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Hydrophobic soil, help me please

 
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Just dug up one of my potato beds and thought I would quick get in some lettuce, greens and beets. I put a sprinkler on for a couple hours, and came back to find only the top quarte inch was damp, under that, bone dry, so watered all day, and then there was about a half an inche damp, dry underneath. What is happening here? I’ve been building up this sandy soil, working lots of wood chips, running chickens on it, seems like a good bit of organic matter there.
 
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What is your climate?

Maybe once you've got it moistened once well, a nice thick layer of mulch will help it keep some moisture, and allow it to accept more moisture in the future
 
pollinator
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I had a similsr problem with one of my raised beds. Too much organic material (such as decomposed woodchips) in a bed makes it gain an epic hydrophobic character when it dries out completely. What I did for my beds;
Always had a thick layer of mulch during the season.
Installed drip irrigation and let it drip for days.
When the summer season was over, I added some dirt over the beds and mixed it throughly. I have clay soil, so I added a layer of clay into the mixture. I guess vermiculite would also work for that case.
 
Becky Thatcher
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In northwestern Michigan
 
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Becky,

There are a couple things you can do to help with water retention.  

The first is to water regularly and continuously.  Over time, the wood will slowly soak in water and hold on to it.  Also keep these wood chips moist, perhaps by adding a layer of newspaper, cardboard, etc. so that the water can't get out.  Top off with more wood chips just to hold the paper layer in place.

The second option is to get those wood chips decaying.  This will happen naturally in its own.  My approach is to add in wind cap mushroom spawn because it breaks down the wood very quickly and the resulting compost both holds water well and is amazingly fertile.  If you want more help on how to do this I can provide you with details.

I hope this helps,

Eric
 
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I have encountered a similar problem with my raised beds.  I insert either a pipe and run a hose into it .....or I use a funnel with a long neck.  It depends how deep I need the water to flow. Once things start to decompose more, the water will sink deeper without the extra help.
 
Becky Thatcher
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Thank you Eric, would like to hear more, especially how to get spawn into soil. I have introduced wine cap nearby , though it grows when and where it feels like it, oysters about 100 feet north, didn't do much, though birch totems produced a couple of years. I am about 300 yards from Lake Michigan, so sandy. started with raised beds and have gradually been working on the rest. most of the mulch on this particular area was shredded hardwood on cardboard with portable chickens rotating in between, so the wood particles are pretty fine now.Do you think I should forget trying to do a fall planting here? I did a leaf mulch over half of it the other day, had some rain, so will look tomorrow  to see what the state is.
 I met some one who suggested a couple drops of Lemon Joy in a watering can, and sprinkling the surface. They had a greenhouse business, and had used it this way, and for repelling bad bugs.
 It would be great to learn how to be more effective with spawn, and breaking down my manure better. I have three ponies, collect the manure, and compost with EM and leaves and hay. interested in compost teas and Korean natural farming.
 
pollinator
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I'm going to suggest something totally different. How much water is your sprinkler putting out and how large an area is it covering, it doesn't sound like hydrophobic soil it just sounds like dry soil with nowhere near enough water being added. Unless you can see the water running off it's not going to magically dissapear. One of my books points out that to get the top 12 inches of a dry soil re wetted can take 4 gallons per square yard.
Under my potatoes this year it was taking 3 days of solid rain to re-wet the soil down to 30cm.
 
Eric Hanson
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Becky,

Good for you for already trying mushrooms!  I have become a true mushroom convert, a fungal fanatic.  I now only grow in wood chips that have been/are being inoculated and decomposed by wine caps.  They are an easy to grow, baby step into growing mushrooms.  They do take a little work to get started and I found that they take a year to produce the first mushrooms, but the rotted wood is amazingly fertile (and quite moist) much, much earlier than that.

If you are interested, I have two threads on the subject that may help HERE:

https://permies.com/t/82798/composting-wood-chips-chicken-litter

permies.com/t/130092/mushroom-newbie

The first link is a long running thread that details my experience from being highly skeptical of growing mushrooms and having no experience whatsoever to becoming highly convinced of the potential of mushrooms with a bit of competence in growing them.  I include it because I think that if you are just starting out, you might feel as nervous as I did when I first started.  I sometimes cringe when I look over the early posts in that thread, but it does document growth.

The second link includes a detailed set of step-by-step instructions on how to grow the mushrooms.  You will have to scroll down about 1/3 of the way (as of this writing) but it is a numbered list with some additional, optional steps that can be useful as well.

If you are really interested in growing wine caps, I do suggest these two links and if you have any questions, please, feel free to ask.

Eric
 
Becky Thatcher
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Thank you Skandi, I appreciate you thoughts. It did just seem to be magically disappearing, as there was a slight slant to the bed, 12 by about 15 feet, and I never saw it collect there. I don’t know how many gallons my sprinkler puts out,  put Is pretty vigorous. I ran it during the day, 6-8 hours for 3 days, did. Leaf mulch, wet that too, is looking better, but still seems dry about 4 inches down. I scattered a bit of compost , and am brewing some compost tea to apply next.
 
Becky Thatcher
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Hi Eric, thank you for the encouragement on the mushrooms, I will read the threads next. Is it a good time to put spawn in still?
 
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