water repellant spoil

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I've been away for more than a month, and although Himself did a lot of watering, there are some places where the soil has dried out to such an extent that it's now baked and water repellant and all attempts at normal watering (ie hoses and sprinklers) are proving fruitless.
How have others coped with this other than puddling and making mud pies? This does seem to work, but I'm sure there will be some reason why I shouldn't do this even though it can't be because of soil structure since where there is none to begin with once it's as dry as a chip. I also do not like using soil wetting agents since I've never been able to find out what it does to earth worms and I know they will return eventually, once it rains or the winter comes and the weather cools.
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Fran Farmer wrote:

pile shredded stuff over it and water it well.
if you are talking about a large area, hmm, guess i would tackle it in parts by covering it with whatever i could find and then watering it. making the most effort around plants i wanted to save.
songbird
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On 12/01/2014 9:04 AM, songbird wrote:

Sadly that doesn't work. All the water does is to run off below the mulch/shredded stuff on top. I'll give a specific example even though it applies in many places in my garden
I planted some blueberry bushes this year and although they are coping with the heat and baking sunlight and even growing a bit and putting on new leaves slowly, I decided that they needed a larger root run rather than the area close to their newly planted holes.
They've always had a big area of mulch around them but I tried to water over the bigger area and all the water did was to run off once the watering extended beyond the 'saucer' area in which the bushes had been planted.
Where you live, you probably need to plant on mounds so that water round the roots runs off, here it's imperative to plant in saucer shaped depressions to keep water near the roots.

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Fran Farmer wrote: ...

scrape a bit of an edge up to hold the water in or make the saucers larger?

yes, most of the plants here need dryer than what they get and the risks of flooding make it pretty normal for us to put most plants up on hills or mounds or raised beds.
from what you wrote in the other response you have a lot of fine dust. that would be tough to get wetted again.
i'd still make sure there was mulch on top and then make sure to spray that mulch (not putting water through it) so that it can slowly drip down on the soil below. from your description you say the water goes right through the mulch and runs off the soil. to me that says you are using too much water and pouring it through the mulch. instead, use a fine mist to keep wetting the mulch. spray it several times a day.
songbird
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On 13/01/2014 11:06 AM, songbird wrote:

Yep, dust is it. And anything vegetative mixed into the soil or on top of the soil is like it's been discovered in an ancient tomb so it's dry to the point of total desiccation.

Tried both of those in the past with the exception of the 'several times a day' - it's morning and/or evening only in our summer conditions and even then unless it's overcast and there is no wind, microsprays are a very 'iffy' use of water - almost always a waste of time and for some reason mulch just adds to the problem when it's already dry under the mulch. I don't really understand why the mulch doesn't help but it doesn't until the soil is moist and then it can do it's traditional soil protecting job.
We seem to be getting there slowly but progress is not fast. Mud pies making still seem to be the most effective method with the most threatened smaller plants but I am worried about some of the trees.
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Fran Farmer wrote:

yeah, i just used a bucket and a half of very similar material in the worm bins (dust from off the garlic that has been sitting out without any water since last summer). i wasn't going to mix it or wet it down, but i did layer it with other materials and will let the worms work at it. i figure it contains enough variety for them that they'll gradually get through it and mix it up for me. what i did do was make sure to soak down the surrounding layers well enough that eventually that moisture will get in there. one way or another...

no, i don't mean microspray, i just mean a finer mist than what some watering cans or sprayers put out. enough to make sure all of the mulch is wetted down instead of just bits of it.

i hope they'll come through ok and keep the wishes for more rain going too.
songbird
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On 1/11/2014 12:47 PM, Fran Farmer wrote:

With a hose-end sprayer, apply a mix of water and mild, unscented liquid soap. The soap will act as a wetting agent. You want it unscented so that it does not attract bees, hornets, and wasps.
After you get the soil a bit damp, apply a generous amount of gypsum. Lightly water the gypsum to just damp it and prevent it from blowing in the wind. Two days later, water it a bit more to start disolving it but without any runoff. Two days after that, water it well (but not to the point of runoff) to start leaching it into the soil.
--
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean, see
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On 12/01/2014 11:40 AM, David E. Ross wrote:

I had wondered if using old fashioned clothes washing soap agitated in water till I got a froth of bubbles on the surface of the water would work.
I guess that liquid hand soap or possibly even kitchen dish detergent would also work, but then again, what about (future) worms I ask myself.

Does Gypsum work as a wetting agent in some way?
I'll give that a try - I've got a spot where I intend to plant a bush once cooler weather comes as Autumn approaches and that I should start preparing now so your method sounds like it's work a try. I'll report on how I get on.

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On 1/12/2014 2:48 PM, Fran Farmer wrote:

No, gypsum is not a wetting agent. The original message in this thread mentioned soil that has very poor tilth (soil structure). Gypsum (calcium sulphate) reacts with compacted soil -- especially clay -- to make it porous and granular, to improve tilth.
If you can dissolve gypsum and get the solution to penetrate the soil, you should find that subsequent watering attempts should be successful. That is why I suggested starting with liquid soap as a wetting agent and then applying gypsum. First get the soil damp (wetting agent). Then apply gypsum and get it moist only enough to keep it in place in case there is wind. Then start it dissolving. Finally, rinse it into the soil. This can take 2-3 weeks. At each step, try to avoid any runoff.
--
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean, see
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On Saturday, January 11, 2014 12:47:25 PM UTC-8, Fran Farmer wrote:

How big is the area? If feasible,use a pick axe or mattock to break up at least the first few inches so slow long watering can start to penetrate. Guaranteed sore back and muscles, but a virtuous feeling of accomplishment. Worst comes to worst, pay a local teenager to do it.
HB
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On 12/01/2014 12:42 PM, Higgs Boson wrote:

Smallish in some places such as round some specific plants such as the blueberries I mentioned in another response, but in some areas it's bed sized. I'm really only going to concentrate on the more endangered areas at the moment - it's too darned hot to do anything more enervating.
If feasible,use a pick axe or mattock to break up at least the first few inches so slow long watering can start to penetrate.
The soil isn't compacted and can easily be turned with a fork or spade so opening it up isn't an issue.
I've tried the long slow watering and I can't understand where the sodding water goes. About 2mm on the top is moist even after a couple of hours of watering and below that the soil is like dust. It's almost like I'm watering some crop in China through some secret hidden pipe that is stealing my water.
Making mud pies using a hand trowel and stirring as I water with a hand held hose works, but for some reason the long slow watering (which I too think SHOULD work) doesn't seem to.

:-)) I do agree about the great feeling that gives. I have a number of 'mattocks' that are recycled, welded up then sharpened bitzers that are made from the leaf springs from cars. They are superb to use even for a woman of my years. I can swing one or other of them for hours and not feel any ill effects unlike the big, real mattock that we have stuffed in the back of the shed somewhere.
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Fran Farmer wrote:

We get backpackers working here sometimes. Most of them are good workers and we try to match the work to their capabilities. We had a young lady from Japan who weighed in at about 41kgs (85lbs for those who live in the boonies). At one point I handed her a mattock which she managed to hang on to with difficulty and then she very politley asked what did I expect her to do with it. I recovered my senses and took it back and gave her trowel. A while later a strapping Austrian lad (whose hero was Arnie Swarzzennegger) declared " I liiiike to diiiig". I thought to myself, I have just the thing for you my boy.
D
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On Saturday, January 11, 2014 5:42:19 PM UTC-8, Higgs Boson wrote:

Sounds like my brute force suggestion just rolled off (couldn't resist) the scientific wetting agent proponents.
HB
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Fran Farmer wrote:

i asked some other folks what they would do and i have gotten several different replies:
- mixing water and molasses at 10-20:1 ratio.
- adding compost and mixing it with the top layer of soil. i suspect adding moist compost would be even better.
- using more compost to cover the gardens once it is moist again to keep the moisture there from escaping easily.
- bentonite clay (not sure why anyone would add clay to dusty soil, but perhaps it would help make granules or clumps)
- which i think is what gypsum would do too for that type of soil but i've never had to deal with that myself so i can't speak from direct experience.
how is it going? making progress? :)
songbird
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Fran Farmer wrote:

Not enough details (climate, area size, growing?) but it's really a no-brainer... the best way to improve adobe-like soil is to till in organic matter and rich topsoil... invest in a Mantis tiller, a truckload of good topsoil, many bags of peat moss, and begin a composting program... over watering hard soil will just make a mess and when it dries it'll make your soil even harder. There's no magic bullet... you need to WORK at it... standing there with a garden hose only demonstrates gross laziness.
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Brooklyn1 wrote:

Peat moss! Far too expensive. Why use an expensive limited resource like peat that must be transported long distances (Fran is Southern highlands NSW and the nearest peat bogs are in Tasmania) when some other local source of organic material will do as well and be much cheaper. Peat moss is not available cheaply around the world, stop being so parochical.
and begin a

Why is it that even when seeming to be helpful you must put your strange insulting slant on everything. You know nothing about people but offer them gratuitious insult anyway. If Fran is anything like the farming women I know round here she has been working from daylight til dark these last 50 years and is only now slowing down as her body just can't do it any more. regardless of the that you are such an ignorant, boorish oaf. Come back when you can be civil.
David
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On Thu, 16 Jan 2014 09:07:31 +1100, "David Hare-Scott"

STFU, invalid!
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Brooklyn1 wrote:

Back in the bozobin for you.
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On 16/01/2014 9:07 AM, David Hare-Scott wrote:

:-)) I wish I WAS in the Southern Highlands of NSW.
That is where I was when my garden dried out despite Himself's good efforts.
We live even further south than the Highlands. We live in the Tablelands and I am pea green with envy at the growing conditions in the Southern Highlands. They have basalt soil and regular rainfall and, to put the icing on the cake, nighttime mists in summer. Not only do they have moist growing conditions in great soil but it's also cool enough to sleep at night. Lucky sods, but then they do pay for it given the price of all the real estate round there.
when some other

I've read and responded to posts from Sheldon in various newsgroups for about 15 years - maybe more. In one of the previous newsgroups we both used to post to (misc.rural), I wrote quite often about our farm and our animals and other aspects of my life. Sheldon obviously doesn't remember that.
In contrast, I have paid some attention and still possess some retentive memory so I know that Sheldon cooks for himself (but nothing that I would consider to be challenging or out of the ordinary), lives on a nice, neatly kept piece of land, that he lives fairly quietly on his land, that he regularly attends to maintenance tasks and seems to enjoy doing so, that he is not lazy, that he is interested in birds and wildlife, takes nice pics quite often and posts them for others to see also quite often, that he likes to own and use PTO driven devices to help keep his land neat and that we've never thought we would ever need even though we live in a place that is officially recognised by the Tax Office as a being a real, money earning 'farm'.
I also know from having read him for so long that he regularly makes gratuitously offensive sexual references that most men I know would also find offensive. He's a curmudgeon. He seems to go out of his way to try to be insulting and frequently insists that others need to do things his way and that others need to possess all the tools and boy's toys he feels the need to own.
He's never been the least bit subtle in his insults and so, in my opinion, is not very effective because of his transparency.
If Fran is anything like the farming

:-)) Well in many ways (chooks, food growing/preserving, garden, cooking, cattle work, fencing, shelter belt planting) I am like many farm wives. But I also went out to full time work and earned very good money for many years. We both did, which of course is why we can still manage to live on cattle producing land in retirement.
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I see I'm late to the party, and probably don't know what's going on, but that has never stopped me before.
Numero-uno: Sounds like you need more organic material in your soil.
Numero-two-o: Anionic Surfactants are negatively charged, and enhance foaming and other spreading properties. For example, shampoo for hair contains sodium or ammonium laureth sulfate, which is the preferred anionic surfactant for hair. Using an anionic surfactant in the greenhouse can cause problems with sprayers that have an agitator, or any system where the foam could disrupt water flow or pump suction. <http://www.caes.uga.edu/publications/pubDetail.cfm?pk_idv78#SoWhyNot & <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3555348/ Numero-three-o: boil kitchen fat, and wood ash together, and then spread on garden.
Numero-four-o: Siesta time.

--
Remember Rachel Corrie
<http://www.rachelcorrie.org/
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