Greetings from the alt.solar.photovoltaic group!
I have a cabin in northern Michigan which has very sandy soil. Grass is
a wasted effort as are a lot of other plants. My veggies are going to
be using square foot planters. But, I want to try growing some flowers;
daisy, marigold, zinnia and whatnot.
Here's what I'm thinking to get the ground to hold moisture (I'm there
once week or every two weeks): dig out the planting area and line the
bottom of it with weed block or fiberglass window screening, then fill
it with peat/soil mixture. My planting area will be about 10 foot by 10
I live in southern Michigan and I have very sandy soil. Your solution
is expensive, requires a lot of work, and will make the acidity even
worse, but if you are willing to wait, one foot of compost will, over
time, fill the gaps between sand grains and vastly improve water
retention. It will also reduce to about two inches. If you build your
compost pile on top of the planting area and you build it well enough
(green/brown layered, start with material not too thick) it will take
two years. If you use 50% manure and 50% leaves (and in general if you
use manure in the pile, which sppeds composting) one year is all it
takes. Anyway, daisy thrives in poor, sandy, dry soil. Yarrow,
echinacea, and black eye Susan will also do well, as long as it is
sunny, and to a lesser extent many bulbs, asian lily, and of course
My flowerbeds received one foot of wood chips in the beginning, 7-10
years ago, and now they only get some wood ash and a thin layer of
leaves every year. They still get dry, but only after the trees leaf
out because there are large hickory trees on their North side. If you
have tree roots in the planting area, they will do more damage than the
"They" say the reason the US midwest has such great growing soil is that the
topsoil is fairly shallow and the deep subsoil is rather impervious to
water - in other words, the nutrients and moisture are held at the surface
by the topsoil.
Conversely, some of the deepest topsoil in the world is in the Blue
mountains of Australia, and it is pretty poor growing there- water and
nutrients drain right down out of the root zones.
In that mode of thought, I would think that instead of using weedblock or
window screen, you might be better off to dig out a foot to a
foot-and-a-half out of the bed and line the bottom with 6 mil plastic, and
make a foot-long cut every two-three feet in the plastic (to let any really
heavy rain a way to drain out). It would hold nutrients and moisture in the
Mix peat and soil and some compost with some of the removed sand, get a
proper PH, add some fertilizer, and sort of emulate the Minnesota-Iowa
prairies soil-subsoil setup.
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