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Hydrophobic soil

15 years ago

I'm having the strangest problem in my whole garden...

I had horrible luck with everything this year. I have two 4x4 raised beds and two large in ground beds. Peppers, herbs, tomatos, all seemed rather stunted. I watered frequently but many seemed to be dying. At first, I thought it was because I was watering too much. Then I did some digging, literally.

After watering my beds well, I dug into the soil with my hand. To my surprise, the soil an inch below the surface on down was BONE DRY. It seems that the soil has a very high surface tension and it literally shrugs off the water. I've tried hoeing it up to mix it to no avail. No matter how much I water, the water mostly just puddles and runs off, it won't soak in. When I mix in the handfuls of soil with water, you can see the soil floating on top of the water like a sheen of powder.

It's the strangest darn thing I've ever seen and needless to say I'm flummoxed. I need to solve this problem by next spring or I might as well give up gardening--none of my plants are getting more than a token amount of water no matter how much I water.

The only 'common' attribute amongst both my raised beds and my in ground beds is that I mulched in a bunch of the municipal compost available at our landfill. It seems that there is alot of very fine powder in the compost and that powder is very hydrophobic.

Is there any soil amendment I can add to fix this or am I faced with scraping 4-6" of top soil out of my in ground beds? My raised beds are a total loss. Even after making a big mud bog out of them and mixing the soil with water, the next time I try to water, the soil still won't soak in.

Appreciate any suggestions.


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