Soil crusting

My Soil seems to crust in any scenario. It’s naturally an acidic, almost sandy loam. Even with organic matter added, it still crusts after rain or irrigation when I sow seeds, and some seeds (esp corn) have trouble breaking the crust. It seems to absorb water fine even with be crust, but it is a bit tough for some seeds to penetrate it. Any ideas?

do you pre-soak your seeds (minus the tiny ones). I find I get a whole lot better sprouting with corn, beans, zucchini, squash, watermelon, cantaloupe, etc… when soaked for at least an hour, some times a whole day… (forgot to say i have a garden in similar dirt). I have also raised the rows about 8" (dig 4" and use that to raise the rows 4") and this has helped tremendously with the soil being softer, and easier to work in the raised rows as well as for drainage.

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When I seed in heavy soil that seeds might struggle with, I make the furrow and then use a light potting soil to top the seeds, instead of pushing the heavy soil back over. I’ve also dug in a little potting soil into the furrow first to lighten the soil beneath the seeds when I’m seeding more delicate veggies that might stuggle getting their roots down into the native soil as well. I don’t know if they need it, but I’ve used this approach for carrots, lettuce, etc.

Like EastBexarWilcox, I often pre-soak larger seeds, although I go a step further and put them in damp paper dowels in a bag after soaking and wait until I see roots emerging before planting. This means I know the seeds I’m planting are already germinated and helps make sure they don’t rot in the ground, etc. if it is cold and wet and germination will be slower. Small seed, I usually just overseed and plan on thinning.

Now if you are planting a ton of seed in long rows, my more labor intensive approach might not work, but I generally get very good germination without gaps, etc.

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Try lightly watering the soil daily while the seeds are germinating. This should help to soften up the soil crust just long enough for the seedlings to push through. Once the seedlings are up, the crust will only function to keep in water (slows evaporation) and hopefully stop weeds from germinating.

As I mentioned elsewhere, it is a good practice to cover a new sowing to protect it from …sun baking the top surface dry; birds (they love seeds and small plants - like peas); rain washouts (those gulley washers when they come through will float your seeds to the surface and wash them away.)
That said, there are certain mineral imbalances which will tend to harden the soil surface. The one amendment that comes to mind is wood ash.

Need to be careful with wood ash, as it has a pH above 10 and can kill just about anything if you use too much. I’ve had good luck using washed sand to break up hard/crusty soil. It’s cheap and permanent. Just add a few bags of sand and mix it right into the soil.

Right. I wasn’t recommending it, just suggesting it could be a problem if folks applied it to their ‘acid’ soil, thinking it would amend it - it will harden it too. So I agree with you.

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This is not a problem I’ve ever encountered although I’ve worked 100’s of various soils, so you can take my suggestion with a grain of salt. I think Zendog’s suggestions is probably all you need, but shredded straw mulch rather lightly spread over the soil might prevent it from crusting up by reducing heat on the surface and slowing evaporation. It is a product that has become very popular recently and is available bagged around here at most garden centers, including the big boxes.

I want to stay away from wood ash, I’ve already limed my soil up to a pH of 6.5.

Corn should be able to push through if the crust gets broken. Something like a small roller with little studs would be perfect.

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A container or bag of sand will go a long ways…as a dressing on top of the covered seeds…used to use it on carrot and beet seeds.
Things like corn and watermelons and pumpkins will push through no matter the crust.

I water lightly as the plants are starting to emerge. That softens the crust and plants push thru.

When I was in West Texas with high pH and sandy soils, the cotton farmers had to plow to break up the crust or the cotton seedlings would not be able to break through. It is easier to just keep the soil moist. Once it hardens very few things can break through the crust of a sandy loam soil.