Garden prep

We bought a house with a garden. Irrigation system in, but I will be making some changes.
The soil locally is blow sand from red sandstone. A friend of mine gave me a big tiller for doing some work to help him clean up after a fire. I got it all cleaned up and put new gas in it, and it fired right up. So, I took it on a couple of rows of the garden.
The soil is light and fluffy and not rocky as the adjoining soil. Apparently the previous owners had put a lot of organic material in there. It's really nice looking soil.
Is there some simple tests that I can do to see what's sand and what isn't? Say, put some in a bucket and see how much floats vs. how much sinks?
Should I go buy some garden soil (I already have five big bags) and till that in, too? Should I till in some general fertilizer for the whole garden?
What would be some good things to do now that I have a blank palette, and don't have to redo what someone else has done?
Steve
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wrote:

You're best bet is to start with a complete soil test from your local cooperative extent ion. Sand is not particularly useful, although some plants prefer it. Put a handful of soil in a glass mason jar, fill with water, shake, allow to settle. You should see separating layers (Did this in 10th grade earth-science class). From your soil test, you will know what kinds of fertilizers and how much to add and how to adjust the pH. Or, you might consider plants suited for your soil and conditions. I like to till in last fall's leaves, old sawdust, and compost as that's what's available here and free. Some plants, like peppers, may actually decrease yields with too much nitrogen.
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Clear off any plant material from surface of soil. Take a 1 foot deep soil sample (leaves a cylindrical hole 1 foot deep). Shake with water in a clear container. The sand will settle out in about 5 min. or less, the silt in about 45 min., and the clay in 24 hours. The thickness of each band over the thickness to the total deposit is percentage of composition. For example, if the the total sediment is 3" thick and the bottom layer (sand) is 1 3/16" thick (19/16 divided by 48/16 = 39.56% sand). Good garden soil is 30 % - 40% sand, 30 % - 40% silt, 20 % - 30% clay.

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Billy

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http://weloveteaching.com/spring2008/LABS/lab-rock-cycle.html go down to number 3, just use a bit of detergent. scoop the organics off the top. measure how much of each you got.

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Cut & Paste from another subject. Where are you located?
Good questions. Don't have the answer. Your environment is very different than this one in South Eastern PA (USA). If we were to make a raised bed garden I would start with a boundary for raising the bed, I would try to get some black locust logs. I would surely not consider using railroad ties or any other type of treated wood with attention on the chemicals in treated wood leaching in your garden. Black locust as it dies or as parenchyma cells die (symplast) the nitrogen based substances move out. So in order for common fungi to break down the wood, such as a post in the ground, Some people ask me if I have a PhD, yes, I have several post hole diggers somewhere. Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) was named after the first arborist. The first arborist's name was pronounced "row-bin"(sic)? I was taught the tree was named after him, i.e., from a reliable source. Then I would go get a dump truck load of Certified Organic Mushroom soil from Mother Earth Organic Mushrooms. [http://www.organic.com /] I then would (Land lord makes final decisions) would add about a dump truck load (7 commercial yards) of screened top soil. Together by mixing the both I would hope to end up with good soil. Defined as a substance made up of sands, silts, clays, decaying organic matter, air, water and an enormous number of living organisms. I myself like zucchini and it grows well with little if any so-called pest. I think we are going to close this garden in. A late client and his wife had a organic garden - WOW! They wrote some sections for me http://home.ccil.org/~treeman/bradley/index.html . My father has an organic garden and he is going to start some plants for me. I would get a load of leaf compost from somewhere. Its great when its just been screened. I would mulch the plants with leaf compost to keep down 99% of undesired plants (so-called weeds). It would be serving multi functions like feeding the soil micros and retaining moisture. I hope we get one together. Good luck with yours. What are some of the native trees in your area? Does anyone have a suggestion related to keeping the leaf compost off the stems of the plants. On those plants I would put the leaf up to the plants. Chicken manure would be best if composted for a year or more. The people I have gardened with don't use products like preen. Don't require it. Why waste the money on something not required to have healthy plants? Leaves are great. I would make an attempt at adding some composted wood chips to feed the soil cellulose. As long as they are composted and symplastless I would think they would be fine. Any thoughts?
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Sincerely,
John A. Keslick, Jr.
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Yeah, chicken manure is about 4 times higher in nitrogen as steer manure. Apply accordingly. I could have said more but I am just trying to answer the question.
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Billy

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