Miss Floribunda - May 2008

Dear Miss Floribunda,
I am new to the neighborhood and want to grow an organic garden. I did a soil test and it looks like my entire back yard is 90% clay. As I have looked into into various soil amendments the consensus seems to be leafgro/compro delivered in bulk with a depth of 3-6 inches for a garden. The best price I have come to is $37 a cubic yard., including delivery. Any other ideas? I am not afraid of a little work.
Feat of Clay

Dear Clay,
Welcome to the challenges of gardening in this area. Your courageous attitude assures that you will not suffer defeat of clay. It will indeed take "a little work" to make your soil friable. You need to add a lot of greensand and organic matter and you need to dig it in more deeply than you propose. Six inches is the absolute minimum, and that only for shallow-rooted plants. To give an extreme example, to grow deep-rooted plants like roses you need to dig at least three feet down and mostly fill it with compost and soil conditioners, removing most of the clay. The instructions accompanying packaged roses suggest digging only two feet down. Not around here! Most successful gardeners in the Hyattsville region start with a small but thoroughly prepared area to garden, and extend it each year. Most develop compost piles composed of leaves, grass clippings and such non-offensive kitchen waste as coffee grounds. As you probably haven't developed much of a compost pile yet you might check with various municipalities for leaf mould giveaways. While you can take as much as you like, there is no home delivery. You would need to bring your own bags as well.
 In April the Hyattsville Horticultural Society had its annual Chesapeake Green sale at Community Forklift. This organic soil
 amendment comes from the Chesapeake Bay and is made of materials from and around the Bay. Whatever returns to the Bay through groundwater doesn't harm it in any way. This product does wonders for the soil immediately, and adds earthworms as well for a long-term benefit. Just come to the next meeting of the Hyattsville Horticultural Society on May 17, at 10 AM in the
Municipal Center. Other members of HHS will enthusiastically share their methods of improving the soil in their gardens, as well as their general gardening lore.