Saturday, May 26, 2012

Clay Soil and Pine Mulch

Plants and soil types are like the 3 bears and bed types in the "Goldilocks" story. There is no one prefect soil that every plants likes.

Here in the chilly zone 4a region of Wisconsin we have a difficult soil for most traditional plants. It is clay, compact, wet, and highly alkaline. On the plus side clay has tons of nutrients and holds water well. What can you do to improve your garden to be more acceptable to other non clay/alkaline loving plants?

Added lots pine mulch!

Pine mulch is acidic (epically the pine needles). Normally most advice is to neutralize this acidity by adding a alkaline product to the mulch (common one is lime stone powder). But why add alkaline if acidity is what you really want. The acidity in the mulch will eventually balance out the soil, creating soil layers with a range of acidic to alkaline the deeper the soil level gets. This means each plant will send roots the soil level of acidic/alkaline it likes and then start growing! Mulch is great at keeping just the right water level so your plants don't dry out or don't water rot. While mulch also helps prevents weeds, since the mulch is acidic that helps stop those pesky weeds. Eventually the much will break down and help with the compaction of the soil. (Warning: mulch in the first year will absorb nitrogen, but will release it as it breaks down in the 2nd year)