[gardeners] Hard pack soil improvement experiments was c

Liz Albrook (gardeners@globalgarden.com)
Tue, 23 Sep 1997 13:44:34 +0000

This message appeared on the wrong newsgroup somehow so I sent it 

------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
Now that I have  a few minutes I wanted to share my conclusions regarding 
improving clay or hard pack soils.

I've read several books and articles and evaluated my own observations and 
have tenativly concluded that at an accelerated rate, simulating the natural cycle 
of growth and decay in nature is the logical and efficient way to go about 
improving hard soils.  The best way to do this is with a permanent mulch 
system much like Ruth Stout's.

To attempt to prove my theory I'm going to set up an experiment.  I have a 
section of my garden that is very hard, rocky and very little grows there.  
Currently it is covered mostly with wormwood and a few other plants that can 
manage the conditions.  It has had horses on it for two years but has been 
unutilized since late last summer.  All manure is in two locations so is not 

I will set it as follows: 
1 strip will remain as is as a control. 
1 strip will have winter rye broadcast over the surface.
1 strip will have the soil tilled and the rye broadcast.
1 strip will have the current vegitation cut and left on the surface as the only 
1 strip as previous except manure added lightly on top.
1 strip will have the current vegitation cut, tilled in and cardboard and hay 
mulch applied to the surface.
1 strip as above with manure layered with mulch.
I may also do one strip each as above except one without the cardboard and the 
other will have leaves as mulch instead of hay.

I will evaluate the soil in each plot next spring and summer.  I will look at soil 
structure, thaw date, productivity. and anything else that seems relevant at the 

This will be eight strips.  Does anyone have any suggestions for further test 
strips?  I have plenty of room as the area is more than approximately 11,000 
sq. ft..

Have I overlooked anything.  All comments and suggestions are welcome as is 
anyone else also doing similar experiments over the winter and comparing 

Terry King                  North Central Eastern Washington
taeking@televar.com        USDA zone 4, Sunset Zone 1