Preparing new garden bed

asaund(6)March 13, 2011

Hello all and thank you in advance for answering my questions....

I have a large area in my back yard where - last spring - we unfortunately had to get rid of 4 dead pine trees. This year I would like an island garden bed. I have never done anything like this before and don't know where to start. For instance, do I need to dig up oldroots? All I have done so far is spread grass clippings over area and sprayed roundup on weeds that pop up. I live in southern Ohio and have heavy clay soil.

I assume the soil will be pretty acidic from pines so I plan on hydrangeas and other plants that can tolerate that ( would welcome any suggestions on other plants ). Area get full sun all say.

Thanks again. Amy

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Do not assume anything about your soil, look at what you have and find out what it may need. A good reliable soil test to determine what hte soils pH is as well as the levels of N, P, K, ca, and Mg would be appropriate now. In addition these simple soil tests can also help,
1) Soil test for organic matter. From that soil sample put enough of the rest to make a 4 inch level in a clear 1 quart jar, with a tight fitting lid. Fill that jar with water and replace the lid, tightly. Shake the jar vigorously and then let it stand for 24 hours. Your soil will settle out according to soil particle size and weight. For example, a good loam will have about 1-3/4 inch (about 45%) of sand on the bottom. about 1 inch (about 25%) of silt next, about 1 inch (25%) of clay above that, and about 1/4 inch (about 5%) of organic matter on the top.

2) Drainage. Dig a hole 1 foot square and 1 foot deep and fill that with water. After that water drains away refill the hole with more water and time how long it takes that to drain away. Anything less than 2 hours and your soil drains� too quickly and needs more organic matter to slow that drainage down. Anything over 6 hours and the soil drains too slowly and needs lots of organic matter to speed it up.

3) Tilth. Take a handful of your slightly damp soil and squeeze it tightly. When the pressure is released the soil should hold together in that clump, but when poked with a finger that clump should fall apart.

4) Smell. What does your soil smell like? A pleasant, rich earthy odor? Putrid, offensive, repugnant odor? The more organic matter in your soil the more active the soil bacteria will be and the nicer your soil will smell.

5) Life. How many earthworms per shovel full were there? 5 or more indicates a pretty healthy soil. Fewer than 5, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, indicates a soil that is not healthy.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2011 at 6:17AM
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Okay. Wow a lot of good info here.
Thank you for responding so quickly. I had to re read several times to make sure I got all info...
Can I use soil test kit from lowes or should I take it somewhere?

    Bookmark   March 14, 2011 at 8:57AM
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A better and more accurate result will be obtained from a soil test done by a soil testing lab. Those test kits from garden centers are not very reliable and do not provide enough good information about your soil.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2011 at 7:19AM
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Welcome,Amy, and good luck to your new garden. Btw kimmsr just need some getting used to. He's fine.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2011 at 9:26AM
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Thank you for the info. I know somewhere I can take batch of soil to get tested.
I appreciate the welcome ceth. Btw I thought kimmsr was fine. No worries there. Please assume I know nothing about preparing soil. From the little I've read here, I may not be composting right either! Lol.
I admire those who have experience sharing what they learn with others.
Take care. Amy

    Bookmark   March 15, 2011 at 11:29PM
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