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April 15th  2011    Tim Candler

    Soil can sometimes look right, then down comes three and a half inches of rain, and what once was fluffy becomes compacted from raindrops. It looks flat and arid, it cries out for roots and when the sun hits it, sinister cracks appear which turn a mind to deserts and clay and creatures with too many legs.

    Under these circumstances a gardener can either go into shock, curl his leaves and retreat to the indoors, or he can accept the inevitable, pluck up his courage and drive the seven miles to that hardware store that also sells kitchen appliances.

     There is nothing actually wrong with clay.  A clay soil is a good soil, but once a clay soil is compacted or has dried out there is no fine tilth out of which the unwanted can be gently teased.  Instead better to carry a hammer and chisel.

     Fortunately for those desperate for compost, there is Canada.  A land that must be built almost entirely of peat, which they sell to those of us who live south of their border at huge profit.  A half inch of peat worked into eight inches of clay gives you about a year of false contentment, because even though it is nice to think of a little part of Canada amongst the Eggplant, peat should not be a substitute for the compost pile. 

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