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Joined: Wed Jul 01, 2009 6:28 pm
Location: South East Coast

My 1st composting question!! YAY!

So basically, my raised flower garden is built on in hard chalky area, common on the UK coast.

I took as much clean topsoil off of the original beds trying not to disturb the chalk (although there is already an element of small chalk chunks in there).

The clean soil I have when watered sets really hard, I have struggled to get anything but weeds to grow in it (in a windowbox), I sometimes fork it to try to create a breakthrough layer but nothing works.

I want to mix it with something to help with the drainage issue, I also wanna add a good compost to it to help my little flowers grow!

What would you suggest?

I'm in such a good position to do the best thing for it, as it stands its nearly ready,it is empty and I have nothing growing in it. I have potted plants ready to be transplanted once its finished and a huge pile of gray chalky clumpy soil growing weeds!
My mum says that I fiddle with my plants too much, that's why their all dying!

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Posts: 27804
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Are you trying to grow in a container -- with bottom panel drilled with drainage holes or are you trying to grow in a raised bed -- no bottom panel but sitting on chalky ground?

There are some differences depending on your answer, but I think a proper amendment here would be something with lots of organic matter and low pH -- 1/3 your soil, with maybe 1/3 composted manure and 1/3 small pine bark nuggets (pea gravel size?) I usually like sand and granite chips for drainage, but they can be alkaline and I don't think you need to raise pH any more.

For your raised bed, I would suggest sheet mulching and growing deep rooted pioneer plants like potatoes, corn, sunflower, etc. to loosen up the chalky soil. Unfortunately it's getting a bit late for them now, but you could grow peas, cole crops, lettuce, spinach and/or radish, turnips and daikon for fall/winter crop. Lavender and Rosemary are two herbs that like chalky, well drained soil. If you are growing flowers, I'm not as familiar but I seem to recall that dianthus like alkaline soil (but I could be wrong). It would be a good idea to grow a suitable (not sure what) cover crop this fall/winter to prep the area for next spring.

Oops! Gotta go, cat's getting into something!

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