improving clay soil

The previous owner made a flower bed of mostly clay soil,it has about 2" mulch,is there any way I can improve this soil without removing all that mulch,like putting manure on top of the mulch hoping it will work it's way into the soil.Its a pretty large area if I have to remove all that mulch.
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Tony Pacc wrote:

If the mulch that is already there is either fine or is coarse and already starting to break down I'd simply turn it over and mix it into the soil as deeply as I could. In fact, that quantity probably isn't sufficient if the clay is as nasty as my local sort -- add several more inches of compost to the existing mulch and turn that over. In my experience it can take a huge quantity of organic material amendment to improve clay. I've even resorted to adding perlite to lighten the heaviest sort. Of course you'll need to replace the mulch on top after planting.
--
John McGaw
[Knoxville, TN, USA]
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"John McGaw" wrote :

I agree with John. We have heavy clay of the worst kind - gray, streaked with blue. Ghastly stuff. We turn the mulch in every year, add compost, even peat moss. It takes time, but you really can build up the soil. Our flower beds now are great, with easily turned soil. Just have patience and keep it up.
Dora
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It will improve the soil much faster if you dig the mulch in to at least a foot deep. Mix it well with the soil. Adding some peatmoss and sand will help loosen the clay. Adding rotted manure or compost from stores like Home Depot will make a difference. Our soil is a heavy red clay. After 13 years of adding organic matter to the flower beds and veggie patch you would never know it.
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wrote:

Yep. We had heavy clay soil that I first mistook for concrete :)
It took a couple of years, but after adding soil conditioner, peat moss, compost, and just about anything organic (even gutter crud), the soil turns much more easily. Though it's still hard to get anything other than the most indestructible plants to grow there (lantana is doing very well), it was definitely worth the effort.
Dig deep. Don't rush. Let the elements take whatever time they need.
--Nan
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In addition to all the other suggestions, call some REAL garden centers to see if they sell bags of gypsum, sold specifically for busting up clay soil. A friend has had good results with it, although it's not something that's going to work in one season. Ask for it at Home Depot, and the knuckleheads will probably try and walk you to the lumber department. Don't bother.
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Hi Tony, there is nothing better than good organic compost to improve clay soil. However there is one other soil additive, Calcium Sulfate, or gypsum which will counteract the increase of sodium in clay soils caused by agricultural irrigation. In high sodium clay soils, the application of gypsum will free the sodium and loosen up the soil and increase drainage. If you are reclaiming farm land in the SE USA, then this may be helpful. In other places it is of little use and may even be harmful.
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http://www.fbga.net/Lasagna%20gardening%202004.htm
rob
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g'day tony,
i would lay a mass of gypsum down and rake it in then give it a good water, then put some more manure or organic matter then mulch it with spoilt hay. or it might be simpler to just put an edge around it and convert it to a raised bed, see my page for building a garden and also a link to ausgarden blog for my latest project.
snipped With peace and brightest of blessings,
len
-- "Be Content With What You Have And May You Find Serenity and Tranquillity In A World That You May Not Understand."
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yeam bury those fish from the koi pond ni it and it makes good soil.
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Yes it does make good ripe soil.
wrote:

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I'll second that suggestion.
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wrote:

Gypsum is good. Lime works too, although it takes longer, and a lot less expensive. If you go the lime route, test your soil first. It is probably acidic and in that case the lime will help. Working compost into the soil will do wonders for clay soil too. If given the choice of sandy soil and clay soil, I'd take the clay soil--at least it has more nutrients in it than sandy soil.
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Gypsum or lime ONLY if your soil is on the acid side. If it's alkaline, it will only make it more so. Suzy, Wisconsin Zone 5
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Gypsum is a neutral salt and *does NOT* raise pH. This is easily discovered with a simple search of the 'net.
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The discussion of pH misses the point anyway. The OP's got a problem with clay soil, which, at its worst, is next to impossible to work with unless you plan on cultivating with a backhoe. pH is the least of your worries in such a situation.
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Gypsum will not raise the soil ph. It has a neutral or slightly acidic effect on soil. It does displace sodium, this is what makes a soil more workable. Gypsum contains 23% calcium and 15% sulphur. Calcium is alkaline, sulphur is acidic. (I presume the 2 elements cancel each other out somehow.)
Limes that do effect soil ph are agricultural lime (calcium carbonate-this takes some time to work), dydrated lime (calcium hydroxide-quick acting but not to be applied with fertilisers) and Dolomite lime which also contains high levels of magnesium (12%) along with calcium (24%).
source - Yates Garden Guide.
rob
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Tony- Many years back when I bought my present home, I had a similar problem. The soil was terrible. Back then, I had access to rice hulls - a bi-product of the rice growing industry, here in the Sacramento area. They were very cheap, and light. I mixed them into the soil, and instantly noticed how they made the soil so much easier to work, and to weed. Things would actually grow in the garden, because bulbs and seeds weren't becoming entombed in the clay.
I don't know if you have rice hulls available in your area. . .but it's something you might want to investigate.
Myrl Jeffcoat http://www.myrljeffcoat.com
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