The Q&A Archives: Soil Improvement

Question: My family has had the same 10 ft by 10 ft plot for close to 20 years. We burn the garden off each year, pull out the tomato plants, and plant a rye or clover crop in the fall to be plowed in to the soil. For the past 5 years our plants have yellowed, shown little fruit, or just not grown from seed at all. I would like to have a small vegetable and herb garden. What do I do to a soil that is in sections very sandy on one end and a lot of red/dark colored clay on the other? Or should I just plant grass and go into container gardening?<br><br>

Answer: Don't give up just yet! It is always a good idea whether you are having problems with your soil or not to have a soil test done periodically. Preferably from a well respected agency such as your County Extension Agent or local university. (Your local Extension office ph# is 603/787-6944) These tests are generally low to moderately priced or FREE. The test results will direct you in what specific problem areas you have and how to remedy them. Soil pH is often the cause of poor growth, so at the very least check that.<br><br>Further, I could spout the benefits of adding organic material to your garden for days--it improves both heavy clay and sandy soils. Add grass clippings, aged manure, shredded leaves, whatever you can get your hands on. You are off to a good start by sowing under your cover crops. Have you considered adding compost? Either your own household compost or mushroom compost can work wonders. Adding organic material to your soil will improve it drastically but works best if done ona regular (at least yearly) basis.

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