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Rock hard soil..

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  • Rock hard soil..

    This will be my first full season on my plot and I'm off to a bad start. Potatoes in, and ground was turned over a few weeks ago however something called the sun has made an appearance in central Scotland this week and turned half of my plot's soil which doesn't have anything in it yet to complete concrete!

    Advice on what to do? I've ropped in my husband to help me this weekend (pregnant and a none agreeable pelvis putting me out of action on the heavy digging) but I don't know where to start? I tried to turn it over with the fork and underneath isn't looking much better, it's making me sad as last month the soil looked lovely! Is it just perseverance with digging or can I do anything to make it easier?

    (And it's fine, because something managed to get into my greenhouse and eat all my seedlings too so I'm having to start everything again, so it'll be a while before things are going in!)

  • #2
    Don't worry, it'll soon rain again!
    Is it weedy? If not, I'd just dig out a little hole where you want to plant something, give it a water, maybe fill it with compost if you have any and plant in it.
    i don't believe in digging for the sake of it
    A Chicken walks with small steps. Be more Chicken
    https://gardenchicken.blogspot.com/
    @realveggiechicken

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    • #3
      Originally posted by veggiechicken View Post
      Don't worry, it'll soon rain again!
      Is it weedy? If not, I'd just dig out a little hole where you want to plant something, give it a water, maybe fill it with compost if you have any and plant in it.
      i don't believe in digging for the sake of it
      Thank you! There's a very small amount of weeds, really not much though. Glad to hear the rain should cure it, I was so disheartened when I went down today.

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      • #4
        You have obviously got clay soil. Get as much organic matter in to it as you can and it will improve over the years. There's not really a quick fix. If you want to so direct take out a drill deeper and wider than you need and fill it with compost, re make the drill and sow the seeds.

        I have used the chop and drop method of composting and it has worked wonders. Heavy mulch will help to stop the soil drying out and should keep it workable.
        Gardening requires a lot of water - most of it in the form of perspiration. Lou Erickson, critic and poet

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        • #5
          Don't be disheartened. Amanda! It'll be fine!
          Once its rained, if you have any cardboard that you could lay on top of the bare bits, its should keep it soft and moist until you're ready to plant.
          A Chicken walks with small steps. Be more Chicken
          https://gardenchicken.blogspot.com/
          @realveggiechicken

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          • #6
            I had this. When I needed to cultivate, I just watered a patch. .. You haven't done anything wrong and your soil will be fine.

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            • #7
              I have this too. If I dig it and leave it rough, it sets into hard concrete lumps. If I break up the lumps while it's still damp, it sets into crazy paving.

              The best think is to mulch it with anything organic you've got handy, like cardboard, garden compost, grass clippings... then you can plant through it or brush loose stuff back for seed sowing. Over time the mulching improves the top layers of soil.
              My gardening blog: In Spades, last update 30th April 2018.
              Chrysanthemum notes page here.

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              • #8
                My garden is the same, grass clippings by the sack load have worked wonders for it.

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                • #9
                  As everybody else has said, water it before you dig, get as much organic matter into the soil as you can, (grow green manures that helps). Dig as little as you can. When I started, I defined where I intended to plant and put weed suppressant fabric over the paths between the beds. That way if I dig, its only the places where I'm going to plant stuff. Don't walk on the beds! Sow in drills with compost in them. Plant plants rather than sowing direct in the soil for most things. (I grow things like beetroot in 2cm plugs and plant the plug when its got its first true leaves).

                  Unfortunately, if your clay is like mine, if you don't add compost every year will revert to type. but its fertile and grows good cabbages.

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                  • #10
                    Ditto here ...
                    It is a bit of a problem, but as all the good folks have suggested re mulching/compost, really perseverance will make it not such a problem ...
                    I was fortunate enough to have a literal heap of 'cow muck' donated by my lovely old neighbour. I forked it over and added mounds of garden compost, and that has worked wonders!!!
                    ~~~ Gardening is medicine that does not need
                    a prescription ... And with no limit on dosage.
                    - Author Unknown ~~~

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                    • #11
                      I have a nice rock hard soil at times, when it doesn't rain. The veg bad is however very easy to "dig" actually can turn it all over with a hand trowel.

                      As others have said add stuff to it, just about any stuff. I have thrown on old compost (ex-potato's in containers), bark chips, manure, composted bark chips, those cocoa flakes stuff you could buy years ago. Basically anything.

                      It will rot/compost/break down and change the nature of the soil.

                      If you add bought compost remember that it will be simply material to alter the structure as any feed in it soon disappears. Get whatever is inexpensive as really you don't care, since it is not being purchased for specifically growing plants in.

                      I suspect that when it rains next (soon no doubt) you will have to consider what to do about your soil and set about it. Or rather you will have to put together a plan for the other half to follow while you assume the managerial role.

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                      • #12
                        I have the same hell here , it's either too wet to dig, fill a bin with weeds you can't move the thing , after no rain it's now like cement . Compost , top soil does help, as does mulch, leaf mould, my problem is it sinks and disappears .
                        Spent day wedding by hand , I've got hand ache .
                        Living around the wet and windy scottish border, otherwise known as 'no man's land' .

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                        • #13
                          Same problem on my plot. I use lots of compost as suggested before and LOTS of sharp sand - not too expensive from B&Q if you buy 10 or more bags. I dig at least 30cm deep and apply generously. Never use ordinary 'builders' sand as it will leach out nasties.
                          Last edited by ldsau93; 14-05-2016, 08:48 AM.

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                          • #14
                            I've got a couple of rock hard sections on the flower bed area where *I confess* I was walking on the soil instead of using a plank when planting and now it's too solid even for my spade to get through I'll try watering the area tomorrow and poking it with a fork once the water has had a chance to sink in. I've leant a lesson there....don't walk on your soil
                            If I'm not on the Grapevine I can usually be found here!....https://www.thecomfreypatch.co.uk/

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                            • #15
                              On a clay soil you need to be careful how deep you dig. If you are like me and have a thin layer of topsoil over a bed of clay then deep digging just adds more clay to the growing medium.

                              I dig down just to the clay layer around the bed and pile the topsoil onto the bed. This raises the good topsoil to a better depth and allows better drainage. The lowered paths around the bed mean I don't walk on the beds.

                              Then mix as much compost, manure and green material into the bed as possible.

                              Beware of adding bark chippings because they use all the nitrogen in the soil as part of their rotting down process.
                              The proof of the growing is in the eating.
                              Leave Rotten Fruit.
                              Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potasium - potash.
                              Autant de tĂȘtes, autant d'avis!!!!!
                              Il n'est si méchant pot qui ne trouve son couvercle.

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