Our first garden was at our previous residence 33 years ago. A few years prior to our arrival there had been a garden on one side of the yard but the other side of the yard remained untouched for at least 25 to 30 years.
The side that had been used as a garden had been plowed with heavy farm equipment and was visibly lower than anyplace else on the property. The man who had gardened there knew only of bare ground, 10-10-10 and Sevin dust. He literally ruined the soil. It looked grey, chalky and void of life just like so many of the fields in this area.
Although we obviously chose the untouched portion of the yard to establish our first garden, it was not without problems. The soil was dense and solid clay after the first inch and not conducive to gardening.
In spite of limited means, time, and tools we managed to change the soil relatively quickly by loosening it to a depth of 24 inches and incorporating lots of manure, straw, and leaves into the thick yellow clay. Even by the second season there was tremendous improvement in plant growth and vitality. By the third year the soil was friable although a bit dense. It continued to improve with each passing year because of continually adding more organic material.
After 12 or 13 years of making gardens on almost every piece of the property except the piece the previous gardener had ruined — we decided to try to do something with that piece as well. We tilled the soil and put in wildflowers the first year. It was beautiful. Little by little we dug and added lots of organic matter.
Over a period of time the soil was able to sustain good growth and was dark and filled with earthworms. However, it always seemed to me that it was never quite as lush as the other parts of our garden. Perhaps it was just because I knew what it “had been.”
Any soil can be changed.
Your soil is first and foremost in guaranteeing the success of your garden. Treat it well and you’ll have abundance and success in your planting endeavors. It’s your garden’s most valuable asset.
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