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Apr 062014


Today was the first big workday at the new SDK Community Garden. We started it with a quick lesson on Soil biology, texture, structure, acidity, and nutrition, then moved on to the big work of the day: fixing the poor-draining garden beds. One participant did it all in bare feet!!

First we removed all of the top soil — about 10 or 15 cm. The layer underneath is very heavy.

Next we dug a few holes with the amazing dirt driller:

The wholes were about 8 cm wide and 1 m deep.

These we filled with landscape fabric “socks” filled with gravel.

The finished drains looks like a cute bow tie:

Next we broke up the hard clay layer as much as we could and mixed it with wood chips. A nearby stadium donated a huge amount of horse poop and straw. They even delivered it right into the compost bins:


We added the straw-manure mixture:


We decided to leave this and let the organic matter break down a bit. We’d like to build raised beds here…


This is what it looked like when all was done — a bit of a mess!! That’s a work-in-progress.

Apr 042014

We gathered samples of the top soil and the substrate for texture tests.

First we remove all visible rocks and organic matter, spread the samples on newspaper, and let them dry for a couple of days. The next step is to pulverize the soil. You can put it into plastic bags and crush it with your hands or a rolling pin, for example. Remove any additional organic debris or rocks.


Then we put the soil into a jar (500 liters or a quart) until it’s about 1/4 to 1/3 full, add water until the jar is about 3/4 full, and add 1 tsp of castille or dish soap, something that doesn’t make too many suds. Typically, the recommendation is to use dishwasher detergent, but that is very expensive here in Poland. Shake for 10 or 15 minutes and set somewhere where it won’t be disturbed.



Within a few minutes the sand settles to the bottom of the jar. Within a few hours the silt settles on top of the sand. Within a few days the clay settles on top. That’s the theory. In practice, the results are not always clear. For the Pixxe Garden’s soil, the results were quite clear. For the SDK garden, this is what we found:

GARDEN BEDS have a Sandy Loam:

sdk_soil_texture_bed_results_IMG_0756 sdk_texture_results_bed_triangle

SUBSTRATE has either Sandy Clay or Sandy Silt — only two layers were really discernible:

sdk_soil_texture_substrate_results_IMG_0756 sdk_texture_results_substrate_triangle