The Q&A Archives: Needs help with dirt

Question: I moved here three years ago and was use to the most perfect dirt at the other house. I am having such a hard time gardening at our new house. We bought an existing house. The dirt is so clumpy and hard to work with. When it rains it is so clumpy. I had heard that at one time it was all farming. I do not have a good back which makes it harder yet. Please tell what I can do to make it an easier garden to work with. Do I put sand in the dirt??? Thank- You Helen

Answer: Most soils can be improved greatly by working in several inches of organic matter such as compost, rotted autumn leaves, or whatever other materials you can obtain locally at reasonable expense. Then use an organic mulch in a layer about three inches deep year round. This will break down slowly over time and continue adding organic matter to the soil. You could also plant cover crops such as buckwheat in summer and annual rye in the fall to help loosen the soil and add ample amounts of organic matter. In some cases, adding a small amount of coarse builders' sand (not the fine beach sand) or fine grit can be helpful, but keep in mind that a clay soil with sand added will dry out hard -- just like brick. Your local county extension should also be familiar with your local soil and may have some recommendations as to how to improve it. I hope this helps.

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