We’ve reached the first of the month again. It’s time for me to share one of the blunders I’ve made in my thirty-plus years of planting, pruning, and in-the-soil gardening in Connecticut’s zone 6a. I call these first-of-the-month confessions Gardening Oops – or GOOPs for short. It’s a monthly meme I started more than two years ago. You can join this confessional. After all we all make mistakes. What’s important is learning from them. I share mine hoping you will learn something from my mistakes. After reading my GOOPs for June 2011, you can share a GOOPs of your own.
This month’s GOOPs involves landscape fabric and how it can/does become clogged with tiny soil particles.
A few seasons back my family built a manufactured block retaining wall extending on either side of a set of stairs. In a section off one side of the stairs sits a long planting bed about 15 inches wide and 3 feet tall. Following the recommendation of the block manufacturer, we installed crushed stone and perforated pipe over-layered with landscape fabric at the base of the planting bed and behind the upper portions of the higher wall. The landscape fabric is to prevent soil from filtrating into the rock and clogging the stone/perforated pipe which carries heavy water loads out of the base of the wall. About a foot of soil sits atop the landscape fabric in the planting bed and in the planting area along the upper wall.
The problem? We now have water-logged soil in the lower planting bed. The heavy snow pack from this past winter compacted the soil in the planting bed and the heavy rains of this spring kept the soil unusually moist. But the landscape fabric at the base of the soil does not allow moisture to easily drain from the bed leading me to believe it is clogged with tiny soil particles. Last spring I replaced half the soil in the bed with peat-based potting mix which seemed to help. However, this spring the soil remained too wet to accommodate the seeds I planted there. Lettuce seeds never sprouted, though seeds from the same packet sprouted well in a container on my deck.
My suspicion that the landscape fabric was slowly becoming clogged was backed up by information provided during the Northeast Organic Farming Association Organic Land Care class I took this winter. Apparently the clogging issue has become more noted as the use of landscape fabric has become more popular.
In my case the ultimate solution may be removal of all soil from the lower bed to refill with crushed stone – unless any of my incredible readers offer a better solution. But I’m in no mood, and have no time, to tackle this project this year. So my current remedy involved sinking clay pots into the planting bed (I dug out enough soil, down to the fabric level, to create a depression that holds each pot). The pots hold eggplants, peppers, and smaller-growing tomato varieties. I hope clay will keep the soil in each pot at a more growth-friendly moisture level.
I don’t know what our alternative to landscape fabric would have been in this situation, but I wish I had known of the clogging potential going into the project. I would have created a super fluffy soil blend to use atop the fabric.
Do you have a landscape fabric tale of woe or any other GOOPs to share?
Leave a comment below or share your GOOPs tale on you blog and leave a teaser comment to lead us to your Gardening Oops.
Happy gardening. May my GOOPs prevent you from making a similar blunder!