Mama Nature likes her wetlands to be wet, so live with it!

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Mama Nature likes her wetlands to be wet, so live with it!

Postby sis20001 » Oct 03, 2009 10:24 am

It's not smart to mess with Mother Nature. We live in a wetland area so we have already p*ssed her off. I know for a fact, water wins. Wetlands are naturally and endlessly wet, that's why they call them wetlands. Homes probably should not have been built here, but here we are. We didn't build it, we just cluelessly bought it.

I am reposting this from the Hosta Forum. Mistake on my part, but I did get some good advice there. I found I should have raised beds and the smell is probaby from carbon. I do have soil issues, I just have to work them out. We had landscapers working; they simply dumped 3" of top soil and an inch or two of mulch on top of rocks and clay. Personally, I wouldn't call that preparing garden beds. In a couple large beds the soil is constantly damp to the point of squish. We have a slate pathway underlined with landscape fabric and mulch between stones that never dries. It's pungent, unpleasant and it stinks too. Portions of the bed have the same odor. I smelled it when they were landscaping so it's not new.
My home remedy for the pathway kind of worked. I dug down about 12" or so and took out the heavy hunks of clay that range in color from gray to orange. (Did you know that smooth stones that are imbedded in clay are the same exact color as the clay?) Fascinating stuff! Anyway, I back filled with top soil mixed with pearlite, heavy grit and stones. I laid cobblestones on top of that. In areas that were on a higher level I just removed the 3" of heavy mulch down to the fabric.

:?: Now, the big question... What, if anything, can I do about the stinky soil? Is that normal? Some is akin to ammonia, but most is just a sickly, pungent, malodorous and unpleasant. The deeper I dig the stinkier it gets. Now I'm thinking carbon based.
:?: Other big question... Is there an additive to help loosen the heavy wet soil? :idea: Like Pearlite for instance or crushed volcanic(?) rock ? (the sharp red rock that some use for covering beds) It looks like brick but it's very light and airy.

On the other side of the path, where the large pines are located, it's pretty darn dry. If you tap the surface of the ground with a tool it sounds hollow. That’s an easier issue and I'm working on it. I'm going with the soaker hose next year. But I don’t know how to fight these aggressive pine tree roots. In these dry areas I have been adding the heavy soil taken from the wet beds, added broken-up clay with the wet mulch, then added canadian peat. I dug up and replanted in the same place, a mature Francis Williams that had been existing in that area for 3 years. It has barely grown at all. It's roots were mostly on the surface and incredibly easy to dig up. I'm anxious to see how she does next year!

:arrow: Food for thought... If I raise the beds under the pines will the tree roots grow up toward the surface?

My beds are fairly high as it is now but not secured by railroad ties. I guess I could go higher but the cost would be an issue. I think a picture is worth a thousand words so I going to find a couple to add. But they won't be pretty.

Boy have I learned a lot in the last couple of years. Experience is a great teacher and so is Mother Nature. If you don't follow her rules, she isn't all that forgiving.

Thanks so much for any advice, sis
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Mama Nature likes her wetlands to be wet, so live with it!

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Re: Mama Nature likes her wetlands to be wet, so live with it!

Postby Spider » Oct 03, 2009 6:14 pm

I wonder if lime would work for the stink soil?
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Re: Mama Nature likes her wetlands to be wet, so live with it!

Postby Chris_W » Oct 04, 2009 8:59 am

I really think the bad smell is from the excess water combined with not enough oxygen. Basically, the soil really needs to be aerated. That's tough to do with a high water table, so gardening above instead of into it is the best thing to try and do. I talked about fabric in the other post - fabric will prevent the kind of aeration you need to improve the soil below, and will prevent nutrients from getting down into the clay. If there is any fabric in the gardens, get rid of it.

Yes, perlite is great for adding grit to the soil. I've heard that gypsum (lime) added to the soil can help break up clay over time. If the soil smells like ammonia I have to wonder if it is acidic also. If so, and the pH is low, then the lime could help to adjust the soil closer to neutral, though normally clay has a high pH. Pine bark mulch can also help to break up heavy soils, and will break down in time.

Your pines will be a different problem. Tree roots are notorious for stealing all the water and strangling hostas over time, and your hostas would normally enjoy the clay situation better. If you add soil on top of the pine roots, they will find that good soil and grow up into it. Won't take very long either, so unfortunately it isn't worth it. Only try hostas in the pines that are really vigorous types, or stick with plants that tolerate dry shade, like Lamium, Tiarella, Dicentra, Corydalis, Brunnera, Vinca...

Personally, I'd rather have the sticky clay soil than the pine roots.

Good luck!

Chris
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Re: Mama Nature likes her wetlands to be wet, so live with it!

Postby kHT » Oct 04, 2009 9:19 pm

sis20001, what happened to you is what they call 'mitigation' where they fill in a wet land due to the most desirable land is all
built out. The use of wetland to be built on is what is happening all over, you are so right that Mother Nature will prove them
wrong. Lime is what is needed to try to get rid of the smell, sweeten up the sour soils. They also say lime is what is needed
if you septic tank over flows. I'm really sorry to hear of your problems. You are not alone in this situation.
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