Ask a Question forum: I tore up my flower bed and now it is muddy and compacted.

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mrjiffysweeper
May 25, 2017 2:55 PM CST
I have a garden bed out in front of my house and it has a few lilies planted that come back every year, but the majority of it has just been growing mint. Mint everywhere! About 10 feet of mint. So I decided that I wanted to plant some more lilies, irises and some gladiolas out there. So I go out there and start pulling up the mint, but I realize the entire bed is full of mint roots. It is like a huge web of mint right under the soil. I took a little ax/hoe thing and ripped it all up. I churned up the soil pretty good and then planted the bulbs in there. It all looked fine until a few days ago when it started pouring down rain. It rained for 3 days and now it is a little muddy and it looks like it has sunk an inch further down than it was because the area underneath the lilies hasn't sunk. I also put a freesia from walmart and a marigold that my son gave me for mother's day. Well the freesia's leaves are turning yellow and the roots on the marigold floated upwards and are visible. What should I do, is it just because there was too much rain. Should I put some gardening soil on top of it. Do I have to mix the gardening soil in with the muddy soil. Is everything going to rot? I feel like I messed it up, but I don't see how anything could have grown in there with all those roots.
Also I want to plant some roses and some hydrangea's on the side of my house and was thinking to just make a whole new garden bed over there to plant some more flowers and shrubs. How do I know what kind of soil is in there and if there is something I have to do about it. Do I just have to buy a bunch of dirt bags to fill in there?
Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
The one constant in life is change
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dyzzypyxxy
May 25, 2017 3:27 PM CST
Hi and welcome! Just to reassure you, you did the right thing in ripping out all that mint. It surely would have choked out anything you planted in that bed if you'd left the roots in. Don't forget that pulling out all those roots also reduced the volume in the bed so that may account for some of the sinking that went on.

Sounds like you absolutely got too much rain, but you can help your soil not to compact and become muddy by adding compost. Don't waste your money on just "dirt bags" because you really don't know what you're getting most of the time and it can be just as bad as what's in your bed already. Get as much compost as you possibly can and mix it in.

You want an amendment that is 100% composed of organic material (no sand, clay or "dirt") because the cellulose fibers will soak up moisture like little sponges, then release it slowly and shrink to leave tiny air pockets in the soil, which is necessary for the health of the roots of most plants. So if you're going to buy soil amendments for those two beds, try to get compost.

Many counties have compost available. Here, our landfill has a great composting program and the finished compost is available free for the taking (although you have to load it yourself). In Utah where we did a garden for my daughter, they will load it for you if you bring a pickup truck, but they charge for it.

Please would you fill in your location in your personal profile? It really helps us to help you if we know where you are in the world.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." โ€“Winston Churchill

mrjiffysweeper
May 25, 2017 5:50 PM CST
I am in 19901
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
May 25, 2017 7:10 PM CST
Welcome to NGA, @mrjiffysweeper .

I totally agree with Elaine -- add lots of compost, and keep on adding it every year; it will make a huge difference in the texture of your soil.
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purpleinopp
May 26, 2017 8:05 AM CST
I was prepared to say pretty much what Elaine did as soon as I saw the title, was sure I would when I read the post, then saw Elaine had already done it.
๐Ÿ‘€๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜‚ - SMILE! -โ˜บ๐Ÿ˜Žโ˜ปโ˜ฎ๐Ÿ‘ŒโœŒโˆžโ˜ฏ๐Ÿฃ๐Ÿฆ๐Ÿ”๐Ÿ๐Ÿฏ๐Ÿพ
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mrjiffysweeper
May 26, 2017 12:10 PM CST
Ok thanks you guys. I checked around to see if there was a place to buy compost in my area and there just happens to be a giveaway going on at a local park today and tomorrow!! Smiling
Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
The one constant in life is change
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dyzzypyxxy
May 26, 2017 12:16 PM CST
Hurray! Hurray! It was meant to be.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." โ€“Winston Churchill
Name: kathy
Michigan
Zone 4b, near St. Clair MI
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katesflowers
May 26, 2017 2:44 PM CST
@Mrjiffysweeper welcome !
We've been getting heavy rain in Michigan, too. I stay out of my plowed fields until things dry out.
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RickCorey
May 26, 2017 6:41 PM CST
If you always add (top-dress) a lot of organic mulch, like pine bark, leaves, hay or pine needles, they will gradually break down over several years and release more organic matter gradually into the soil.

That is in addition to all the other benefits of mulch, like keeping soil moist and at a moderate temperature, preventing weeds from sprouting, and preventing mud and soil microbes from splashing onto leaves..

I would have said "or wood chips", because they are great for landscaping mulch.

>> I churned up the soil pretty good and then planted the bulbs in there. It all looked fine until a few days ago when it started pouring down rain. It rained for 3 days and now it is a little muddy and it looks like it has sunk an inch further down

I would have said that you avoided the worst "soil sin" (working the soil WHILE it's wet, because that usually breaks up soil structure and lets it revert to a no-air solid lump of clay that a candidate for brick-making.

But it's very worrying that the soil subsided that much!

I thought that the rain and "drowning" might have destroyed your soil structure, so that the subsidence came from all the air voids, channels and "pores" were squeezed out. That could easily have happened with very clayey soil.

If you wait until the bed dries out well, and then dig or force your fingers deep into the soil, is it still soft and friable, and looking like there may still be some air gaps between clods? Or is it like dried-out, hard clay?

Hopefully the bed just settled because you dug it up and "fluffed it up" with [u]more air than the soil would hold onto readily when wet[u]. (Wet clay slumps down or subsides if there is no gritty framework to support it AND enough compost to make the clay less flowing and less sticky, but more prone to forming clods.) Hopefully only SOME of your soil-air was squeezed out by the flooding, and some remains.

"Fluffing up the clay" is my recipe for growing things in clay, without buying cubic miles of compost and grit and sand. First I add all the compost I can afford that season, and "gritty stuff" I have, and then mix and screen it hard to break up all the "clay balls". Of course I only do that while the clay is almost dry, or it would turn to "clay soup", and then "bricks".

However, a step that I think is important comes next. I've just "fluffed up" my bed as much as I can, and it has more air in it than is "possible", and it's as unstable as a partially cooked souffle.

Now it needs to be "tamped down firmly".

That presses mini-clods together until they nest together stably. Probably it forces some adjacent sand, bark, grit and clay particles into stable micro-clods or peds. That "clod structure" is likely to survive wetness, maybe even survive flooding. But I like very fast drainage out of beds so that issue never arises. My "soil" is actually "clay".

If I had enough sand and grit mixed in, I can hear a "crunch" sound when I firm it down enough that some hard particles are in contact with each other, supporting the surrounding clay matrix.

I believe that the "firming down" step makes the soil column more resistant to further compaction or heavy rain making "clay soup" that turns to rock-hard clay when it dries.

Umm, if you have sandy soil in-between the mint roots, not clayey soil, probably nothing I said is relevant to your garden! Sorry.

When I dig up a bed that has been overrun with weed roots, I often sieve all that soil through 1/8" hardware cloth, to get the roots out. I don't know whether mint can come back from small root fragments. Too bad, because I think that roots are one of the structural elements keeping my "amended clayey 'soil'" from reverting to rock-hard clay. I never really add enough compost to fully amend the beds.
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
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dyzzypyxxy
May 26, 2017 6:57 PM CST
Yes, mint will come back from any small bits of root that are left in there, so I'm pretty confident that mr. jiffy will be seeing sprouts of mint here and there for quite a while. Don't let any plants get established! Or you'll be back to rousting out a huge mat of underground runners next spring.

Absolutely agree that you should plan on using some good quality wood chip mulch once you get the compost tilled in and your plants re-settled. It will also help keep any more heavy rain from beating down the fluffed up soil further.
Elaine

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." โ€“Winston Churchill

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