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Semi Clay soil , just add organic material ?  RSS feed

 
Riccardo Ricky
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Hey there everybody, would first of all like to introduce myself, im from South-Africa currently wanting to practice with a small garden grow in a Summer Rainfall region with a mild climate. This grow will just be for practice until i go volunteering & getting my PDC : )

I have a 2 metre x 4 metre which is about 9'x13' foot of space which i will be posting pictures of in the morning, i am planning to extend it along the side a bit aswell though but currently i want to concentrate on the larger 9x13 space to start with.

Im currently trying to germinate ( Golden Snow Peas, Strawberry Popcorn,Swiss Chard,Butternut Squash, Peppers, Basil, Pariser Carrots & some tomatoes, i still want to plant parsley,coriander,chilli & nasturtiums & already currently have a few gooseberry plants that are trying to survive their whitefly attack.

There's the top half of the space that gets the most sun & the bottom half which will get the least sun, im concentrating certain plants that dont prefer shade in the top half where they get the most sun & bottom half where they get the least ill concentrate on the more leafy greens. I have also worked out some good guilds in the space.

The bottom half which gets the least sun is covered now with about 4-6" of compost & potting soil mixed together, the problem is that beneath that bottom shady half there's a 1/3 of a section which has a load of rocks, my plan here was not to worry too much as the more shady plant wont really get big enough to try and dig deeper into the rock.
However the other parts on the top half (sunnier region ) & bottom half ( shadier region ) have certain places where the soil was rock hard clay & only a few spaces where i planted potatoes last year seems to be way more loose than the other rock hard clay spots. & i did have a chilli plant beside the potatoes which grew very very well.

My final question is , would i be wasting my time trying to plant all these plants ? I know that clay soil holds alot of nutrient although my main concern is will the plants struggle to reach down if the chilli plant did just fine ? Any help will be gladly appreciated ! Thank You all : ) !
 
Riccardo Ricky
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So me & a friend already took out most of the grass and laid bricks to seperate the grass from the garden here is the pic
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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Hi, Ricky, welcome to permies! I don't have an answer to your questio but maybe someone else will.
 
Riccardo Ricky
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No problem ! Thank you for the welcome message : )
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Hi Ricky, welcome to Permies.

It sounds to me like you have a good plan for intensive planting in that space.

The potatoes have started the breakup of the hard clay (here we call that hard pan) soil. I would think that if the potatoes did as well as you say, that other things such as daikon radish, carrot, etc. would continue the loosening of the hard pan. If you can get it, some cotton seed meal or hulls would also help with the breakdown of the clays into more friable soil.

The trick with clays is to get the microscopic particles of clay something to cling to other than each other.

The topping of compost/potting soil you've added will work into the ground slowly as you water the space. Giving the space a broad forking would speed that process up, without turning the soil.

You could curb the white fly attacks with a spray made of comfrey tea or even nicotine spray.

Would love to see some pictures of the progress you make.
 
Riccardo Ricky
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Hi Ricky, welcome to Permies.

It sounds to me like you have a good plan for intensive planting in that space.

The potatoes have started the breakup of the hard clay (here we call that hard pan) soil. I would think that if the potatoes did as well as you say, that other things such as daikon radish, carrot, etc. would continue the loosening of the hard pan. If you can get it, some cotton seed meal or hulls would also help with the breakdown of the clays into more friable soil.

The trick with clays is to get the microscopic particles of clay something to cling to other than each other.

The topping of compost/potting soil you've added will work into the ground slowly as you water the space. Giving the space a broad forking would speed that process up, without turning the soil.

You could curb the white fly attacks with a spray made of comfrey tea or even nicotine spray.

Would love to see some pictures of the progress you make.


Thank you Bryant, appreciate the reply : )

The soil is decent in most places i think especially that we put alot of compost/organic material in the spot where it was really really hard pan it should help alot.

When we dug up the lawn to use in the front of the house, we found quite a few earthworms, i was surprised to see them in such soil but i hope we didnt disturb them too much forking in some compost, im sure they will be happy though, i hope.

I will definitely take a look if i can get some cotton seed meal, i doubt i will find hulls though cause i did try looking around at a stage, Are there possibly any other meals i can look for ? Possibly alfalfa meal ?

I have baby pariser carrots which are literally tiny lol, i also have White King Parsnips, carrots would defintely go well in this situation though and i know exactly where the more hard pan spots are which should be perfect. I did however plant tomatoes & a chilli plant in the top half spot & they grew nicely , the chillies were really beautiful big & a load of them grew !

Definitely makes alot of sense that that the particles need something else to cling onto, if that can be accomplished then it would be really awesome soil.

We worked in alot of compost & also brought in some top soil from the outside garden which was lighter in color & less clay than the current soil in the spot im working in, my only concern now is that there is exposed soil & compost which i know will harden up, the problem is my father wont be happy if the mulch blows into the pool & not that im fond of that pool id rather do a natural pool but other than straw would it be fine to use wood chips as a mulch ?

Got some riversand today & started sifting some compost in a mini sifter i made, will be adding 1/3 of each with some garden soil & using that to get all my seeds going.

Will definitely make some updates as i go by, thank you for your help Bryant, really appreciate it !







 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 2549
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Yes, wood chips would work well as a topping for the compost. It sounds like you would probably want fairly large pieces on the surface to keep the wind from blowing anything into Dad's pool.

Just about any meal should be of benefit, another item that would work is rice hulls, be aware though that in our rice belt there are literally millions of pounds of them in piles that have been around for at least 25 years that I know of. The only way I have ever used rice hulls (other than as a path mulch) is to soak them in a mildly caustic solution (I made some hardwood lye for soap making and diluted some of that in a 1:25 solution), then rinse the heck out of them,(catch all the effluent so it won't pollute anything or place. In my case I used the rinse water thus collected to treat a spot that was very acidic soil, it worked very well for me). When this treatment is done, the rice hulls will start to decompose.

You have a great set of plants picked out already, not sure I could offer any suggestions better than what you picked.

The composting will gather up lots of those pesky clay particles, you might just wait a year and then see how friable the soil has become before amending further. If you see crusting, a little bone meal or ground shells worked into the top few centimeters might help keep that from happening
 
Riccardo Ricky
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Yes, wood chips would work well as a topping for the compost. It sounds like you would probably want fairly large pieces on the surface to keep the wind from blowing anything into Dad's pool.

Just about any meal should be of benefit, another item that would work is rice hulls, be aware though that in our rice belt there are literally millions of pounds of them in piles that have been around for at least 25 years that I know of. The only way I have ever used rice hulls (other than as a path mulch) is to soak them in a mildly caustic solution (I made some hardwood lye for soap making and diluted some of that in a 1:25 solution), then rinse the heck out of them,(catch all the effluent so it won't pollute anything or place. In my case I used the rinse water thus collected to treat a spot that was very acidic soil, it worked very well for me). When this treatment is done, the rice hulls will start to decompose.

You have a great set of plants picked out already, not sure I could offer any suggestions better than what you picked.

The composting will gather up lots of those pesky clay particles, you might just wait a year and then see how friable the soil has become before amending further. If you see crusting, a little bone meal or ground shells worked into the top few centimeters might help keep that from happening


Thank you for the reply once again Bryant, i found wood chips which are about an inch in size although they are quite pricey say converted to dollars its about 6$ for a 30dm3 bag which i dont mind paying as they will do the job.

I can get alfalfa meal or lucerne meal that they grow outside the city here although the farmer doesnt seem to keen on making a delivery here & its cheap at like 8$ for 55 pounds, i have looked for rice hulls over here & the only place i could find was at this one beer brewery & they imported from your side so they cost a load, i know rice hulls are excellent for aeration in potting mixes with a good amount of silica although i like the way you use them, thats awesome that you can make lye from it aswell i never knew that !

I Will be adding a another bag of compost after ive finished screening it for the seedling mix would you you recommend me sprinkling some rockdust on top though ? Hopefully my dad can let me know how its going after a year but ill definitely keep in mind to tell him to add some bone meal or some ground shells,

As for the selection i will be adding in some mint & rocket to the list although im thinking if i should try place some pioneers amongst them ?

I forgot to add will definitely try one of the methods for the gooseberries ! Much respect & thank you once again.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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I can get alfalfa meal or lucerne meal that they grow outside the city here although the farmer doesnt seem to keen on making a delivery here & its cheap at like 8$ for 55 pounds, i have looked for rice hulls over here & the only place i could find was at this one beer brewery & they imported from your side so they cost a load, i know rice hulls are excellent for aeration in potting mixes with a good amount of silica although i like the way you use them, thats awesome that you can make lye from it aswell i never knew that !

I Will be adding a another bag of compost after ive finished screening it for the seedling mix would you you recommend me sprinkling some rockdust on top though ? Hopefully my dad can let me know how its going after a year but ill definitely keep in mind to tell him to add some bone meal or some ground shells,

As for the selection i will be adding in some mint & rocket to the list although im thinking if i should try place some pioneers amongst them ?


Not a bad price for the two meals I would think.

I usually make up my seeding mix (150 kg of soil/sand/compost at a time (portions are 1/3) blended in a cement mixer) with additions of: .25 kg dry fish meal, .25 kg bone meal and .25 kg Green Sand ( a mineral mix).

My compost has manures (chicken, goat, dog, horse, cow) as part of the ingredients and I also include bio char and wood ash as a very thin (1cm thick) blended layer when building a compost pile. I use a no turn method that is inoculated with a herbal formula then left alone for around 3 months, at which time the compost is usually ready for use.

I'm always happy to try and be of help.
 
Riccardo Ricky
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Not a bad price for the two meals I would think.

I usually make up my seeding mix (150 kg of soil/sand/compost at a time (portions are 1/3) blended in a cement mixer) with additions of: .25 kg dry fish meal, .25 kg bone meal and .25 kg Green Sand ( a mineral mix).

My compost has manures (chicken, goat, dog, horse, cow) as part of the ingredients and I also include bio char and wood ash as a very thin (1cm thick) blended layer when building a compost pile. I use a no turn method that is inoculated with a herbal formula then left alone for around 3 months, at which time the compost is usually ready for use.

I'm always happy to try and be of help.

Not at all a bad price i agree, although the alfalfa meal wouldnt be enough would you say ?

Your blend really sounds amazing though, i would love to add more amendments i wont lie but the another concern is heavy rains washing everything out or into the pool as the level of soil is just inline with the pavement on the sides.

One last question Bryant would you recommend any cover crops or pioneers that could fill up some space to protect the ground from sunlight ? Or would you suggest i plant alot of herbs around everything cause i have seeds to do so : ) Thank you for your help bro !
 
Ce Rice
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Location: Zone 8-9
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ON the soil particles sticking together and friability: That will come as the soil life is given the advantage. Everything you are working right now is giving advantage to the earthworms and microorganisms in the soil. It is almost certain the deeper clay is already being worked on by these little guys.

Just try and never let the soil sit with nothing either GROWING or COVERING it. If you have a frost season, make sure the MULCH layer is complete to protect the soil life.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Herbs are always great to have on hand. I have herb beds for cooking and for healing. Mulch also helps keep soils from the sun, I usually mulch after I have everything planted, but I start seeds and then transplant for small beds. Larger spaces I generally seed directly, then spread the mulch as the new life reaches for the sky.

I always try to use a ground cover that will help the crop plants (some clovers are good but I use them mostly around the fruit trees since they can grow tall enough to be a problem with lower growing crop plants). You have herb seeds, that is great, I would use them for in between planting/soil shading, since you then don't have anything growing that is single purpose.

No, I think either of those meals would be sufficient. It is very easy to get to mixing a soil for optimum growth and then find, by the reactions of your crop/s that you over did it, which in my experience takes longer to correct. I always try to add as few items to a blend as possible at first then, when the plants show me they need something that I didn't add, bring that or those items into the soil party, usually as a top dressing.

Soil building is perpetual by its very nature, earth mother is never through, and that is how it is supposed to be. There is great calmness brought to those who are sitting in the dirt and getting along with the earth mother, becoming one who helps her with her work is a noble thing to do. Instead of thinking you can be manipulating her, which may work in the short term but will most certainly eventually kills her spirit. We are supposed to be living with the earth, not living on it.

 
Ce Rice
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Location: Zone 8-9
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As I understand your efforts, you are in the learning phase. Just keep doing what you are doing, practicing on foods that are produced/available in your area. Those are the best ones to start with.

Don't be afraid to fail. Try any and all you have space for. Try and try again. It is such a fun experience gardening for the first time.

One possible suggestion: sweet potatoes
Would take some effort, but plant them on the perimeter of the garden to help prevent things blowing into the pool. The vines will grow, so just keep moving them, training them back towards the edge. Layer and overlap them as needed. Also, look for their root nodes along the vines and cover those nodes with a handful or three of soil. More sweet potatoes can grow from those nodes. Sweet potatoes are not potatoes. Or not white potatoes. Not cousins. So they grow a little different.
 
Ce Rice
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Or, with that mention of Herbs, instead of sweet potato on the perimeter/edge, you could grow Creeping Thyme. It is a great herb, and it fills that role of securing the edge, so weeds don't grow in the edge and stuff doesn't blow off/out of the garden space. And just step on/cut off the thyme as it grows over your stone too much. It doesn't every hurt to be walked on, plus, lets off a beautiful light smell when you do walk on it.
 
Riccardo Ricky
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Herbs are always great to have on hand. I have herb beds for cooking and for healing. Mulch also helps keep soils from the sun, I usually mulch after I have everything planted, but I start seeds and then transplant for small beds. Larger spaces I generally seed directly, then spread the mulch as the new life reaches for the sky.

I always try to use a ground cover that will help the crop plants (some clovers are good but I use them mostly around the fruit trees since they can grow tall enough to be a problem with lower growing crop plants). You have herb seeds, that is great, I would use them for in between planting/soil shading, since you then don't have anything growing that is single purpose.

No, I think either of those meals would be sufficient. It is very easy to get to mixing a soil for optimum growth and then find, by the reactions of your crop/s that you over did it, which in my experience takes longer to correct. I always try to add as few items to a blend as possible at first then, when the plants show me they need something that I didn't add, bring that or those items into the soil party, usually as a top dressing.

Soil building is perpetual by its very nature, earth mother is never through, and that is how it is supposed to be. There is great calmness brought to those who are sitting in the dirt and getting along with the earth mother, becoming one who helps her with her work is a noble thing to do. Instead of thinking you can be manipulating her, which may work in the short term but will most certainly eventually kills her spirit. We are supposed to be living with the earth, not living on it.



Sorted then, will get as many companion herbs as closely interplanted as possible, definitely get where you coming from Bryant, ill add the rest of the compost & take it from there, if there's any deficiencies ill top dress like you say.

Well said Bryant, I love the calmness of mother nature, love how it works & love to work with it. Appreciate your advice man.

 
Riccardo Ricky
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Ce Rice wrote:As I understand your efforts, you are in the learning phase. Just keep doing what you are doing, practicing on foods that are produced/available in your area. Those are the best ones to start with.

Don't be afraid to fail. Try any and all you have space for. Try and try again. It is such a fun experience gardening for the first time.

One possible suggestion: sweet potatoes
Would take some effort, but plant them on the perimeter of the garden to help prevent things blowing into the pool. The vines will grow, so just keep moving them, training them back towards the edge. Layer and overlap them as needed. Also, look for their root nodes along the vines and cover those nodes with a handful or three of soil. More sweet potatoes can grow from those nodes. Sweet potatoes are not potatoes. Or not white potatoes. Not cousins. So they grow a little different.

Or, with that mention of Herbs, instead of sweet potato on the perimeter/edge, you could grow Creeping Thyme. It is a great herb, and it fills that role of securing the edge, so weeds don't grow in the edge and stuff doesn't blow off/out of the garden space. And just step on/cut off the thyme as it grows over your stone too much. It doesn't every hurt to be walked on, plus, lets off a beautiful light smell when you do walk on it.


Ill keep on doing what im doing thank you Ce Rice : )

I would like to try sweet potatoes as it would break the soil up nicely aswell although creeping thyme sounds good to me aswell, definitely does, so it would do better than trying to plant any of my parsley,basil,coriander,rocket or nasturtiums ? I am also going to be putting bricks facing up on the left side towards the rectangular chilli pot to prevent any water going directly into the pool so that will will help stuff blowing into the pool aswell and also not letting water flow directly into i.

I was also thinking of possibly shaping the soil in a way to increase water catchment but i dont want to fuss around too much just yet.

Thanks again man : ) !
 
allen lumley
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Ricky R. : A very interesting Report on Research by Rice University on the ability of Bio-char to loosen and make Clay soils less dense and Allow water
to cycle through it faster, while making sandy soils looser, less dense but acting to retain water and slow the speed of water cycling through the
soils both amended with bio-char.

www.sciencedailey.com/releases/2014/09/140924160534.htm>

Rice University's interdisciplinary Biochar Research Group got its big push in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike in 2008 when the City of Houston found
itself with over 5.6 million cubic yards of Organic Materials to dispose of !

Short version, adding bio-char cannot hurt your soils, it can only help, the best Idea would be to include it everywhere but you may want to see for yourself
on a 1/4 or a 1/5th Good luck and include lots of pictures in your reports ! For the Good of the Crafts ! Big AL
 
Tim Malacarne
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Welcome! I agree with the advice above to try some sweet potatoes. They are good for you and easy to grow. They'd like loose soil, so as to easily form the fruit. I have had good luck using them to shade other, less heat tolerant plants, such as rhubarb. You can train sweet potato vines to grow most anyplace you provide a support. Good luck! Best, TM
 
Leila Rich
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Ricky Riccardo wrote: a few gooseberry plants that are trying to survive their whitefly attack.

I was about to post something about how enormous and thorny European gooseberries are,
then realised you might well have Cape gooseberries?
If they are Cape gooseberries, unless you're crazy about them I'd consider only keeping the best-looking plant.
They're wildly productive, grow really big and are really 'gangly', flopping all over the garden.
A great thing about them is they're happy in the shade.

I've had zero experience with whitefly,
but I always assume those kind of attacks are because the plant's stressed or something in the environment's out of balance.
 
Riccardo Ricky
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Interesting Allen, i have heard about biochar but didnt know it could help break up clay soil with all the other advantages, i will definitely take a look at sources in my area, thank you for that !
 
Riccardo Ricky
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Tim Malacarne wrote:Welcome! I agree with the advice above to try some sweet potatoes. They are good for you and easy to grow. They'd like loose soil, so as to easily form the fruit. I have had good luck using them to shade other, less heat tolerant plants, such as rhubarb. You can train sweet potato vines to grow most anyplace you provide a support. Good luck! Best, TM


Thank you Tim, ill see if i can get some seed this side but otherwise ill update you with what i decide : )
 
Riccardo Ricky
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Leila Rich wrote:
Ricky Riccardo wrote: a few gooseberry plants that are trying to survive their whitefly attack.

I was about to post something about how enormous and thorny European gooseberries are,
then realised you might well have Cape gooseberries?
If they are Cape gooseberries, unless you're crazy about them I'd consider only keeping the best-looking plant.
They're wildly productive, grow really big and are really 'gangly', flopping all over the garden.
A great thing about them is they're happy in the shade.

I've had zero experience with whitefly,
but I always assume those kind of attacks are because the plant's stressed or something in the environment's out of balance.


Hey there Leila, yes they are Cape Gooseberries indeed non thorny, ive got one plant that seems to be looking good after the rain we had last week, i also have one more that seems to be dying and another that doesnt seem too bad so i think ill be taking out the weaker plant while keeping the two and planting some tomatoes basil & carrots amongst them : ) Thank you for your advice though !
 
alex Keenan
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From some research and testing over a decade ago, if you added 20% expanded materials like perlite, expanded shale, etc. to the subsoil and topsoil you should not have issues with soil compaction.
Your soils has macro pores, meso pores, and micro pores. Clay has lots of surface area but only micro pore space. Sand has lots of macro pores but does not hold water. It is the meso pores that will hold free water the plants can use. I like organic material with all the life in it to build porespace. However, you tend to find that in nature organic material decreases as depth increases form leaf litter layer down to subsoil. If you want good deep roots in clay consider double digging and amending with porous non-organic material in the subsoil and with organic and non-organic material in the top soil.
This will badly disrupt the soil but it is also a one time event. With this start you should be able to cover crop and/or mulch from that point forward.
 
Riccardo Ricky
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alex Keenan wrote:From some research and testing over a decade ago, if you added 20% expanded materials like perlite, expanded shale, etc. to the subsoil and topsoil you should not have issues with soil compaction.
Your soils has macro pores, meso pores, and micro pores. Clay has lots of surface area but only micro pore space. Sand has lots of macro pores but does not hold water. It is the meso pores that will hold free water the plants can use. I like organic material with all the life in it to build porespace. However, you tend to find that in nature organic material decreases as depth increases form leaf litter layer down to subsoil. If you want good deep roots in clay consider double digging and amending with porous non-organic material in the subsoil and with organic and non-organic material in the top soil.
This will badly disrupt the soil but it is also a one time event. With this start you should be able to cover crop and/or mulch from that point forward.


Appreciate the advice Alex, that definitely taught me something new, so then i take it the meso pores are materials such as perlite & expanded shale, pumice etc ?

I did come accross a few stones scattered in the subsoil while breaking up the soil to mix the compost, im not sure however if they will work they probably dont have the same pore space ?

It makes alot of sense what you saying though, i never thought about including aeration into my soil, it could definitely do with some, i will look into some alternatives to see what is available in my area, if you have any suggestions on alternatives i would appreciate that too, thank you !

 
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