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Name: tim
los lunas new mexico (Zone 6b)
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theer
Oct 16, 2013 4:31 PM CST
Hi
What can I grow in the native soil in los lunas new mexico
The soil is yellow in color and hard like dried clay. I want to grow a vegetable garden. I have 1/4 acre
Thanks

Name: Lin
Florida (Zone 9b)
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plantladylin
Oct 16, 2013 4:46 PM CST
Hi theer ... Welcome to ATP.

I can't really offer any advice on which plants will do well in your area since I live in the far Southeastern U.S., which has totally different growing conditions than yours but I'd think with hard clay soil, you'd have to amend it with some good organic compost/soil to get vegetables to thrive. You might be able to get some suggestions from folks over on the Southwest Gardening Forum: http://garden.org/forums/view/southwest/ from those who live and garden in that particular area of the country.

Again, Welcome! I hope you find time to browse through some of our forums here and pop in and introduce yourself!

Lin
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Name: Deb
Pacific Northwest (Zone 8b)
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Bonehead
Oct 16, 2013 6:40 PM CST
Warm welcome from the Pacific Northwest. I also advise visiting the SW forum, there is a lot of discussion there about dealing with the soil, heat, lack of water, etc. Hope you enjoy this site as much as I do.
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Name: Cheryl
Kingwood, Texas (Zone 9a)
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ShadyGreenThumb
Oct 16, 2013 6:48 PM CST
We have clay in our soil too. But it is wet, like modeling clay. We fed it with tons of lime to help break it down for many years in a row. Then added a lot of additives to help it hold moisture. That has worked for us. But 1/4 acre? IDK?? That sounds like a lot of work. NewYorkRita plants all her veggies in pots. Maybe you can get hints from her? Otherwise, I would suggest contacting your County Agent Extension Office for some hints on what to do with your particular area soil.
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Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
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Newyorkrita
Oct 16, 2013 7:01 PM CST
I do plant veggies in pots but hardly all. I had all my 60 tomato plants and all my pepper plants in ground. I have all my cucumber plants and beans in ground.

Mainly I am thinking that you need to add compost, compost, compost.

Tim Welcome to ATP. Welcome! Welcome!
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
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RickCorey
Oct 16, 2013 7:25 PM CST
Hi Tim.

>> hard like dried clay.

My first guess is "not much". In theory, look for vegetables that can stand "very poor drainage" and "very heavy clay soil" and hot dry climates. But are there any such? I think you'll have to improve your clay or buy or make soil "from scratch" then grow in containers or raised beds.

Hot dry air, especially with wind, means vegetables will need to be able to take up lots of water to stay alive. But clay defeats roots by excluding air. They suffocate (or "drown") when they try to live in damp clay.

Drainage is part of the answer., like finding a gradual slope you can exploit. Butthe soil itself has to improve. There are fast expensive ways and slow cheap ways that take a lot of work. Top-dressing with SOME compost and then using cover crops is a very slow, very cheap way that might be th3e easiest solution for growing actually IN the ground.

I started with heavy clay, but had to fix it up by amending it with lots of compost. (I also added shredded bark, sand and grit, but mostly you need tons of compost or almost anything organic.)

If you can get free leaves, coffee grounds, shredded paper, sawdust, kitchen scraps, rotten fruit from fruit stands, animal manure or "biosolids" from a treatment plant, you can turn that sterile, anaerobic, poorly-draining clay into fertile soil.

One trick is to amend only the top inch or even a layer that sits on TOP of the clay. grow cover crops in that "lasagna layer" and let their roots break up the clay underneath. That might take more than one year, but it is the easiest and cheapest way to beat clay.

Probably the best cover crop for your region is whatever local feed stores sell the most of. Fall rye, buckwheat, vetch, cow peas, alfalfa, timothy, clover or most likely a mix.

I read about "tillage radishes" being able to drill their own holes right into hard clay, so i tried some "Daikon radishes". They went to seed, and now I get some amazing volunteers right on hard clay. of course, sometimes the radish wins, and sometimes the clay wins. I think this one is a tie:

(Once you double-click on one photo, you can see allt he rest by using the right-arrow at the bottom of the photo. "ESC" gets you back to the text.)

Thumb of 2013-10-17/RickCorey/cb0787 Thumb of 2013-10-17/RickCorey/c7bc7b Thumb of 2013-10-17/RickCorey/bb9baf


Another trick is growing veggies in 4-6 gallon pots, where you make the soil yourself one cubic foot at a time. In the "Edibles and Preserving Forum", @Newyorkrita turned her driveway into the Garden of Eden or a Horn of Plenty. Your clay can't be MUCH worse than her blacktop driveway!

My preferred way to deal with awful soil is to set up 8" walls, then dig down 8" with pick and mattock, then build it up 8" above grade with a raised bed. I screen rocks out of my clay and break it up with a screen. I add manure, compost, sand and bark. LOTS! The soil is still awful for a year or two, but I keep adding compost, tilling, and growing whatever I CAN grow, and "inoculate" each new bed with soil from my best bed, to bring in beneficial soil microorganisms. The leftover roots each year contribute more organic matter than the compost I could make or afford to buy.

After several years of that, I only till every 3rd year or so, but still have to add compost every year, even if I only scratch it into the top 4". Others just lay compost on top once or twice each year, "and let the worms work it in".

I used concrete paving stones as the cheapest, easiest way to make raised bed walls that won't ever rot (I have 8 months per year of drizzle and fog).

Thumb of 2013-10-17/RickCorey/194e96 Thumb of 2013-10-17/RickCorey/a2557a Thumb of 2013-10-17/RickCorey/43f539

Good luck with your clay! I hope you aren't daunted, and keep coming back to tell us how you found sources of compost and triumphed over gardening adversity.


Thumb of 2013-10-17/RickCorey/ad25e8 Thumb of 2013-10-17/RickCorey/2d8a41 Thumb of 2013-10-17/RickCorey/8e29fc

Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
Oct 16, 2013 7:33 PM CST
@theer I have seen posts on other forums where they were calling this type of soil 'Caliche' - using that as a keyword in a Google search shows several ways to make it work - the important part is that you will have to work harder than most gardeners to create a space for the plant roots to access nutrients and as @RickCorey said, drainage is important as well.
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Oct 16, 2013 8:10 PM CST
Hmm, Los Lunas NM. You're near the Rio Grande River? At least you might be able to afford to irrigate!

I see "Bosque Farms" nearby, so it must be possible to grow something there. Whatever feed store or farm coop they use is a good place to find out what the local Dos and Don'ts are.

The ATP member map shows that @hemiaym lives fairly near you, he or she may have some pointers for dealing with local soil.
http://garden.org/users/memberlist/map.php

Someone in the SW forum mentioned agricultural sulfur, so I guess you have alkaline clay.


Here's a thread in the SW Gardening to forum to start with:
The thread "Preparing the landscape for cool weather plantings.." in Southwest Gardening forum

Their most active threads seem to be the monthly "chat" threads.

Oh, yes: local extension and university ag departments. The government is shut down today, but maybe tomorrow you can click on "Coop Extension Finder" in my signature block and find multiple local websites, support groups, etc to get you started.

I would love to hear back from you, especially if you find any advice that does NOT start: "First, make a lot of compost".

I happened to blab about compost recently over in the "All Things" forum.
The thread "Musing about Compost" in Soil and Compost forum

Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Oct 16, 2013 8:13 PM CST
Caliche?!?

Oh, yuck. Your clay is even worse than my clay. Condolences!

I'm glad you carried the bed news, Greene, not me.

"The most desirable way to manage caliche would be to keep plant roots out of the caliche soil."

I guess pots, planters and raised beds are looking better and better. Still, since you'll be making or buying your own soil, "make lots of compost" is still a good idea.
[Last edited by RickCorey - Oct 16, 2013 8:15 PM (+)]
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crittergarden
Dec 3, 2013 2:11 PM CST
I built raised beds out of straw bales.
Will till them in and replace them as they get old.
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