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Most Common Problems With Colorado Garden Soil

By February 28, 2014 February 15th, 2016 Garden Planning, Soil & Amendments, Uncategorized

The Most Common Colorado Garden Soil That People Use In Their Raised Garden Beds

The Garden Soil In Your Backyard: If you tried to dig a two-foot deep hole in your backyard, you would quickly learn that Colorado soil is incredibly hard-packed and clayey. If water cannot move through the soil, and root growth is impeded, your garden will suffer. Most existing soil has too much clay and not enough organic matter to have an easy and thriving veggie garden.

Solutions

1) Plant a cover crop each season and gently till it into your garden in the early spring. This will add organic matter, and the root growth from the cover crop will naturally loosen the clay and feed microbial life. 2) Mulch heavily each season, and gently mix/till the mulch into your garden in the fall. Don’t till mulch into the soil in the spring, because it will tie up nitrogen during the decomposition process. You can also lay down several inches of leaves in the fall, and mix them into the soil. 3) Add other sources of organic matter! Add two inches of compost and mix it gently into the top 6″ of soil. Don’t over apply compost, unless you’ve made it in your backyard! Or, mix coco coir or peat moss into the soil to loosen it up. Coco coir and peat moss don’t add any nutrients or salts, and simply make your soil less dense. Let us know if you’d like a quote on soil amendment for your garden! 

Organic Bagged Garden Soil: Most gardeners buy bagged soil products from Home Depot or Lowe’s.  Bagged soils do not contain any topsoil – they’re actually “soilless” growing medias. The fluffiness of bagged soils is great for drainage and aeration, but nutrients in these mixes leach out of the soil within a year or two because the soil lacks healthy microbiology and soil structure. Usually they must be replaced every couple years. They also drain too quickly stressing plants on hot summer days.

Solution

If you already have a garden full of bagged soil, there are a few solutions. 1) Add topsoil – ideally a high quality topsoil that you know will make a good garden soil. 2) Amend the soil using our suggested soil amendment. 3) Inoculate the soil with beneficial microbes as part of the soil amendment. Let us know if you’d like a quote on soil amendment for your garden! 

Bulk Topsoil-Compost Mixes: There are a number of places to buy bulk soil mixes to fill garden beds. These soil mixes are often too clayey and dense, making it difficult for water to drain through them and plant roots to penetrate the dense soil. They have the opposite problem of the bagged soils. Compost is often added to mitigate this problem, but often in too high of quantities (see below).

Solution

Don’t continue to add compost each season if you’re using one of these mixes. Instead, amend using our suggested yearly amendment. Also, consider one of the following to break up the clay: 1) Plant a cover crop each season and gently till it into your garden in the early spring. This will add organic matter, and the root growth from the cover crop will naturally loosen the clay and feed microbial life. 2) Mulch heavily each season, and gently mix/till the mulch into your garden in the fall. Don’t till mulch into the soil in the spring, because it will tie up nitrogen during the decomposition process. You can also lay down several inches of leaves in the fall, and mix them into the soil. 3) Mix coco coir or peat moss into the soil to loosen it up. Coco coir and peat moss don’t add any nutrients or salts, and simply make your soil less dense. Let us know if you’d like a quote on soil amendment for your garden!

Too Much Compost and Manure: Many organic gardeners simply add too much compost or manure to their gardens. Compost is amazing – it adds organic matter to your soil, feeds the microbiology in the soil, retains water, and releases nutrients that your plants need to grow. But it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. Adding too much can lead to high salts and high potassium levels in your soil. Many garden veggies are sensitive to high salts (beans are often the first plants to show salt problems). Manure is especially notorious for being high in salinity. High potassium in your soil can increase pest pressures and actually decrease the nutrient-density of your vegetables. Adding a bit of compost or manure to your soil every year is fine, but if 30-50% of your soil mix is compost or manure, it’s simply too much for truly healthy soil.

Solution

Stop adding compost and manure. Instead, use our suggested yearly ammendment. If your salt levels are incredibly high, it’s possible to leach the salt out of the soil by watering your garden with several inches of water.

What to Focus On With Your Garden Soil

  • Topsoil
  • High Organic Matter (but not too much compost or manure)
  • Drainage and Friability
  • Microbiology
  • Micronutrients and Trace Minerals

 

So What’s In The Urban Farm Company Mix?

Our soil contains over 15 ingredients such as topsoil, worm castings, compost, biochar, pulverized rock dust, and organic fertilizers that are intended to create a healthy soil ecosystem for plant growth.

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3 Comments

  • Allan Sundin says:

    What’s a good strategy for increasing acidity, and soil health in my garden and flower plant beds in north denver, I want to grow blueberry!!!

    • The Urban Farm Co. says:

      Blueberries are hard to grow in CO, but if you want to give it a try, I would add some coconut coir to the soil for good drainage an then would get a good acidic fertilizer (used for blueberries and other acid loving plants). I’ve heard of some people watering the soil with a little bit of white vinegar in the irrigation water as well to to increase the acidity of the soil, but I’ve never done that myself.
      Good luck!

  • Jacqui Newman says:

    I have a small 5 acre parcel that I’m finally getting to the garden portion! the area where I want to garden formally was pasture ground (corn/beans) then 3 years ago cows were kept there. nothing for past 3 years except tilling and weed killer…..
    what should I add to the soil for a garden of all types of vegies!?

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