Before & after

No vital signs – it’s a code three!

As the first slabs of concrete were removed, we uncovered soil. The same hardpan, adobe soil that many years ago covered our entire property. Soil so dry that it repelled water like it was oil and refused to absorb H2O no matter how long you saturated it. It was (and still is) lifeless “dry as a bone” and once again it’s going to be our job to resuscitate this patch of dead soil. Clear!

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  1. Wildside says:

    Thank you for that clear visual of how soil can be improved (before & after)! I’ve been finding the same true here… Progress is happening; I can already see the results, but have a ways to go yet. Working on the patience still!

  2. Jeff says:

    Is the native soil mainly clay? I have been battling peanut-butter (or concrete depending on the time of year) clay soil for several years. It is very frustrating. There never seems to be enough organic material available when needed and in the qantities required. Second, I have been trying to use hand tools to work the soil so as to not disturb the growing worm population (and it is just plain more enjoyable), but this approach never adequately mixes the organic material sufficiently to keep the clay from re-gluing. Hence, I have used one of the little two-stroke tillers that will grind the soil well, but only during that short window when the soil is dry enough. This is the other problem with clay. Early planting is precluded not by cold temperatures but a wet, heavy soil not yet ready for being worked.

    So, with all of that in mind, what is your specific formula and process for transforming that soil. Obviously it involves amending with compost. But what else do you do? When do you do it? How do you do it? Do you have a x-step program to healthy soil?



  3. butuki says:

    As a relative novice at gardening reading this was enlightening. I’m trying to transform my much-abused (before I moved here) tiny slot of backyard here in Tokyo into a more vital piece of life. The soil against the side of the apartment is dry as a bone mainly because the rain rarely reaches that area due to the overhanging eaves. Also, with the sun hitting it everyday the water has been long leeched out. I don’t have much space, but there must be something I can do to revitalize the soil… may I ask what a simple way to make compost might be? And I guess it would help to put mulch or leaves down to protect the soil from the sun? Three are few living things in the dry soil, except antlions, which thrive in the sandlike conditions.

  4. Anais says:

    Thanks for the comments folks!

    The “after” soil is after many, many years. I wished I had documented it over time to capture the period when it really changed over.

    The techninques we used to improve the soil were quite simple. Mulch heavily. Over the years we were bringing in loads of tree trimmings and adding layer upon layer. We also ammended the soil with horse manure from a local stable and with compost that we either made ourselves (or bought from a local nursery when we need more than we could provide)

    Also, we collected coffee grounds from local shops and sprinkled the grounds througout the yard. Now with our animals, they have help tremdously – boosting our soil and compost.

    It’s vital that you kept turning organic matter into the soil – mixing the live soil with the dead. For our vegetable garden we built raised beds and at one point we did have to import some organic soil to fill in the beds because the soil had sunk.

    We do not use power tools (tillers, etc) in our garden. We prefer the trowel over such power machines.

    I hope I have answered some of your questions so far.

    Butuki, you asked about our compost methods.

    We take a “lazy” or “natural” (whatever way you look at it) to composting. We have four bins that we pile with organic, green matter. Once and awhile we get around to turning the pile over.

    Another method that we used in a very bad section of the yard (which was filled with asphault and car parts) was to dig pits and throw kitchen and green waste into the holes that we made. We would move these “pits” throughout the section of the yard and eventually the soil improved.

    And, Jeff, you asked if we have a “step by step program” to healthy soil.

    First, off it sounds like you (and Butuki) are on the right path.

    It’s tough for me to say since each one’s soil is different. I will see if I can’t put some of our best tips together for anothe post.