Mint For Success

Lawn Company Secrets

Lawn Company Secrets

Get Instant Access

Soil chemistry can contribute to heavy texture and poor drainage. Too much magnesium acts like cement. If your soil tends to be heavy even though it's low in clayt test magnesium levels. They should be (and almost always are) much lower than calcium. If you get more than half as much magnesium as calcium, you could have problems.

On acidic soils with adequate magnesium, switch from using dolomitic limestone to calcitic limestone,

Watch Your Magnesium which contains only calcium and no magnesium. V\ here magnesium levels are really high, you'll need to add gypsum (calcium sulfate) to correct the calcium-magnet^"11 balance and loosen the soil. Gypsum has a reputeuon (or loosening any heavy soils, but it really makes a drd<r.ano difference only where unusually high magnesium levels compound the problem.

TO GREAT SOIL

tl doflble-dig, you loosen and mix tin- first toot of soil, blending in amendments as you go and then loosen the deeper soil in place. Do it a few weeks before you intend to plant, and its benefits will last from several vears to indefinitely. It improves drainage and aeration, loosens compacted or heavy soils, improves root growth encour ages earthworms and other soil organisms, distributes nutrients and other amendments evenly through the root zone, and leads to healthier plants.

Outline the area with stakes and string. If the soil is very dry or very hard, water well and wait a day. Remove any existing sod and troublesome weeds. Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost, leaf mold, or aged manure evenly over the area. Also spread lime or sulfur if needed to correct pH.

Start digging a trench about a foot wide and as deep as your shovel along one long side Place removed soil in a cart or on a tarp so rnat it's easy to move.

Florence Soil

Dig another trench alongside the first, turning the removed soil into the first trench and mixing in any amendments. Continue to the for edge of the bed Fill the lost trench with the soil from the first trench. Just before planting, rake the surface smooth.

^ Drive the tines of a garden fork or a broadfork as deep as you can into the bottom of the trench. Rock fee handle bock and forth to loosen the subsoil. Spread a little compost over the loosened soil.

Dig another trench alongside the first, turning the removed soil into the first trench and mixing in any amendments. Continue to the for edge of the bed Fill the lost trench with the soil from the first trench. Just before planting, rake the surface smooth.

impkovino N«w t

Improving Comp and Hardpan

Compacted soils cause several problems. A thin compacted layer within looser soil called hardpan, can have the same effect as soil that's completely compacted. In dry climates, natural rocklike hardpans called caliche are common. Any soil compaction often causes poor drainage. Roots can asphyxiate because there aren't enough pore spaces to allow air into soil; any existing spaces may be filled with water. Some soils and hardpan layers (especially caliche) are so dense that roots can't push through. These effects work together to restrict plant growth and health.

Some Solutions

Four techniques open up channels in dense soils with little or no danger of added compaction.

  1. Earthworms. The first is the easiest: Encourage earthworms. If soils are only moderately compacted, earthworms may be able to loosen them for you.
  2. Green manure plants. Use green manure plants with tough, deep roots. Grow'ing a crop of alfalfa or sweet clover can help open up compacted soils.
  3. Broadfork. Use a broadfork. It can loosen hardpan enough for earthworms to tunnel through, at least in spots.
  4. Double-digging. In small areas, double-dig. It really helps to loosen soils and break up hardpans.

Preventing Compacted

Never cultivate soil when it's w

Don't step on beds when soi! is wet (minimize even when dry).

If you must walk on wet areas, lay down wide boards and walk-on the boards to distribute your weight over a larger area.

Install permanent paths on heavily traveled areas.

Don't drive or haul heavy loads over wet soil or lawns.

Disrupt soil structure as little as possible.

Minimize use of rototillers to prevent formation of tillage pan.

Choose lighter equipment such as push mowers rather than riding mowers or garden tractors.

Maintain high humus levels, as spongy, porous humus resists compaction more than most soils.

Encourage earthworms (abundant organic matter and minimal deep cultivation are the best ways to do this).

Avoiding Compaction

Any soil that's become compacted once is at risk of future compaction; clay soils are also at risk. Working these soils when wet can compress them into dense potter's clay, and they'll stay compressed once they dry. Wait until soil is moist, not soggy, to dig or cultivate. Moving__

heavy loads or even walking on such soils can cause compaction, so minimize both or wait until soil isn't soggy.

Minimize any activities that disrupt soil structure, especially tilling. To avoid creating a tillage pan or plow pan, don't turn over your soil unless you need to incorporate phosphorus, lime, or sulfur. Spread compost on the soil surface rather than tilling in leaves or other raw organic matter, or do each in alternate years. Try just raking rather than tilling to create beds for seeds or transplants.

Organic matter is a good shock absorber. Adding it improves aeration and drainage of compacted soils and helps keep soil loose after double-digging. ■

After years of adding organic matter, building up earthworm populations, and balancing your soil, you should see a major improvement in stability of soil structure, reduced compaction, and little or no hardpan.

■■■■■■■■

Grasp both handles and hold the too' vertically. Use one foot on ♦he lower bar to push tines deep into the soil.

Bar Digger Broadfork

Pull bock on the handle to rock the tines forward.

a few feet away and repeat the process until you've covered the entire area.

hardpan soil auger

Planting Trees and Shrubs ower Hardpan

Before you plant an expensive tree or shrub, dig a hole through the hardpan layer to the porous soil below, using a posthole digger or sharp spade. If the layer is really hard (such as caliche), you may need to rent a soil auger to bore through it.

Planting Trees and Shrubs ower Hardpan

Before you plant an expensive tree or shrub, dig a hole through the hardpan layer to the porous soil below, using a posthole digger or sharp spade. If the layer is really hard (such as caliche), you may need to rent a soil auger to bore through it.

sing a Broadfork

Broadforks (also called U-bars) are great for breaking up shallow hard-pan in lawns, in and around flower and shrub teds, and before planting shrubs or trees. Using it once or twice a season will allow more water to penetrate and increase aeration. Two types are available. The more common has a horizontal handle that you grip at both ends. The other type is shaped like a large U with vertical handles (hence the name U-bar). You can use a garden fork as a substitute, but it doesn't work as well and takes more effort.

Once again, make sure soil is only slightly moist before you start. Work gently around existing plants in established beds, and don't get too close to shallowr-rooted trees and shrubs.

Advantages of a Broadfork

  • It can 1* used in small corners.
  • You'll get faster results than from deep-rooted green manures.
  • You can avoid the compaction caused by heavy equipment.
  • It is much less expensive than hiring someone with a tractor and subsoiling attachment.

Pull bock on the handle to rock the tines forward.

Grasp both handles and hold the too' vertically. Use one foot on ♦he lower bar to push tines deep into the soil.

a few feet away and repeat the process until you've covered the entire area.

hardpan soil auger

Improving Sandy or Excessively Drained

While most plants prefer well-drained soil, it's possible to have too much of a good thing. Soil that drains too quickly is impossible to keep moist for very long, and applied fertilizers are quickly washed away.

Theoretically adding a truckload of clay would improve the texture, but organic matter works just as well, is easier to handle, and is readily available. In addition to mixing organic matter into the soil, keep at least 2 inches on top at all times. Mulch slows down evaporation, keeps soil cooler, and contributes more organic matter.

Adding Nutrients

The nutrient problem requires an additional strategy. Instead of applying fertilizers all at once, feed plants smaller doses throughout the season. The sandier your soil, the smaller and more frequent the feedings. Try one-third the recommended amount (following label directions or amounts suggested in chapter 6) at the beginning of the season, an equal dose after a third of your growing season has passed, and the last dose two-thirds of the way through your growing season (in time for plants to use it before the season ends).

Watering

If you live where water supplies are limited, invest in a drip irrigation system. By delivering water efficiently, it minimizes nutrient leaching. Soaker hoses are an inexpensive alternative. Lay soaker hoses under mulch and leave in place for the season (disconnect from the hose leading to the water supply when not in use). That way you water the soil rather than the mulch.

Sunken Beds

If you have no problems with salt levels, creating a sunken bed is another good way to reduce watering. Surrounding sunken beds with low walls further increases their effectiveness by reducing air movement, which reduces evaporation. If you live in a windy area, you'll probably want to install a larger windbreak to shelter as much of your yard as possible from the drying effects of wind.

A Few Drought Plants for Sandy

Perennials

Aloes (Aloe spp.) Artemisias (Artemisia spp.) Autumn sage (Salvia greggii) Blanket flowers (GailUirdia aristata, G. x grandiflora) Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) Coneflowers (Rudbémm

Echinacea spp. ) Euphorbias (Euphorbia spp.) Evening primroses (Oenothera spp.) Herbs

Mulleins (Verbascum spp.) Ornamental grasses Ornamental onions (Allium spp.) Stonecrops (Sedum spp.) Wildflowers. shrubs, and trees native to your region Yarrows (Achillea ñlipemiulina,

A. millefolium) Yucca (Yucca spp.)

Lawn grasses Bermuda grass (Cynodoti dactylon) Blue grama grass (Boutelouo gracilis) Buffalo grass (Bucldoe dactyloides) Zoysias (Zoysia spp.)

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Lawn Care

Lawn Care

The Secret of A Great Lawn Without Needing a Professional You Can Do It And I Can Show You How! A Great Looking Lawn Doesnt Have To Cost Hundreds Of Dollars Or Require The Use Of A Professional Lawn Care Service. All You Need Is This Incredible Book!

Get My Free Ebook


Responses

  • UTA
    How to loosen compacted soil?
    9 years ago
  • PALADIN GOLDWORTHY
    How do the abilities of mint add humus to the soil?
    3 years ago

Post a comment