Add all the organic material you can lay your hands on: grass clippings,
leaves, vegetable scraps (see "trench composting"), etc. Surprisingly soon
you'll have the good stuff.
Gary Woods AKA K2AHC- PGP key on request, or at home.earthlink.net/~garygarlic
Zone 5/6 in upstate New York, 1420' elevation. NY WO G
Clay is usually rich in micronutrients, what it lacks is tilth. Try adding
compost, manure, leaves, anything organic. Some clays can benefit from the
addition of sand as well. Make a promise to yourself that nothing organic
leaves your property. Then either compost or shred and dig directly into the
soil. Don't give up, if you're dedicated you'll be surprised at how fast the
change will happen.
Best of luck,
As others have said you will need to break it up with much organic matter.
And as drainage may be a problem doing this in raised beds can be an
advantage. Also you will get some help breaking it up by adding gypsum
depending on the clay minerals present. Broadly gypsum makes smectitic
clays clump but not kaolinic, right now I cannot find the test used to tell
what you have but there is such a thing if you are prepared to go looking.
As for the decision to remove it and import soil that depends on the
situation. If you have a small area, want quick results and have the money
to spend then replace it. You are looking at the price of new soil, quite a
bit of earth work and somewhere to dump the old soil.
If going this route take care not to build a pond. Assuming you have a
solid layer of clay and dig a big flat hole in it which you fill with nice
well-draining soil. If you have heavy rain your plot has only as far as the
edges of the hole to drain to then it fills up with water as the clay around
it is impervious. Then nearly all your plants die. You need to plan and
build drainage for the whole area as part of the replacement.
On the other hand, I started with rock and clay soil and never had this
problem. You may want to look at the article on clay in Wikipedia and
its links. If this garden spot has had a problem with standing water,
drainage would be wise. The adding of amendments (manure and organic
material) and the turning of the soil, may cause your garden area to
mound which would keep the roots above water in any event.
"For the first time in the history of the world, every human being
After all that good advice on clay soil - I will just add the book:
"Gardening - when it counts" by Steve Solomon.
The author has good advice on mending clay soil.
Enjoy Life ... Dan
It's good to know how I worked this is close to the advise you're giving!
The area of the plot is measures about 50' long and about 12 ' wide, so in
order to make the whole area tillable,
I would need a rotor-tiller and about a ton of organic garden soil and would
cost more that I want.
So I dug out several "lowered beds" as opposed to "raised beds" about six
sections 7' long 32" wide and 8" deep.
That was last year, this year I removed more clay/dirt inbetween and
connected the sections to form two cutouts
23' long along with the same width and depth.
Thing was I ran out of filler for the last 15' of the second cutout.
Me garden project has been going on about 3 years now and found it would
have been best to have
a compost bin from the very start. A few bucks were saved by buying some
topsoil from a mason yard,
but as they say, 'twas a sandy loam.
This season I finally finished a 3 compartment compost bin from wood
scavenged a local Mackdonalds eatery.
The sections are about 32" square with removable partitions.
I would not replace the clay, if it is clay. Soil test can help. Add
organic materials to it. Then possibly create 4x25x1 foot mounds of good
topsoil and more organic stuff mixed with the clay. Why 4x25? = 100 sq
ft helps in the math for adding nutrients to the soil.
Enjoy Life ... Dan
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