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Post new topic   Reply to topic    Irish Gardeners Forum Home -> Garden planning, prep and landscape design in Ireland

Bed Prep-Planting For The Future


 
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James Kilkelly
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Joined: 30 May 2006
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Location: West of Ireland

PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2007 7:44 pm    Post subject: Bed Prep-Planting For The Future Reply with quote

Bed Prep-Planting For The Future
By Todd Wessel

As a professional, when I get hired for an installation of a new landscape, I want the environment the plants are being installed into to be in the best possible condition. A good soil mix of compost, topsoil and a little sand would be perfect. This will aid in the water and nutrient holding capacity of the soil, faster and easier root development into the surrounding soils and drainage, by allowing water to move away from the plants.

Oh yea, and one more important thing. The prep makes for very, very easy digging.

When you can install a new landscape into these conditions, you're beginning the process for a long and successful landscape.


Adding compost to soil, photo / picture / image.

Our reputations are built from the ground up

Our reputations as professionals are built on our past performances. When you take time to prep your planting beds, you guarantee success to your clients and to your professional career. Happy clients and healthy gardens speak volumes to everyone.

I recommend these processes to all of our clients, trying to drive home the point that doing things right in the beginning, will result in a healthier and brighter future.

Nine times out of ten though, it comes down to money and the soil prep is the one thing that usually gets discarded as not necessary.

Clients would rather have the bigger plants, heck; we can worry about the soil later. Big mistake.

Amending the Soil.

If you can afford to amend the soil in your garden, do so. This is the most important thing you can do to guarantee the future health of your garden.

When you amend your soil before planting your landscape, you will be rewarded with better water and nutrient holding. Read this and then read again. I know I already said it once, but this is so important;

Better water and nutrient holding capacity in your soil(more efficient fertilizer usage and watering time for you), faster root development into surrounding soils ( plants will establish themselves faster, grow healthier with less effort from you) and help with better drainage by allowing water to drain away from the plants.

When soils stay wet, plants struggle and die. Most soils in our area have a descent amount of clay in them. Clay soils will hold onto water, draining very slowly. Soil that drains slow stays wet longer. When soils stay wet, plants die. AMEND YOUR SOIL!

Amend your soil like this.

If you have a heavy clay soil, spread 3" of compost on top of your beds and till to a depth of 12". This should help tremendously. The compost will help loosen the soil, creating more space for oxygen and helping with drainage.

A heavy duty rear tine tiller from a hire shop will do a great job. Let the machine do the work for you. This size tiller should have very little problem getting thru any soil.

If you have a sandy soil, water runs right thru. Use a 50/50 mix of topsoil and compost and cover beds to a 3" depth then till. Follow the same steps as above. The topsoil and compost mixture will help with the water and fertilizer holding capacity of your soil, allowing more to stay around the root zone longer.

Figuring out materials.

To figure out how many yards of compost you need(measure the length x width of your garden) to get square feet-->example 20 feet long x 10 feet wide= 200 square feet---- now you want to figure out how deep you want to put the compost. We said 3" of compost on top of the soil before we till--- take 3" divide by 12" to get the factor to multiply with the square footage of bed space. 3/12=.25--- 200x.25=50.00--- now divide 50/27 which is the cube factor----50/27=1.85 cubic yards of compost. Order 2 yards.

Practice with different depths of compost till you get good at the calculations.

When the prep is complete, make sure to grade the soil away form any buildings to allow for proper drainage.

I don't think I need to amend my soil.

If you can't afford to amend your soil, don't worry, most plants will survive (survive not flourish) in the poorest of soils, as long as the soil doesn't stay wet all the time. Wet soils limit oxygen to the roots and most plants end up suffocating and dying.

When you dig in wet soil, it has a fool odor and makes a sucking sound when you pull out the shovel. Amend this with compost or change the plans

Plants installed into soil that is not amended, will survive and grow, but nowhere near as fast or healthy as in soils that were amended.

Root systems will struggle to expand into hard clay soil and dry out faster from lack of water in sandy soil. Fertilizer will get held up in wet clay soil, never getting to the roots, or flow right by in the sandy soil because there is no holding capacity.

You have two choices.

Amend the soil before you plant and reap the rewards of doing things right or plant into the existing soil and baby-sit your landscape as it struggles to mature.

Todd Wessel

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shefra
Rank attained: Hawthorn Tree
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Joined: 09 May 2007
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PostPosted: Sun May 27, 2007 10:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Inreresting articleGPI, my problem, or should I say one of my many problems is that my soil is clay in a very badly drained site. Could you give me a rough estimate how much it would cost to drain, site half acre incl dormer. Is that the way I should go, after I win the lotto?!!
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James Kilkelly
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Joined: 30 May 2006
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Location: West of Ireland

PostPosted: Sun May 27, 2007 12:00 pm    Post subject: cost to drain? Reply with quote

If your soil is a very heavy/sticky clay then drains alone may not solve your drainage problem. This is because the standing water has to reach the drains by travelling through the soil first. If the clay is so heavy that water will not pass through it, then the water will reach the drains too slowly to have any great effect.

So, my first suggestion to most people before they resort to spending a sizable amout of money on land drainage, is to amend the clay soil through the addition of organic matter and horticultural grit/drainage chip. These additions will help open up the soil to allow a passage for water. You may be surprised how effective this can be. Try spreading a 5cm (2 inch) layer of each onto the soil and digging in to the top 30cm (12 inches) of soil.

Digging the soil over in dry weather and keeping off it in wet weather is also benificial. As is sowing areas with crops of potatoes, the action of earthing up and digging out the potatoes plus the potatoes themselves helps break the soil down and open it up.

If after improving the soil through ammendments it is still badly drained then you should consider installing land drains

We have an article within the site on land drains. Garden Drainage


Last edited by James Kilkelly on Mon Mar 24, 2008 12:12 pm; edited 1 time in total
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shefra
Rank attained: Hawthorn Tree
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Joined: 09 May 2007
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PostPosted: Mon May 28, 2007 9:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

THanks for that GPI, wil check out the site.
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