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Keyword Search Results for:
Soil

9 Found

Question: 486-811
We have a clayey Soil and were not very successful last year with our half acre of vegetables. Can you recommend some soil amendments soil ? Theresa, Brighton, CO

Mort's Answer:
You will need lots of manure and other organic matter and sand or stone dust. Equal amounts of these for the first year and plenty of manure, shredded leaves and grass clippings will raise the ability of the soil to absorb water and nutrients in subsequent years. When you see night crawler worms in your soil, you will know you have the balanced soil texture that you need.

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Question: 681-312
We have the calcified soil here in Austin. How deep does the good soil have to be for vegetables? We have a drained area that collects top soil. Elizabeth, TX

Mort's Answer:
You can have raised beds, if the good soil is not at least eight inches. Raised beds should be at least 18 inches deep, especially for root vegetables. If you decide to use the drained area, you can rototill the soil to mix with the hard soil. Both the newly tilled soil and the raised bed should have at least two-thirds organic material. Aged steer manure, grass clippings (if no herbicide has been used), aged compost, shredded leaves and aged sawdust are all good as well and good loam.

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Question: 547-2111
Where can I get my soil tested? James, Austin,,TX

Mort's Answer:
If you are testing for pH, you buy litmus tests at the garden shops. Pink coloring indicates alkalinity,while blue indicates acidity. I suspect you have an alkaline soil and can use gypsum or micronized sulphur to get the pH closer to neutral 7. State land grant colleges offer fertility tests as well as pH tests for a small fee. If you have old hydrangeas that favor the pink rather than blue, your soil is alkaline. Newer red and pink hydrangeas are now bred that do not register the variations of color.

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Question: 554-2311
I just tilled an area 10 feet by 20 feet. It is all virgin Soil that I bought to cover the area? Should I use manure and how do I keep out the critters from the nearby woods? Frank, Westerly, RI

Mort's Answer:
If you bring in manure now to plow into the new loam, it has to be aged. You can apply about ten pounds of hydrated lime to release the nutrients that are in the soils. You need to erect a fence with chicken wire that goes into the ground at least a foot down. This will discourage rabbits and wood chucks to a lesser degree. I would suggest that you set up a Hav-A Hart trap with graham cracker and peanut butter away from the garden. Deer can still be a problem. They can leap over a twelve foot fence. They may avoid a 200 sq.ft. area. Pie plates on stakes to reflect light under the moon and intermittent sound will discourage them.

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Question: 662-4911
What are some plants that will remove metals from the soil? David, San Francisco, CA

Mort's Answer:
All soils, especially acidic, have some metals in them. Most are not harmful. Heavy metals can contaminate soil in excess. According to the EPA, sunflowers were used in Chernobyl, Ukraine to remove contaminants in a process called Rhizofiltration. Plants were raised in greenhouses in contaminated water before planting at the site. Alpine pennycress is used for Phytoextraction of zinc and cadmium. Cattails were used in Tennessee to absorb excess coal dust carbon. Carbon is not metallic but can putrefy soils. Some metals can show up as indicators with color change in plants. Some house plants like spider plants are effective in removing pollutants from the air. It is best to get soils tested before planting vegetables or other edibles, if you have any hint of pollutants.

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Question: 722-1312
Our soils are very clayey. What amendments will help improve this? Bill, Locust Grove, OK

Mort's Answer:
Optimum soil is two-thirds organic matter and a third granular soil. You need to add both organic matter and coarse sand. Old shredded leaves, compost, aged sawdust, grass clippings (without herbicide) and aged manures are all excellent annual additions. Till these in every fall or spring until that body becomes healthy. You will be able to smell the good soil.

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Question: 1098-914
I recently got a soil test and it is 5.5 to 7.5 pH with a lot of calcium. My kale and cabbage are already up. Do I need any amendments? We have a lot of robins. George, Boaz, AL

Mort's Answer:
Because you are in zone 7, you can start with those leafy vegetables that survive frosts. I expect folks to get going later this year than last, when we had a warm March in most of the country. Please send those robins, harbingers of spring, up north. You will not need lime this year in areas of 7.0 pH and over. Using aged manure will always help. Lime will release nitrogen and phosphorus in acidic soils (below 6.5).

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Question: 1125-2014
My soil is very muddy. I am anxious to start some seeds now. What do you suggest? Katie, Marquette, MI

Mort's Answer:
Because you are in zone 5, you will need to wait for May 30, as your last average frost date. You could start plants indoors now and place the seedlings in peat pots after germination. Plant the entire seedling peat pot and all in June. I would be partial to 60 day maturation veggies. If the soil is still wet when the warm weather is there, put down a thin layer of sand for seeds. You should do this for indoor seeds anyway.

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Question: 1307-2116
I heard that it is not good for the soil to be tilled in the spring? What is better? Bob, Uncasville, CT

Mort's Answer:
Turning the soil in the fall will allow more time for bacteria to eat the decaying vegetable matter. You can not possibly kill all the beneficial organisms in the soil by plowing or tilling in the spring. It is easier to turn the soil in the spring if you wait until it has dried. I use a dust mulch, which just scarifies the top two inches. This difference in texture discourages evaporation of water from the lower soil and pulls the weeds out. If you do this every two weeks, you will not need to till the soil in spring or fall.

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