Gardening Q&A: Soil Problem Solving. Part 2

Blossom Lady
May 30, 2021 04:06 AM

This is the second part of Q&A section, aimed to provide answers with good advice based on gardening experience. Knowing the answers to common soil problem solving questions can help you grow a healthier garden with less effort.

1. Why is soil that has lain idle for years so deficient in plant food? When grass, weeds, leaves, etc., are continually decaying on it, wouldn't natural compost be made? 

The weeds which grow on poor soils may not require the same proportions of elements for growth as cultivated plants. When these weeds die down, they fail to change these proportions. Besides, insufficient aeration, due to lack of turning the land, may cause trouble.

2. How can I restore the fertility of an old garden? Soil is sand, with a clay subsoil. I've tried manure, lime, and commercial fertilizer. 

The predominance of sand seems the difficulty. Try heavy applications of humus—manure, straw, alfalfa, hay, or the use of green manure.

3. The plot I expect to use as a vegetable garden is a vacant lot infested with weeds. Will turning the weeds under with a plow be sufficient preparation of the soil?

The plowing under of weeds will add humus to the soil. However, it may be too acid or alkaline: test for this. It may be poorly drained. It may need fertilization.

4. Our backyard is full of wild grass and weeds. Will soil be suitable for anything after condition is changed?

If the soil is heavily contaminated with weed seeds, the best practice would be to let it he fallow (unplanted) for 1 year before planting the desired crops. The chances are good that the soil can be modified to produce the common vegetables and garden flowers satisfactorily.

5. If the soil produces a vigorous crop of weeds, is it a sign that it will grow desirable things well? 

Usually, yes. If the desired crops are adapted to the soil type supporting the weed growth, they should do well.

6. What is the best way to handle soil which has been allowed to grow with bracken and creeping berry vines and has lain idle for years?

Mow or cut off and remove all undesired plants. (They may be put into compost heap.) Remove undesired woody material such as limbs and small trees. Plow or dig and leave in rough condition through winter. In spring, redig, fertilize heavily, and plant.

7. How can subsoil fill be converted so that vegetables can be grown?

Takes too long—not worth doing unless topsoil is hauled to a depth of 6 to 8 ins.

8. How can I build up soil that is mostly cinders?

In the upper 8 to 10 ins. incorporate manure and haul in soil. The final proportion of cinders should be not more than V4 of the total volume in top 6 ins.

9. My soil is very poor. How can I improve it?

Add 3 ins. manure or peatmoss; spade to a depth of 6 ins. Before raking add 4—12-4 or 5-10-5 fertilizer at 4 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.

10. What garden truck will grow on soil that has just been dug out for a basement 8 ft. deep and is left 3 ft. deep on garden plot? Would you lime and fertilize soil?

Only the top 6 ins. of that soil may be expected to be good. If the topsoil was not separated from subsoil, additions of manure and fertilizers would be needed; but even under such a treatment, not much should be expected the first year.

11. Are flowers or vegetables likely to grow in soil from which the top 18 ins. has been removed? 

Usually not. By manuring the sub- soil and planting green-manure crops, the soil may be made fairly good after 2 or 3 years.

12. I am planning to make a garden where the sod is rather heavy. How can I destroy this?

Plow or spade in the fall or spring. Apply complete fertilizer before spading to hasten decomposition. Sod land makes the finest of soils.

13. What is the quickest, cheapest, and best way to rebuild "stripped'' land, where loam was scraped off? By use of manure, fertilizers, and green-manure crops.

14. Will it be necessary to add extra fertilizer to the topsoil we have just put on? 

Add a fertilizer high in phosphorus and potash.

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