Improving soil in a west coast garden

Discussion in 'Soils, Fertilizers and Composting' started by donnacanadensis, Sep 28, 2005.

  1. donnacanadensis

    donnacanadensis Member

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    North Saanich, Canada
    My family is restoring an old, much neglected garden on the west coast of Vancouver Island. The soil in some parts of the garden is good, with lots of organic material and good structure. Worms love it. In other parts, mostly where salmonberries thrived for many years, the soil is shallow and appears rather sandy. Drainage is good. We've cleared off salmonberries and plan to bring in garden soil. I know we need to add organic material, but what would be best? We have started composting and gather up leaves, mostly from oak trees, for leaf mold, but what we have is not near enough for the large area we are trying to improve. Would manure do the trick? What kind? What about winter cover crop? We will wait until next spring to plant. We intend to plant mostly acid loving shrubs, such as rhododendrons, etc. Our garden is near Sooke, so if any of you know of where we could get good manure, compost, etc., we'd love to know. We have a source of excellent mulch which we use under rhodies in the rest of the garden, etc.

    Anxiously awaiting advice!
     
  2. growest

    growest Active Member 10 Years

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    Surrey,BC,Canada
    Donna--I think a cover crop will provide far more organic matter with much less expense than trucking in any manure or mulch. I would try to get some fall rye in as quickly as possible, we still have a month or so for it to get going...I hope the cold weather doesn't come too soon! It will also grow next spring, you could let it bulk a bit then, and mow it down and rototill a couple weeks before planting.

    I can get composted steer manure from a nearby feedlot, so I would use a lot of that as well. But in your area, you will have to see what is cheap and easy to transport. Can you drive out on the spit and pick up some seaweed after a storm? A thin layer will provide one of the best sources of micronutrients going. And with your thin, sandy soil (I can just about see it in my mind, very common west coast forest soil!) you may well benefit from a nutritional kick like kelp would give.

    Once your plantings are in, maintaining mulches should help in keeping roots moist, as well as slowly feeding the soil and therefore the plants. Composting your leaves with some kelp might provide a fine topdress for your shrubs, for e.g.
     
  3. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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  4. Ralph Walton

    Ralph Walton Active Member 10 Years

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    Fall Rye is a cerial crop that has some persistance issues. I would recommend plain old (not Italian 'cause it costs more) annual Rye for a cover crop that is going to be turned in in the spring. And yes, right now would not be too soon. 35 lb/acre, a 55 lb bag is about $35.

    Ralph
     
  5. growest

    growest Active Member 10 Years

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    Thanks for the tip, Ralph. I do choke at the price of fall rye in garden centres, hoping that big sacks of grain would do a similar enough job for a fraction of the price.

    I think the farmers in Cloverdale use a lot of barley for winter cover crops on their muck soils, for e.g....(typically drowning much of the winter).

    Our mild winters are a bit of a pain as well, since even good cover crops like oats don't reliably die overwinter here. That means a close mowing, followed by rototilling in spring, and hope it does die and not pop up all over the newly planted garden in spring...definitely an issue.

    Check out what the coop has available by the sack!
     

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