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10 Yards New Garden Soil. Toxic? / Amend Recommendations  RSS feed

 
Steven Oconnor
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Hello everyone, nice to be at this forum. Many great gardeners here!


I have just received 10 yards of soil for $175.00 delivered! Isn't Craigslist such a great place to find good deals?

The 10 yards easily covered half my two car driveway - delivered by a dump truck no less.

At first look soil was a dark black color. A recent rain in south Texas area so soil was still a little clumpy and very heavy, very black in color. No worries I though.

The gentleman who sold me the soil explained soil came from Floresville Texas. This was good "farm top soil" and had been used on farms. Also, this soil is the same other nurseries use around town and has little or no rocks in it.

He was right about the rock content, it has little or no rocks, maybe shovel or two worth of small white rocks out of 99 wheel barrows it took to move 10 yards.

After moving the 99 wheel barrows into my garden the Texas heat has quickly dried out the soil. It has become rock hard and lost a little dark color. Appears very anaerobic and devoid of organic matter. I have since put about 40 bags of Texas Oak leaves on top and tilled into soil to try to introduce organic matter.

However with no water ( Texas has been very dry ) and a short amount of time, I now have little clumps of soil with leaves. Not the enriched, fluffy, soft and wonderful garden soil I had hoped for. Not possible for planting because the soil is still rock hard mixed with leaves. I don't think roots can penetrate the soil.

So here are my questions I need help with...

1. Should I test soil for toxicity / lead / contaminants? What would you do? Were do you get your soil tested? What are top 5 contaminants you would test for ( I know specific pesticides and toxins can be easily $50 each. )
This soil could be from anywhere in South Texas.

2. What type of soil do you think I have? If from Floresville Texas... Think they grow peanuts, Millet, Sorgum, Corn town there.

3. How would you amend this dense dark soil? Tree clippings?

4. Please see pictures of soil. These little termite things are very abundant. They are slightly yellow and 100th size of my fingernail? What are these guys? No worms in soil, its much too dense.


Here is a link to pictures on dropbox.

Dropbox Steve's Garden Soil Link


Future steps for me: Instead of 10 yards of dense crappy soil. I plan to get 4-5 yards of proper garden soil from my local nursery. But even then ... they sometimes add "bio-solids" to soil to amend it. Who knows what that even means. Human feces? lol

Just a new gardener here needing help, Thanks again for your help.

Steve
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9696
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Those termite guys sure look like termites to me!

Looks like heavy clay soil to me, like we have in the lower parts of our place. Dries out and cracks. Soil like this can be quite fertile, but needs a lot of organic matter to make it happy for plants.
 
Marco Banks
Posts: 498
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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When you first got the soil, what did it smell like? (This is a serious question)

A lot of municipalities offer "bio-solids" free for the taking. What are bio-solids? Organic matter that is left over after the sewage treatment process. AKA poop sludge.

It's rich stuff and farmers, orchardists and others take loads of it to dump on their soil. But the question of what exactly is in those bio-solids is the million dollar question. When you think of all the stuff that regularly goes down people's toilets—medications, strong household chemicals, solvents, and biological pathogens—do you really want that going on top of your soil?

Why do I mention this? Because businesses selling top-soil, compost, or garden soil commonly take nutrient poor fill-dirt and mix it with municipal bio-solids and suddenly it appears like you've got this rich forest soil, filled with humus and life, but in fact, it's counterfeit.

If that is the soil you purchased, it would explain why the rich black color has faded so quickly, and the texture isn't what it was upon arrival.
 
Steven Oconnor
Posts: 9
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Thanks for the tip Marco Banks. The soilI got did not smell like anything. Seriously, When I was working with it no odor at all, didnt even have that earthy - dirt smell we all love.

I think you read the last part of my post. I have not purchsed 4-5 yards yet from local nursery.



Thanks everyone for your help and advice. If you have any testing labs for soil that offer cheap heavy metals testing please advise.
 
Jessica Padgham
Posts: 95
Location: Denver, Co 6000ft bentonite clay soil
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I don't know about testing for herbicides and toxins so I can't really help you there. You can try sowing some radishes and see how they do. If there are herbicides the radishes will react quickly. Doesn't help with lead or heavy metals but it's a start. Those may or may not be a risk either. Depends on where the soil came from and it's history.
I agree that the pictures look like heavy clay without much organic content. Instead of more soil I would try to find compost or manure to till in then see about getting some wood chips or other mulch to dump on top.
 
Steven Oconnor
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Thanks for the tip on Radishes!
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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hau Steven, Your soil looks a lot like buckshot gumbo clay, it is prevalent in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana farm lands.
It is characterized by looking like rich dirt but dry it is rock hard, when wet it is as slippery as owl snot.

Buckshot is a fairly pure clay but to get it to friable soil will take time and lots of humus amendment. Do not add sand to this, unless your goal is to make bricks.
The up side is this stuff will grow some nitrogen fixing cover crops, the down side is, if it is from a farm then they have been pouring chemicals on it for years if not decades.

Soil testing is best done through the extension service, to equip yourself with the necessary equipment would cost you a minimum of 1,000 dollars for the fairly complete basic test gear and reagents.
The extension service will do very complete testing for a price, but it will be a lower price than an independent laboratory.
If you want to get into being able to test your own soils, testing equipment from Hanna Instruments is the place to go, they have very accurate, complete kits and individual instruments, allowing you to build your gear up as you can or need.

In the mean time add as much compost and humus as you can, every time you can, this will go far into the quest for friable soil.
When you get a soil test, check the pH so you will know what you need to add and how much to add.
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