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February 11
Not All Soil is Created Equal

I confess.  I have soil envy.  When I see photos of the gardens of  friends who live up the East Coast or perhaps in the Midwest, I wish that my garden had that beautiful dark crumbly soil that seems to beg to have something planted in it.

But here’s the harsh reality.  I live in Alabama, and I am probably never going to be able to transform my dense red clay soil into something that looks exactly like my friends up East have.

Dr. Charles Mitchell, a soil scientist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension, says most Alabama gardeners are trying to grow in what was once the subsoil. More than 200 years of land clearing and farming practices that did not preserve the soil led to extensive erosion across the state, leaving the red clay subsoil at the surface.

Mitchell says one reason for our challenging soils is our climate.  He points out that biological activity goes on all year long—breaking down organic matter.

But he does offer hope for those of us dealing with “hardpackedAlabamaredclaydirt.” And yes, he says that is all one word. For those of you who need a little help, that is hard-packed red clay Alabama dirt.

He says the key is regularly adding organic matter to the soil.  You can’t do it once and consider your work done either. Because our climate is constantly breaking down the organic matter, we have to add organic matter, such as compost or rotted leaves, several times a year.

Charlie says it’s also important to keep the site planted.  This helps reduce both erosion and soil compaction.

You can listen to our conversation here.

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