Revitalizing soil after construction

pachai(6 NorthernNJ)May 14, 2014

I am about to do a project that will disturb the soil
in my backyard, as I dig long, deep trenches for
geothermal pipes. I was thinking this is a good time
to implement another thing I have been thinking of.
I have long thought og having the top few inches
of soil carted away and replaced with compose or topsoil.

I have a small city lot, and all the soil is very hard
packed dirt that struggles to grow much. (except no problem growing the last vestiges of a Black Locust
that we did not want and that had to be removed
for the construction :-).

My questions are,
a) will just digging up the soil, turning it be beneficial?
b) should I have more dirt carted away and bring in some kind of compost?
c) Is it useful to mix compost or potting soil with the soil being disturbed by the work?

I do have some compost and some almost-mature humanure, but not a lot.
I printed out David Hall's article about sources of cheap compost...will refer to that.

Is there anything else I can do to the soil,
eg, wet it, etc. so that it will be more fertile?

Seth in North Jersey

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Don't throw away your topsoil. Most can be improved w/o replacing. If it has ANY different color from the subsoil, it likely has more organic matter and life in it than the subsoil despite appearances. Work with what you have and improve it.

If raising the elevation by amending with compost is a problem, you could remove some and replace with compost, or preferably, remove subsoil instead so you have deeper topsoil.

You might want to get a soil test before you start so you know what you're dealing with. pH, organic matter, NPK and minor minerals.

Don't bother with potting mix, it's made for pots and is usually just compost and shredded wood, but at a much higher price per pound for the privilege.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 6:56PM
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jean001a(Portland OR 7b)

It's hard because it's dry.

So moisten it, dig it, and amend it.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 7:39PM
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Soil that is hard and packed says it lacks adequate amounts of organic matter. In answer to your questions
1. Only if you also add organic matter.
2. Only if you need to to maintain the same height and slope that presently exists. Removing the existing mineral portion of soil usually serves no purpose.
3. Absolutely. Organic matter, compost or other vegetative waste is what that soil needs and that is a good time to add some. Potting soil (usually peat moss) may be too expensive for this purpose.
"Topsoil" is valuable only if it contains that 5 to 8 percent organic matter.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 6:31AM
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