It's -20 outside, with a solid layer of snow on the ground, and yet all I can think about is the garden I plan to plant this spring. We always want what we cant have, don't we? Hahaha. Come summer I'll be wishing I could be skiing, but that's beside the point.
I spent the past spring fighting off the influx of weeds that was pretending to be my lawn. The place I purchased had been sorely neglected for 5 years by the previous owners, more than enough time for dandelions, crab grass and thistle to take root and choke out the actual lawn. Tackling them gave me a good idea of what kind of soil I'm dealing with when it comes time to plant an actual garden.
For whatever reason, builders here are allowed to put a layer of sod down on top of the clay and call it good. No top soil, nothing. So, I have to figure out how to make a wad of clay into a passible environment for vegetables to grow in, and I have to do it as cheaply as possible. I'm suddenly glad I started thinking about it now, rather than waiting for spring to figure out a solution.
My plan basically comes down to adding sand to loosen the material up, some cheap topsoil to give it a bit of a starter, and adding as much organic material as possible to try and enrich the soil. Friends of mine have a farm I could get some manure from, but I'm not sure I could handle a 5 hour drive in a Smart car full of manure. I'm fine with going out of my way to grow organically, but I think that well exceeds my limits. Maybe I'll do it if my allergies are really bad and I can't smell anything.
I remembered that Starbucks has a program where you can get free 5lb bags of used coffee grounds for your garden, so I figured I'd check that out.
I went to a couple of stores and was told that while they knew about the program, they didn't do it. Talk about wind out of my sails; I was quite disappointed, but not entirely deterred. Thankfully, Starbucks isn't the only place that makes coffee. I took an empty yogurt container into work and emptied the used grounds from our floor's coffee pot into it. I'm going to need to take bigger containers in to work, as the yogurt container was full before the end of the day. The container is currently sitting on my back porch frozen solid waiting for spring, and will soon be followed by many others. I've also been saving my used tea leaves as well to add to the mix. Egg shells and vegetable peelings will round things out until I can get my hands on some manure. I'll have to talk to some of the farmers at the local farmer's market about that. Perhaps trade a load of manure for an afternoon of shovelling?
The other half of the mix, the sand, is going to be a little more difficult. If I was up north near my parents it would be much easier because a) they have a truck to move it with, and b) there are public sand pits where you can go to get free sand. Here, not so much. I've heard there are places in town you can go to get free sand to put on your walkways during the winter while it's icy, but I'd want to make sure I wasn't leaving people with slippery sidewalks so that I can have an inexpensive garden. That wouldn't be fair to them. The other thing I'd have to check is whether or not they've mixed any salt into that sand. It would kind of defeat the purpose of mixing up healthy soil if I throw salt in there as well.
Topsoil, unless I can find some somewhere that's been screened, will probably be coming from Canadian Tire. I can get 10lb bags of the no name brand soil for $2. Seriously, using brand name soil is like drinking brand name water: pointless. I'd like to remove the cost of this one, but it's going to be difficult.
Once I've got that under control I'll be putting in potatoes, carrots, squash, lettuce, beets, peas, rhubarb and possibly asparagus. I'd like to put in onions and garlic, but they need to be put in the ground during the fall to grow to any appreciable size, as we have a fairly short growing season here.
What do you guys think, am I missing anything important? If you have any cheap tips or ideas for rehabilitating clay soil I'd love to hear them.