2013-11-20 at 12:29 am #24085
Hi everyone, i have a question, since i am a beginning permaculturalist…. i’ve just started designing and working on my backgarden paradise plan, and i have a question regarding soil….maybe somebody has the answer for me?
i just moved into my new house with garden, and started to remove the tiles that covered the garden soil. underneath is a layer of sand, which is covering a typical dutch clay ground. the sand and clay are not good for veggies to grow, so i know what to do (cardboard, humus, compost etc) but what to do with the sand??? should i take sand out? or can i leave it, to be mixed with the rest of the soil eventually?
thanks so much for viewing my question!2013-11-20 at 3:17 am #24087
Hi, I’m also a beginner to permaculture and soil specifics, but in my understanding, sand is one of the ‘antidotes’ to overly clay soil–after organic matter. And my understanding is also that adding organic matter is good for too-sandy soil and overly clay soil. . .
I have found a similar spot on my site under concrete pavers I’ve removed and I figured the sand will maybe help me with my highly compacted clay underneath–I’ve added cardboard and organic matter to the top–directly on the sand without mixing. Sometimes it’s recommended to add sand for crops like asperagus and carrot–so I’m thinking in the fall of trying those out here.
Hope that helps–unfortunately I can’t say if it worked yet. . .2013-11-20 at 3:30 am #24088
hi trisha, thanks so much for replying! sounds like clay and sand are the perfect components together then!2013-11-20 at 7:12 pm #24147
Hey, best thing to do is mix the sand in with anything you will be adding. But remember to build your soil from the top down. So don’t get too worried about what is on the very bottom. Deep into the soil it is natural even for excellent soil to not be or look as good. Prepare your garden right and mulch or sheet mulch very thick and allow it to break down for a bit before you start planting. As long as needed, and for starters just cast out pioneer plants and don’t worry too much right away about your early vegetables. Depending on your zone I could name few pioneer plants that would do the job.2013-11-21 at 7:12 am #24174
Sand + clay on its own in the right mixture can form cement. The way to avoid that is to add lots of organic matter. It sounds like you’re already planning to add a lot, so you should be fine. You may also want to check out hugelkultur: http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/2013-11-21 at 11:25 pm #25905
thanks everyone. valuable tips!2013-12-09 at 2:01 pm #28389
The only thing i can recommend is biochar, all other organic matter will need to be replaced periodicly. Biochar on the other hand will not need to be replaced as often, if kept from floating away.2013-12-16 at 1:28 am #32129
thank you for the tip! biochar is something i’ve used before, but did not think of now… guess i should follow up on my pizza oven idea…that would provide some charcoal… good for beans, right?2013-12-16 at 6:51 pm #32696
I agree with Eliza, but I wouldn’t bother trying to incorporate the sand. From your description you are talking about sand that has been imported and laid to provide a base for the concrete/tiles (per standard construction practice). Soil was probably excavated to create sufficient depth for the sand and paving to be laid. I would excavate the sand and rebuild the soil, being mindful of the underlying soil horizon (eg it may be compacted and need soil structure to be improved). Collect the excavated sand and recycle into some other useful purpose (e.g., kid’s sand pit, home made seed raising mix)2013-12-25 at 7:08 pm #34760
I can tell you from 18 years experience that the sand and clay are a good mix. I do a no till garden and it has never been like concrete. The clay alone can be rock hard.2013-12-25 at 10:37 pm #34782
I agree with Eliza. But while hugelkultur might help out a good extent depending on how you do it (and hugelkultur is pretty much applicable to many situations like this, it’s just a better way of using your land that many homesteaders push for) if you wish to keep a regular, flat landscape, I suggest you take away and store the sand, put a layer of dirt on, and then put a more organic layer on top followed by some mulch once things start growing to help hold in moisture and add nutrients. After you put the organic layer (which should be well decomposed by the time you want to sow it) you may want to sprinkle some sand on it to prevent snails from digging away at your fruits and veggies (put that sand to work!!). You shan’t mix the sand into the layers though for this may prevent worms and other forms of underground life from helping the soil. The mixed in sand also makes the soil more vulnerable to erosion and faster decomposition of the organic matter present. Sand also is harder on the roots of your plants, preventing growth and usual efficiency. Once you add mulch you may sprinkle more sand on.2013-12-25 at 10:43 pm #34783
In terms of the clay (I don’t know much about this subject), you may want to follow the others’ advice and add some humus. It’s easier to build above it so that when the clay does dissolve over the years, the plants have a larger cushion to grow in. If you truly think that the clay needs to be weakened, I suggest you follow the layering pattern in my previous comment, but add a well-decomposed organic layer before the dirt.
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