Our backyard garden has bad dirt. It's amazing how it can rain, yet 24
hours later, the soil is dry and cracked.
I'm thinking of renting a tiller this spring and improve the soil. What
should I mix in to improve the soil? Peat? Peat moss? Compost? Something
On Sun, 30 Apr 2006 19:09:35 +0000, Duncan Tuna wrote:
Good day Duncan. To improve your soil's water holding ability you will
need to add some sort of organic matter to the native soil that you
already have. Peat is an alright choice, but it has a low nutritional
value, where as compost will add organic matter and nutrition.
Measure the square footage of the lawn area in question.
Next figure out how much organic material you will need. To do this you
will need to know that a cubic yard will cover 108 square feet a 3" deep
(10 foot X 10 foot square). You will want to add at least an inch with 3
to 6 inches being the best ammount to have if possible.
Survey the area and see if the amount of new soil will alter the grade too
much around your house, patio, trees, driveway ect.
Rototill the lawn area first, then again after the new soil/compost is
layed. Rake out the lawn area after the tilling then roll the lawn with a
lawn roller. This is an important step that many folks leave out. Re-seed
the area and cover with hay to keep the birds out of it untill it sprouts.
The hay will multch up when you mow.
Aside from dry what is your soil like? Does it have rocks, sand, clay, some
mix of these? What colour is it? If you wet it with a hose does it drain
in an hour or two or turn to sticky mud?
As others have said organic matter is mostly what you need. Peat moss is
very expensive and not that useful in this context. If you had enough money
to do a whole yard with peat you would be better off giving a big cheque to
a landscaper and telling them to fix it. Tilling in itself will not do much
unless you also improve the texture. Tilling can make it worse in some
situations as you can bring up the crap the builder buried or just nasty
subsoil that is worse than your topsoil.
You need to find a cheap (you will need a lot) local (you don't want to pay
big $$ for cartage) source of organic material. Unless your yard is very
small think in terms of truckloads not bags. Some ideas:
- Some local (municipal) authorities compost all the trimmings from their
parks etc and sell the compost very cheaply to ratepayers.
- Stables (ask at the racecourse) may sell you horse manure or stable
sweepings cheaply or even give it away.
- Local farms or feedlots may have cheap material: manure, spoiled hay,
straw, hulls, spent mushroom compost etc
- Don't forget to compost your own grass-clippings, plant trimmings and vege
In addition to earlier advice, be aware that most tree roots exist in
the top 12-24 inches of soil. If you have trees, do not rototill the
soil within the trees' driplines. Top-dressing with compost is
probably your best bet. Worms and insects will carry it downward for
ISA Certified Arborist #TX-0236AT
If you're thinking about compost, good idea. Kitchen scraps work great,
but don't use protiens or fatty foods - meats, cheeses, etc. - the fat
will go rancid and rotting meat stinks - and attracts flies and
varmints. Mix your compost with grass clippings or soil, so you don't
just end up with rotting sluge in the dirt. Also, consider testing the
pH of your soil - a pH kit for swimming pools will do fine. You'll be
amazed what a difference it makes in the quality and texture of your
I'm a dork! I should have clarified. Protien's great, meat and dairy
waste gets nasty. Sorry - that was unclear.
Also, I guess it depends on where you live. I'm in the city, so my
compost piles are within three yards of the house. If there are smells
and flies, it's a problem for me and my neighbors. But somewhere where
there's more land, I'm sure the waste would be fine - if you were far
If your compost smells bad, you're doing something wrong. Possibly,
the pile is too wet or not getting enough oxygen. I've been
composting for many years and the compost has an earthy, organic odor
that is not objectionable at all.
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