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Garden journal entry


fungal invasion
August 10, 2017. The soil in our new Houston garden is sticky clay. Ben actually took some of it and used it as sculpting clay – it's quite suitable for the purpose. I'm a little surprised at just how pure the clay is: our neighborhood is being built on land previously used for farming, so I had expected more of a mixed soil, with evidence of many years of tilling and being worked, but the clearly delineated bands of different clay color suggest that the soil hasn't been much disturbed by agriculture. Perhaps the farm soil was removed before building the neighborhood. In any case, I'm not finding the virgin clay soil to be particularly conducive to good gardening results. It appears to have fairly low fertility, or at least low amounts of necessary elements readily accessible to ornamental plants. Since drainage is a common problem around here, due to the combination of the periodic massive rainfalls and the dense clay soil, I liberally add bagged organic soil amendments whenever I create a new garden section, mixing it into the clay soil to improve its texture. Mostly, I use a product available locally called 'landscape soil mix' which is something between compost and mulch, with a bit of fine sand mixed in. Other suppliers offer similar products, often labeled 'topsoil', although there really isn't any soil in the bag – it's all organic matter. In any case, it does the trick in terms of breaking up the clay and making the soil easier to work with, plant in, and pull weeds from. All good. But it doesn't appear to have helped the fertility very much at all, and even periodic applications of organic fertilizer such as Milorganite produce lackluster results. But I think things are looking up – because when I look down, I see mushrooms everywhere. To be honest, they're quite ugly, disfiguring the planted areas, and popping up especially abundantly right around all the perennials we've planted. But I think (hope) that they are a sign of strong fungal activity below the soil, helping to decompose all that 'soil mix' organic matter and releasing its nutrients into the surrounding soil. A few more years of working the soil, adding amendments, and mulching may just result in a garden soil that supports an abundant ornamental garden. I'm once again reminded that gardening is a journey.

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Last modified: September 09, 2009
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