Godless in the garden


Godless in the garden

Discussing all aspect of gardening.

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Comment by Joan Denoo on January 23, 2015 at 12:15am

Barbara, in this video, Geoff demonstrates how to create a food forest. He starts with a hugelculure, planted with legumes first and then he goes through each year of what needs to happen. I think his last year is the seventh. 

By building on top of the clay, and starting with things that will create healthy soil and organisms, going through different phases and when he is done his hugelculture is not only rich soil, but the clay below it is transformed into good growing soil. 

I don't see any of his many demonstrations as applying to clay soils, he does specify how to build a desert degraded by over cultivating and goats eating the wrong things at the wrong times and damaging the soil. 

I have had experience with rabbits. I had a portable fence that I moved around my garden and they did a beautiful job of mowing the grass and fertilizing as they went. I put them in hutches at night. We had a problem with dogs jumping our fence and digging under it. They killed one of my rabbits. I had to keep an eye on what was happening in the garden, but at that time, I was a stay at home mom and it didn't matter. They are wonderful for so many reasons. They can be house trained as well. 

Comment by Joan Denoo on January 22, 2015 at 11:36pm

Kathy, were you ever able to get the clay into good growing soil? I know it takes breaking the clay up, manually, and adding lots of leaves or compost. I like the idea of permaculture of laying down cardboard, then a huge pile of leaves on top. Leave it for a year, and then till it. 

I've never done it that way, but it makes sense. If we can get the earthworms working, they do the job of penetrating the clay and breaking it up. It takes longer, but it makes sense. Especially if one plans to live on the site for many years. 

Comment by Joan Denoo on January 22, 2015 at 11:32pm

Back to the subject ... you need a hole that drains; I don't know how fast it should drain and the extension agent should be able to tell you. 

I am so inspired by your ambition and ideas. It is as though you open a new door and find it inviting to go through and see what you can experience. Thank you for sharing this will us.!!

I Googled "how to plant a tree in clay" This is what I got 

Hardpan gardening.

"I made the mistake of planting fruit trees in "bowls" that held water, when we move here. Lost every one of them within a year or two. Now, when I plant a tree or perennial shrub I loosen the soil over an area much larger than the "normal" recommendation for the planting hole. Then shovel out the loosened soil. Use a tiller to break up that bowl wall so it's not just like a slick bowl. The wider tilled area gives more space for the young roots to more easily penetrate, especially with trees that don't have a long tap root. For many mature trees, the majority of the roots are in the first foot of soil, with the feeder roots much closer to the surface. 

"I'd also like to recommend that you check with your county extension service forestry service, and state university. Often they have the best advice for soil conditions in your area. Your soil may need an amendment that wouldn't apply in my area, for example. And, be sure to get a soil test. Depending on your area, it's likely that you'll need to add lime."


Comment by Joan Denoo on January 22, 2015 at 11:17pm

Barbara, loosening the clay around the hole won't help if the water cannot drain away. You would be making a larger bucket. You need a hole in the bucket. Remember that song by ??? "There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza; there's a hole in the bucket dear Liza. Well fix it Henry, dear Henry fix, fix it. .....I can't remember his name!

Comment by Barbara Livingston on January 22, 2015 at 10:59pm

Entertaining? :)  Love it!  You are so right about beautiful fluffy dirt in one spot and 6' away this nasty clay. I'm going to plant my plum tree .. how remains a mystery tonight. Tomorrow is another day!

Comment by kathy: ky on January 22, 2015 at 10:52pm
I've planted in the same condition. On to go back two years later and dig it out. The tree that I put in was still alive but it had never broken by the original clay. There was simply no place for it to go. The soil within this two acres ranges from the worst clay one can image to the richest, most organic that can be found. It's always entertaining.
Comment by Barbara Livingston on January 22, 2015 at 10:32pm

Bucket effect - that's when excavating the hole for the tree in heavy soils such as clay you compact it and the roots can't grow through it. At least that's the way I understand it. I created a 'bucket' when I dug hole with my shovel. I didn't go back and use my fork and rough up the edges, thus water couldn't drain out of it.  

Good thing I didn't plant the tree, its roots would have grown to diameter of hole and then died. So tomorrow I'm going to take fork and poke holes around edges and bottom and see if it drains. Then according to online 'experts' I get to choose what I think is best - no amendments, or 2 to 3 shovels of compost mixed with original soil. This gardening stuff boggles my mind every so often. :)  Thanks Joan for offering a hand, appreciate it.  Before I do anything I'll take your advice and call the ag extension office and see what they say. Can never have to much info and I want my tree to live. 

Comment by Joan Denoo on January 22, 2015 at 10:10pm

Daniel, Randy and Barbara, thank you for your birthday greeting and helping celebrate my 79th birthday. I had a wonderful day with some phone calls from my son and his family in Littleton, Colorado, and from my daughter north of here in a little lumbering town of Newport, WA. 

Cary fixed me a delicious dinner as only he can create. He served pork chops perfectly browned and still nice and tender. I love mashed potatoes and gravy the way he fixes them, with just a little bit of chunks of potatoes in otherwise smooth whipped. His gravy is just perfect, with just the right amount of thickening to make it stay in the dollop of potatoes. The salad was outstanding with everything in the crisper.  

Comment by Joan Denoo on January 22, 2015 at 9:56pm

Barbara, I don't know the answer to your question. This is a guess, If you plant it without getting through the clay soil, the roots will probably/ possibly get root bound if they are not able to break through the surrounding soil. I would not put in a soil mix because every time it rains, the hole with lighter soil will become a bucket and the roots could drown and/or get root bound. You have to solve the drainage problem before you plant the tree. 

I do know that you have to solve the drainage problem before you plant the tree. 

When I lived at Ft. Hood, Tx, we had hard pan that sealed off all the water from soaking into the clay; rainwater ran over the top of the ground into the gutter. I guessed it was a shallow hardpan because of the way the ground sounded and acted when we put in a fence. We had a post hole digger and when Don used it, I could feel the ground shake 50 feet away. I guessed that the hard pan was shallow, so we dig until we broke through the hardpan. We hit a loose layer of gravel underneath and then another hardpan. 

Here is my guess, if you can break through any hardpan into a gravel layer, you will be ok to plant, and I would use a mixture of clay and a lighter soil to get the tree started. If there is a gravel layer underneath, the water will have a place to drain away. 

Because I am just guessing, if I were you, I would contact the county extension agent and see what they advise. Or if you have neighbors who have planted trees successfully, they can offer idea from experience. Of course, there is the option of finding a garden club that may be able to advise; or a Master Gardeners group. 

I lived in San Antonio, but only had a porch garden there. I do know the layers of limestone, clay and hardpan exist there. Just go to any creek or the San Antonio River to look at the banks of the river cuts. You can see the layers of hardpan and limestone exposed. Also know that San Antonio is in karst country, meaning there are shafts, tunnels and caves underlying the surface ground. If you can break through the limestone or hardpan, and get good drainage, you will be ok. ... unless you find a sink hole. You probably know about that.

Comment by Barbara Livingston on January 22, 2015 at 7:22pm

I have a question: My growing space soil is heavy clay. I did not realize just how non-draining it can be. We had above average rainfall within the past 24 hours. I had dug a 12" hole in which to plant a fruit tree, got sidetracked and didn't get it planted, then came the rain.  The hole filled with water and has remained full for the past 8 hours. More rain expected tonight. The question is, assuming the hole finally does drain would you refill the hole with the original clay-ey soil, mix in some compost with original soil, or put completely new garden soil in the hole and then plant tree? 


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