The Q&A Archives: New Garden

Question: My wife and I just moved into our new house last September and we would like to try starting a vegetable garden this spring. Our yard used to be pasture and has clay type soil. I've decided to turn over 300 sq. ft. (15'x20'). How much peat moss should I add and what else might I consider doing to my soil to get it ready for planting?

Answer: Heavy clay soil is a real challenge! First I'd send off a soil sample to the UCONN Extension Service and tell them exactly what you're going to plant there. They'll tell you what soil amendments to add. You can contact them at 203-486-4125; just ask for soil test kit information and they should be able to direct you. <br><br>That said, the best way to lighten clay soil is to add lots of organic matter. Peat is OK, but it will get awfully expensive. Are there any farms near you, where you could get some well-rotted manure? During the summer, save up grass clippings and use them to mulch the plants; in the fall, shredded leaves make a great addition.<br><br>Your soil may be quite acidic--the soil test will tell you if and how much lime to add.Some people claim that greensand, a soil amendment made from marine deposits, helps loosen clay. Others have found gypsum to help.<br><br>I wouldn't spend too much money on peat. Rather, I'd save up all the organic matter you can (including composted kitchen waste) and add that. It takes a few years to really loosen up heavy soil, so be patient! <br><br><br><br><br>

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