I live in an area where if not inhabitated would be desert. Our "soil" is
sand. I have a small spot I want to do some planting in and am going to dig
that area out. I want to fill it back up with something as close to actual
soil as I can get. What is best, possibly a mixture of soil admendment and
potting soil that can be bought at the home improvement centers. I want to
plant maybe a couple of ornamental grasses and flowers. Thanks for your
A "small spot" is meaningless... about how many cubic yards are you
talking... ten cu yds is not a lot. You will be better off buying topsoil
with compost added by the truckload (check your yellow pages for a local
supplier), then periodically add amendments you can buy by the bagful at
your local home improvement center. It'll be much too expensive to buy the
quantity of soil you're likely to need by the bagful. People almost always
under estimate the quantity of soil they need by at least twofold.
Depending on how much of a rush you are in, you could plant some green
fertilizer. I'm growing rye and clover but buckwheat and sweet peas
would work also (look at cover crops:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cover_crop ). The rye and buck wheat puts
out an incredible amount of organic material beneath the ground and the
clover, or legumes will fix nitrogen. Some nurseries have mixes called
"green manure". Once up, cut it or not, spread with amendments (manure,
bone meal, phosphate rock), and lay newspaper or cardboard over all of
it. Cover cardboard or newspaper with mulch (I prefer alfalfa). Hose
down the mulch and then poke in hole where you are going to plant.
Voila, no dig, lasagna gardening.
"For the first time in the history of the world, every human being is
Hi Paul, if you're from Brooklyn NY there's a general chatboard for people
from there and Queens called
http://members6.boardhost.com/QueensNYer/ you may want to check out. It's a
nice bunch of people from those boroughs who discuss everything.
In a reply, you describe a plot that is about 5.6 square feet. Get a
large bag (NOT a compressed bale, which is too much) of peat moss and
stir it thoroughly into the sandy soil that you already have. Buy the
smallest boxes or bags you can find of blood meal and bone meal; stir
those thoroughly into your soil. Broadcast over the soil enough gypsum
to create a 1/4 inch layer; stir that in. (Desert soils often contain
salts; gypsum will help leach the salts away.) ALL STIRRING should be
to a depth of at least 2 feet.
Plant. Stand back. Things will grow very quickly.
One thing you don't want to do is create a pit with one kind of soil
where the surrounding soil is entirely different. The roots of some
plants might resist crossing the interface. When summer gets really
hot, those plants will die because their roots are too shallow.
Instead, you want to improve the sandy soil but leave it sandy. Then
roots will grow into the adjacent unimproved sandy soil.
The limiting factors in your garden will be water and heat. Peat moss
will help the soil retain some water, but you will have to still water
frequently. Many plants cannot take the heat of summer in the desert.
Check with a local nursery to find out what plants are suitable for your
You can buy large inexpensive bags of topsoil and composted cow manure at
Home Depot or Lowe's and mix them with about 30% of the sand. With a little
fertilizer added, your flowers and grasses should thrive.
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