I hv clay in the soil. It keeps the soil wet and cold
any rememedy ?
Also how to enrich the soil when it is dry,
Does bone meal fertizer any help in the early stage, or peat moss ?
Plz suggest s good fertilizer.
I h a v small garden, ie, 10 X 16 feet only
Clay is rich in nutrients, but the particulate are so small it has a
very good water holding capacity. Clay has to be just at the proper
moisture level to work. Generally that is about 3 days after a rain.
You dig it up with a good fork, break up the clods with your hands and
add as much compost as you can afford. In an area your size, I'd also
say with the compost add about 5 bags of decomposed granite, or
lavasand if you can find it. Topdress the whole thing by hand with
epsom salts aka magnesium which helps iron be more available to the
plants and never walk on that soil again.
Using keywords "How to improve clay soil", you will find helpful
articles on the Web. Here are a few:
There are many others.
IMHO, it helps to understand WHY the clay soil is not good,
and HOW the various suggestions for improving it actually work.
Top with soil gypsum (NOT decorative gypsum rock). Over a period of a
week or more, lightly rinse the gypsum into the soil. Gypsum reacts
with clay to make the latter more easily worked. Just wait about 4 days
after the last rinsing before digging. More gypsum should be applied
After the gypsum has dissolved into the clay, dig and turn the soil with
a spading fork (which is NOT a pitch fork). Do this at least to the
depth of the fork's tines. Then, cultivate and break up clods with a
4-prong potato hook.
Peat moss will help some, but it must be worked thoroughly into the
clay. A potato hook is good for this. Peat moss will remain in the
soil much longer than compost. However, good compost should also be
added; it contains soil bacteria that make soil nutrients available to
Just go easy with both peat moss and compost. You should keep the soil
near the surface still mostly clay. Otherwise, plant roots might not
penetrate below the area that has been improved.
Bone meal's primary nutrient is phosphorus. Phosphorus will not
dissolve and leach through the soil. It must be placed where roots will
find it. Thus, you need to work bone meal down into the soil during the
preliminary digging and turning. Broadcasting it on the surface merely
wastes effort and money.
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
Gypsum is useful for breaking up many clays but not all. IIRC smectitic clays
are improved and kaolinic are not. I had a test procedure for this but cannot
find the damn thing now. It may be worth enquiring from neighbours, local
nurseries etc if your clay is the type broken up by gypsum.
Peat moss tends to be rather expensive, in these parts prohibitively so for a
large area. In your samll plot it may be reasonable.
I find that any organic matter will improve the texture of clay soil and there
it is hardly possible to have too much. Horse and cow manure are excellent but
take care if it is fresh. Adding such to your soil will supply nutrients as
well as improving texture. If the soil is poor and/or you want to grow heavy
feeding plants add chicken/turkey/pigeon manure. Bird manure is much stronger
and must be used in controlled amounts, particularly when fresh.
The third thing that helps break down clay is growing plants in it. The root
activity helps to disaggregate clumps and so turning a cover crop back in will
help in two diferent ways.
All these remedies take some time to work, you are not going to get great
change in a few weeks.
I happen to live where we have hard red clay several feet deep. I also
happen to live within 4 miles of the county composting station. Since
I live in the county, I can get all the compost I want free. After
screening the compost to 1/2 inch size, I add 4 to 6 inches every year
& till it in. Very little fertilizer or watering needed. This soil is
now loam to about 14 inches.
Check and see if there is such a composting station in your area.
Lots of compost and organic material, steer manure, and about
50 cubic feet of sand, if you only turn over the top foot of soil.
Figure that you want a third of your soil to be sand. One foot
down would make it about 1/3 of 160 cubic feet, a foot and a half
would be 1/3 of about 240 cubic feet, and two feet would be 1/3 of
320 cubic feet for hard clay.
If two feet down he's still into clay there still won't be drainage...
all you're creating is a two foot deep mud pit. Now you've put him in
a far worse situation had he done nothing... he just buried triple the
double of the same sized raised bed garden, and has nothing but a big
fat sloppy mess to show for it. Clayey soils with pooling water are
the primary reason raised bed gardens were invented.
A 10' X 16' X 30" volume requires like 15 cubic yards of top soil...
around here that truckload of really high quality organically enriched
topsoil would run like $400 delivered. Pressure treated lumber and
fasteners for that size raised bed garden would also run about $400...
doing the labor oneself, not all that difficult, for under a grand he
could have a gorgeous raised bed garden, and guaranteed to work, and
work well... and if the ground below is typically wet he'll rarely
need to water.
Why would any sane person want to dig a 160 sq ft pit two feet deep,
in clay by hand... need a couple trained gorillas...hiring someone
with a backhoe and to take away the clay, and to repair the damage
made by the backhoe and dump truck could easily cost about a grand...
and then all you have is a wet mucky hole... first heavy rain the poor
guy will have a pond... oh <V-8 head slap>, a water garden, gonna grow
mosquitos, wtf didn't you say so. <G>
Shelly, Shelly, Shelly everything you say is logical BUT all I have is
heavy clay and for the last 20 years this approach has worked just
fine for me. Of course I dug it and more (plus post holes) when I was
younger. Even at 250 lbs and 6' 2", I still needed to take some
breaks but it was good healthy exercise. I've terraced my garden
so it is half raised, in a manner of speaking.
Just because you can't conceive of it doesn't make it impossible;-)
Those brown colored glasses you wear are very complimentary to you.
Now, what is wrong with the name Christian?
How deep does the clay extend? If you dig down with a hand spade for
ten minutes and are still into clay then no amount of soil amending
will be practical... for the small area you're dealing with you really
should consider a raised bed garden.
The depth of the clay in itself is not important, the way you arrange drainage
in your area sitting on clay is. Unless you are into bog species, that would
preclude digging a pit in the clay that can saturate with water regardless of
the type or quality of soil you fill the pit with. This applies to planting a
single shrub or a bed that will have many plants in it.
You can happily combine the ideas of soil amendment and raised beds as part of
your solution to the various problems of clay soil - the two are by no means
On the plus side clay-based soils hold both water and nutrients better than
the sand-based loam that is often described as ideal. If you are in a place
where water can be scarce and you don't want to be dishing out fertiliser
constantly, only to have it wash into the drain and make algal blooms
downstream, you may grow to appreciate your clay compared to sand, although
you probably won't ever actually love it.
I agree. Having dealt with clay most of my life I can say creating a raised
by far the better and easier choice. "Working" clay destroys a lot of the soil
microstructure and disrupts the overall ecology. It is better to practice "no
by just digging a shallow hole for the plant, add amendments and compost, hill
plant. The worst aspect of clay (drying to brick) is overcome by mulching,
from swamp hay (best) to newspapers. As the plant grows it will send the roots
the soil and when the roots rot they add organics. the compost will attract
who are the real actors in building wonderful soil. One word of caution. DO NOT
kneels or walk on clay beds. it compacts the soil too much.
As more mulch and compost is added over the years the soil will rapidly improve
overall. Just dont let it get washed or blown away. Ingrid
the only remedy is tons of compost or similar organic material. of
course, you don't have go for broke, just keep working on it over time
if you're planning to stay put.
on the up side, this can help you be drought proof.
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