Clay Soil Improvement / Organic Matter Types (London)

Hi,
I have just had my garden landscaped (removing a massive terrace full of rubble), however its now down to faintly yellow looking clay, all the black soil on top has gone. It reminds me of the stuff I used at school to make pots out of!
Having read about how to improve the soil to make it suitable for lawn/veg/flowers, the answer appears to be I need to add a lot of organic matter to it, and not work it when wet! (?)
I am new to gardening, and am now confused about the various types of compost available, and what is best to use;
Organic Compost (Screened to 10mm/20mm) "Compost" Soil Conditioner Well Rotted Farm Yard Manure Various ground up bark/wood products some of which seem to be marketed as peat replacement.
Any help and advice would be appreciated.
:confused:
(Also if anyone knows a good cheap supplier for these things as I think I need a lorry load!)
--
nb-


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Garden soil should be 30% - 40% sand, 30% - 40% silt, and 20% - 30% clay. You can check your soil by scraping away the organic material on top of the ground and then take a vertical sample of your soil to 12 in. (30 cm) deep (rectangular or circular hole). Mix this with water in an appropriately large glass (transparent) jar. The sand will settle out quickly, the silt in a couple of hours, and the clay within a day. The depth of the layer in relationship to the total (layer/total = % of composition) is the percent that fraction has in the soil.
Garden soil needs a constant input of nutrients, i.e. carbon, e.g. brown leaves, and nitrogen, e.g. manure in a ratio of C/N of 25. This is the same ratio you will what in a compost pile. -----
Let it Rot!: The Gardener's Guide to Composting (Third Edition) (Storey's Down-to-Earth Guides) by Stu Campbell
<(Amazon.com product link shortened)94901182&sr=1-1>
p.39
Compostable Material Average C/N
Alder or ash leaves ............................ 25
Grass clippings ................................ 25
Leguminous plants (peas, beans,soybeans) ............................. 15
Manure with bedding ........................... 23
Manure ....................................... 15
Oak leaves .................................... 50
Pine needles .............................. 60-100
Sawdust................................. 150-500
Straw, cornstalks and cobs .................. 50-100
Vegetable trimmings ........................... 25 Aged Chicken Manure  ........................  7 Alfalfa ................................................ 12 Newspaper........................................ 175 -----
http://www.composting101.com/c-n-ratio.html
A Balancing Act (Carbon-to-Nitrogen Ratios)
All organic matter is made up of substantial amounts of carbon (C) combined with lesser amounts of nitrogen (N). The balance of these two elements in an organism is called the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio (C:N ratio). For best performance, the compost pile, or more to the point the composting microorganisms, require the correct proportion of carbon for energy and nitrogen for protein production. Scientists (yes, there are compost scientists) have determined that the fastest way to produce fertile, sweet-smelling compost is to maintain a C:N ratio somewhere around 25 to 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen, or 25-30:1. If the C:N ratio is too high (excess carbon), decomposition slows down. If the C:N ratio is too low (excess nitrogen) you will end up with a stinky pile. (cont.) ------
No reason to till after the first preparation of the garden (no reason to till the first/last time but it does speed up soil development). Spread out your soil amendments: € N: € 18.37 lb. chicken manure/ 100 sq.ft. (2.88 oz/sq.ft.) € € P: € 3 lb. / 100/sq.ft. (.48 oz/sq.ft.) € € K: € How much wood ash should you use in your garden? The late Bernard G. Wesenberg, a former Washington State University Extension horticulturist, recommended using one gallon of ashes per square yard on loam to clay-loam soil, and half as much on sandier soils. <http://www.plantea.com/manure.htm € Manure Chicken Diary cow Horse Steer Rabbit € N 1.1 .257 .70 .70 2.4 € P .80 .15 .30 .30 1.4 € K .50 .25 .60 .40 .60 € Sheep Alfalfa Fish Emulsion € N .70 3 5 € P .30 1 1 € K .90 2 1
€ Sources: Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, An Illustrated Guide to Organic Gardening, by Sunset Publishing, and the Rodale Guide to Composting.
Cover this with newspaper (to block light from weeds and provide a barrier to sprouting weeds). Cover the newspaper with mulch (up to 6" in depth). Spray the garden bed with water, and wait 6 weeks before planting (if you can).
A dibble can help with planting. The dinky little ones from the nursery may be of some help, but I prefer a sharpened, old, shovel handle for making a hole through the mulch and paper for planting seedlings.
Adding drip lines takes a little time, but saves a lot of time during the season.
That's all I know.
Good luck.
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wrote:

Seems I was correct... a lorry load IS the same as a shit load... and here you just got a major lorry load of billy goat shit! LOL-LOL
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On Thu, 24 May 2012 13:55:16 +0000, nb-

Is a lorry load the same as a shit load?
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On Thu, 24 May 2012 13:55:16 +0000, nb-

Sounds as if you may need to re-terrace. If so, perhaps raised beds could form your new terraces.

MOIST is the best time to do it - clay will be like a brick if dry, and will really gum things up if wet. With other soils, dry can lead to loads of airborne dust.

I have limited experience with clay - I know it's down underneath our yard soil like 3 feet or so (deep enough not to be a concern for my gardening efforts, but shallow enough that I've run into it when trenching utilities). We have sandy loam where I'm at, and the other side of town, where my in-laws live, they've got adobe (which is a form of clay).
Each year, my mother in law would work multiple bags of soil mix into her little patch of garden space to grow tomatoes, and the following year, it'd have incorporated into the adobe. A few years ago, I constructed her a couple of large (4x8 foot) raised beds with a thick, water-permeable fabric on the bottom. The plan was to fill them up with a compost/soil mix trailered in from my property (each would require about 1 cubic yard to fill), but a neighbour of them ordered a bunch of compost and soil mix for their yard and wheelbarrowed over enough to fill one. After several years, that soil level has receeded (as the compost in it completed breaking down), but it has remained friable because it isn't being mixed with the underlying adobe.
I'm a huge fan of organic compost (not just "organic" in terms of it being organic matter, but organic as in pesticide free, etc). I $#!t you not, little over an hour ago, I had a semi-trailer dumptruck unload a pile of organic compost into my garden. Depending upon your access to the space, just burying it with organic compost and soil mixtures is probably your best bet.

All sorts of sources for "compost". If you have, as we call them in the US, "green bins" for yardwaste, your municipal waste handler probably processes them into compost, and may be anm affordable supplier of it. Around here, we have three waste bins: grey for debris, blue for recyclables (paper/glass/metal/plastic), and green for compostable yardwaste. The latter two are diverted from heading to the landfill and are processed. Many of the local landscape supply yards sell composted soil mixes which they're actually obtaining from the municipal waste processor and just marking up.
Besides composted horse manure and shavings I get from a local stable, I buy trailerloads of duck manure and rice hull compost from a large and > 100 year old duck farm. By its nature, the stuff is fine, and greatly improves water permeation and moisture retention in the soil (though our sandy loam does a fine job of holding moisture actually, water has a tendancy to bead up on the surface above all the fines -- till in a load of this compost, and it turns into a massive sponge.

won't make a good planting medium.

"carbon", and in order to complete it's compost cycle, will lock up nitrogen from your soil. I get wood chips in 8-15 cubic yard loads from local tree services - they do a job somewhere, and want to get rid of the wood chips. It's good as a mulch for pathways and borders, but I don't like it in the garden proper (and as I tractor-till the whole garden space when I amend, "pathways" in the garden are only temporary from season to season).
Decide if you're putting in a lawn, landscaping, or growing veggies - the soil needs (workable depth and surface cover for instance) will vary. If looking to lanscape (pockets of plants here and there) and just convert the soil over a long time, mixing in wood chips might be an option. If you want grass, they really won't be (as grass wants nitrogen).
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Raised beds sound good, but try to keep the organic material (OM) to around 5% by weight, according to Linda Chalker-Scott <http://www.puyallup.wsu.edu/~linda%20chalker-scott/Horticultural%20Myths _files/index.html> Organic matter, Part 3: Nutrient overload The Bottom Line ? Ideal soils, from a fertility standpoint, are generally defined as containing no more than 5% OM by weight or 10% by volume ? Before you add organic amendments to your garden, have your soil tested to determine its OM content and nutrient levels ? Be conservative with organic amendments; add only what is necessary to correct deficiencies and maintain OM at ideal levels ? Do not incorporate organic amendments into landscapes destined for permanent installations; topdress with mulch instead ? Abnormally high levels of nutrients can have negative effects on plant and soil health
? Any nutrients not immediately utilized by microbes or plants contribute to non-point source pollution
In truth, I don't always agree with Ms. Chalker-Scott, but that's usually in relation to the unique situations I have in gardening on the north side of a hill (in the NORTHERN HEMISPHERE).
More information for you to chew on.
If you don't go the raised bed route, I strongly suggest you plant some buckwheat (Fast-growing warm-season crop. Grows in most any soil and can smother weeds.), and/or rye grass (One of the best winter cover crops. Grows rapidly in the fall. Dies before spring in North America.) into your garden. Both of these plants put-out incredible amounts of roots, which loosen the soil.
I like the "sheet mulching" approach (Ms. Chalker-Scott, not so much), which I've outlined to you in my other post. Turn the soil once to add your amendments. After that, let the worms do the work for you.

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nb- wrote:

sounds like you didn't specify this very well. when landscaping you shouldn't be left with something you can't use. the excavator must not be very ethical. they should have covered this.

how large an area?
songbird
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