|I live in an urban area and have a small backyard in which to plant. The soil is nearly all clay yet grass is somehow growing in it. I want to plant some flowers and plants but suspect that the clay soil needs some help. It's too small a plot to till with a machine - how can I integrate sand in with the clay by hand to create loam? Should I get a specific kind of sand?
|Soil building is a continual process, not a one-time thing. To improve your soil, incorporate plenty of compost before every planting season. In clay soils, compost improves soil fertility and drainage. Add a 4-6 inch layer of compost and incorporate it about 12-18 inches deep. You can use manure if it is well-aged (6 months) or you won't be planting until it has lost it's heat and decomposed. Each planting season, add more compost. You may want to incorporate a balanced fertilizer (e.g., 10-10-10) or add organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion, bone meal, and seaweed/kelp at the same time. Follow package instructions.
After planting, add a 1-2 inch layer of mulch. Mulch is great to help retain soil moisture, reduce weeds, and as it breaks down it provides nutrients to the soil. Any organic matter can be used as mulch. Try compost, bark, wood chips, straw, or pine needles. As it breaks down, dig it into your soil and add more.
A rototiller isn't absolutely necessary; you can incorporate the amendments by digging them in with a shovel.
Playground or builder's sand will suffice, but I'd stay away from the very fine beach-type sand.
Hope your garden blooms beyond your expectations!