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Subject:  Spring prep

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Reed's Birds and Bees

Savage, MN

So Minnesota is not cooperating with my pumpkin schedule. lol I planned to do my soil test when it warmed up and start to amend my soil soon, but with a lot of snow on the ground and 9 more inches to come. It seems like there is going to be snow on the ground when I need to plant. So what are the best soil heating cables to use? Also I know I have ask a couple people but what is the best way to loosen up very clay soil? I plan to dig out a hole where the stump will be and put in better draining soil so no stump rot occurs. Any other suggestions?

3/8/2019 7:59:01 AM


Plymouth, MN

My current approach is to go cry in my patch and hope that my salty tears help clear the snow out faster.

I had the same scramble to amend last year with the foot and a half we got on April 15th. Luckily I had gotten a soil sample taken just before that snow hit. Hopefully next week's warming and rain will help cut the pack down some.

I did my soil testing at UMN (http://soiltest.cfans.umn.edu/). You can drop your samples off on the St. Paul campus and save on shipping time and money, and the price was comparable to Western Labs when you bundled in all the micronutrients.

Once you know your numbers, find a good source of composted manure and till it into the soil. I had been working my garden plot for a few years but adding composted horse manure last year really improved the texture.

3/8/2019 12:42:12 PM



Reed if you dig a hole where the stump is for drainage you are just creating a swimming pool. Put a stump cover on to prevent stump rot..It works sometimes.

3/8/2019 2:15:12 PM

Big T Hoff

Hadley Ny

I will agree with tjsna 100 %..Not familiar with clay soil for planting..BUT..Poured concrete house foundations..people backfilled with sand instead of clay and always had water problems..created a place for water to settle and stay...swimming pool..my guess would to use a heavy soil in the hole and tarp rain away..lot more people with clay than me

3/8/2019 2:29:40 PM


Buffalo, MN (Billsbigpumpkins@hotmail.com)

Reed, ask the neighbors what depth of their top soil. If your top soil is all clay your option maybe to add topsoil, black dirt or garden soil. I know that several of the pits in Savage and Shakopee area sell it but I don’t know the cost. Also check the local recycling center they should have compost and may have black dirt. Remember that compost needs to break down before it can be used.

3/8/2019 3:25:29 PM

Glenoma Kins

Southwest WA

Yeah, if you have drainage concerns then MOUND UP, dont dig. Dig a deep hole so you understand your profile. If I go down 3 ft I have clay but then gravel that should drain in some spots, and solid clay (didnt realize!) in another spot.

3/8/2019 4:26:20 PM

Glenoma Kins

Southwest WA

If the idea is to increase the volume of dirt available for healthy root zone you have to be kinda careful 2-3 ft down is a delicate environment... excess water and lack of oxygen are serious issues for roots.

3/8/2019 4:34:35 PM

Glenoma Kins

Southwest WA

Amending a depth? Add sand because organics can cut your oxygen. Sand also holds the least water so the "duration of saturation" will be more favorable than using the compost/clay route. Compost is great at the surface. I'm still not smart but I know a few things now & happy to share what I know!

3/8/2019 4:48:05 PM


Anamosa, IA BPIowegian@aol.com

Some people claim that gypsum will loosen up clay. It will add sulfur and calcium to your soil and won't mess up your ph.

I think you have to be careful adding sand to clay. It will take a whole lot of sand to change the texture to clayey sand. If you don't add enough you get sandy clay, which will compact and bake into bricks. At least that is what they said in the USDA soil mechanics that I took several years ago. And you will want to add lots of compost or biochar to keep your organic matter up. Sand increases air infiltration, which gives oxygen to the soil bacteria that eat up organic matter. They convert it to CO2 which is released to the atmosphere when you till.

3/8/2019 7:46:35 PM



Maybe having a grade(slope)to your patch is an option so excess water will run off. That sometimes may do better than trying to get the water to soak through?
You are coming to the Big Show right? Many answers will be there!
Have all your questions ready :)
I hope to see you there.

3/8/2019 8:56:12 PM


aurora, IL

I like the idea that I learned from Scott Bayuk to slope the bottom of the hole away from the planting site or plant at the highest point of the patch. I would also broad fork the bottom of the hole then back fill with compost mixed with the soil that was dug out. Amend the whole patch, broad fork the patch down to 12", and then till the patch. I have really clayey soil that does not drain well. When I dig 3' down there is three layers of clay soil: black or dark gray, orange, and finally light gray which doesn't let water pass thru.

3/8/2019 11:40:46 PM

Engel's Great Pumpkins and Carvings

Menomonie, WI (mail@gr8pumpkin.net)

Build up and plant in a mound in clay, and slowly work organic matter in every year. My friend Bob had boot stealing clay in his patch. It has taken 3 years to get a manageable soil.

3/9/2019 10:14:38 AM


Rapid City, SD

cover patch with 1" composted manure, 1" sand, 1"peat moss till in

3/9/2019 10:44:13 AM


Syracuse, NY

feet is '
inches is "
you can remember by how many syllables, also----eg

otherwise...good one!

3/9/2019 3:44:22 PM


Spokane Washington

LoL Reeds, I recommend waiting a bit for spring to come around and take a soil sample so you now what your shooting for. We have lots of time before plant set out so take your time and enjoy! Dani and I use 40' non-thermostatic heavy duty rain gutter heaters to warm our plant sites with cheap digital thermostats for each site. Course you gotta cover them with a small clotch.... Just got our soil tests back from A&L labs and I am thinking I should just take the year off!

3/10/2019 3:14:02 AM


Spokane Washington

Reeds, we have heavy aluvian clay here and it wonderful stuff for gardens but does need pH measured and adjusted to 6.7 to 7.0 and lots of compost worked in initially. If your soil is heavy this spring just till in lots of perlite and "top soil" in a 20" circle around the plant along with organic ferts (based on soil tests preferably). Clay has a lot of nutrients in it already just need to open it up so the roots can suck them up! We found we are always starving in N in the spring veg growth stage, over burdened in P forever... and kinda low in K which fattens up the pumpkins after fruit set!

3/10/2019 3:24:45 AM


Hopedale Ohio

BIRDS & BEES I feel your pain. I finally got a no snow no rain day, so I was in the garden yesterday and started to spade up some dirt, I have lots of clay. I just keep working it up, adding compost and potting soil. It's gonna take extra work to get er done but ready here in eastern Ohio. Good Luck to you.

3/11/2019 3:17:38 PM

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