By Jeff Gillman
Offers info and services on various simple gardening questions, masking such subject matters as soil, water, pests, mulch, plants, timber, greens, and garden care.
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Additional resources for Decoding gardening advice : the science behind the 100 most common recommendations
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON’T ADD SAND Unless you have a lot of sand available and a strong back to move it all, don’t consider it. Clay is not the end of the world. You just need to ﬁgure out what grows best in a soil that tends to be wetter, heavier, and stickier than other soil types. A BETTER WAY Rather than using sand, if you want to make clay soil a bit more workable, stick with organic material. Compost is the best choice, but using mulch is ﬁne, too. If you do use mulch, apply it to a depth of 4 to 6 inches if you can, particularly around shrubs and larger perennials.
Advice that’s just wrong Add sand to clay soil to improve drainage Woe to the gardener who has to work with clay. It is composed of very ﬁne bits of soil, so clay is extremely efﬁcient at holding water. This makes it drain poorly and can create inhospitable conditions for a lot of plants and ongoing headaches for gardeners. Add sand, some suggest, and the coarse material will make clay less waterlogged. In truth, though, when sand and clay are mixed together they blend in such a way that they create a dense, heavy mess—one with a consistency akin to wet concrete.
The real dirt Research is starting to show that autumn fertilization can be better than spring fertilization for perennial plants, but spring fertilization is certainly better for annuals and has worked for perennials for years. Perhaps you could consider splitting fertilizer applications into two parts, half applied in spring and half in early autumn. Or you might consider using more compost so you don’t have to use fertilizer at all. 35 advice that’s debatable Use peat moss for improving soil drainage Peat moss comes from plants that have been sealed away for hundreds, even thousands, of years in bogs.