Soil Planning for the Garden Expansion

As I’m planning for my garden expansion and calling around, emailing, googling and trying to get my hands on all of my available options for wood and soil, I’ve come up with the following dirt scenario.

I don’t have a good straight up option for compost, at least none that I’ve found yet.  I still have a few calls to make on this one, but it’s not looking good.  Of course I do have about a batch and a half of my own compost, which I will definitely be utilizing, but that won’t be nearly enough.  If I go the straight compost route I would be looking at almost $70 a cubic yard buying bags of compost from Home Depot.  Ouch.  To amend the current garden and expand I’m looking at 6 cubic yards.  That’s $420 on dirt.  Nope.  That’s not going to work.

There is a landscaping center called Pioneer that carries a sandy loam, which according to their website is:

33% screened fill dirt, 33% mulch, 33% manure. Sandy Loam is A great medium for vegetable gardens and other applications that utilize the warmth and micro nutrients of manure.

This is actually what I used when I first started gardening several years ago and it worked pretty well with a regular amendment of compost every season.  I can get this for about $32 a cubic yard.  Less than half the price… sounds pretty good.

So that’s where I plan to start.  I’ll amend the big pile with my own compost, several bags of well aged manure, some coconut coir, and Azomite to add extra nitrogen, organic matter, and trace minerals to the mix.

That’s my plan.  Any suggestions?

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10 Responses to Soil Planning for the Garden Expansion

  1. I’m working with a clay soil and a sub-tropical climate here in Queensland so I it’s completely different – but your soil plan sounds like a good way to go to me, and the coconut coir should hold the water for you which I should think would be pretty important in your Arizona climate.

    • Thanks, Jean, we actually have horrible clay soil here in AZ too, that’s why I’m going with the raised beds. My normal garden is in the native soil but I have amended it countless times with compost. That’s why I’m going with a little different strategy this time.

  2. valbjerke says:

    I’m probably just tired – but am unclear on whether you are short on dirt or compost or both…..
    If you’re into reading (though this might put you to sleep) one of the best books I’ve read in years that has made a huge difference in my garden/fields etc. is ‘Teaming with Microbes’ – The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web.(ISBN-13 978-1-60469-113-9)
    Yes it’s as dry as it sounds, yes you might develop an eye twitch trying to stick with it and yes, watching paint dry is infinitely more fun….BUT – if you can stick with it you will likely realize most of your compost/dirt issues can be sorted out with what you have on hand and in your yard already.
    If nothing else you might pick up some new ideas that you hadn’t thought of yet. 🙂

  3. Have you considered a wood core bed? It would cut the volume of soil needed and provide for great water retention and a fungal boost to the plants. As for nitrogen, the comfrey plant is a gold mine for that if it will grow where you are.

    • I’ve looked at those before out of curiosity, but I always thought they needed to be really big and bulky, have you heard of them being smaller and more discrete? I’ve never seen comfrey here. I’ve looked into it a little, but it might be worth revisiting. Thanks for the recommendations!

      • They work well in a smaller size. The only benefit that they lose is the massive water storage that a full Heugel bed offers, but they still store substantially more than a standard raised bed or tilled plot. When you add mulch the duration of storage increases. The one I just built is about 3′ wide and 2′ high.

  4. Have you ever looked into John Jeavons “grow biointensive” method? He really stresses soil building through crop selection, so that intensive gardening won’t deplete the soil. His “how to grow more vegetables…” was a revelation for long term planning, it’s also easy to read and understand.

    Another longer term suggestion for getting compost is to consider harvesting invasive weeds along roads/hiking paths/rivers/etc. It’ll help the local ecosystem as well as provide lots of material to compost that’ll be rich in nutrients/carbon. If it’s harvested before it goes to seed, there’s no chance of contamination, if it’s already gone to seed you can make a tea then compost the rotted material with no worries.

    • I have not heard of John Jeavons method. Sounds like I’ll need to add a book to my Amazon wish list! As far as the weeds go… it’s a bit of a stretch to find weeds along roads/hiking paths… I would probably spend more in gas to get to the river than buying some compost 🙂 Weeds are definitely less of an issue here in AZ because they need water, and we don’t get a lot of that.

  5. Pingback: Rabbits To The Rescue - Anna's Rose Garden

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