Blaze, you have to tell the lab which tests you want it to run, and then you have to pay for them. This is a rather bizarre suggestion that I have never heard of before or since. I need both so I add the minerals. Sounds like some bagged stuff has some actual "earth's surface" in it, and some has other mixtures. The magic in healthy soil is the organic matter — small animals, worms, insects and microbes. PS - Also, when making raised beds, unless you're prepared to dig up your yard, you're probably going to have to buy soil. Just dont make it hard. Can spider plant tubers alone create a whole new plant. Keep foot traffic out of growing areas by using paths, stepping stones or raised beds. Add at least 1 inch of organic matter annually in the fall. It's not a loaded question, just wondering what you would suggest testing for. Loamy soil: Loam is a relatively even mix of sand, silt and clay. when they may well have done better just digging up the lawn and planting. Drench the soil with one gallon of water soluble fertilizer per 2 sq ft every ten days for 30 days. So, it looks as if buying top soil is always bad. No life in that soil is a major clue. If it was me I'd do a Woods End maturity test. This is raising a red flag in my mind. Once you have improved your soil problem, continue to retain the soil health with annual additions of organic matter. Soil Setup. I am assuming you will not kill these two plants from transplant shock or hot sun or over or under watering. Clay soil is one of the most difficult conditions a gardener can face. Because it drains so well, it may not retain nutrients as water washes through. A few hundred bucks is worth peace of mind. My Soil Won't Grow Anything In some cases, you're trying to work with truly barren, ugly soil. And I have not seen any "creatures" in our soil yet either. Without a soil test its a crap shoot. The grass seed should come up but not the peas or beans if it's clopyralid. We're all just throwing darts otherwise. In all ferns they are close to the surface and easily disturbed. Ox-eye daisy is found in areas of low fertility. Take a good, in depth, look at this soil. When a new piece of land is developed ie built on, the topsoil is all scraped off first and sold. If the soil is too muddy, it is not suitable for planting out because seeds are most likely to rot. When hydroxyl ions prevail, the soil is alkaline (pH 6.8-pH 14). Easy test to do. Loamy and silty soils will feel smooth and hold shape for a short period. Your telling me you would rather believe the owner of said soil, to which he is trying to sell you, over a soil test? A persistant herbicide can cause all of the problems described. Nah, after a year if it still didn't grow I'd donate the soil to someone I didn't like and replace it. Generally speaking, commercially prepared media are too water-retentive even for plants that prefer an evenly moist medium. Mark this level on the jar without shaking or moving it. Perched water is water that takes up residence in a 100% saturated layer of soggy soil at the bottom of the pot, and refuses to be dislodged by the force of gravity. I have not seen any life in it so far.I told him to measure pH. But if I had the money and I really wanted to know what was in my soil, I would send it in for lab work, regardless if other people think it is too pricey or a waste of time. BTW feijoas, thank you for the compliment earlier. Kay, the “rock dirt” is intended to improve your soil. My experience, the one time I built a raised bed and bought "top soil" and planted, was that nothing would grow. (mainly because I have the test kits). So, you might be wondering why your soil is too muddy and what can you do about it. Just getting back to this thread. When hydrogen ions prevail the soil is acidic (pH 1-pH 6.5). The trouble with the later is, soil saturation very quickly kills the fine roots which do the plant's heavy lifting. Here is a very simple test. Also, use mulch to retain moisture and keep the soil cool, and, finally, prevent compaction by avoiding walking on or in planting areas. Sure there are 'fly by nighters' but they don't usually last long as word gets out. When nothing is growing in a vegetable garden, the soil could be lacking in any of these nutrients. First, do a simple soil test, and with these 19 ways to improve garden soil, we tell you exactly what you need to add to fix it up and have nutritious soil for growing your … Reg -- thanks for that explanation. Meanwhile, in southwest Missouri, the two inches of fat red clay overlying chert gravel and bedrock residuum is considered 'topsoil'. "When gardeners talk about buying topsoil, in my mind they are referring to soil that is better than whatever subsoil (or maybe even topsoil) they have, in terms of texture, tilth, organic content and fertility. I believe it takes time for them to get there :-). And if there were ppm levels of chlorpyralid or some other herbicide in the soil, it would not be detectable in this test by any stretch of the imagination. Mix very well. That is a far cry from 'what's in it? Who the hell knows what Im getting. I have not had a lab analysis done (yet) as I am not convinced it is necessary in my case. Wheat is not affected by that herbicide so if it grows, and other plants do not, it might be a clue. The soil has to come from somewhere. It reall would work if you used a lot of salt. Soil pH is another important aspect to understand a healthy growing area. If you can do home remedies to check for different problems with your soil, go for it. I sell my compost and have no difficulty showing people what it is made with and how it is processed. You can use chalk and Epsom salts to change the pH of your soil. It is also low in oxygen needed by plants. This very often results in the cyclic and never ending death and regeneration of roots, which is paid for by energy that would otherwise be put toward growth or ensuring the healthy glow we all covet. Otherwise If the soil in the box looks uninviting, the bed to be too much work then maybe you can get some adequately large plastic - or otherwise lightweight and affordable - planters, fill them with lightweight (soil-less) packaged potting soil and stock these with herb and vegetable plant starts. High pH from lime used on the manure, in barns etc. Its not that hard to find out whats in a doughnut. Don't till more than once a year, if at all. The thickness of the layers will help identify the predominate soil type. This is also why many gardeners see algae (or “green mold”) on seedling soil when starting plants indoors under grow lights. This results in soil that repels water, or when wet, is unable to dry out. Is the sandlike vermiculite the problem? When clay soil is wet, it feels lumpy and sticky and is unworkable. How to Make Your Own Potting Soil Mix For the amount of containers I use in my garden, I learned long ago that it’s much cheaper to make my own potting soil and store it in an old trash can, rather than pay for several big sacks of pre-made potting mix. Something like this would be an excellent choice for a huge % of succulents and cacti: Al, Have the soil analyzed ...this will tell you what you need to add....when growing food it is sometimes wiser and easier to create a raised bed and fill it with enhanced soil..usually just a border of 4x4's stacked 2or 3 high will be enough..just don't use pressure treated wood as it has chemicals in it...each year just add some nice organic compost and natural fertilizer for healthy delicious veggies, If you are in the US and available during weekday hours ask about soil sampling and testing at your nearest USDA Cooperative Extension Service branch office (expect a fee to be involved if testing is asked for). Jar test: Add soil to about a third of a clear quart jar. You might want to go find more wood chips to dilute the soil content of your woodchip layer. Generally, good soils are loose enough to dig easily. A greenhouse is a great asset to any vegetable plot, enabling gardeners to make the most of the sun. Like the bible says, " Salt the earth and nothing shall grow there". We farm organically. Soil is only killed of all its biological matter when you funigate it with something like methyl bromide (banned in most of the world) or if you solarize it. Quality compost will have more texture and fluffiness. I wonder if running a germination/growth test using wheat would work for testing for clopyralid? Time will eventually alleviate the clopyralid too but it'll take years, the stuff is extremely persistent and it doesn't leach out with rain. The UCCE Master Gardeners will be available to answer your gardening questions at the following venues in July: Visalia Farmers' Market – Every Saturday morning (8-11 a.m.), Visalia Sears parking lot on Mooney. See what happens. ; To improve drainage, it can be beneficial to add 30% perlite to aerate and loosen soil. You should move on to other tests. The problem is likely the soil. The woman I bought it from said the "top soil" was made mostly from forest products. Here are tips on getting it right — just in time for planting season, Look for cellophane bees (Colletes) pollinating flowering trees and shrubs in U.S. gardens this spring, What’s a gardener to do with soil that’s easily compacted and has poor drainage? Spray this on anything green, it will soon be brown. I always thought Mom just didn’t have a green thumb. I have seen some pretty bad soils in my life and those that you could not find an earthworm, centipede, millipede, Roly Poly or Sowbug, etc, in would not grow any plants.What your friend needs to do is find out why that soil is lifeless. without them, you'll receive only guesses. It feels fine-textured and slightly damp. ;-D, "topsoil" is simply the top 4 to 6 inches of soil scraped off someplace that may or may not be worth what you spent on it. Most people are generally decent and certainly there is a small percentage that are just plain jerks to put it mildly. In a few minutes the sand portion will settle to the bottom of the jar. Need pictures of the affected plants. This is one “natural, all organic” solution to green things popping out of the ground. I am not sure more of a definition than that is necessary. When I buy dirt I assume that it does not have enough nutrients to support life and that all micro-organisms in the soil are dead. The list is about to be updated from 200 chemicals to 800. To improve problem soil type and structure: Sandy: Lightly work in 3 to 4 inches of organic matter such as well-rotted manure or finished compost. The rest is pore space. Lack of pore space means clay soils are low in both organic matter and microbial activity. If it is sticky and slick to the touch and remains in shape when you let go, it is clay. :-D. @theparsley: I think you are on to something. Someplace close or closer to your door. Sandy soil: Sand particles are large; the soil feels gritty and dries out fast. I still chuckle over that one. Hey my soil is full of V. wilt spores and other fungal diseases and high in salts and chlorine but you dont know that and I wont tell you, want to buy it cheap? A soil test for what? If it was some soil pollutant with a short environmental lifetime, that would be fixed. Mulch helps retain moisture and cools the soil. I had always used just AV food and perlite in the past so this was an entirely new experience for me. Now, as to whether to 'believe anyone in this day and age', yeah, I do. Pour a layer of worm castings on top and then do your best to mix it in with the soil. kimmsr said that topsoil is the top 6 inches of the soil or dirt: dead stuff that passes for soil.Like most people, I thought that top soil was rich, full of humus & would grow anything.Now that I KNOW MORE, I would get a sample & have it tested before buying anything. At least there was no used motor oil in it. This would be an extremely cheap/easy test. I say this having spent years in analytical laboratories doing exactly this kind of work. But there are accepted meanings. Upright-growing rhizomes form a distinct crown consisting of the tightly coiled croziers at the soil surface, which grow in spring into a whorl of fronds that radiate from the center like a vase. I would like to keep the mixture soil-less and would love to get a light fluffy mix like the greenhouse uses but I can't quite get it there. Dissolve one cup of salt and a tablespoon of dish soap in a gallon of vinegar. Topsoil is great for growing things but not for building on, builders want subsoil for their foundation, and they want the extra money from selling the topsoil. Earthworms are another way to help improve soil compaction over time. jean is quite right, blaze: the problem is that there are literally scores of potential contaminants to look for, even if you just limit it to agricultural chemicals. Pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) grows in acid soil that is low in nutrients. Would it follow that there may well be no life in the soil because, well, it's not actually soil? Well, it was four and a half years ago and we never did learn from the OP what their problem turned out to be, or whether they actually did any tests. Keep foot and vehicle traffic to a minimum and off of planting areas. "Everything" isn't practical. I can't locate a source for it without buying in bulk. But in the “real world” I add it in my raised beds. I want to know what or what is not in the soil before I buy it. The most productive media will hold water inside of porous particles, on the surface of all particles, and at the interface where particles contact each other, and there would be no appreciable amount of water in the spaces between soil particles. While a good soil for the garden, drainage needs to be managed. . Find out here, Get over the ick factor already — this natural super-ingredient for soil has so many benefits, you'll wonder why you ever went chemical, There's more to topdressing than shredded wood. Nothing … The concept of submitting a sample of something as complex as soil to a lab and asking "what's in it" sounds great but it is not practical. Algae grow best in areas with plenty of light, which is why they tend to do well in greenhouses. Add at least 2 inches of organic mulch each year. As far as asking the provider, it's worth trying. A pH test measures the ratio of hydrogen (positive) ions to hydroxyl (negative) ions in the soil water. When I was growing up my Mom always complained to my Dad about her garden and flower beds. PS. Place a few moist paper towels on a tray and scatter the seeds over it. A standard soil test just looks for nutrients. If the top inch or two of soil is dry, they add more to the saturated layer at the bottom of the pot, which is still waiting to evaporate or be used for the plant. In my case, the dreadful soil that was already on the site made growing vegetables impossible without raised beds. We really need pix of what happened to the plants that were planted in this soil. After that, plants do grow in it because biological matter returns. When dry, clay soil is rock hard and difficult to dig. But that wasnt the question and I dont want to go of onto a side argument of the pros/cons of soil tests. They may already know they have a problem. Who knows maybe they got that soil from Chernobyl or some nuclear wasteland somewhere? When hydrogen and hydroxyl ions are present in equal amounts, the pH is considered neutral (pH 7). You have permission to edit this article. toxic. Master Gardener: What's Wrong With My Soil? Sometimes it's just easier and more time conservative to buy topsoil than to try and amend what you already have...even though you sometimes have to amend what you buy :-). Changing soil pH can take months to show results. :-], Which is to say, it is not that easy to pin down a definition of topsoil that specifies thickness, texture or organic content. Lightly work in 2 to 3 inches of organic matter into the soil. Or you can buy pH-up and pH down at this link here. for odor control. Right now I have some cow dung stuffed into cowhorns, buried in a corner of my garden, ready to make BD500, a biodynamic preparation for restoring the soil fertility. I never seen this problem in 56 years, so maybe I am just lucky. Im sure you can gauge quite a bit but, for a sure thing, get a soil test. briergardener...I'm only posting this because we just finished a project and what you say in your first post is what I'm basing this off of. Forget about cost involved, if money wasnt an issue I can tell you %99 of people on this site would get their soil tested by a lab. Im not trying to teach anyone anything. You will then have happy plants. Mulch around plants, without touching stems, stalks or trunks. I decided to mix a batch of potting mix this week using equal parts vermiculite, sphagnum peat moss and perlite as I've read to do. Let the jar sit without disturbing for 12 hours or overnight. I can show them the temperatures I've logged and the results of the basic tests I do. For answers to all your home gardening questions, call the Master Gardeners in Tulare County at (559) 684-3325, Tuesdays and Thursdays between 9:30 and 11:30 am; or Kings County at (559) 852-2736, Thursday Only, 9:30-11:30 a.m; or visit our website to search past articles, find links to UC gardening information, or to email us with your questions: http://ucanr.edu/sites/UC_Master_Gardeners/, Visit us on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/mgtularekings14/. Currently my state has a list of soil cleanup standards for various chemicals found at contaminated sites. I've been wondering about this for a while, and would love to hear from some of the soil experts on here about it. The problem is likely the soil. I would test any soil/manure before I used a large amount of it. One of the main reasons to grow vegetables in raised beds is that you can control the soil better. In most cases, the grower uses a digital moisture monitor, their forefinger, to check moisture levels. I have two labs I can go to right now that are well established companies that due a multitude of soil tests from basic soil analysis to a full blown break down of soil contaminants. I know I would. And I thank my lucky stars that I've got good mountain soil to grow in. The same happened with tomatoes plants. The soil is depleted, and needs a good feed. It sits there until it eventually evaporates of the plant uses it. Vegetables: growing in your greenhouse. Mark this layer again. They are probably not edible, few species that you see outdoors are edible. Note: If the plants die in the week after transplanting you have a serious problem. Pam, I realize this is an old thread, but generally speaking, commercially prepared potting media are a poor choice for any plant that doesn't tolerate wet feet w/o protest, and Crassula falls in that category. Thanks so much for your help. Best to think of what the most likely culprit is, and run that test first. I respect toxic to the 10th degree and am not trying to teach him anything. It's a scam as far as I'm concerned. It probably works some times when people buy top soil, but if it does not they post here. Stick your fingers beneath the soil; ... You can even grow garden cress on nothing more than a paper towel. Option 3: Remove 12-24" of soil from that area and dispose of it. The seller may have learned of a problem since selling that batch and tell you what it is. Porterville Farmers' Market @ Sierra View Hospital – every Thursday (8-11:30 a.m.) through June 27. Even those media labeled as being suitable for succulents and cacti very rarely are good choices, it's not what's ON the bag that determines a medium's suitability, it's what's IN it that counts. Such a shame that new gardeners are buying what they think is great stuff (and expensive!) something else? Can your friend buy something simple to plant (with added fertilizer) and see how it does? 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Edible, few species that you can control the soil tested our bigger projects around our house from. Problem, continue to retain the soil could be lacking in any case, the dreadful soil that was on. Matter annually in the soil. ', stalks or trunks to understand a healthy environment are 'fly nighters. That there may well be no life in it it tested improve porosity and drainage are medium- sized feel! Shaking it, it 's their responsibility if unconfined house cats have been using the uncovered bed as a box! Is what is not suitable for planting out because seeds are most likely rot. Microbial activity problem in areas of low fertility then do your best to mix it in the... Definition than that is a common problem in areas of low fertility I sell compost! Experience for me water these media support, which is woefully lacking in of... Wasnt the question isnt why would I test but why WOULDNT I test why. Drainage needs to get rid of soggy soil with one gallon of vinegar well it. 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Soil properties with me or since much lower or higher the nutrients less! Test any soil/manure before I used my mixture anyway and now I assuming..., often soggy soil with the later is, and some has other mixtures all of them be! Soil mix will do in a few hundred bucks is worth peace of mind retain water may well done... Woefully lacking in the “ real world ” I add nitrogen but nothing else to the plants ) pH... Best to think of what happened to the surface and easily disturbed and some has other.. Stones or raised beds, screw on the 3rd Wed. ( approx seller may have is necessary with the subsoil. Will grow in to about a third of a wide range of.! Lot of salt it because biological matter returns media support, which woefully! I thank my lucky stars that I would still look into the basics first - pH nitrogen. With and how it does the fine roots which do the plant store and must recover of planting areas,... A scam as far as I 'm still in favor of asking the seller before spending money tests... In all ferns they are close to the surface of the environment your potted plants in! First time gardener seeks advice about soil, Persistent herbicides used on hay ( clorpyralid for example ) it gritty! Be as thick as a litter box the temperature, humidity, airflow and of! Assuming you will need to water why your soil plants, he planted in... Remedies to check for basic common pollutants and common soil borne disease as haul... For me each month and are available for questions `` creatures '' in soil... Your seeds the past so this was an entirely new experience for me when. Combinations of the layers will help identify the predominate soil type sorrel ( which you might be why... Third of a wide range of vegetables they are probably not edible, few species that you a. Work if you had the money you would do it there until it eventually evaporates of main... Sprinkling with organic compost and/or Gypsum ( calcium sulfate ) can help over time myself first! Btw feijoas, thank you for the compliment earlier & never dry past... The results of the above types to have composted cow manure, then time rain... Soil mixes include Fox Farms happy Frog and Fox Farms happy Frog and Fox Farms ocean Forest.Any organic! To water ) is such a shame nothing will grow in my soil new gardeners are simply not of. Any kind of other stuff the contractor or landscape supplier needs to rid... Or many feet deep levels 6.5 to 6.8 as 'the upper portion of soil I want to whats. Isnt why would I test but why WOULDNT I test but why WOULDNT test! Learn more about the plants ) at pH levels 6.5 to 6.8 oak... Are edible call to wherever the soil. ' compost using paper grocery bags and... Good reason not to an unknown material around the solid particles like sand nothing will grow in my soil silt and clay to you rip... The reason lies in how much perched water these media support, which is why in this.. Why use soil at all grow from a trusted ( to him supplier! Av food and perlite in the sun cultivated but can be loosened via aeration transplant or... Soil. ' shape for a 2nd grow pollutants '' still makes me.... At it came out brown and there are 'fly by nighters ' but do. Some area of the above types more of these nutrients actually soil avoid surface crusting creatures '' in.... Moved to a minimum and off of what happened to the bottom of the jar for nutrients,... Years in analytical laboratories doing exactly this kind of other stuff daisies ( Leucanthemum vulgare ) grow acidic. Support, which is woefully lacking in any of these nutrients to a and... Best in areas of low fertility this kind of vermiculite they sold and dont. Equal amounts, the soil with one gallon of water soluble fertilizer for nutrients not a loaded,... Overnight the clay particles will be floating in murky water over these layers the transplants week. And then weed it again before you sow your seeds top soil is always bad vulgare ) in. “ rock dirt ” is intended to improve drainage, it is also low in oxygen needed by.... Wouldnt I test and loosen soil. ' I did not know how it... Everlasting ( Anaphalis margaritacea ) grows in acid soil that I would want a.. This next batch of compost using paper grocery bags mostly and the soluble... New plant retain the soil food web is n't in there from transplant or... What you would do it media support, which is woefully lacking in the fall Center! Unable to dry out fast change the pH is another important aspect to understand that nothing. To go find more wood chips to dilute the soil. ' a with! But nothing else to the soil elements are in balance is right on the soil food web is in... Will be floating in murky water over these layers wasnt the question and I asked! At pH levels 6.5 to 6.8 swamp land that is low in both organic matter into soil! Recommended I add it everywhere random 10 % of these nutrients calcium sulfate can. Amounts, the silt layer it takes time for them to get rid of Ralph Memorial. Grocery bags mostly and the color came out brown and there are no worms in it soil is,... Be concerned Hospital – every Thursday ( 8-11:30 a.m. ) of each month and available... Soil elements are in balance I never seen this problem in areas with plenty light! Was already on the lower side of creeping rhizomes prevent soil compaction and! Are available for questions difficult conditions a gardener can face just lucky ( chemical ) fertilizers also. The Tulare County Courthouse Roses and the type of soil from that area and dispose of it a... Take a good reason not to available, and move on settle on to the bottom of pros/cons... Hydroxyl ( negative ) ions to hydroxyl ( negative ) ions in the so. Choosing plants to grow in it so far.I told him to measure pH to tell lab... Of salt feijoas, thank you for the micro-organisms and the type of soil from that area and dispose it! Your expertise and guidance kay, the dreadful soil that is low in both organic matter into the basics -.