Daylilies forum: Help with raised bed, drainage & amending soil???

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Name: Trudy
Oklahoma (Zone 7a)
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PeachLily
May 1, 2013 1:20 PM CST
Help!
I have one big fat mess in my garden.
Basically I have raised beds that were built on top of clay.
Nothing has been done for 5 years to them.
My husband dug the dirt and I realized this won't cut it. They were compacted and no depth at all.
I got 6 cubit feet of peat moss and cow manure and layed it on the garden.
It doesn't want to drink! I've shoveled and dug and mixed but they do not like each other.
I have a big fat soupy muddy mess that won't sustain planting any seeds as the runoff is in rivulets in just minutes of watering. The silly beds are now overfull of peat, clay, and cow manure and I am trying to mix them together but it isn't going well.
The clay had had sand added to it before I can tell.
I hesitate to do anything without some advice here.
It isn't draining well at all.
How do you make it drain? Add pine bark mulch? Garden soil? Sand?
I think peat moss was a total mistake.

Any advice will be appreciated.
I turned 50 today and this was my "birthday Present" to plant the garden!
That ain't gonna happen without some fixing!
Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing
You'd think I hadn't learned a thing in my years of gardening...
What would you do?
Sticking tongue out Sticking tongue out
If I had but two loaves of bread, I would sell one to buy flowers, for they would feed my Soul.--The Koran
Name: Juli
(Zone 5b)
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daylily
May 1, 2013 1:28 PM CST
I had a similar situation - I was building an entire area raised up on top of clay. A nurseryman friend had some bog soil from a nearby lake area and thought that would be great to add to my beds. Well, it mixed with the sand and compost and stuff and created huge chunks of concrete like stuff. He ended up bringing some professional soil busting equipment in and working on it. The long run was after a couple years, a lot more compost and other dirt and stuff, it all worked out. But mine is a couple feet built up over top of the clay, not raised beds.

I am sure someone has been through what you are doing and can help - hang in there!

Name: Trudy
Oklahoma (Zone 7a)
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PeachLily
May 1, 2013 2:16 PM CST
I know I should stop guessing here...but what if I put in a bunch of alfalfa pellets?
Wouldn't that help with the texture, drainage and nutrition factors?
Thanks for your experience Juli...that is what I was afraid of...I created two more years of work to "fix" the garden.
Oh well, I guess I will just have to skip the seeds and buy more daylilies since they grow for me in anything I put them in! Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing
If I had but two loaves of bread, I would sell one to buy flowers, for they would feed my Soul.--The Koran
Name: Jan
Hustisford, WI
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cat Lover Daylilies Dog Lover Irises Region: United States of America
Region: Wisconsin
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philljm
May 1, 2013 3:28 PM CST
Trudy, I like the way you think!

My two truly raised beds actually have a layer of gravel on the bottom to assist with drainage. Then I mixed peat & sand & dirt & compost and so far, both beds are doing fine - but they are only 3 & 2 years old. I have had no problem with solidfying even during last years drought, and the drainage still seems to be good. ~Jan
Name: Trudy
Oklahoma (Zone 7a)
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PeachLily
May 1, 2013 3:42 PM CST
Thanks Jan!
Actually, I went and got 50 lbs of alfalfa pellets but I hesitate to sprinkle in case it will make it too "hot" for seeds to be sown in the garden. I read they take a while to break down.
But I know I can use them on the daylilies in my other bed.
oh gosh...what a day...this is harder than baking bread! haha!
The good news is I wanted sage and got the last lonely plant at Lowes and they gave it to me for free because the pot had melted down and there was no spare pot so they put the plant in a bag and said it was waiting for me to "rescue" it and I could just have it.
Good things happen sometimes... :)
If I had but two loaves of bread, I would sell one to buy flowers, for they would feed my Soul.--The Koran
Name: Mary
My little patch of paradise (Zone 7b)
Gardening dilettante, that's me!
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fiwit
May 1, 2013 6:19 PM CST
Congrats on the sage! Thumbs up

If they added sand to your clay, they made concrete. How large are the raised beds? Length, width, height.... What are they made of? Tell me that, and I can tailor my suggestions.

Can you run a tiller through it? I would remove the peat (if possible) and use soil conditioner instead (big bags are inexpensive at both Lowes/HD... it's basically adding organic matter to the soil). Abandon all thought of planting in it this year other than some type of "green manure" cover crop, and instead, use this year to improve the soil in it. For what it's worth, I've never used peat in any bed I've built. I don't like to spend more than $2/bag for anything I buy, when possible. Hilarious!

Assuming you don't want to dig it out and start fresh, I would try spot composting. Bury your kitchen scraps in different locations of it all summer long. That will feed the microbes and worms and they'll mix that dirt up FOR you. You never know -- some seeds from the kitchen scraps might grow in it, and that would be like: "Bonus, Dude!" because you weren't expecting it, rather than the "bummer, dude!" if you plant seeds and they swim away.

Sometimes sheet composting is an easy answer... if you can add another layer or two to the bed's border (one of the reasons I like using landscape timbers), you can just raise the height, spread several layers of cardboard/newspaper/kitchen scraps over all the crappy soil and start fresh on top of the cardboard. The cardboard eventually breaks down and feeds the soil beneath it, and over time, you have a better bed.

I used to de-turf and dig new beds in my yard, but have decided that for me, raised beds are the way to grow. I do flowers, not veggies, so landscape timbers are an acceptable choice for me. Thumbs up

Just some thoughts. Your mileage may vary. Professional driver on closed course. Don't use electrical appliances in the bathtub, hot tub or swimming pool, and assorted other disclaimers apply. Whistling


(Ann - you caught the professional driver disclaimer, yeah? (or was that Natalie who liked that one?) ) Hilarious!
Northwest Georgia Daylily Society
I'm going to retire and live off of my savings. Not sure what I'll do that second week.
My yard marches to the beat of a bohemian drummer...
Name: Trudy
Oklahoma (Zone 7a)
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PeachLily
May 1, 2013 7:29 PM CST
Oh thank you!
I have timbers two deep and it is 3 feet by 30 feet.
It's 50% peat and 50% clay/sand right now.
I can build it up. That's what I will do with your very helpful suggestions.
I spent all that money...but I'm spending more to get it right.
I have GOT to have this garden!
Now then, I can also bury scraps and add the conditioner/compost from Lowes...
I'll think about it, but I'm either digging it all out or I'm building up!
Thank you for your help!
<My mileage always "varies"!! Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing
If I had but two loaves of bread, I would sell one to buy flowers, for they would feed my Soul.--The Koran
Name: Ann ~Heat zn 9, Sunset
North Fl. (Zone 8b)
Garden Sages Native Plants and Wildflowers Xeriscape Organic Gardener I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level
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flaflwrgrl
May 1, 2013 7:31 PM CST
Natalie was the one who commented but I liked it too. I don't want to be a copycat toooooo often. Hilarious! Hilarious! Hilarious!

Trudy ~~~~ HAPPY BIRTHDAY GIRL! Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! Hurray!

I'm sorry--- I have no suggestions. Never worked with clay. Now if you had problems gardening in sand I could tell you what to do.
I am a strong believer in the simple fact is that what matters in this life is how we treat others. I think that's what living is all about. Not what I've done in my life but how I've treated others.
~~ Sharon Brown ~~



Name: Mary
My little patch of paradise (Zone 7b)
Gardening dilettante, that's me!
Plays in the sandbox Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Dog Lover Daylilies The WITWIT Badge
Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Bluebonnets Birds Region: Georgia Composter Garden Ideas: Master Level
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fiwit
May 1, 2013 8:01 PM CST
PeachLily said:Oh thank you!
I have timbers two deep and it is 3 feet by 30 feet.
It's 50% peat and 50% clay/sand right now.
I can build it up. That's what I will do with your very helpful suggestions.
I spent all that money...but I'm spending more to get it right.
I have GOT to have this garden!
Now then, I can also bury scraps and add the conditioner/compost from Lowes...
I'll think about it, but I'm either digging it all out or I'm building up!
Thank you for your help!
<My mileage always "varies"!! Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing



I totally missed the b-day thing in your first post. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Hurray! Hurray! Hurray!

If you'd like a b-day gift, I have a daylily that's on your want-list. Figure out which one it is and t-mail me, and I'll send you a DF of it. (all I remember is that it's peach, and last time I looked, you and I were the only 2 with it on a list)

Is the bed landscape timbers? Which means it's at most 8 inches high? I'd dig it out and start over. The sand is what's killing you, probably. Everything I've ever read says it has to be pavers sand, and most folks dont' make that connection and use playground sand instead. I learned that there are way better options than sand.

So here's what I would do, if it was my bed and my back would support my ideas. Hilarious!

1. dig out as much of the clay/sand/peat as you can. Separate the peat for re-use.
2. as stated above, spread several layers of cardboard/newspaper on the floor of the bed. Wet thoroughly (personal experience has shown it's easier if you lay it first, and then spray it with a hose. Laying out wet newspaper is challenging, to put it mildly) You can add leaves too... either over or under the papers
3. Add a layer of kitchen scraps, bags of soil conditioner, and /or compost over the newspaper/cardboard. You might sprinkle your alfalfa pellets on the paper before adding the next layer, or you might want to put them under the papers. Your choice.
4. Add a mix of your salvaged peat, Lowes topsoil/potting soil (generic brand - check HD and see what it looks like in your area, but I won't use HD dirt here), and some good compost (mushroom compost? chicken compost, horse manure compost -- the generic Lowes compost is not really composted manure, it just has *some* manure added, per the garden guy at my Lowes).
5. plant whatever you want.
6. Continue to spot-compost over the summer, burying your kitchen scraps in the rows between the plants (but not fats, bones, meat or dairy).

If you wanted to be *really* cool and ensure the soil continues to improve with minimal hassle, I'd add 2-3 layers of timbers to the height (assuming landscape timbers), and start out with putting tree branches/limbs/leaves/old firewood that has started to rot as the bottom layer. That's what I call a "modified hugelkultur" concept. Dave explains hugelkultur over in the permaculture forum. Basically, all that wood will decay over time and make rich soil. AND it helps fill in a deeper bed so you're not buying as much soil to fill it in.


all the disclaimers above still apply. nodding
Northwest Georgia Daylily Society
I'm going to retire and live off of my savings. Not sure what I'll do that second week.
My yard marches to the beat of a bohemian drummer...
Name: Ann ~Heat zn 9, Sunset
North Fl. (Zone 8b)
Garden Sages Native Plants and Wildflowers Xeriscape Organic Gardener I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level
Butterflies Charter ATP Member Plant Identifier Region: Florida Dog Lover Birds
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flaflwrgrl
May 1, 2013 8:13 PM CST
Trudy, Mary knows what she's talking about. She's good at that. she works with Georgia red clay! Listen to her suggestions.
I am a strong believer in the simple fact is that what matters in this life is how we treat others. I think that's what living is all about. Not what I've done in my life but how I've treated others.
~~ Sharon Brown ~~



Name: Mary
My little patch of paradise (Zone 7b)
Gardening dilettante, that's me!
Plays in the sandbox Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Dog Lover Daylilies The WITWIT Badge
Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Bluebonnets Birds Region: Georgia Composter Garden Ideas: Master Level
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fiwit
May 1, 2013 8:14 PM CST
Aw shucks, Ann.... *Blush*
Northwest Georgia Daylily Society
I'm going to retire and live off of my savings. Not sure what I'll do that second week.
My yard marches to the beat of a bohemian drummer...
Name: Ann ~Heat zn 9, Sunset
North Fl. (Zone 8b)
Garden Sages Native Plants and Wildflowers Xeriscape Organic Gardener I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Ideas: Master Level
Butterflies Charter ATP Member Plant Identifier Region: Florida Dog Lover Birds
Image
flaflwrgrl
May 1, 2013 8:15 PM CST
If it ain't true; I don't say it.
I am a strong believer in the simple fact is that what matters in this life is how we treat others. I think that's what living is all about. Not what I've done in my life but how I've treated others.
~~ Sharon Brown ~~



Name: Mary
My little patch of paradise (Zone 7b)
Gardening dilettante, that's me!
Plays in the sandbox Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Dog Lover Daylilies The WITWIT Badge
Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Bluebonnets Birds Region: Georgia Composter Garden Ideas: Master Level
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fiwit
May 1, 2013 8:36 PM CST
Aw shucks, Ann... *Blush* Thumbs up

Of course, if I didn't think I knew what I was talking about, I'd keep my mouth shut (really? maybe not, but it sounds good, doesn't it?) Hilarious!
Northwest Georgia Daylily Society
I'm going to retire and live off of my savings. Not sure what I'll do that second week.
My yard marches to the beat of a bohemian drummer...
Name: Trudy
Oklahoma (Zone 7a)
Daylilies Amaryllis Orchids
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PeachLily
May 1, 2013 9:39 PM CST
Oh my gosh Mary I am soooo grateful for all of your advice!
Thanks for the birthday wishes girls! You are so sweet!
I just got back from dinner and I had been thinking about what to do. Of course hubby thinks I wasted all that money...so I gotta salvage it. I am gonna get a big trash can from Lowes and drill holes in it and half fill it with my mess....and compost on top of it for a year. Might get two so I can salvage all my "concrete" that was expensive. Yikes!

Yes, I will do the digging out tomorrow. I too, think they used play sand not builders sand.
I might have to sneak the bags of dirt in while my husband is at work. I'll tell him you guys said the garden will "be fine"...I told him I was consulting you ! haha!
Then, I will spend the day rebuilding the garden. Luckily I am off tomorrow too!
I hope my muscles don't give out on me...but boy am I motivated now~!!
You are so cool to write all those steps down for me!
AND a peach daylily to commemorate my 50 years and a new raised bed thanks to you! YOu are so kind!
I'm off to see which one we have in common!
Thank you all! YOu are the best! Lovey dubby Lovey dubby
If I had but two loaves of bread, I would sell one to buy flowers, for they would feed my Soul.--The Koran
Name: Trudy
Oklahoma (Zone 7a)
Daylilies Amaryllis Orchids
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PeachLily
May 1, 2013 9:51 PM CST
Mary!
It's Cameo Luster!
Oh my goodness!
Thank you girl!
Acorns for you! Hurray! !
If I had but two loaves of bread, I would sell one to buy flowers, for they would feed my Soul.--The Koran
Name: Mary
My little patch of paradise (Zone 7b)
Gardening dilettante, that's me!
Plays in the sandbox Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Dog Lover Daylilies The WITWIT Badge
Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Bluebonnets Birds Region: Georgia Composter Garden Ideas: Master Level
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fiwit
May 2, 2013 4:14 AM CST
Aw shucks, Trudy.... *Blush*
Northwest Georgia Daylily Society
I'm going to retire and live off of my savings. Not sure what I'll do that second week.
My yard marches to the beat of a bohemian drummer...
Name: Mary
My little patch of paradise (Zone 7b)
Gardening dilettante, that's me!
Plays in the sandbox Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Dog Lover Daylilies The WITWIT Badge
Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Bluebonnets Birds Region: Georgia Composter Garden Ideas: Master Level
Image
fiwit
May 2, 2013 4:19 AM CST
PeachLily said:Oh my gosh Mary I am soooo grateful for all of your advice!
Thanks for the birthday wishes girls! You are so sweet!
I just got back from dinner and I had been thinking about what to do. Of course hubby thinks I wasted all that money...so I gotta salvage it. I am gonna get a big trash can from Lowes and drill holes in it and half fill it with my mess....and compost on top of it for a year. Might get two so I can salvage all my "concrete" that was expensive. Yikes!

Yes, I will do the digging out tomorrow. I too, think they used play sand not builders sand.:



I learned about play sand the hard way. And you might want to put some branches/leaves in the bottom of the new compost bin -- just a couple inches before dumping the "concrete" into it. The more organic matter the better. And the branches will help it have air in the bottom, as well.

And tell your DH that money spent on education is never wasted. Whistling
Northwest Georgia Daylily Society
I'm going to retire and live off of my savings. Not sure what I'll do that second week.
My yard marches to the beat of a bohemian drummer...
Name: Jan
Hustisford, WI
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cat Lover Daylilies Dog Lover Irises Region: United States of America
Region: Wisconsin
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philljm
May 2, 2013 6:36 AM CST
Or cardboard/ newspapers on the bottom, everyone can get cardboard!
Name: Mary
My little patch of paradise (Zone 7b)
Gardening dilettante, that's me!
Plays in the sandbox Native Plants and Wildflowers Butterflies Dog Lover Daylilies The WITWIT Badge
Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Bluebonnets Birds Region: Georgia Composter Garden Ideas: Master Level
Image
fiwit
May 2, 2013 6:45 AM CST
That, too. Thumbs up
Northwest Georgia Daylily Society
I'm going to retire and live off of my savings. Not sure what I'll do that second week.
My yard marches to the beat of a bohemian drummer...
Name: Trudy
Oklahoma (Zone 7a)
Daylilies Amaryllis Orchids
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PeachLily
May 2, 2013 1:28 PM CST
http://thedailysouth.southernliving.com/2009/10/16/garden-my...

I found this link that speaks to my very issue.
Posting it in case anyone else ever finds themselves up their elbows in "concrete" like I am!
It is all consistent with the help given above but I thought I would add it to the thread in case it will help others with clay as an issue.

Have a great day!
If I had but two loaves of bread, I would sell one to buy flowers, for they would feed my Soul.--The Koran

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