Q: My husband and I are novice gardeners. Last year we planted a vegetable and herb garden. It was mostly red clay so I added store-bought dirt and manure: about 20 bags of each in an 8′x10′ area. The only thing that did well was the cucumbers. Every thing else died or didn’t yield enough for one meal. Is there anything that you can suggest that can ensure at least a decent garden?
A: I am not a fan of store-bought dirt (particularly the $.99 a bag topsoil). The product seems very silty and poorly drained for my liking. There ARE good soils to buy but they are usually labeled “Planting Soil” and cost $2 – $3 per bag.
I think your soil had poor drainage. It didn’t dry out quickly after being irrigated and your plant roots suffered. I’d add a two inch layer of soil conditioner over the garden area plus a pint of 10-10-10 plus 4 pints of lime and mix it to a depth of ten inches. That should increase drainage and fertility enough to show some improvement in the next growing season.