Ask a Question forum: Soil improvement

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Feb 24, 2017 6:51 AM CST
I'm wanting to start a bed of peonies. How can I best amend the sticky red clay soil of hendersonville, nc?
Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
The one constant in life is change
Cat Lover Master Gardener: Florida Tropicals Multi-Region Gardener Vegetable Grower Region: Florida
Herbs Orchids Birds Garden Ideas: Level 2 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Feb 24, 2017 9:16 AM CST
Get yourself a truckload of pure compost. Nothing beats well composted organic material for breaking up clay and making your soil better. Make a huge hole, maybe 4ft across and a foot or two deep, and mix the compost well with the the clay to aerate it before you plant.

Check with your local landfill - lots of counties now have composting programs and make excellent compost then either give it away for the taking, or sell it at a very reasonable price. If you don't have a pickup truck to go get it, hire a teenager, maybe?

For your peonies, which will grow and bloom for many years, you're going to want to top-dress them with a wheelbarrow load or two of compost every spring forever. The organic materials do break down and are used up by the plant so you need to keep supplying it. The peonies will reward you for it.

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Minnesota (Zone 3b)
Feb 24, 2017 10:29 AM CST
Make the hole at least three feet deep in that heavy clay.
Better drainage and gives roots room.

If you want to get serious, get as large a portable post hole digger as possible and put a hole down as far as you can in the middle.
Not a miracle cure but really helps.
Name: Lyn
Weaverville, California (Zone 8a)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Garden Sages Celebrating Gardening: 2015
Feb 24, 2017 5:12 PM CST
I would also suggest you perk test your hole before you back fill it with the compost-ammended soil.

To do a perk test, fill the hole with water and see if it drains over night. If you have standing water the next morning, you will have an ongoing drainage problem. It's best to find out before you plant anything.
I'd rather weed than dust ... the weeds stay gone longer.

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