We hope you have enjoyed the SRGC Forum. You can make a Paypal donation to the SRGC by clicking the above button

Author Topic: Bulblog - 10/4/13  (Read 2165 times)

Helen Johnstone

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 180
  • Country: gb
  • New alpine enthusiast, who is keen to learn lots
    • The Patient Gardener
Bulblog - 10/4/13
« on: April 10, 2013, 12:38:56 PM »
I have been interested to read about your sand bed.  I have heavyish clay soil and would be interested in providing different environments.  I am presuming the bed isnt just sand, what ratios do you use and what plants do you feel do well in it.  Sorry if these are obvious questions but I am very new to alpines.

I was also intersted in what you said about watering.  My instinct this year has been to delay watering due to the cold but it has been purely an instinct so it was fascinating to read your logic for not watering which made complete sense.


Ian Y

  • Bulb Despot
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2024
  • Country: scotland
  • Why grow one bulb when you can grow two:-))
    • Direct link to the Bulb Log SRGC
Re: Bulblog - 10/4/13
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2013, 01:08:01 PM »
Helen

I use just sharp sand - at least 30cms deep sitting on our well drained garden soil. The bulbs love the sand and since I made the first one in 2006 I have not had to feed or water it.

With your heavy clay you would need to ensure good drainage below the sand so surplus water can get away.

Because of the cold I have watered less this winter than in recent years but there comes a point when you know that the plants need a good drink and with us that point came last week.
As things warm up, which I hope they will soon, I will have to water a lot more plus feed with potassium to help next years flower buds to form.
Ian Young, Aberdeen North East Scotland   - 
The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.
http://www.srgc.org.uk/bulblog/bulblog.html

Helen Johnstone

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 180
  • Country: gb
  • New alpine enthusiast, who is keen to learn lots
    • The Patient Gardener
Re: Bulblog - 10/4/13
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2013, 01:10:48 PM »
Hi Ian

Thanks for the advice.  If the bulbs (tulips, daffs, iris etc?) are growing in sharp sand are they then entirely dependent on you for feeding?

Helen

Ian Y

  • Bulb Despot
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2024
  • Country: scotland
  • Why grow one bulb when you can grow two:-))
    • Direct link to the Bulb Log SRGC
Re: Bulblog - 10/4/13
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2013, 02:26:49 PM »
As the sand is placed directly on the ground there will be a free transfer of soluble nutrients between the natural soil and the sand.

My intention is to supplement the feeding only if I see evidence that the bulbs are suffering a shortage and to date they are growing robustly.

Also in hotter drier areas you may have to do some watering in the spring or autumn.
Ian Young, Aberdeen North East Scotland   - 
The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.
http://www.srgc.org.uk/bulblog/bulblog.html

Gene Mirro

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 386
  • Country: us
Re: Bulblog - 10/4/13
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2013, 05:39:23 AM »
I also add a lot of sand to my clay loam.  For normal gardening, like veggies and perennials, I till 1.5 inches of sand into the top 8 inches of soil.  Then I rake the soil into raised beds.  This gives me almost a foot of improved topsoil.  If your soil is acid, it is helpful to till in one handful of lime for every square foot of soil surface.  Lime reduces soil acidity, and also helps with soil structure.  You should consider paying for a soil test.

For plants which need sharp drainage, I use a roughly 1:1 mix of sand and clay loam.  I made a planting bed with 100% sand a long time ago, just as Ian describes, and was able to grow some very difficult plants in it.  Some of the western US dryland lilies, such as washingtonianum and bolanderi, will do well in a sand bed, even in a rainy summer climate, as long as it is not too hot.  Sand will get quite warm.  If your plants can't stand warm soil, you may need to mulch to keep the sun from warming the soil directly.  This works well with my species lilies.  Companion plants also help to shade the soil.

I once owned a property which had over 20 feet of pure sand, according to the local soil survey.  Bulbs grew very poorly in it until I started fertilizing, then they grew like crazy.  Veggies grew very well in it with lots of fertilizer, but had no taste!  Of course, everything had to be irrigated.  This is entirely different from Ian's method, in which good soil is available to the plant roots 12 inches down.

After the sand is added, the soil will warm up quicker, will drain quicker, is easier to weed and till, and is better aerated in the root zone.  The difference in plant growth is amazing.  It is a pleasure to garden in sandy loam soil.  It is miserable to garden in clay.  Another thing I have noticed is that plants self-seed very well in sandy soil, and not well at all in heavy soil.  This is a mixed blessing, because everything I grow becomes invasive in my garden, even "difficult" plants.  Physoplexis comosa has survived for two winters in the open ground with no protection, and is getting bigger every year. 

There is a widely accepted belief that you should not mix sand and clay.  If your soil is pure clay, I agree.  But most heavy topsoils are clay loam.  If your native topsoil grows good weeds and lawn, then you should be able to improve it with sand.  Very little will grow in pure clay.

The soil triangle is a good way to understand soil composition. 
http://ims.eid.org/homepage/NonIMSPages/Irrigation/The_Soil_Triangle.aspx 

Note that the soil triangle does not mention organic matter (humus).  It is always helpful to add a little organic matter at the same time as you are adding sand.  2% of humus by volume is enough.  Remember that organic matter will decompose and disappear in a couple of years.  Sand is permanent.

The problem of bad drainage is separate from soil composition.  If water lies on top of the soil for days or weeks, you need to install drainage ditches.  This gets complicated and has legal aspects, so you should get advice from a good local source. 
« Last Edit: April 11, 2013, 05:53:45 AM by Gene Mirro »
Gene Mirro from the magnificent state of Washington

John85

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 507
Re: Bulblog - 10/4/13
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2013, 09:33:47 AM »
Helen
My soil is also heavy clay and I have 3 sand beds with different mixtures.Only one is pure sand and I've found that one the less forgiving or the most demanding,as you wish(for watering and feeding mainly).As I don't have good draining soil as Ian,I advice you to improve also the soil under the raised bed,so that there is a "smooth"transition for the roots.Sharp sand is not available here so I used river sand mixed with 2-6 mm grit.
My sand beds are mainly not for bulbs but for plants that require a good drainage like most mediterranean plants.So I added also some good garden loam.The proportions vary from one end of the bed to the other,so when I see that a plant is struggling,I just move it a bit till it is fully happy.For plants with a tap root that dislike moving I grow several seedlings and plant them in different places,so there is always one that is happy.
It is a bit of work building those beds but it is worth the trouble.

Ian Y

  • Bulb Despot
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2024
  • Country: scotland
  • Why grow one bulb when you can grow two:-))
    • Direct link to the Bulb Log SRGC
Re: Bulblog - 10/4/13
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2013, 09:59:49 AM »
Gene has given very detailed advise of how he uses sand beds on a heavy clay soil, something I have no direct experience of, and John adds his experience.
It is very important to understand the needs of the plants you are trying to grow along your soil structure and properties to get success. What will work for me on our very well drained sandy soil and with our cool moist moderate climate may need to be adapted to suit your local conditions. Sand beds have been used successful in all climate types and soil types provided you make the necessary preparations so well described by Gene.
Ian Young, Aberdeen North East Scotland   - 
The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.
http://www.srgc.org.uk/bulblog/bulblog.html

Helen Johnstone

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 180
  • Country: gb
  • New alpine enthusiast, who is keen to learn lots
    • The Patient Gardener
Re: Bulblog - 10/4/13
« Reply #7 on: April 11, 2013, 12:30:38 PM »
I also add a lot of sand to my clay loam.  For normal gardening, like veggies and perennials, I till 1.5 inches of sand into the top 8 inches of soil.  Then I rake the soil into raised beds.  This gives me almost a foot of improved topsoil.  If your soil is acid, it is helpful to till in one handful of lime for every square foot of soil surface.  Lime reduces soil acidity, and also helps with soil structure.  You should consider paying for a soil test.


Thanks for all the advice, it is very interesting.  I have done a soil test and I have only slightly acidic soil, in fact my soil is pretty good all round clayloam. 

Helen

Helen Johnstone

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 180
  • Country: gb
  • New alpine enthusiast, who is keen to learn lots
    • The Patient Gardener
Re: Bulblog - 10/4/13
« Reply #8 on: April 11, 2013, 12:32:23 PM »
Hi John
That is very interesting - thank you.  I am also exploring a peat bed which I know is controversial especially in the Uk.  I am just thinking at the moment about different options

Tim Ingram

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1955
  • Country: 00
  • Umbels amongst others
Re: Bulblog - 10/4/13
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2013, 04:46:52 PM »
Helen - its worth looking on the Glendoick website for a reasoned discussion on peat - it is one of those politically correct issues, but the proportion used by horticulture is very low. For real acid lovers it must be hard to find anything that can adequately replace it. Fine propagation grade composted bark is also useful, but as far as I know it is always mixed with peat (and adding sand helps in wetting).
Dr. Timothy John Ingram. Nurseryman & gardener with strong interest in plants of Mediterranean-type climates and dryland alpines. Garden in Kent, UK. www.coptonash.plus.com

John85

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 507
Re: Bulblog - 10/4/13
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2013, 06:20:13 PM »
Helen
Have a look at the question about peatbeds without sphagnum that I asked in April last year.Just type peat bed in the search space(top right) and it is the first answer

Maggi Young

  • Forum Dogsbody
  • Global Moderator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 44011
  • Country: scotland
  • "There's often a clue"
    • International Rock Gardener e-magazine
Re: Bulblog - 10/4/13
« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2013, 06:24:16 PM »
Helen
Have a look at the question about peatbeds without sphagnum that I asked in April last year.Just type peat bed in the search space(top right) and it is the first answer

 It's here : http://www.srgc.net/forum/index.php?topic=8954.0  ;)
Margaret Young in Aberdeen, North East Scotland Zone 7 -ish!

Editor: International Rock Gardener e-magazine

brianw

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 783
Re: Bulblog - 10/4/13
« Reply #12 on: April 16, 2013, 12:08:57 AM »
Ian. You mention planting Gymnospermium altaicum in the open garden. In the past, when I used to have it, I have kept mine warm and dry under glass when dormant in the summer. Doesn't sound like a typical Aberdeen garden. Do you have somewhere this will be happy outside?
Edge of Chiltern hills, 25 miles west of London, England

Ian Y

  • Bulb Despot
  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2024
  • Country: scotland
  • Why grow one bulb when you can grow two:-))
    • Direct link to the Bulb Log SRGC
Re: Bulblog - 10/4/13
« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2013, 02:43:20 PM »

Ian. You mention planting Gymnospermium altaicum in the open garden. In the past, when I used to have it, I have kept mine warm and dry under glass when dormant in the summer. Doesn't sound like a typical Aberdeen garden. Do you have somewhere this will be happy outside?

Now you mention it Brian, warm and dry in summer does not sound like Aberdeen.

What I have to find out is if the plant requires a warm dry summer or if it just tolerates those conditions and until I try I will never know. Since the seed pot has spent all of its life so far in an open frame exposed all year it does suggest that it could survive if I get the right spot in the garden. I am also aware that young plants can often survive conditions that fully mature plants cannot.
I might just hedge my bets and put some out and keep some in.

I have discovered that a number of plants that I always presumed needed glasshouse conditions do better in the garden.
Ian Young, Aberdeen North East Scotland   - 
The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.
http://www.srgc.org.uk/bulblog/bulblog.html

 


Scottish Rock Garden Club is a Charity registered with Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR): SC000942
SimplePortal 2.3.5 © 2008-2012, SimplePortal