Help with soil, and maybe more!


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Hello all! We have decided to started a vegetable garden this year. I have had gardens before but always kind of winged it. My main question at this point is we have really nice dark soil in the yard. I have turned it over removing as much grass as possible, but it seems clumpy and dense. Is peat moss and sand my best solution? Its about 12 x 20 feet.
 
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Hello all! We have decided to started a vegetable garden this year. I have had gardens before but always kind of winged it. My main question at this point is we have really nice dark soil in the yard. I have turned it over removing as much grass as possible, but it seems clumpy and dense. Is peat moss and sand my best solution? Its about 12 x 20 feet.
Peat is about the worst thing you can add unless you want to temporarily make your soil acidic. It has little if any nutritional value. It sounds as if you have a clay type soil and sand+clay=brick. What you want to add is a LOT of organic material like leaves, grass clippings, compost, leaf mold , manures etc.
 
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I used peat all the time to lower pH in clay soils, because its much faster and cheaper than the other amendments. I have used it probably over 100 times to amend heavy clay with a high pH. The main reason I used peat is a large bale only costs $12 and will spread easy. The peat is also a deterrent against TARR (Take All Root Rot) in Saint Augustine Grass. Peat Moss is a soil conditioner, and not a nutrient base additive, and peat has many uses in Horticulture. Some people are against what they don't know, just because they don't know. Peat Moss is a wonderful natural organic product when used correctlly.
 
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What makes peat so important in the horticulture and landscaping is it's used to boost the Cation-exchange capacity in the growing environment. It has no nutrient value, but it has something better, it has the capacity to attach and hold on to nutrients. The CEC of peat is very high when mixed with a substrate the nutrient holding capacity is boosted.
The clay mineral and peat in the soil have negatively charged sites on their surfaces which adsorb and hold positively charged ions (cations) by electrostatic force. (magnesium, potassium and calcium ions) When CEC is low, an easy way to boost it, is with super clean organic cheap peat moss. Peat is the #1ingredeant in almost all potting mixes because of its High CEC.
 
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Most areas of Canada have low Ph soils. Only in some areas of the eastern parts of Canada is the soil alkaline. There are scattered small pockets of alkaline soil that are sparsely scattered in portions of western Canada. It is true about the Cation exchange capacity of peat, it is higher, but, compost, manures, any organic material still has negative charged ions just like peat moss, only not as intense. Peat moss just has more ion density or in other words, oomph. Peat is used in alkaline soils to great advantage but I would never use it in acidic soils
 
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We have acidic clay. 5- 5.5pH. Composted cow manure has proven its worth here. Its hard to understand how much it takes volume wise to impact the soil because the clay soil weighs so much. One easily underestimates compost because it can be so light weight. The area of soil you describe as 12x20, 6 inches down has a volume of 4.44 yards. If its clay it could weigh 3000 lbs per yard pretty easily. To loosen the soil and add organic matter to some target value it would be best to have a soil test for a starting point of course. For the sake of discussion a 20% target would mean 12 bags of compost per yard of soil, lessened of course by what is already there. I would suggest 27 bags of Black Kow tilled into the whole area, and just grow it and see if you want more next year. You can tell across a season how well it drains or if plant roots struggle to breathe. You would certainly help it without breaking the bank.
 
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