What type of soil is this?


Old 10-13-16, 08:21 PM
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What type of soil is this?

Hello, I am building three raised beds and trying to decide if I can reuse the soil scooped out at where the beds are going to be. The clay, which is the light brown and hard staff on the first photo, starts at about 6"; above the clay is some sort of soil some of which I suspect might be reused, as on the second photo. Before building the beds I grew potatoes, radishes, and some greens at this spot -- far from the record harvests, but something grew there.

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I am planning to fill the beds with tree limbs, wood chips, hay, compost and some soil. Was wondering what type of soil this could be and whether it can be used for filling the raised beds. Would appreciate any comment. Thanks, h.
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Old 10-14-16, 05:21 AM
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Don't just throw non composted things in a raised bed. If the soil contains clay you need to mix it with organic nutrients like compost, peat moss or potting soil. THEN you can fill the raised beds.
Old 10-14-16, 05:57 AM
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Since you have grown a variety of things in the soil already I'd say it's not too bad. Your harvest can depend heavily on your level of care in addition to the soil.

One area I think people screw-up is the depth to which they prepare the soil. Most people don't know how deep vegetables actually grow. Things like tomatoes, pumpkins and lima beans can go down 24-36" but most other things are shallower. Still, most need good loose soil to a depth of 12-18" for optimal growth. You may have good soil but if you've only tilled down 4-6" (about a shovel for most people) then the plants can be stunted. They'll still produce but not up to their potential.

I would NOT throw peat moss into your garden. Long ago I ammended a strawberry bed with peat. Sure enough I had strawberries that tasted like peat. An acceptable flavor for Scotch but not for most garden vegetables. I would only add composted materials to increase the organic content. If you have trouble with soil drainage or too much clay some sand, pearlite or vermiculite can be added. But, I'm more a fan of adding composted organics. It will continue to decompose in the ground so you may notice the ground sinking over the years so you may need to add more.
Old 10-14-16, 08:42 AM
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Thank you, Chandler and Pilot Dane! Yes, drainage will be something to deal with because the back yard gets waterlogged during the rain season (hopefully there'll be one this winter!) and dries up pretty slowly because of the clay starting just 6" under the surface and it seems to be all the way down. I'm scooping out the top foot of soil, including some clay, to fill the hole to grade with gravel, then tree limbs and wood chips. Then putting a 2'-high bed above and fill it with hay, then some soil, then compost and manure mixed with the old soil. I hope that if my beds are 2' above grade, the plant will be way above the waterlogged ground.
Old 10-14-16, 11:47 AM
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It sounds like you are building a compost bin not a raised bed garden. You do not want to fill a garden bed with un-decomposed items like tree limbs, wood chips or straw.
Old 11-07-16, 08:53 AM
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So....2 foot high sides. Why not wait until the clay is at just the right stage (a handful will crumble) and till it down 6 - 12 inches. Now add a foot of compost, leaf mold, good soil from a reputable supplier and till that in. During the winter, keep adding more leaf mold, compost, etc and keep building up the level....until you are satisfied.

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