Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Soil Problem

In my area, the main component of my soil is fine sand.  Technically, as I learned today,  it’s called “Bonneau fine sand, 2 to 5 percent slopes”.  The USDA has this handy website that has data from soil tests from all over the country, so if you’re really excited to learn about your soil’s “parent material” (mine is sandy and loamy marine deposits), you should check out this website: http://websoilsurvey.nrcs.usda.gov/app/

Right, the reason I brought up my soil composition is because of my plans for my new (since August) tiny backyard.  I have these plans.  They’re for growing plants.  In the dirt.  Novel, right?  Now, I’ve been a small container gardener for a couple years now.  And it’s ok.  I can stick a plant in a pot and it’ll usually do pretty well.  I’ll get some veggies, and I usually won’t kill it.  But that’s not how I was raised to garden.  I like to really get in there.  Digging deep, dirt flying, soil up to my armpits.  Did I mention that my boyfriend calls me his dirt child?  Yeah...

Anyway, this sand, this planting medium that I’m plagued with, isn’t the greatest for holding organic matter.  Compost, manure, leaves, mulch, they all disappear after a time.  And I don’t mean that it breaks down (though it might...), I mean that it’s gone.  Poof.  Like it gets eaten, or blown away, or carried off on a swift current.   According to the USDA, my area’s typical profile looks something like this:

  • 0 to 9 inches: Fine sand
  • 9 to 29 inches: Fine sand
  • 29 to 38 inches: Fine sandy loam
  • 38 to 84 inches: Sandy clay loam
That’s a lot of sand to amend.  And the sand is eating my soil amendments.  From what I’m told, it’s not impossible to amend sandy soil, but it requires a lot more work and money that I am willing or able to spend.  

So I’m going to ignore the sand almost altogether.

Enter the world of raised beds.  

From my research, I have narrowed my options down to three.  
  • Hugelkultur
  • Lasagna or Layered beds
  • Purchased garden soil
Each has its pros and cons, and I’ll be going over all of them in depth in later posts.

Now, I’m still working on the logistics of this.  Do I want to contain my raised beds, or just build a pile of stuff?  Should I dig into the sand?  Or just lay everything on top?  I have many questions, and I’m excited to find my answers.

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