand per 100 sq ft of garden, also I removed the heaviest, pure red clay altogether. Had to work it all in real well, a process which will never be done. Perlite may be better, but unless they start selling it in truckload quantity, I think it is way too expensive a method when there are alternatives. Sand plus clay plus compost plus backbreaking work equals good garden soil.
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I can't imagine how adding organic material is making your soil harder.
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Mixed with the clay soil it almost turns it "brick" hard.
I put close to a pickup load on a 30x20 foot area and it became really hard for the rest of that year. The following year it didn't seem as bad but still pretty hard. I added more sawdust that year and it got hard again so I quit using the sawdust. To some extent I noticed a similar action with leaves (not shredded) tilled in but the peat really tends to do the trick. This fall I may work 5 0r 6 of the larger bundles of peat in but the reason for the post was to find something a little cheaper.
I cut down and chipped about 200 feet of a hedge on my property... (a mixture of different types of hedge)and this has been slowly composting over the last 3 years. I've added some of this in certain areas but I still can't say I'm happy with it.

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About 10 or 20 more pickup loads and you will be on the right track. Manure, grass clippings , leaves and leaf mold, municipal compost, mushroom compost, woodchips, whatever is free and local is best, free local and delivered is even better!
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I was trying to find a reference and from some of my notes came the figure that one inch of peat or compost tilled in to a depth of 6" would equal five percent organic material content. The class was taught by UCONN's soil lab director.
Keep adding, you will get there!
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Wow, I would have thought it would have been more than that... so would 2" be 10%? or doesn't it work like that?
It's now apparent that I just haven't put on enough each year even though it seemed like a bunch. This fall it's going to get "loaded" up with what ever I can find and tilled in and I'll probably add a little nitrogen to the mix.
Thanks for all the info...

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Mde too, but I bet it's by weight.
Another thing to do is continually compost in your garden pathways, think a foot or so of woodchips and use them to cover grass clippings,weeds and kitchen wastes between the growing areas in your garden.That way it still looks neat and clean. Come spring you can sift the new humous into your growing areas and allow the earthworms to till it in for you. Then you refiill the paths. Using a deep mulch on the growing areas is another technique because it enriches and loosens the soil as it decays. 6" or more with the mulch pulled back wherever you put a plant. Keep an ear out for a barnload of spoiled hay. Here on my 0.23 of an acre it was a way of making large amounts of compost in a very small area and not losing growing space. Cover crops work well also, things like buckwheat can give you 3 or 4 crops in a season to till under and choke out the weeds at the same time.
See if any of Ruth Stout's books are in your local library she was a mulch gardener. "How to have a green Thumb Without an Aching Back" was one of her's. Make your local library get you a copy via interlibrary loan.
Don't let any organic material leave your property .
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Supplemental nitrogen can easily be added to make up for any shortfall the current crop requires.
If you have a nurse bed of lettuce and cruciferous vegetables you can transplant them into the tomato plot for a fall crop. Time for radishes from seed and perhaps mesclun. A few bales of hay and some plastic sheeting and you can extend the growth and the harvest well into winter.
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dolomite

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