This is a tricky question. On Friday, you heard me talk about my heavy wet clay. Countless times, I have had people ask why I don’t amend it?
Probably the first 10 years that I lived there, I tried. I used compost. I used bark mulch. And nothing seemed to make a difference. I wasn’t quite sure what was happening.
The Spoiler was happening, I think. Long time readers have seen the photos I post every fall of soil all over my porch from his leaf blowing. The amended soil, which was mostly in the top layer because I don’t till or turn my soil (more about that on Friday) was getting blown away when he blows leaves. And even though we now try to retain as many leaves as possible on the property an in the gardens, some do have to go down to the curb for town-wide recycling.
So that’s my new version of garden bed amending–leaving the leaves where they fall to decompose in the beds. If it works for nature, it’s good enough for me.
But a more important part of this is about planting holes. Remember several years. Back? The adage was to dig a $5 whole for 50 cent plant. That’s no longer true.
The reason you were supposed to dig the huge hole in the “old days” was so that you could mix all the soil you took out of it with all sorts of “good stuff:” compose and good planting soil and maybe even some fertilizer. They you partially back-filled the hole, set your new plant in, and filled around it.
Please, no more! What gardeners and soil scientist have discovered is that we were creating giant planting containers int he ground and our trees’ and shrubs’ roots had no incentive to leave the nice “$5 hole” that we made for them to go out into the rest of our regular garden soil (really, if you heard the description of my soil on Monday, and then this lovely soil, and you wee a plant root, what would you do?!)
So now, the idea is to just dig the hole that you need, no deeper and just wide enough to get your plant in. Do not amend the soil because then the plant will have no reason to grow out into your own garden soil. Interesting.
Of course, with my soil, there was never any $5 hole digging anyway, so I can tell you that I have never done any of that nonsense. I was always lucky if I could pry a spot open large enough to get a tree into. Luckily, we are already heavily wooded so I don’t have to plant too many trees.
But it’s always nice when you find that what you have been doing all along is suddenly the “new” correct thing. Wow.