Given plants, how to fix soil for a bed?

nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)June 12, 2014

I was given a blueberry (will buy another) and a raspberry plant.
I will probably keep them in pots this year, since I got them so late. (NO digging here from May til fall rains!)
What would be something I can do over the next 9 months or so to work into the soil? My DH works at a woodshop that deals in mostly redwood, but also pine and some hardwoods.
I have NOT had a soil test. I can probably get a cheapo from the BB store, but can't really afford a true test
I can also work in something for a 3x3 raised bed.
Nancy

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lazy_gardens

Start a compost heap ... layers of sawdust (thin ones, or mixed with fresh green stuff), grass clippings, kitchen scraps.

Check Sunset's information on your zone. They often give the general soil type and get you into the ballpark. Save your pennies for a soil test: knowing what you have can save you $$$ in amendments and dead plants and time.

Blueberries - the domestic ones - are NOT as picky as wild ones about soil pH. they like well-drained but moist soil with lots of organic matter.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 6:42AM
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lazy_gardens

Start a compost heap ... layers of sawdust (thin ones, or mixed with fresh green stuff), grass clippings, kitchen scraps.

Check Sunset's information on your zone. They often give the general soil type and get you into the ballpark. Save your pennies for a soil test: knowing what you have can save you $$$ in amendments and dead plants and time.

Blueberries - the domestic ones - are NOT as picky as wild ones about soil pH. they like well-drained but moist soil with lots of organic matter.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 6:53AM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

You can get a good soil test for around $8.00 to $15.00 although not from your University of California CES since they do not test soils. The University of Connecticut does do soil testing from out of state. In addition to a soil tyest for major nutrients and soil pH these simple soil tests may be of some 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 drainsâ 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

Here is a link that might be useful: UCONN soil testing

    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 6:59AM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

I have several raised beds, all with soil from different places and times. I can't afford a test for each bed. Good to know U of C will do out of state tests, though!
I have since learned that oak leaf mold is good. My next door neighbor has 2 massive oaks and I have a leaf sucker!
I think I'll make a pile all by itself, just for the BBs. I have 2 tumblers and 2 finishing compost bins now. That just covers my other beds.
Pots for this year, and a new bed ;) for the berries for next year! Nancy

    Bookmark   June 15, 2014 at 9:08PM
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