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Old 02-19-2008, 09:43 PM   #11
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If you double dig your clay soil, it should raise (depending on the amount of compaction) it around 6" above the surrounding soil, and if you amend with your finished compost even more so. The method of double digging will not make a depression, but rather a raised bed .

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Old 02-20-2008, 12:31 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zoebisch01
If you double dig your clay soil, it should raise (depending on the amount of compaction) it around 6" above the surrounding soil, and if you amend with your finished compost even more so. The method of double digging will not make a depression, but rather a raised bed .
Ahhhh. I see what you mean now but, wouldn't it be just as effective to use a cultivator (tiller). My neighbor has one with, IIRC, 12" tines. My plan is to cultivate the native soils to loosen the up and then mix the new soil and compost in equal parts until blended with the native and then top cover with the new.
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Old 02-20-2008, 04:35 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by GilaMinumBeer
Ahhhh. I see what you mean now but, wouldn't it be just as effective to use a cultivator (tiller). My neighbor has one with, IIRC, 12" tines. My plan is to cultivate the native soils to loosen the up and then mix the new soil and compost in equal parts until blended with the native and then top cover with the new.
The theory behind double digging is to help preserve your soil structure while mitigating compaction. It is a LOT of work but imho well worth it. A tiller is ok, but what happens is you end up rotating the top soil (depending on it's original depth) into the subsoil layers. With double digging you remove that and then put it back on top. Although it has been shown that soil, if treated properly can recover fairly well (given everything it needs) you can be ahead of the game by double digging. The other down side to a tiller is that you don't get any deeper than the tines can go. With double digging you are basically loosening down over a foot.

What you could do, is carefully remove and set aside the top 4 to 6" of soil and place it on a tarp or in a wheelbarrow, then till the lower soil (and add your compost and amendments), which should bring that level up to roughly a little above the surrounding soil. Then top back off with your topsoil layer (again mixing in compost, etc). If you choose to box it in with cedar, rock or untreated wood it will help prevent erosion (but the real key to preventing windborne and water erosion is having a high amount of OM in your soil). You can get away with no sides, and slope the bed. I add roughly 1 to 2" of compost every year and mulch heavily with shredded leaf matter or straw.

What is quite amazing is, and I'd venture a guess that when you dig into your soil that the earthworm population will be low as is quite common in compacted clay. Once you begin to add OM in the form of compost and such, you will most likely see a dramatic increase in your earthworm population. This is key to healthy soil.
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Old 02-20-2008, 04:44 PM   #14
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Good points.

I do intend to box in with sheet metal, it was free. Funny you mention earth worms. My compost heap is nearly 5 foot tall and 8 foot diameter of which I had "seeded" with earthworms (long story about donated red crawlers) after reading a composting blurb about their benifits to aeration.

I may take your advice on the tilling of the subsoil as I think hand turning of this stuff will be way too labor intensive and time is running out for me to have it ready for rhisome plantings. We are transitioning right now and it is either very cold or very wet. I have absolutely no desire to hand cultivate wet clay and very little desire to machine cultivate it either. So I am waiting, planning, and collecting the necessities. To remind you we are talkin about a long narrow garden space that covers 150 square feet.

I have read up quite a bit on nematodes, any suggestions?

Our soil is laden with June bugs and I fear for my rhisomes with the potential of the larvea eating them up. I had not seen any when I originally dug the plot but don't doubt that they will move in.

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Old 02-20-2008, 05:30 PM   #15
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The worms should come when they have food. This should happen naturally. If you see a skunk digging up your yard, he's after the June bugs . I am not sure how much damage they'd do to hops or if they are a threat.

One other thing, do not, I repeat do not attempt to till/plow/etc wet soil as it is not only hard on you and your equipement but the soil as well. Once the ground thaws and is not soggy that's the time. (but before it gets bone dry).

150 sq ft. When I lived in clay soil land, that is probably the amount I double dug by hand, it was a killer amount of work. If your area is about 2 tiller widths, you could shovel off the top layer (if you have sod there, just compost it...it'll take a while if it isn't broken into small chunks though) to either side of the path. Run the tiller down one side and back. Go slow and let it churn well so you get that aeration going. You want to go progressively down with the tine settings otherwise it'll kick up on you and you'll go flying (experience is a lovely teacher ). After the last two passes don't walk on it anymore. Then fill back in the topsoil with your amendments. If you can get a hold of some aged manure that is another great thing to add.

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Old 02-20-2008, 06:12 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zoebisch01
The worms should come when they have food. This should happen naturally. If you see a skunk digging up your yard, he's after the June bugs . I am not sure how much damage they'd do to hops or if they are a threat.

One other thing, do not, I repeat do not attempt to till/plow/etc wet soil as it is not only hard on you and your equipement but the soil as well. Once the ground thaws and is not soggy that's the time. (but before it gets bone dry).

150 sq ft. When I lived in clay soil land, that is probably the amount I double dug by hand, it was a killer amount of work. If your area is about 2 tiller widths, you could shovel off the top layer (if you have sod there, just compost it...it'll take a while if it isn't broken into small chunks though) to either side of the path. Run the tiller down one side and back. Go slow and let it churn well so you get that aeration going. You want to go progressively down with the tine settings otherwise it'll kick up on you and you'll go flying (experience is a lovely teacher ). After the last two passes don't walk on it anymore. Then fill back in the topsoil with your amendments. If you can get a hold of some aged manure that is another great thing to add.
I have been using packaged manure and adding it to the compost heap every third layer or so. I should have a pretty rich mix available to top dress with once the weather allows planting.

Thanks for all the tips and yes, I know the limitations of using a tiller and it's inherent hazards.
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Old 02-20-2008, 06:26 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GilaMinumBeer

Thanks for all the tips and yes, I know the limitations of using a tiller and it's inherent hazards.
You're welcome. I always try to err on the side of caution when giving advice, even if it is at the expense of a breach of social etiquette.
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