Ask a Question forum: Soil amendment

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Jun 11, 2016 8:36 AM CST
What is a good way to amend garden soil if I don't have any compost? I've been told that composted manure is too rich.
These particular beds have only had weeds and raspberries in them the past few years.
Name: Celia
West Valley City, Utah (Zone 7a)
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Jun 11, 2016 9:09 AM CST
Tess, Welcome!

Composted manure is an excellent addition as long as it's mixed in. You can get garden compost at any big box store, such as Home Depot or Lowe's. What are you planning to put there?
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
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Jun 11, 2016 9:11 AM CST
Tess - What is your objective for amending the soil? How large an area is involved? What do you plan to grow in your amended soil? Where are you located? Raspberries don't need amended soil or fertilizers to grow well. Some municipalities offer yard waste compost but residual weed killers on grass clippings can be a concern. Not being negative, just objective.
Name: Elaine
South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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Jun 11, 2016 9:12 AM CST
Tess, have you tried contacting your local landfill? Many County landfills now make excellent compost. Some sell it and load it for you, others let you have it for free if you bring your own containers and load it yourself. Compost is "garden gold". Nothing better you can put into your garden.

But if you can get composted manure, it is fine as long as it IS composted enough. It contains soluble nitrogen that can burn new plants, but if you work it in, water it for a few days and then plant your plants it should be fine.

Anything with a high proportion of organic material (anything that used to be a plant) is good. My favorite for amending planting holes now is alfalfa pellets. You can get it in 50lb bags from any feed store as horse food. I'll put anywhere from a cup or two in a smaller planting hole, say for a daylily or small perennial, to a pound or two for a small tree. Spread it around, dig it in, water and let it break down. The plants love it. I also amend with alfalfa pellets around my existing plantings in the early spring just to give the soil a boost. We have nothing but sand down here, and with our heavy summer rains and heat, the organic materials disappear pretty quickly.

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Name: Paul Fish
Brownville, Nebraska (Zone 5b)
Jun 11, 2016 12:08 PM CST
All of the above. Plus till in grass clippings...that have not been chemically treated lawns and anything else you would compost, incorporate into the soil. After your regular season is done, plant rye seed for a late fall winter cover crop. Then till that in early in the next growing season. If you have leaves to rake in the fall, shred those (a shredder or lawn mower) and till under. Do not use black walnut leaves. Anything organic will help amend your soil. It takes time. I have been working on my garden for ten years and it is getting OK but not as good as I want.

Any manure is OK if very well composted. It is best if it has aged at least a year or more. Be aware there most likely be weed seed in the manure even if it was brought up to temperature during the composting.

This all part of the fun of gardening, so have a good time with the process.
Minnesota (Zone 3b)
Jun 11, 2016 7:50 PM CST
I put a few yards of sheep manure on my garden approx. every seven years or so.
I go out to the farm and he loads it in my trailer.
I put it on the garden in the fall, so I take the quite fresh stuff.
I am in the middle of town but after snow fall any scent goes away.
I then till it in in spring.

It works wonders.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Jun 11, 2016 8:07 PM CST
Welcome to, @tesskatz !

Excellent advice above... I hope it will be of help to you!

What is your soil like to begin with? We improved our garden tremendously by using grass clippings for mulch, which were later tilled in.
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