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I am just starting to garden in a new area and the soil is drying out way too fast, 12 hours. I have killed more than 1/2 of what I have planted. Some things are doing good in this but others just die, some in less than a day. I do have a compost pile and it is cooking down but isn't ready yet. Is there something else cheap (we live on a fixed income) I can do to help hold the moisture in the soil? I am in zone 8b in southern Alabama. It is in the high 80s/low 90s daily now.

--- Lynne

SoilWe have too much clay, not too much sand, but the solution to the both is the same --- more organic matter.  If you live close to a grocery store, you might consider talking to the folks in the produce department and asking them to hang onto old fruits and vegetables for you to put in your compost pile, ramping up your volume.  Starting a worm colony would be an option to make your composting process move along more quickly too.

While you're working on your compost, you should still be able to come up with mulch to put on the soil surface to slow down evaporation.  We have a mulching mower and use the grass clippings as mulch, putting handfuls directly onto beds around plants like tomatoes.  Maybe a lawn mowing company would be willing to give you their grass clippings?  In the fall, tree leaves are readily available and make great mulch too.  If you have space, you can ask tree pruning companies to deposit a truckload of wood chips in your yard, but you'll need to wait a couple of years for them to break down enough to make good mulch.  A smart scavenger (especially one who lives in the city) should be able to find lots of free garden amendments!

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