I have hard soil im my garden. When it gets wet its sticky and very hard to
manage. Should I remove most of the soil I have now and replace it with some
store brought topsoil? or can I add anything to my soil to correct this?
Actually it's a myth that gypsum will break down clay soils. Gypsum is
useful for some things like reducing the salt content in soil, but is almost
never needed for residential use.
The most effective way to improve clay soil is by adding organic material.
Paul Parent, a respected (and degreed) horticulturist recommends gypsum.
See http://www.paulparent.com and search for "gypsum". Here's one quote
from his page.
Clean your gardens of branches, leaves, and dead foliage you forgot to
remove in the fall from your plants. It's also a good time to apply
limestone if your soils tend to be on the acid side and moss is a problem.
If your soil is heavy and water seems to sit there, apply some
garden gypsum to soften the soil and improve drainage.
I have no doubt you can find several respected sources that will recommend
gypsum for loosening clay soil. I've also seen it mentioned in many
horticultural publications. For a number of years, I believed it myself.
However the truth is it just doesn't work very well if at all. I say this
based on personal experience and also from well respected sources. Here's
what Paul James has to say on the subject:
Use dish detergent to soften your soil- 1-2 drops per square foot.
There is about 120 drops in a teaspoon, which would cover 120 sq feet at
1 drop/sq ft.
It doesnt make any difference how much water is mixed with the
detergent. Its easiest to use a hose end sprayer. Apply at least days
before digging or tilling.
A bucket or watering can is fine for small areas.
At an experiimental garden with Illinois clay, I compared Palmolive
clear and Johnsons baby shampoo - The dish detergent was best - and
surprise. it softened the soil for the whole season!!
A professor had meter that read softness.
Its hard to find clear, but the amount is so small that I dont think the
dyes in their gaudy colors would hurt - Its made so we can eat it!!!
There is a liquid polymer material that is made specifically for compacted
soils. Works whether the soil is a clay, a tight loam, compacted calcerous
soil, or whatever. The polymer chain 'unravels' when mixed with water, and
works it's way down through the soil, creating tiny channels for water and
roots to work down through. The polymer itself is organic and breaks down
over about 6 months, so it can be applied twice a year. The product is
called Enviromax, and is available in many independent garden shops. More
info. at this link, http://www.dehlgroup.com/envbroch.html
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