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 Post subject: Dry, clay-heavy soil, mulch and life
PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2011 10:58 am 
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Venomous Head of Veganism
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So here in Omaha the most common mulch is big gigantor woodchips. I'm looking for something for the base of my tomatoes and strawberries because the soil here is so full of clay and soooo dry. So first of all...mulch will help, right? And second of all, I should be using smaller mulches, like hazelnut shells, right? And C) there is no hazelnut mulch here! It seems like all I can find is gigantic wood chips. So should I just use them? Or is there a better idea? I think I should have built beds and filled them with good top soil, but I didn't. And at this point, I don't want to transfer everything to beds.

So I guess my final questions is, since everything is already planted, is there anything I can do to aerate and moisturize the soil? It gets so compact that it starts cracking, and I worry that once the heat really kicks in, all will be lost. Even if I water everyday.

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 Post subject: Re: Dry, clay-heavy soil, mulch and life
PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2011 11:03 am 
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ol' garly cooch
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Hey Isa, check out Lasagna Gardening by Particia Lanza. Good stuff in there. Natural mulch is just processed vegetation and wood chips. Mulch can be made of anything really-(glass, plastic, shredded paper), the point is that it keeps the ground moist, beautifies the yard, and keep weeds at bay.

When I mulch, I lay down newspaper or cardboard and mulch above that. i keep a couple of inches of soil around the base of the plant so the mulch doesn't burn the plant, because some mulches are too acidic-(like pine!) for the plant.

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 Post subject: Re: Dry, clay-heavy soil, mulch and life
PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2011 11:10 am 
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But the size of the chips doesn't matter? This is what my mulch looks like:
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid= ... =1&theater

It seems too big for the base of tomatoes. At the very least, it's aesthetically too big, no? It's kind of hard to tell, but the average wood chip is like 3 inches long.

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 Post subject: Re: Dry, clay-heavy soil, mulch and life
PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2011 11:12 am 
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I got myself this thing:
Image
And it's amazing! It really breaks up your soil, and deeply. It also it good for removing weeds, and also for tilling in some good soil. I would suggest you get a compost-y soil mix or something to amend your soil with. Oh and the red thing also works fine just aerating in-between the plants, as close as you can without hurting the roots too much.

I've seen people use gravel or pebbles for mulch, I'm sure you could find that. I do hate the gigantic wood chip kind of mulch myself, I always get splinters around it, even if I'n being careful. Also if you have a lawn, you can lay your grass clippings down as a mulch, but they don't last super long, it's probably better as a bottom layer mulch, then with something on top.

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 Post subject: Re: Dry, clay-heavy soil, mulch and life
PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2011 11:23 am 
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Very cool! So you don't worry that you're going to destroy any roots with that thing?

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 Post subject: Re: Dry, clay-heavy soil, mulch and life
PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2011 11:28 am 
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Well, I generally know where the roots are, as when I did it around already planted plants, they hadn't been in the ground too long, like a month or so. Maybe if you do it near plants that have been there for a year/years, yeah you might mess up some roots, but as long as the roots you are messing up are the outer edge small, thin roots, I don't think the plant will mind, the aeration will probably still be good for it. If a root is super big, it's not going to cut it anyways, you'll feel it snag and you can stop.

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 Post subject: Re: Dry, clay-heavy soil, mulch and life
PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2011 12:03 pm 
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ol' garly cooch
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Isa, that mulch is fine. Just keep an inch or two of bare soil around the base of your plants. Those roots will do their thing.

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 Post subject: Re: Dry, clay-heavy soil, mulch and life
PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2011 12:22 pm 
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jewbacca wrote:
Isa, that mulch is fine. Just keep an inch or two of bare soil around the base of your plants. Those roots will do their thing.


Can you explain this? I thought it was good to mulch close to the plant so that the water soaks in better with less soil erosion.

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 Post subject: Re: Dry, clay-heavy soil, mulch and life
PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2011 7:32 pm 
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My parents have very clayey soil in their yard and it does crack during hot dry summers. The mulch will help keep the soil from drying out in general, but really the best thing is to amend the soil with organic matter. Large mulch chips will break down very very slowly. Compost applied under the mulch would help. Another option is to try and plant your plants closely together to reducing the light hitting the soil and drying it out. A dark colored mulch will heat up more than a lighter one. In addition you may want to apply grass clippings with the wood mulch. Decomposing wood encourages organisms that are symbiotic with woody plants, but decomposing grass will be better for herbaceous plants.

For future gardening seasons, you may want to try raised beds or double digging. Or, if you're not feeling that energetic, repeated application of compost will eventually open up the heavy clay soil. My mom has been applying composted horse manure to her garden for decades now and that is one of the few places in the yard where it doesn't crack open during droughts.


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 Post subject: Re: Dry, clay-heavy soil, mulch and life
PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2011 10:53 pm 
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we used old mulch from our town's leaf mulch pile for most of the filling for our raised beds, but if you can find something like this, it might work- they don't add grass, which can be a problem if its added bc of all the chemicals people add. Also it looks like omaha had cheap compost from the local waste management facility-http://www.omagro.com/- i wish we did here in the middle of nowhere.


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 Post subject: Re: Dry, clay-heavy soil, mulch and life
PostPosted: Sat May 28, 2011 1:05 pm 
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Tuiren wrote:
My parents have very clayey soil in their yard and it does crack during hot dry summers. The mulch will help keep the soil from drying out in general, but really the best thing is to amend the soil with organic matter. Large mulch chips will break down very very slowly. Compost applied under the mulch would help. Another option is to try and plant your plants closely together to reducing the light hitting the soil and drying it out. A dark colored mulch will heat up more than a lighter one. In addition you may want to apply grass clippings with the wood mulch. Decomposing wood encourages organisms that are symbiotic with woody plants, but decomposing grass will be better for herbaceous plants.

For future gardening seasons, you may want to try raised beds or double digging. Or, if you're not feeling that energetic, repeated application of compost will eventually open up the heavy clay soil. My mom has been applying composted horse manure to her garden for decades now and that is one of the few places in the yard where it doesn't crack open during droughts.

Thanks so much! I am building at least one raised bed smack in the middle of the garden now that I'm older and wiser. I'll post pics!

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 Post subject: Re: Dry, clay-heavy soil, mulch and life
PostPosted: Wed Jun 01, 2011 11:44 am 
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ol' garly cooch
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Mars wrote:
jewbacca wrote:
Isa, that mulch is fine. Just keep an inch or two of bare soil around the base of your plants. Those roots will do their thing.


Can you explain this? I thought it was good to mulch close to the plant so that the water soaks in better with less soil erosion.


Sure! It doesn't have to be more than an inch or so, but you want a circle of soil around the base of the plant so the mulch doesn't burn the stem. Some mulches-(pine, pine, pine!) are very acidic and will burn the plant.

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