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Spring Surprises (or Good Lord What Have I Done?)

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Last summer, much to my relief, I was able to move to a new (to me) home. While the old place had its problems, soil wasn't one of them. Especially when I left, it had a lovely sandy loam. Nearly everything I tried, grew, until the rosy apple aphids, or black vine weevils, or rabbits, aster yellows, or the darling neighborhood children got to it.


When I looked at the new place, I suspected the soil wasn't as good. There was dark loam in all of the beds, but I suspected more clay here than at the old house. I also saw a little landscape fabric peeking out. How much of that was there? Time was of the essence since I had already sold my old house. Plus I doubted in this market that I could take a bunch of soil samples and wait for the results before buying. While the landscape wasn't necessarily to my liking, it was pretty well established, healthy, and growing, so how bad could it be?


This photo was taken the week after I moved in last August.




I didn't do anything last summer except cut the grass. After the first rain I knew was right about the clay. Some puddling here and there, and a spot alongside the hill that was a fairly steep slope got mighty slippery.


There were also indications in the landscaping that the soil might not be ideal. A few plants were in (too) small berms. 




But others were directly in the ground. 




Were the berms for soil issues or just for decoration? The answer would have to wait. 


While I wait and plan for perennials I thought I'd throw in a few annuals from seed in a nice sunny spot. That spot in the pic above next to the deck (where the iron table and chairs are) has a great southern exposure. Perfect. 


But now the question(s) - I know the first step in any home sale is ordering a load of mulch. I did it myself. The question is, what happens then? It could be topping up perfectly maintained beds so the color is even and fresh. I've also seen someone mow down all the existing perennials, shrubs, and weeds to the ground, and just dump mulch on top, with a few colorful shrubs from the big box store popped in for that "TV 'garden' show came through and redid our gardens in a weekend" look. That will be a huge mess when everything comes back the next year. Not to mention, the landscape fabric question. 


Time for some exploratory digging. 


Well, the mulch certainly isn't a quick cover-up. These beds have been mulched repeatedly. The broken-down old mulch must be 4" thick and looks great. But look what's underneath it. 




LANDSCAPE FABRIC! It must be under ALL of the beds. And what's that underneath? 




Some kind of drain. These caps covered a coarse stone at least a foot deep, with some kind of concrete cylinder at the end. The other end is the garage wall. Maybe for gutters in the past? Who knows. 


But what about the areas that weren't the drain? 




A concrete slab? Nope! That is solid clay, with absolutely no organic matter in it at all. Well, only one thing to do - break it up with a fork and cover it back up.


Luckily, the decomposed mulch between the new stuff on top and the landscape fabric is basically really nice compost. 




So back in it goes, followed by the seeds. I can feel the rabbits watching me from their hiding places, just waiting for the first shoot to peek out. 




Will the rest of the yard be as bad? Stay tuned! Soil samples from the lawn headed to MSU today. They had clay in them too, but obviously not the yellow, lifeless stuff from under the landscape fabric. Can't wait to see what other surprises come back from that. 

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Actually, those trees aren't going to grow up. One is a silver maple and the other is a variegated Norway maple (and a third was a purple Norway maple, and was the first to go). They are two of my least favorite trees and their days are numbered.

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Hey Dsmith74, I too think these plants will not going to grow up so fast, as the texture, structure, porosity, of this one doesn't meet with the properties of the good soil. According to me you should try out changing the soil At least of landscape portion. I remember a few days ago one of my friends had migrated to Fairfax from California, and the house he bought was fully furnished and remodeled by STB remodeling group, The landscape was too beautifully designed with crabs, silver maple, Norway maple plants, with nice growth.

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