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Looking upward
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Discussion Starter #1
I built some raised beds out at my aunt's ranch. The dirt I had to use was dug out of a dry tank/creek bed. It has a really thick clay soil and the water runs through limestone. The lime levels are way up there. I added some decomposing hay and horse/cow manure and some sand before tilling it.

I didn't have much luck growing anything - but admit I pretty much left it after planting as I worked 2 full time jobs over the spring and summer. We also had severe draught this year and my aunt didnt water like she should have. I grew a lot of white squash, green leafe lettuce, lil bit of okra, a few non-producing cucumber, watermelon, canteloupes, and some corn that was ate up with bugs. Tomatoes died, peppers died, onions and garlic grew but barely.
So obviously I need to fix this soil. I have read about oats and thought I should plant this as a cover crop for winter after adding in more sand and some crushed red granite.
Cost is an issue. The sand and granite i get for free, as well as the oats.

any suggestions or ideas?
 

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Agricultural (elemental) sulfur is used to acidify alkaline soil.
But the best bet is to get a complete soil analysis done to determine what amendments are needed.
 

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Looking upward
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Discussion Starter #3
Maybe I can turn this into a 4-H lesson for the kids, get help from the extention service, and fix my dirt all at the same time!
 

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How big are your raised beds? I have nothing but clay soil, and it was easier to buy the soil than fix what we have for gardening. If you buy decent soil, you can just add a little compost each year.
 

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Was the soil compacted, hard, and full of clods? If yes, then certainly some sand will help in some ways. Make sure it's clean, course sand, or you may add more problems. Sand will not help with nutrient imbalance in any way, but it will lighten and aerate the soil a bit. Also, the type of granite matters here, some are very alkaline, and that sounds like the last thing you need.

Watering may be a major factor. Your list of what survived and what died indicates this pretty clearly to me. Raised beds generally have excellent drainage. Careful attention to watering is essential. Adding sand to your mix will increase drainage further.

My suggestions:

Amend the soil, not bothering with a cover crop just yet. Most covers enrich the soil and help fix nitrogen, but even they need to have decent soil (and proper watering!) to do well.

Since it's the perfect time of year for it, add a lot of manure. If you have access to green manure all the better. Rich loamy compost or top soil would be great as well. Break the ground very well and let it all decompose together over the winter, making sure it doesn't dry out completely.You can just leave the manure thickly spread on top of the beds all winter as well, it will leach and do wonders.

Cultivate very well come spring, turn all of this in and spend a good amount of time prepping the beds, then mulch heavily when you set out transplants, or after your seeds sprout.
 

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I have planted red clover as cover crop, till it under in the spring.
You still would have time to do that there in Texas.
good luck
Unk Beau
 

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Talk to your county extension agent. S/he's local and can give you advice about local soil and what else you may need to add. You probably should Google soil testing for gardens; pH testing is also a good idea.
 
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