SOIL - Knowledgebase Question

North Barrington, IL
Avatar for petersj51
Question by petersj51
January 6, 1998
I am planning a new garden in virgin soil, however, the soil contains a lot of clay and rocks. I want to add soil and nutrients. Can you suggest a formula? Is there a type of manure which can be added to the soil when the garden is turned which will alsorepel the deer.

Answer from NGA
January 6, 1998
For starters, I would suggest that you contact your local county extension service (ph# 708/223-8627) for a soil test. That way you'll amend the soil according to its specific needs, so you'll get a wonderful crop of whatever you want to grow.

Adding organic matter to clay soil is the best way to improve its composition and nutrient levels. Add lots of compost and/or well-rotted manure when you till in the spring, and continue to add grass clippings, shredded leaves, and more compost throughout the summer. (You can use these as mulch to help control weeds.) Cover cropping is another way to improve soils. I have found in my own landscape that gypsum is very effective to improve the structure of heavy clay soils. It is added at a rate of 5lbs. per 100 square feet of space. For some reason, it doesn't work on all clay soils, and the soil testing lab will recommend it for yours if it's appropriate. Remove all the rocks you reasonably can from your planting site also. Regarding the manure to drive off deer, I think it would have to be the manure of a very big predator (like a lion or tiger) to scare the deer away (they tend not to be afraid of cows!). Zoos will often donate large animal manure to gardeners for this purpose.

You might find it easier the first year to build a raised bed on top of your difficult soil. Loosen the base soil first and incorporate compost, etc., into the first few inches to improve drainage. Add earthworms to the bed; they will gradually mix "good" soil with the clay base soil.

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