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clay soil fix?

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clay soil fix?

Post  ninny on 2/21/2011, 9:35 am

We just moved and found out we have clay for soil. So raised beds it is. Im wondering though if these tubs i have lying around would work instead of having to spend a ton on building supplies this year. They are plastic and almost two feet deep and a foot wide at the smallest point. Beans would work im guessing. What about melons? I was thinking of putting the cukes, melons, pumpkins etc..in them against a dog kennel panel to grow up. How could i find out how many plants to a tub?

Next question I really want strawberries. So these guys will be getting a real raised bed. How much space per plant?

My thought is to buy new dirt each year and use the old dirt to fill the new raised bed.

Does this sound like a good idea?

What grows well in clay soil?

Thanks!

ninny

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Re: clay soil fix?

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 2/21/2011, 10:23 am

Welcome, ninny. Glad to see you found us. Missouri is well-known for some of it's clay soils, for sure. Where did you move from? And, I see zone 5, where are you now? I assume north of KC and STL?

As for your questions, many people around here can really help you out. You won't find a better place to get gardening questions, of almost any kind, answered. But, obviously, we stick mostly to SFG methods.

SFG is not just a raised bed, as I'm sure you know. It's a methodology that saves time and work. It's a bit of work in the beginning to get things set up correctly, but then the workload really drops off. And, doing it right from the beginning will really save you time in correcting things in the future. I would highly recommend reading Mel's new version of his book.....All New Square Foot Gardening. It not only explains a lot of your questions, but also details the concepts behind them much better than I can..or have the space to.

Your tubs would work. There are a lot of people that grow in containers, and I don't see this being much different. Make sure they drain, and I would put some filler of some type in the bottom if they are in fact 2 feet deep. You just don't need that much for the roots....if you are using Mel's concepts. Typically, you only need 6 inches of soil. Yes, only 6. However, if you plan to grow root crops like longer carrots or potatoes, you may want 12 inches of soil. So, your tubs sound plenty deep. I would fill the bottom foot with sand if it were me. And, everything you mentioned should do fine.

How tall is your dog panel? Melons and pumpkins can really grow. And, the fruits can get heavy. I would make plenty sure that old kennel panel can support the weight.

Plants per tub would be interesting because if you let them spill out, you won't get as much in there as if you trellised them up your paneling. If the tubs are a foot wide at the smallest point, I would mark things off in perfect one foot squares and put one melon per square....maybe per two squares if I were going vertical with them. But, I am not the most experienced with melons.

We have several strawberry growers here, too. I would look for them to answer here, or search "strawberries" or something close in the search feature.

The real trick to this method, and forum, is to use Mel's Mix....a calculated soil blend that will provide an outstanding growing medium for just about anything. And, will do so without the need to fertilize or condition your soil anymore. For heavy clay soils, it's absolutely the PERFECT solution. Equal parts of compost, vermiculite, and peat moss all mixed together. Again, you can't go far on this site without finding more details of how to mix it or prepare it. Just know that in a raised bed, it will solve all of your clay issues. And, it will answer the question about replacing old dirt and adding new dirt each year. This is specifically what SFG gets away from.....reconditioning soil constantly.

My recommendation to you would be to 1) buy and read the book. (It's a super quick read). 2) Commit to building raised beds, however small, and commit to the soil mix. 3) Ask all your questions here...even if you think it's been asked a thousand times. 4) Learn as much as you can in the coming weeks because spring is coming quickly.

I hope you stick around for a long time. And, take some pictures of your "tubs" and plans. We can help much better with some images. After all, that's what this entire community is here for....to help. There are a few things we all agree on, but there are many others we experiment with and debate. Again, welcome aboard. Glad to have you.

BackyardBirdGardner

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Re: clay soil fix?

Post  ninny on 2/21/2011, 10:41 am

Thanks! Ill try and check out the book at the library again. The sand sounds like a good idea and cheaper then packing peanuts as was suggest to me elsewhere. Only wondering how heavy the tubs would get. I just jumped the river from Illinois to Iowa. The tubs are what i call muck tubs. Like you would use at a horse stable for the poo. I have several panels of different heights. Wondering if grapes would work in the tubs. Not plaining on stay at this house forever so id want to take them with me.

ninny

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Re: clay soil fix?

Post  FarmerValerie on 2/21/2011, 10:56 am

I agree, stick with what the book says. I am having to do it the hard way, last year I used the soil I had on hand, which was mostly clay, this year we are bringing in dirt, but not adding vermiculite. I also did not have grids last year, but am adding them this year. So, I am not officially SFG'ing, but using as many of the methods as possible. My reason is, hubby was not sold on this, and in all honesty, still not completely convinced on the Mel's Mix and boxes instead of cut landscape timbers (author of post shudders). He is VERY set in his ways, if it has worked in the past for so-and-so, it will work now for us. So, I am having to convince him, step by step, and sell him on the process. He still gets his dad's old tractor (it's older than his dad) and tears up a spot, and rows plants. As long as he stays out of my patch that's fine with me. Little by little he is coming around, but it means more work for me and the kiddos in the long run.

So, my advice, as BackyardBirdGardener says, is start with and commit to the Mel's Mix, and use your tubs for now, with boxes/beds being built along the way as finances and space allow. You may also want to do a search on the forum for TTSFG, Table Top Square Foot Garden, lots of people here have those, and they could be moved later.

FarmerValerie

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Re: clay soil fix?

Post  staf74 on 2/21/2011, 12:32 pm

When moving from Boston to SC, I thought for a moment I had landed on Mars. The builders of the subdivision on my new house had completely removed all the vegetation when grading the area and EVERYTHING was red. Started with a total blank canvas. The red clay is simply awful to grow veggies IMO. Of course, indigenous trees and many things do grow and thrive (Bermuda grass will grow on top of concrete I swear!!!) but when it rains, the air pockets are forced out of the clay and it hardens like concrete. It is supposed to be mineral rich but might take years to ammend and get it right for the SFG approach.

You simply can't go wrong with Mel's Mix. Instant gratification. Of course, you may freely choose to try and work the clay and I'm not sure if your clay type is like ours here in SC but jeez......this stuff is....well.....OTHERWORLDLY !

Perhaps I could use the native soil to build myself a pottery business..thats about all I would attempt with that stuff Wink

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Re: clay soil fix?

Post  FarmerValerie on 2/21/2011, 12:45 pm

@staf74 wrote:

Perhaps I could use the native soil to build myself a pottery business..thats about all I would attempt with that stuff Wink

If you decide to do this, let me know, I have said the exact same thing, after I tile my own floor with the stuff in the yard, to hide the dirt mind you.

FarmerValerie

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Re: clay soil fix?

Post  FarmerValerie on 2/21/2011, 12:45 pm

Maybe I should have said, MATCH the dirt.

FarmerValerie

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