Dirt in planter hard as rock

by Tina
How can I make the dirt loose to be able to plant perennials?
The dirt is so hard, anything I plant dies right away
  26 answers
  • Barb Rosen Barb Rosen on Mar 13, 2015
    Dig and loosen the soil and mix in compost, Tina. When soil is compacted, plants will not grow as well. Also make sure the area gets regular water. To preserve the moisture and keep weeds down, add 2 to 3 inches of mulch on top of the soil after you plant.
  • Lela Gandy Lela Gandy on Mar 13, 2015
    You can also add in sand, used coffee grinds and finely ground eggshells. Oh yea, and peat moss.
  • Gwynn Gwynn on Mar 13, 2015
    You know your soil had problems when even weeds will not grow. I would suggest lots of compost, manure and coconut coir (husks). Peat moss is acidic in nature and although some plants prefer this most find it difficult to grow in an acidic soil. It will require a lot of digging to properly work in these additives but a properly prepared bed will pay off in the end. After you are finished working the soil adding some earth worms to the bed will beneficial as they will continue to work the soil and keep it aerated. Mulch will reduce the chance of weeds getting a foothold and help to maintain the moisture. By the look of your soil you will have to add matter for years to come so consider buying a composter and making your own compost. Below is a link which illustrates how to dig a bed. Good luck :) http://en.hesperian.org/hhg/A_Community_Guide_to_Environmental_Health:Sustainable_Farming_in_the_City
  • Katrina Smalley Katrina Smalley on Mar 14, 2015
    REPLACE all that sandy brown with humus/manure and or garden soil ! you want dark brown dirt-this is far too lean to support much life...then add a few inches of shredded-NEVER CHUNKS--of mulch
  • Carole Carole on Mar 14, 2015
    If your soil is that rock hard you might find that it has become water impermeable. If that has happened, compost should help. Soil will repel water when it is too hard and has very little nutrients in it.
  • Janet Bagley Janet Bagley on Mar 14, 2015
    mix peat with the soil
  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Mar 14, 2015
    Everyone who has told you to incorporate organic matter is right. You may need a pickaxe, but that's what you need to do.
  • Maureen Blair Maureen Blair on Mar 14, 2015
    Your soil is compacted And lacking nutrients which makes it very hard to dig. I suggest you put some mushroom compost on top and then cover that with straw or mulch. This will keep the moisture in and soften the soil. Eventually the worms should return and aerate the soil. After a while it should be easy to dig over and put some plants in.
  • Hom1419539 Hom1419539 on Mar 14, 2015
    Where did you get the cubing done and how much ?
  • Carol Cockerham Carol Cockerham on Mar 14, 2015
    I mix black dirt, peat moss, sand and the inside of shredded diapers to my soil every year. Coffee grounds for my roses and other plants that need/like an acid soil.
  • Linda Settle Linda Settle on Mar 14, 2015
    Water it to saturate. You can add peat moss then.
  • Ellie Settlemyre Ellie Settlemyre on Mar 14, 2015
    I would add some peat moss, manure and potting soil to enrich your soil.
  • Rel1349504 Rel1349504 on Mar 14, 2015
    A gardening method I use is called Lasagna gardening. It's where you layer organic matter like compost, straw, leaves, manure, peat moss, etc. on top of your planting area.There is no digging. The first layer is wet/soaked newspaper. The paper draws the earthworms to your garden. You can start this now but you may not be able to plant this year depending on how hard your soil is. You may be able to plant in the fall which is a great time to plant perennials anyway. Look for lasagna gardening on the web or I found it on amazon and at my library. It's a super resource. No digging needed.
  • Lindcurt Lindcurt on Mar 14, 2015
    It needs all the compost you can dig in to it. Cotton burr compost and manure is what is used around here the most. The manure doesn't stink once its "dug in" and covered with mulch. My Grandpa would be amused if he knew people were buying manure in a bag
  • Blair Blair on Mar 14, 2015
    We have heavy clay and use a combination of sand, grow mulch, and gypsum mix well with the dirt that you are stuck with.
  • Dottie Unruh Dottie Unruh on Mar 14, 2015
    Add a soil amendment like Eco Compost, or sheep and peat. Not recommended to add sand--sand+clay= concrete.
  • Irish53 Irish53 on Mar 14, 2015
    give the soil a good soaking with the hose to loosen it up and make it easier to dig. you may have to keep adding water as you dig deeper.
  • Jane Jane on Mar 14, 2015
    Wet the dirt. Remove from container. Mix with compost, peat, sand. You should now have enough for several containers. Put some rocks or broken pottery in the container. Replace the new soil plant plants water and fertilize. Water often for a week or so to establish plants. Enjoy
  • Nelly Nelly on Mar 14, 2015
    Soil has a habit of becoming compact in containers, your best bet is dig it over add as much organic matter as you can get, try not to use peat, it has no nutritional value and is not very eco friendly, dont add sand it will just compact it further, but horticultural grit is good, after that its down to maintenance, turning over the soil now and again, keeping on top of watering etc. Oh and try planting Lupins (annual I know) they have deep roots and brake up the soil and can be dug in as a green manure at the end of their life, not sure if they grow on your side of the pond but there might be something similar that does the same job. Hope this helps
  • Laura H Laura H on Mar 14, 2015
    What everyone else is telling you is correct - you need to add compost, manure or peat. First, get it wet where you can loosen it up with a shovel or rake. Then you can add your other material. If your area is full of the soil you already have, you may have to remove some of it first to add some of the better stuff. Then you would just mix in whatever other material you decide to use. Over the past couple of years, I have personally found that Miracle Gro Garden Soil is wonderful! Here where I live, Home Depot has it on sell off and on and it is not horribly expensive. It has all the different kinds of materials in the one product that are needed instead of you buying 2 or 3 different things. Good luck and hope you end up with a beautiful area!
  • Ilona Elliott Ilona Elliott on Mar 14, 2015
    Alfalfa pellets spread over the top will eventually loosen it. If you can dig it out and mix it in with organic matter as everyone indicated you can plant in it right away. I would still spread some pellets on it when done. They really do soften clay soils.
  • Tina Tina on Mar 14, 2015
    Yes, thanks for the ideas. Will try
  • Julie Johnson Julie Johnson on Mar 14, 2015
    Some good advice offered, but adding sand to clay does indeed make concrete. Healthy soil has organic content, so adding compost (my favorite), shredded leaves, or aged manure would all be beneficial. Mulching the beds will also help. Mulch will prevent further compaction, aid in keeping the beds moist and weed free, and further improve the soil as it breaks down.
  • Artist In The Garden Artist In The Garden on Mar 14, 2015
    As an amateur soil scientist I would first find out how deep that clay is. Good drainage is so important. If there is sand down there within a few feet I'd pick away at the top layer of that packed clay. Then I'd rent a power auger to drill holes down to the sand layer. Once that is accomplished I'd line those holes with heavy duty landscape fabric and fill the holes with gravel. The top of the gravel would also be covered with the fabric. Then I'd prepare the soil with sand and grit ( granite stone dust ), aged manure, compost, mini-pine nuggets, organic ashes, fishmeal. All of this ( except the fabric ) gets rototilled together thoroughly with the existing clay. This is how I've attacked many a clay yard with amazing results. Super fast growth. Worms reproduce like crazy in this type of environment. Weeds pull out very easily with this type of soil preparation. Tried soil mixes in the past with little or no sand or stone dust, but weeds were still too hard to pull and nothing grew as healthy or fast as they did in my grittier soil mixes. If the clay goes down to China then it may be wise to stick to container gardening in a small flowerbed. In larger planting areas with extra deep clay, the clay would be graded to form a crown. Topsoil would be dumped and graded where you wish to have a bed. Then layers of the above mentioned materials would be spread on top of this and tilled in. You'd end up with rich, productive berms with gentle slopes. Happy Gardening !
  • Marion Nesbitt Marion Nesbitt on Mar 15, 2015
    Feel your pain. Have a heavy clay soil, too. Should get into a cottage industry making pots! Needs continual attention. Have dug it out and replaced with good soil, etc. but the clay works up into it within a couple of years. Good suggestions given. Dig it out as best you can, add good soil, etc. and keep composting,. and even buy some worms. I actually gave up with the expense and aggravation, and just have perenniels that survive in it. Beesbalm, ferns, peonies, iris grow in mine. I do water a fair amount to try to prevent "concrete".
  • Nancy Nancy on Mar 15, 2015
    Are you sure it's soil? Looks as if someone mixed soil with concrete to avoid weeds.