soil issues (long story)

afternoon all, recently purchased our first house and have really only been concentrating on the house but the time has finally come when i'm allowed (my girlfriend is the boss!!) to get stuck into the garden.
the garden itself is not that big, but its quite steep (probably a gradual difference of 4ft from the top of the garden to the bottom). i have removed over 15 tonne of concrete that the previous owners had laid down. this has caused the ground to be quite "undulating"
im currently in the process of wheelbarrowing 19 tonne of soil that was kindly given to me by a neighbor (who was digging a swimming pool) so im trying to get the garden to sort of level. i understand that it will never be flat but i don't mind.
the soil that i was given seems to be sub soil. so far i haven't found one worm (that's a bad sign im guessing!!) whilst digging in it. i have been in touch with local horse riding stables who said that i can have as much manure as i want (which was nice of them) so im going to put loads of rotten manure in hoping that it will improve the quality of the soil
i have to build a retaining wall/ fence at the bottom of the garden to stop all the soil i brought in ending in the garden behind us too, looks like im going to be a busy boy this summer
is there anything else i can do to improve the soil quality?
how it started
[image:
http://i25.photobucket.com/albums/c81/mudcow007/thestart.jpg]
getting there
[image:
http://i25.photobucket.com/albums/c81/mudcow007/gettingthere.jpg]
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mudcow007

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Wow removing all the concrete must have been the hard part! :) Do you have a plan for what you want to make out of the garden? Esp. regarding soil it makes a difference what kind of plants you want to grow...
Try and see if you can locate good source material, I just studied a book that had something on the subject for 20 minutes last night so that's where my knowledge on the subject comes from ;) First you'd probably want some kind of an analysis on the soil. You can ask a professional or just take a good look at it and consult books/the newsgroup. Eg. does it have lots of clay or maybe sand, makes a huge difference. What kind of a place/where do you live, is it a former river plateau/sea bed etc - so what kind of soil would be expected in the area?
You can buy better soil or soil materials and put them on top, or mix them with the top layer of your existing soil. The thickness of the required patently good soil depends on the plants you grow. As you add manure over the years the soil will improve, as more organic matter is introduced (until you hit the ideal degree I suppose). At first you could pick plants that don't have serious requirements.
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On Thu, 5 May 2011 10:42:44 +0000, mudcow007

I'd consider the gift of pool excavation soil as fill, then rather than attempt to improve it, I'd still have some good top soil delivered to place about 10" atop the pool fill. I'd not add the free manure until it composts... then use it as top dressing
I'd have laid down those jack hammered concrete slabs to build a retaining wall to keep your soil from washing onto your neighbor's property... would save you a ton of money having to buy retaining wall material and having to haul away perfectly good masonary wall building material. Lay the slabs like bricks while filling the spaces with soil... there are many plants that will easily grow between the slabs, won't be too long no one will notice that it's just broken up concrete.
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On Thu, 05 May 2011 10:42:44 +0000, mudcow007 wrote:

Did you save the broken concrete for your retaining wall, or paths?
Broken concrete paths are a great way to save money, and labor.
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On Thu, 5 May 2011 10:42:44 +0000, mudcow007

You don't want flat, you want natural drainage. When laying this soil keep in mind where the water is going to run during heavy rain, don't build any ponds or trences that don't run anywhere.

Excellent! What you will get will be horse bedding, that is straw which has manure and urine mixed into it which is all good. If it is fresh spread it out and water it. Wait a couple of weeks and kill all the seedlings that come up, these will be from seeds in the horse feed and will depend on the horse's diet. Then turn it in. You can also compost it which will kill the seeds but this will involve more handling. You can (and should) apply a lot of horse bedding it will not give fertiliser burn.
Stables will put used bedding in heaps, sometimes they sit there for months waiting to be removed. Even if it is not the most accessible take the oldest (most rotted) heap. If you can get it so that the 'nuggets' have all broken down to fibres you will have an excellent soil amendment.

Use the concrete?

Hard to say without knowing what it is like. At least check the pH if you don't get a full soil test done.
In the evenings while recovering from your aerobic workout you should be reading garden design books from the library.
David
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thanks for the all the replies, for the retaining wall i plan to use concrete fence base panels (probably two, one on top of each other) with wooden fence panels on top.
the "pool soil" is a mixture of clay and sand really. when it dries its grey. i have been trying to level the soil as much as i can and removing rocks etc using rakes and spades....my arms are killing me now much to the amusement of my girlfriend
i think its a pretty good idea regarding using this soil as a filler, then nice fertile top soil on top. how deep should i be aiming for with topsoil?
would i put the manure on top/ mix with the "pool soil" or when i get the top soil?
the soil that was originally in the garden (under the concrete) had quite alot of clay in it.
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On Fri, 6 May 2011 09:43:59 +0000, mudcow007

Depends what you plan to grow, for vegetables I'd shoot for 10", for a lawn half that will work... for shrubs and trees you'll be digging holes to the appropriate depth.

First compost the manure, raw manure will harm/kill your plants, and raw manure will be loaded with weed seeds... heat from composting will cook the seeds. Then periodically spread as a light top dressing, the nutrients will work down to the plant roots (gravity).
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The root zone is in the top 24". Tap roots will go deeper but are mainly for water transport. Putting nutrients deeper is a waste of time and money. I'll be stunned if you can buy top soil. World wide it has become a precious substance. Usually what you buy comes from construction sites and you get what you get.
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