new vegetable garden 2 questions

Hello all,
I have a new veggie garden, and a couple of questions. First a brief history. Last year my wife and I had a house built in NE Wisconsin. When the landscapers put in the lawn, I hade them put in a garden bed. Being very hard sandy clay, they dug down 12" and filled the area with 1/3 compost and 2/3 sifted topsoil. Then they ran a stub from the irrigation system for drip watering. Nothing was grown in the area. This year the plan is to raise the bed 10" above ground. THis brings me to my questions...
1) What ratio of compost to soil should I use when filling the bed?
2) I am rural and have well water. It isn't too hard, but has a lot of sulfur in it. Should the sulfur cause me any worries, and if so is there anything I should do about it?
Thanks, Brian
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1) no major difference, whether you put in topsoil or compost or anything in between. 2) no problem whatsoever with the sulfur, since you are talking about hundreds of grams over a season. The compost you already put in will buffer that and much more. You will grow excellent garlic and onions.
You got off to a very good start. to make it better, you ought to have the soil analyzed and if you find that it is deficient, add amendments. My personal instinct as far as soil is concerned is to put in as much compost as possible, plants that grow in it tend to be very strong. In fact, I tend to be creative and use a lot of dead leaves and wood chips long before they are compost. They provide mulch, which is always a good thing to have in a garden. Mulch plus drip virtually eliminate weeding and watering, which are the non-harvesting chores in the main season.
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Enough compost to make the soil crumble fairly easily when you have "crunched" a handful of it together, then prodded the ball thus formed. Do this test a couple of days after a good soaking rain (or watering). Too much clay will make the ball of soil stick together; too much sand will cause the soil ball to fall apart with only the tiniest of disturbances.
Sandier or more compost-rich soil is nice for growing root vegetables, because they harvest more easily. Clay soils are good for keeping big veggies (like tomato plants) in the ground in high winds. About equal parts of clay, sand and small gravel, and organic matter is considered ideal garden soil (and it's nice to dig in!). Very sandy soil requires more frequent waterings in many cases; very heavy clay soils are easy to mishandle and squish the airspace out of (roots need oxygen!).

Sulfur is a required element for plant growth; along with C, H, O, N, P, K, Ca, Mg (these are the macronutrients; each macronutrient is present in the dry matter of most plants at 1% or above) and Fe, Cl, Cu, Mn, Zn, Mb, B (usually 1-100 ppm in plant tissues).
The only thing I'd check on with a high sulfur water is how acid the water is; if it's in the pH 6-7.5 range, you're fine. If it's more acid or more basic than that, extra compost will help ameliorate the situation. If you know what formation your well is getting water from, a call to your county extension agent can generally find out if there are known problems with the water.
Oh, and you won't be growing low-sulfur onions like the Vidalia types with that water.
Suggested reading: first few chapters of Rodales' Chemical Free Lawn and Garden,which your public library may have or you can pick up cheaply. Well written chapters on soil, water, plant nutrition that are easily read.
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Thank you for the very informative posts. They were very helpful.
Brian
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