Soil amendments

Jane McGary
Tue, 27 Aug 2002 12:20:53 PDT
I hope that members who are in California and similar areas will be able to
help me with this problem.

I've been offered the opportunity to plant a long border at my brother's
place in the hills between Monterey and Salinas, California. I want to use
a lot of bulbs and dwarf shrubs, as well as shrubby penstemons and other
drought-tolerant plants of low stature.

The native soil is called "decomposed granite," but it contains a high
proportion of fines and dries to bricklike consistency in summer. Native
bulbs in the neighborhood include Calochortus, Triteleia, Bloomeria; I have
also seen Dodecatheon clevelandii there. I don't think we can establish our
nursery plants in it without amending the soil, and digging down deep
enough to plant bulbs in it would be a painful proposition, so I want to
prepare a more amenable planting medium.

I consulted "Soils to Grow," a local firm offering soil amendments in that
area, and all their expert could recommend was various kinds of composted
wood products, which in my opinion are dangerous to Mediterranean-climate
bulbs of many kinds. He says they have no other products that will loosen
this type of soil. There is no local source of true leafmold that is not
contaminated with salts and heavy metals, he says, and the mushroom compost
available locally is also contaminated (he says). The ground pumice I'd
apply here is not available in that area. The border is 800 sq. feet, so
buying little bits in bags is not an option.

What options to I have to rotted fir bark and sawdust -- which I know will
attract bulb-destroying fungi? Help!

Jane McGary
NW Oregon 

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