That was me the first year I tried to garden in Texas. My kids were little at the time and I just didn't seem to have enough hours in the day to accomplish everything I wanted. I settled on a rose and herb garden, which I enjoyed for many years.
Throughout Texas you'll find different types of clay, areas of sand, and a rocky base. These types of ingredients can make it difficult if not impossible to grow anything. In North Texas we're blessed with clay and I'm happy to say it's not the end of the world. You can turn this dirt into soil if you have the right ingredients.
Regardless of where you live it's important to inspect your existing dirt before you decide on your garden space. Simply dig a couple holes, inspect and evaluate your problem areas. Perhaps this recipe with a few tweaks will work for you too.
These three ingredients are the key to turning your dirt into a mix you can soon call soil.
- 1/3 clay
- 1/3 sand
- 1/3 organic
Clay - Ingredient #1
Clay is not the enemy; we tend to complain about it because it can be impossible to work with, especially when it's wet.
Clay has a purpose but it needs a few more ingredients to make it work. Many don't understand the difficulty that plants face when trying to grow in clay. The hard clay cripples the root system keeping the plants from growing properly.
What plants need is a softer consistency so they can stretch and produce. Clay does have value it holds the moisture in the ground which is important when hot summers arrive.
Sand - Ingredient #2
Before we could begin to plant anything on our farm we had to add 2 large dump truck loads of sand. Our family worked together to spread the sand on a 1/2 acre field.
The sand allows the moisture to circulate by breaking up the clay. I didn't believe it until I saw it working and it was amazing. We used our gas operated tiller to mix the clay and soil together; it was a lot of work and worth the effort.
Natural - Ingredient #3
All natural and organic material is a must. In the picture above I posted llama droppings and piles of dried leaves. These are just a couple of examples you can add to your soil to increase nutrient levels.
Adding natural material is a continuous process. Most gardeners add natural materials during the winter months; I do this year round and it's the key to success. Take a moment to read Finding Garden Manure and Direct Composting, these are helpful tips you can implement with little effort.
Always remember this, gardening is a process that involves ongoing improvements. Everything great begins with a good foundation, this includes a positive work ethic because adding this recipe will take some muscle.
When you're beginning with dirt, understand it can take a good 3 to 4 years before you will say, wow my soil is amazing. This is when you discover, hard work does pay off.