Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Do you have to ammend a clay soil or any other type of soil with the Mittleider method? NOT as much as you think and here is why

As planting time arrives people often hear that it's necessary to
amend their soil before they can plant, if they expect to have a
successful crop.

We promise that you can have a great garden in any soil – without
soil amendments!

Manure and/or compost introduce unknowns into your garden, including
not knowing what nutrients you are getting, if any, and all too often
other unknowns soon identify themselves as weed seeds, bugs, or

Mulching, or putting a layer of organic (or other) materials on the
surface of your soil to help with moisture, heat, weeds, etc.,
actually makes weeding very difficult and very often provides a safe
haven for pests also. We recommend your soil surface be bare.

How about adding sand to heavy clay soil – isn't that important?
We've heard and seen it written many times that heavy clay
soil "must" be amended with 25% sand, or even more. It's true that
sand can improve the properties of your clay soil, such as drainage,
aeration, hardness, etc. However, a single 30'-long soil-bed of
heavy clay soil contains about 3,500# of dirt in the top twelve
inches! People rarely are prepared to expend the time, effort and
cost to purchase, haul, apply, and mix 1,200# of sand into every one
of their soil-beds.

Happily that is not necessary. You can improve your crop in clay
soil by using sand, but it only takes a few pounds, not tons. Here's
how. When planting seed, instead of planting directly from seed
packet into the soil and then covering with clay soil, mix your seeds
with sand in a ratio of 1 part seed to 100 parts sand. This works
out to one teaspoon seed to 16 ounces of sand (actually 1 to 96, but
that'll do). This helps you spread the seed more uniformly in the

Next, cover the seed/sand mix with sand, instead of the clay soil.
For tiny seeds you'll only need 1/16th to 1/8th inch of sand, and for
larger seeds between 1/8th and 1/4th is better. This makes it so
much easier for your seeds to germinate, grow, and reach the light of
day, without having to struggle against the hard, heavy clay that's
native to the garden, and only requires a gallon or two of sand per

The third way to use sand in your clay soil-beds again only takes a
few pounds per soil-bed, and can help your growing plants a lot. A
day or two after watering, the clay soil will begin to shrink and
crack. This is a real problem for your young plants, because their
tiny roots will often be both broken and exposed to drying air. As
this begins to happen, apply sand to the areas where cracks are
beginning to appear. Water the sand into the cracks, and after doing
this a couple of times, the cracking will no longer be a problem.

Happy and productive growing,



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