Miserable soil

Asked April 6, 2015, 1:51 PM EDT

My garden soil is so hard that I can hardly get a spade in it. I have a heavy duty tiller hired. Now I need to know what to put in the ground to make it usable. Sand, compost, mulch? Are maple leaves a good thing to use? Where can I buy large quantities of compost? Thank you

Boulder County Colorado soil and fertility issues

1 Response

Hello, I do not know the composition of your soil, so it is difficult to answer your question with specifics. If your soil is heavy clay, like many of the soils in this area, do NOT add sand. This combination will turn it into concrete and make the problem worse. In general, I would suggest applying compost (see the attached information sheet on Soil Amendments) at the rates shown. You can generally buy compost at local garden center, or at landscape yards. There are a number of these in Boulder and Longmont. In addition, Western Disposal in Boulder offers compost which you would have to haul yourself. Depending on the coarseness of the Western compost, it can be used as a soil amendment or a mulch. When looking at the compost that you are buying visually check the following: it should have a dark color and earthy smell, less than 1/2" particle size, minimal foreign matter, and uniformity. Ask the vendor if it has been tested for salinity: you do not want salts added to your soil. If you were to choose to use composted manure, read the attached sheet on this subject. Again, salinty can be an issue you do not want to introduce into your soil. As far as maple leaves go, they can be a great amendment, but it's best to compost them first In the fall, grind them up and put in your compost pile. If you were to put them directly in the soil it would take considerable time to break down. Mulching them with a mower into fine pieces can help with this process. For the long term, I would strongly suggest getting a soil test. You can pick up a kit for preparing your sample at 9595 Nelson Rd. in Longmont (the Boulder County Extension Office). You will then follow the instructions to send it to the laboratory in Ft. Collins. The cost is $35. Once you have the analysis in hand you will know exactly what your particular soil needs in terms of amendments. This is a broad topic; I hope this gives you a start. Soil tests: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/mg/Gardennotes/221.html Fall leaf compost: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/ptlk/1612.html Choosing a soil amendment: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07235.html Using manure: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/mg/Gardennotes/242.html