Tulipa humilis 'Albocaerulea Oculata'

Peter Taggart petersirises@gmail.com
Mon, 01 Oct 2012 00:58:39 PDT
Hello Gene,
I don't dispute anything that you say, It is very good advice.

However, my impression is that Rodger wishes to grow tulips in a rather
sticky soil. If this is the case a basic principle of mixing compost is
that to aerate the mix, or create drainage with coarse particles, there
must be at least 30% particles (grit) by volume. Less will just embed
particles in the clay. It is only when there are enough particles that they
touch each other in order to create gaps in the soil structure that the
nature of the soil will change.
As you suggest an inch of gritty sand spread on the surface of heavy or
good loam will achieve a friable soil which is free draining. I do this on
rose beds in England -which reduces black spot enormously by allowing the
soil surface to dry more quickley, (and encourages crocus, scilla, etc. to
seed freely underneath them.

For initial improvement of heavy clay or sticky soil I suggest that the top
spit, (8 inches or a spades depth), be modified with 1/3 gritty sand, or
This also will bulk up the soil to create a mound or raised bed which may
or may not be desirable in a given circumstance. It does take a lot of
digging in!

Digging a hole in a clay soil will create a pond when it rains, filling the
hole with sand and compost will create a bog. Usually for such improvement
a slope or raised bed is desirable.
As you say, with really bad clay or clay subsoil,
 it is better to put a good depth of imported soil / sand / compost on top.

I too have gardened on sand, loam, and heavy clay, in areas with rainfalls
ranging from 20 inches to 100 inches per year and have been gardening for
four decades. I was dissecting corms and bulbs, weeding Aciphyllas (-small
hands get where larger ones can't!), aged three and had moved on from
rooting stems of willow and sedums to trickier plants such as Nothofagus
and Ilex by the time I was five. I am now 43. I was sending to Wallace and
Barr and Bakkers for  lillies - African Queen, Enchantment...., and my
first tulips  and reticulate Iris by the time I was 6. I was looking at
scaling the lillies and scoring hyacinths and dafodills then. - nearly four
decades ago.

If only I had the opportunity to travel so far as Longview Washington area
I should be be very glad to drop by, thank you for the invitation.
Best wishes

Peter (U.K. (England - Derbyshire, also gardening in Lincolnshire and
Argyle in  Scotland)

On Sun, Sep 30, 2012 at 11:42 PM, Gene Mirro <mirrog@yahoo.com> wrote:

> Peter, clay loam soil already has sand in it, and it also has silt.
>  Google "soil triangle".  So you just have to add enough sand to turn it
> into loam or sandy loam soil.  In my very dense clay loam, 1.5 inches is
> enough.  If you are starting out with pure clay soil, such as subsoil clay,
> I don't recommend trying to amend it.  Either pile good soil on top of it,
> or truck it off the property and replace it with good soil.  If your native
> soil will grow a good crop of weeds, it's probably good enough to amend
> with coarse sand.  I've gardened on the east and west coast, and I've never
> seen soil turn into concrete because of the addition of sand.
> After four decades of gardening, I've gotten to the point where I refuse
> to garden in heavy soil.  I just do the soil improvement up front before
> anything gets planted.  I believe heavy soil is one reason why a lot of
> people give up gardening after a couple of years.  You can improve it
> somewhat with organic matter, but it is a slow and endless task.  With
> sand, the improvement is immediate and permanent.
> If you are in the Longview, Washington area, drop by and see for yourself.
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