clay soil

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Jade

New Member
#1
I was looking for a thread on amending soil...didn't find anything, so decided to put this here in the free for all.
Our new property is really full of clay. I have been doing some studying online as to how to deal with it, but don't really have a grip on it. I am used to nice loamy rich soil from my previous years in PA, and a very limey rocky soil from my years in Canada. I added a bunch of soil amendments such as sand, peatmoss...etc when we first started our new beds. I let the leaves lay on our back gardens for the winter and we will rototill them in along with the mulch that we put down last spring. Any other ideas on how to beat down this clay?
 

Flower4Yeshua

Super Moderator & vegemm
Staff member
#2
sounds like oyu are doing all the right things needed to amend your clay soil...I would just keep adding you composted yard waste and tilling in as you go along...it may take a bit of time.
 

Crabbergirl

Super Moderator
Staff member
#3
You might want to check out the thread "Compost anyone" under the organic gardening forum. One of the best ways to ammend soil is to start with compost. Yes it can take some time to create your black gold but there are a few quick fix options.
Sand is one of the quick fixes. Not sure how large of an area you are thinking of nor do I know how much clay you have. You can also buy composted manure and work that in , these methods can be expensive if you are working large areas. Shreaded paper from businesses ( like banks) can be mixed with sand manure and compost to be worked it.
This could end up being a long work in progress if you live somewhere like Oklahoma or another clay rich state. If you can give a little more info on what size area and what degree of clay you have I am sure we can help you with some ideas.
 

Dor

Active Member
#4
I have lots of clay and have been working on it for years. I use the composted manure and lots of humus when planting and making new beds. It is getting better after years of lost plants and lots of money spent. I have never used sand because I read a while back it helps the clay to become like cement. Can't remember exactly where I read it but was on the web. My clay is hard enough as it is.
 

Jade

New Member
#5
Before I added sand I read about amending it before putting in the beds. It has to be builders sand, not play sand. I don't like clay, give me rocks any time. It is very unusual to work with for sure.
 

Jade

New Member
#6
I was trying to think of ways to grow red raspberries and not have them take over the whole yard. I was thinking that I could sink two large plastic garbage cans into the yard and leave the lip above ground level so that they couldn't sucker. Hubby told me it would kill him to dig holes that big in this soil. It almost killed the two young guys to come here and plant the large London Plane tree that we put in last spring. I felt very bad for them. But at least my sweety was still alive.
 

Crabbergirl

Super Moderator
Staff member
#7
You might be on to something. Rocks can add drainage to your soil/clay especially if they are in the bottom of the beds they encourage drainage
 

Dor

Active Member
#9
I have some broken bricks in a bed I was going to remove and add some rocks. On that side of the house it is love and water doesn't drain as well so I though I would put in a rock garden and not have to worry about the clay soil there.
 
#10
Clay is actually a nutrient rich growing medium, the problem is the compaction. Keep adding organic matter for years to come. Grass clippings, mulche dleaves, vegetable garbage, manures, etc. Work it in to about 8 inches down.

When using leaves and grass in the fall, till it under then. By spring it will be almost decomposed.

Winter rye is another option to till under in the spring.

pea gravel and other rocky material evemtually works its way to the surface and dulls tools.

If you are planting shrubs and trees, you don't have to amend it at all. Research shows most shrubs and trees do best if they can grow in the soil the the roots will stretch out into.

Sand helps some, Gypsom is a temporary fix and Spagnum peat is a catch 22. Helps breack up the clay, but retains moisture and there lies a problem with clay.


Ron
www.gardening-for-wildlife.com
 
#12
I too have clay. All I can say is compost,compost,compost! And if you can get your hands (not literally) on some rabbit manure that will help too. I also use worm castings from my redworms.
 
#14
Clay soil is nice to use, To improve your soil, you'll need to add six to eight inches of organic matter to the entire bed. You can add any organic matter you can get your hands on. Grass clippings (as long as they haven't been treated with chemicals), shredded leaves, rotted manure, and compost are all prefect choices. Spread your organic matter on top of the soil. Here's where the manual labor comes in. The organic matter needs to be mixed into the top six to twelve inches of soil. Digging it in and mixing it with a shovel is a great way to do this, as it moves a lot of earth without pulverizing the soil particles the way tilling can. However, if digging is just too hard on your back, using a tiller is a fine method.

When you're finished,your garden bed will be several inches higher than it was originally. It will settle some over the course of a season, but the soil structure will keep improving as microorganisms in the soil work to break down all of the organic matter you've added. The bed can be planted immediately, however. You'll be adding more organic matter on the top of the bed once or twice a year. This will continue the process of improving the soil's structure and offset any settling that happens.
Testing for Fertility and Adding Fertilizers

After a season or so, it's a good idea to collect a soil sample and have it tested to see if you have any nutrient deficiencies or pH issues. The report you get back will offer suggestions for how to improve the garden further. Add any organic fertilizers or soil amendments outlined in your report, and your bed will be perfect for growing healthy plants.
 
#16
you can add all your old potting mix to to soil along with leaves, grass cuttings and any thing else you have around even old bills just cut them up into small bits and mix them in the soil and soon you will have some nice soil
 

Randy

Super Moderator
Staff member
#17
At our last house, I had a dump truck load of sand brought in and I spread that over my whole garden area then tilled it in. It worked great for me yet I have heard others say it would cause a hardening of the soil like concrete. That didn't happen in my case though and I think it was a smart thing to do. But I also had a friend that had a large back yard and some oak trees that he had to rake up after. For several years, he would give me his plastic sacks of oak leaves and I would till those into the same area where I put the sand. I know oak leaves are not the best leaves to use, but that's what I had available so I used them. In a few years I had great soil and I could plant carrots that were long ones and not be restricted to the 'Danvers Half Long' carrot.
 

Jade

New Member
#18
Randy, I have read that builders sand is fine to help amend clay soil, just don't use play sand. The builders sand is much coarser. It seems that all of the topsoil washed down the hill last spring when they were seeding our yard, so we are going to have to take care of that problem or we will never have a nice green yard. The front yard doesn't look too bad. We are putting in a raised bed for veggies this year. It will be a very small garden, but I just want some homegrown tomatoes, a few peppers and some green beans, so it will be fine. I have been trying to learn how to feed just 2 people, ha.
 

Randy

Super Moderator
Staff member
#19
I would have a problem with that too. The two girls are away at school, but there are still 5 of us here. Fiona still tells me I fix too much food. But she is talking variety more than quantity. I like to offer variety though and especially if I put something on the table someone doesn't care for, there is an alternative. I know my grandson won't eat fish, so I nuke a couple of corn dogs or one of those individual meat pies for him on the days that I prepare fish.
 
#20
Jade, I know my grandma used to have red raspberries and mint out in the front yard and it didn't seem to spread. Grandpa just mowed around it and it kept it the same size. There was probably about 2 feet square of mint with about 6 or 8 feet by 2 feet of berries.
 


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