Planting this weekend - Need some soil advice!

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adagiogray

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I've read most places that a 'sandy loam' is optimal for growing hops.
I've also read that loam soils are a variable ratio of sand, silt, and clay as described in this diagram: http://nesoil.com/properties/texture/sld005.htm

Gathering what I could about those ratios, I interpreted that 'sandy loam' is about 50 percent(or MORE) sand, 25 silt and 25 clay. That sounds like a lot of sand. HALF at a MINIIMUM? :) Also, should it be coarse or fine sand? If coarse, how coarse?
Is this stuff I can walk into a Lowe's or Strader's Nursery and say "hey, I need some sandy loam?", or will I need to mix it myself?

I also read that manure would be good to add in, for a subtler, extended nutrient release that is better/safer than chemical fertilizers. I'm not sure how much is too much. I plan on hitting these guys up the road from me at http://www.ohiomulch.com/c-29-soil-products.aspx , at least for the manure (I assume $1.59 for 40 lbs of composted manure is a pretty nice price?) I considered picking up their topsoil at $1.19, but it gives no silt or clay ratios. Guess I'll have to hit Lowe's or Strader's after all.

So, here's my newb hop grower project:

I'm doing 8 plants around my back cement patio, only extending into my small-mediumish suburban back yard a few feet. I was going to build a short brick border to have a slightly raised bed, and do a soil pile for each rhizome, staking a rope behind each plant, secured under a brick. I still have to see where I can connect the lines to the house the best, as I'm sure the HOA wouldn't be thrilled about a 20' pole in the back yard, and dropping a pole sounds too much like work. ;) Fortunately the back yard is south, so lots of sun all day long. Downside is that even with me having a 6' wood privacy fence, there arent very many or very big trees to cause any sort of windbreak, so we do get some high winds at times.

I'm in Central Ohio, with a fairly clayish soil that is so firm you can't even hardly get a shovel past the sod. I had a fence put in a couple of years back, and the workers even complained they had trouble getting their (powered)posthole digger down in it.

Should I go to Lowe's and rent a rototiller this weekend, or will it even touch harder clay soils?

I chopped down a lot of rose of sharon and some stunted evergreen bushes from the target area last year, buy I never tore up their root system.

So, In a nutshell: Is this 'sandy loam' a premix or a DIY thing? Is rorotilling before dropping the bricks and soil a good idea? Or should I rototill this 'sandy loam' and manure right in? Do you suggest sisal rope or should I do something reusable like nylon?

Thanks in advance for any advice!
 

badbrew

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Adding sandy anything won't help drain underneath. Water has to go somewhere so if you make the top soil drain, you end up with a soup bowl. The best bet is to figure out the drainage issue. You have to get water to leave the root zone especially after rains. I would consider a french drain or a container for your plants. Trash cans work well if you keep the heat off of them. If you want a raised bed then make sure that water can wash away from it. A gravel or sand bottom with a hole on the bottom of the sides will help but you need to make sure that when the water comes out, it leaves the area, so you may want to build the bed on a slope. That or let the soil underneath get muddy and sacrofice it as long as there is a barrier between the root zone and the muddy native area (again gravel). Mix some potting soil and sand and peat moss and manure (not too much maybe 20%) in the root zone, or add some native soil if you want to just not too much to affect drainage.

Tillers will eat up clay but it has to be moist. Bone dry clay is like concrete. Avoid the kind with one small wheel and huge blades. They suck on clay and roots. Get the honda heavy duty type.

And sandy loam is a generic term for best native soil type. You can't buy it at HD only at a soil delivery places by the yard for >$300/ load
 
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adagiogray

adagiogray

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Soooooo..... Done. 8 rhizomes in. At least for the time being. Rented a rototiller from Lowe's to bust up the soil around my patio, I got 2 40 lb bags of manure, 6 topsoil, 2 sand, 2 potting soil, and 4 mulch. I tilled, dropped in all but the mulch, tilled again, shaped a hill-down gradient from the patio. Soaked the rhizomes for an hour in 80 degree water... dug little holes, dropped in the rhizomes vertically w/buds up, and plopped a little of the the *very* wet muddy potting soil on top. I watered some, then mulched with black diamond over top.

I am curious though...Will mulch interfere with the buds sprouting?

The jury's still out on how I'll do up the lines, and with what. I'm leaning toward a nylon rope that can be reused.... but just cutting the buggers down and tossing them after harvest sounds tempting too. I can connect them to the house in a single ring, or I can sink a pipe as a foundation for a good section or 2 of pole of some kind.
 

tchuklobrau

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I think having em grow up mylon rope and then trying to separate bine from rope later for rope reuse will be a megga pain in the arss. Jute/sissal is the way to go. cheap, and breaks down in your compost pile with the bines.
 

B-Hoppy

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adagiogray,

I'm up in NEO and have a similar problem with heavy clay below a couple inches of 'topsoil'. One thing you have to look at is that hops are a long term project and to try to get the soil right (or at least better than present) in one year is never gonna happen. If you have enough space, what you can do is to just get them going for the first year. They're busy just trying to establish a solid crown at that point and aren't trying to do anything fancy like produce a crop. If they do, you know they managed to produce enough energy to fulfill their needs in developing a solid crown, with the excess going to produce some cones. During this establishment year, you have the whole Summer to leisurely amend a new area for them to be much more productive in the coming years. I'm talking about digging down a couple feet and getting rid of the clay and creating a nice big mound of a good blend of soil, compost etc., essentially creating as big a raised bed as you can. Reason for this is that when you carve out the clay and backfill with better soil, you create what is called a 'teacup' affect (someone posted this somewhere else on the forum). When we get excess rainfall, the water takes the path of least resistance and moves to fill the space that contains the more permeable soil. It's not really a solution to the problem, and I haven't found the magic method yet (other than installing a drain), but at least your plants have a fighting chance during seasons of less than normal rainfall. All you can do in the rainy years is keep your fingers crossed. Just some thoughts - grow on!
 
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