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We have many leaves that were not raked up last fall, I am expanding my vegetable garden and would like to turn the leaves and some sand into rather heavy clay soil. Should I add anything else because of the leaves?

Adding sand and organic matter to the soil is a great idea. The leaves will break down and help loosen the soil and add somenutritional value as well. Leaves will also lower the pH of the soil so it would be a good idea to check the pH in spring and fall to make sure you’re keeping the soil’s pH around 6.5/ Here’s an excerpt from my vegetable gardening seminar that talks about pH. Here’s alink to the seminar schedule in case you want to drop by: http://www.hewitts.com/meetpeterbowden.html Check the pH Once you’ve beefed up your new garden with plenty of organic matter, it is time to check the pH (acidity) of the soil. The benefits of properly adjusting the pH of the soil and the benefits of limestone itself are far reaching. I could carry on for pages about nutrients in the soil (or from the fertilizer you pay good money for) being “bound up” and unavailable to plants because of acidic soil. I could write reams on how the microorganisms that “feed” your lawn die off in soils with a low pH. I could rant and rave about how important calcium and magnesium (from limestone) are in the formation of plant fiber or how osmosis (the ability of plants to draw moisture from the soil) is impeded in acidic soil. Let’s just say, it’s VERY important. Here’s the deal. There’s a tendency for soil to gradually become acidic over time. Decomposing organic matter, fertilizer and acid rain all contribute to acidification of the soil. In heavier soils like clay, this happens very slowly. In looser soils like sand, acidification occurs more rapidly. The more fertilizer and organic matter you apply to your lawn or garden, the more often you should check the pH. Different plants prefer different pH levels. Most vegetables grow best in slightly acidic to neutral soil (pH 6.5 to 7) while your lawn will be healthier if the soil is neutral (pH 7). Every once in a while I run into someone who’s heard that lime is good for the lawn and they’ll ask, “I’ve got a 10,000 sq. ft. garden and I’ve never limed it. How much lime should I apply?” To the uninformed, this seems like a reasonable question. To me, it’s like asking your mechanic, ”I have a mid-sized sedan. How much oil do I need to add?” There’s no way your mechanic could answer unless you allowed him/her to look at the dipstick. The inexpensive and easy-to-use soil pH test kit is your “dipstick” to determine how much lime you need to apply for healthy plant growth. If I’m asked, “I have a 10,000 sq. ft. garden and the pH is 6.0. How much lime should I apply?” I can then say that you need 10-40 lb. bags of pelletized lime to bring your soil’s pH up to the desired 7.0 that it should be. Of course, you may not need to ask since the information is provided in the pH test kit. Once you’ve corrected the pH, you shouldn’t need to apply it again for 3 to 5 years, maybe even longer depending on your of soil type.

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