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anaerobic soil?

 
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hello im new here, figured it was time to join a community that would help me and my garden grow! i have a large garden that might have anaerobic soil but i cant tell, something is up and i need help fixing it. the area is in the woods on a residential lot, it was fallow for 10 years and was flooded all spring and summer during that time. i had 6" of top soil layed down and used peat moss in the beds last year. the soil seems to have some clay in it and it never dryes out all season. water takes A LONG TIME to soak in and in the walking paths it never soaks in. the dirt has a bad smell almost like raw manure. i planted 20 crops last year and maby 5 did well the rest didnt grow at all or struggled alot. im no master gardener but i have been gardening sense i was 2 (24 now) and basically know what im doing. this soil issue is new to me and im lost here. any thoughts will be greatly apreciated. i grow 80% of my food for the year so i need to figure this out before next season.  
 
garden master
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Location: Maine, zone 5
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Hi Matthew, first off, welcome to Permies!!!  I hope you find the site as helpful and great as I do.  Also, congrats on growing 80% of your food....fantastic!  

Based on your description it sure does sound like your site has anaerobic soil and that water drainage is the main culprit.  Is there an option to put in a drainage ditch or ditches to help this situation?  Or perhaps a pond to provide a low spot as well as to raise the surrounding ground with the soil from the pond excavation?  If clay is part of the issue one way to break clay up is through the use of organic matter that will end up working it's way into the clay over time.  If you have any pics or sketches of the site it might be of some help to those trying to help with the diagnosis/treatment.  

Just a few first pass thoughts, but mainly wanted to get that "welcome to the site" in.
 
pollinator
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It definitely sounds like you're dealing with anaerobic soil. My first suggestion would be to peruse Dr. Redhawk's soil threads (sorry I'm bad at the link thing, youll find them easy enough). My much more amateur opinion would be to start by laying down a thick layer of woodchips and working to build soil beds on top of that. I would also think that peat moss might be a bad idea because of it's propensity for holding water. Gypsum is supposed to help break up clay a bit but mostly you are going to want roots growing into the clay. also maybe things like blue berries?
 
matthew turner
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thank you both for the responses! first off, ya peat moss was a bad idea haha. i didnt realize my problem yet so i had know idea. i added some compost last year but not alot, the black outline in the picture is the new pile i started last year. with that though im worried because it does help hold water some. ive never had an issue before but ive never has wet soil like this. would adding compost in large amounts actually make this worse? the red is the garden (more trees are gone sense this picture was taken) and the blue is a ditch that goes to the main road ditch. the top of the picture is the low end of the property, the high end is the bottom and thats where the road is. i have dug the ditch out as best as i can to make it flow correctly. when theres heavy rain it flows right but with a little rain the water just gets stuck. i cant use the "front yard" of the property because i am in a nicer neighborhood, the middle wall of trees hides everything enough so people dont mind but from some comments i have gotten the neighbors are not on board with the huge garden yet. im slowly learning them though haha. i have had some thoughts of raised beds maby just 1 foot tall, any thoughts on that?
   
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gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Your soil is very clay dense which is why water won't soak in and anytime you smell soil with a "manure" odor, it is anaerobic and that has to change, drainage is good but it isn't going to actually fix the problem.
To get to my soil threads, just go to the soil forum in Growies, the link is at the top.
You are going to need to get 1. lots of woodchips and compost into that soil to open up the structure, at this point I do not recommend any sand be added since without a lot of organic matter opening up the soil, adding sand just makes concrete.
Once you get lots of cover crops  growing and using chop and drop methods along with the top dressings of quickly decomposing organic matter, you will be on the road to being able to add some sand to further loosen the soil structure.

for now you might want to dig some wide, shallow drainage ditches that lead to the main drainage you show in your fantastic photo. (great job of showing us what you have)

Redhawk
 
matthew turner
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thank you bryant! what are you thoughts on raised beds? im thinking that way i can make my own soil on top and it will slowly affect the bad dirt underneath. plus that way i can put deep mulch in the pathways.
 
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