Remedy for clay soil?


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Hello! New here, but have been on another gardening forum, from a gardening magazine (that went out of business). My problem is the soil in our neighborhood -- we're on the site of an old (1940s) stock-car racetrack for which they'd trucked in clay from down south. Some time in the '50s or so, they took out the track and made most of the area a park, but built houses around the perimeter. I knew nothing of this when we bought our house, but the first spring we were here, I put in a veg. garden. It did okay, but water tended to puddle, and when the soil was wet, it was positively gummy. THEN I heard about the clay track. I've struggled to amend the soil, adding grass clippings, bags and bags of cow manure and topsoil. Is there any secret antidote for clay, or some common (and cheap!) additive I could use? Ironically, the rest of the city -- and the whole state -- has great soil, and farmers love it. Any comments will be appreciated!
Tigsy
 
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Gypsum is a great claybreaker (100g/m2), making the soil more porous, and woodchips are great for building soil structure
 
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no secret to fix what I am imagining. just lots of hard work, time, and money. if it was me, I would get a truck to dig out a huge depth of the area /size you want, and take the clay away . then a load of good topsoil to dump into that area.
 

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Loads of horse manure and bark mulch and yes, gypsum .. tons of horticultural sand. Don't despair as clay soil is full of nutrients and is far superior to sand.
 
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I haven't dealt much with clay, but as I understand it, if you mix sand in, be very careful, beacause if you don't get it right, you'll end up with bricks.

I would go with a lot of organic matter, like leaves and wood chip. If you have a tree-removal company nearby, many times they will dump their wood chips for free, since it saves them from taking the load to a dump.

https://puyallup.wsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/403/2015/03/soil-amendments-2.pdf

http://www.patwelsh.com/soils/never-add-clay-to-sand-or-sand-to-clay/

Also, I've read that planting fava beans as a winter crop can do wonders in breaking up hard-packed soils. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/cover-crops/cover-crops-for-clay-soil.htm
 

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Is there any secret antidote for clay, or some common (and cheap!) additive I could use?
This post is going to be really long, but this is what I would do. :D

July in Ohio is really too late to start a garden, it should have been started in the middle of May. I'd call this year a loss, and start digging. My goal would be to turn the garden into a huge compost pile/worm bin. Worms aerate the soil and poop good dirt. (y) All worms want is food and bedding. If you build it, they will come!! :sneaky:

I would get my hands on any and all organic matter I could and dig it in. (All things in moderation.) I don't know what's common to your area, but go collecting those cheap additives!! Grass clippings, all summer long. (Get your neighbor's grass clippings if possible.) Dig in your kitchen scraps and shredded papers.

Do you live near any place that has livestock and might let you haul away the manure and used bedding? For the next three months, get whatever you can.

I say three months because horse, cow, and chicken manures are considered "hot" and need to age a year. I think if you throw enough carbon in there and keep it wet enough, you could shave that down by a couple months. (This is my personal opinion and may be disputed by others, so YMMV.) After three months, dig in any other manure/bedding you can find. You might double-check my memory, but I think all other manures are "green" and can be added at any time. Find someone who keeps goats or herds sheep or raises rabbits. Find an alpaca farm. Get the kids a guinea pig! :ROFLMAO: Ok, that last one might be reaching, but you get the gist. See if the area where you live has a 4H or FFA club. I'm sure those kids would gladly let you muck out the pens once a week!

More common and cheap additives - If you live close to a coffee shop, convenience store, or restaurant, you could ask them to save their used coffee grounds for you. Take them a couple 5 gallon buckets. (There's a guy on YouTube that hits up his local Starbuck's and collect 40 pounds a week! :ROFLMAO:.) If you do this, tell them they can save the filter, too. They'll be more likely to help out if it's hassle-free. The filter is biodegradable; it's brown material. One reason this would be especially good for your garden is that worms, like birds, have gizzards and need to eat "grit" as an aid in digestion. Clay doesn't really have a lot of grit. :cautious:

Tree leaves this fall. (Your neighbor's tree leaves this fall. :).) If you can, chop them with a mower before you dig them in, they'll break down quicker. (Don't forget the Halloween pumpkins, worms love pumpkin.)

One time at my sister's cabin on the lake, I watched her pull a huge amount of duckweed out of her little dock area. (It was so thick it was binding the boat motor!) It was so green and healthy, grown in the lake water, I wished I could have it for my compost pile!! Quick google search tells me the stuff is invasive almost everywhere. Got a lake handy? (Seriously, she had three big black trash bags full in less than an hour and a half!! :eek:.)

Do you live close to a city that has a free paper shredding day? They have to do something with all that paper. Make a phone call and see if you can get a couple bags!

Can you find pine needles? I've read that they are good for helping loosen clay soil. They decompose slowly, and the springy quality of them helps the fight the weight of the clay. Some gardeners will say that they'll make your soil acidic, but I think that's been disproved. If you are one of those gardeners, please watch this video. ;)





Definitely, call tree trimming services (or your county road crew) and find out if you can get shredded wood chips. A good time for this is after a storm takes down some trees. If you can find a sawmill or lumber mill, you might be able to get sawdust.

A bale of straw is not too expensive, get a bale and dig it in. Two, if your garden is bigger.

Got any flat pop? ... "Soda," if that's the word you're used to. :rolleyes: :ROFLMAO: How about stale beer, or yesterday's cold coffee? Pour that in there. If you have a freshwater aquarium, pour the water from your water changes on it. Heck, pee in a bucket, and put that in there! (Yes, I'm serious.)

Do this from now until winter, then just let it settle. Since what you are trying to do is make new dirt, I wouldn't worry about pH right now at all. Get all the organic material you can in there, and worry about adjusting your pH early next spring. Think of it like a balanced diet, and everything organic brings something different to the table. Everything will break down at different rates and add tilth to the soil.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilth#Fine-textured.2C_clay_soils


Probably the least "nutritious" thing is the paper, but worms like to use it for bedding. (y) Since you are least likely to be adding soil amendments over the winter, when it is warm enough for worms to be active, they will eat their bedding. (Above 40 degrees.)


:) Hope that helps!!

Welcome to the forum!! :)
 
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good stuff @MaryMary . thought to suggest worms to her also. But, she needs to loose up that soil lots before those poor worms can do their job. with all the amendments suggested, and a good rototiller to mix ect. and mix, and mix. and brake up. your right , Mary, its too late for this year. she needs to mix, or take away and add. and mix some more. Last thing before winter hits, a good dusting of lime , as the Amish do to leach in the soil through the winter. Still think she should remove lots of that clay before mixing in other stuff.
 

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Awesome!!!!! Gredat job @MaryMary,
:) Thanks, Jamie!

Since I am a great fan of "gardening on the cheap," I will add that if you want 5 gallon buckets, they can usually be had for free, if you ask at a deli or bakery. The buckets will be food-safe. The deli gets their various salads (tuna, ham, egg, whatever salad...) shipped to them in buckets. The bakery gets flour and frosting in buckets. (Well, unless they make everything from scratch, which is usually unlikely. :cautious:.) Even then, I'd imagine the flour comes in a bucket, the snap-on lid would help keep out humidity.

Every time, my local deli/bakery tells me there is a charge for the empty buckets, but then they just say, "Aw, take them," so there may be a small cost. :unsure:

Added bonus is this saves them from the landfill. :) (y)
 
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Hello! New here, but have been on another gardening forum, from a gardening magazine (that went out of business). My problem is the soil in our neighborhood -- we're on the site of an old (1940s) stock-car racetrack for which they'd trucked in clay from down south. Some time in the '50s or so, they took out the track and made most of the area a park, but built houses around the perimeter. I knew nothing of this when we bought our house, but the first spring we were here, I put in a veg. garden. It did okay, but water tended to puddle, and when the soil was wet, it was positively gummy. THEN I heard about the clay track. I've struggled to amend the soil, adding grass clippings, bags and bags of cow manure and topsoil. Is there any secret antidote for clay, or some common (and cheap!) additive I could use? Ironically, the rest of the city -- and the whole state -- has great soil, and farmers love it. Any comments will be appreciated!
Tigsy
Hi there, Clay is a problem for many people in many countries and it is hard work but believe it or not it is usually quite a nutritious soil, the problem is the structure how the soil particles hold together. Without going into a long protracted answer the structure needs to be kept open,for this we use plenty of horticultural grit,course sand and ash from wood fires if available, you have to keep digging working the soil and incorporate well composted garden waste, a good compost is made up of many plant species not just grass. i find animal manure unless years old just tends to hold more water in such situations and find the compost home produced to be a better option.
 

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Hi,

I've just started browsing Robert's posts looking for lawn care when I came across this. What top class information you've added MaryMary and now I'm kicking myself. For years I've dumped big bag loads of sawdust at our local refuse centre but in future it will be used to break up our clay. Occasionally I go for a walk in unspoiled countryside where I played as a child; I say unspoiled but the local farmer has been using a wide lane to dump tons of farm manure and some has been there for over five years so I think I need to be visiting the farmer with cap in hand and lots of empty bags?

Kind regards, Colin.
 

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Colin - You could put an ad on local Freelywheely or gumtree or any recycling group to ask for sawdust, woodchips and anything you fancy. I have put in ads for pots and staking canes and came home with a scarifier and a manual one. Also I advertised for a wormery and got one. I had 12 bags of woodchips as well. The kind gentleman worked very hard to help me and my son to put them in buckets and flexitubs and he told me that for £15, you can get local tree surgeons to deliver tons of woodchip. One even advertises in gumtree for free delivery if you live local to where he fells the trees. Also, you can phone around coffee shops for grinds and eggshells if they do breakfast.

Hope this helps.
 

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Hi,

What a coincidence alp and thank you for your very useful information; I've just been browsing the web looking for manure locally and ten minutes away there is as much well rotted horse manure free of charge that I care to take away as long as I take my own bags. As I'm new to serious gardening and things like compost and manure is horse manure worth collecting to dig in and to use as a mulch?

Tree surgeons are forever on our street so I wouldn't even need to leave home to get a load of shredded trees; last year in one week I shredded 150 bags of laurel and conifer which I used as mulch and its doing a good job but I did wonder about the laurel because this is isn't nice stuff?

I've only just started looking and already I have a choice of shredded trees or horse manure; perhaps a mix of both as they are free?

Kind regards, Colin.
 
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MaryMary

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Don't kick yourself, Colin, this is your new hobby, you can't have been expected to know you'd want it later! One man's trash is another one's treasure... ;)

My answer to Tigsy was more in consideration that the post was made in early July, with the goal being to make the garden area one big compost pile/worm bin. Since this is late September, I'm not sure all those amendments would be composted in time for planting next spring. :unsure: A lot of that would depend on your winter minimum temperatures... Is it warm enough for worms to be active?

Worms will eat any decomposing organic material. :cool:


 

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Hi,

Thanks MaryMary; our winters can be varied from mild to severe; sometimes no snow other times a lot dropped here on the valley side blocking us in; one thing is sure we get plenty of rain; I managed an hour in the garden this afternoon before down came the rain again. This morning it was 7.5C feeling cold but once the sun popped out it felt pleasant.

The worm video is fascinating and the worms look like a virus? I've just watched it full screen on YouTube. Bron and I feed every cat in the district plus lots of wildlife so I love the picture of your cat ; he looks like our neighbours cat Harvey.

Kind regards, Colin.
 
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Hi,

What a coincidence alp and thank you for your very useful information; I've just been browsing the web looking for manure locally and ten minutes away there is as much well rotted horse manure free of charge that I care to take away as long as I take my own bags. As I'm new to serious gardening and things like compost and manure is horse manure worth collecting to dig in and to use as a mulch?

Tree surgeons are forever on our street so I wouldn't even need to leave home to get a load of shredded trees; last year in one week I shredded 150 bags of laurel and conifer which I used as mulch and its doing a good job but I did wonder about the laurel because this is isn't nice stuff?

I've only just started looking and already I have a choice of shredded trees or horse manure; perhaps a mix of both as they are free?

Kind regards, Colin.
Colin you can mix shredded trees in with well rotted manure a bit of green coniferous shredding not too much of this as it needs to be well rotted before you apply it. Virtually anything will compost given time but you do need to keep turning it and occasionally add some water if it gets too dry. Enjoy your new hobby will give years of pleasure and reward you well.
 

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Hi,

Thanks Robert for your advice which I appreciate. I'll not go mad then adding green shredded material but the well rotted horse manure sounds the best bet and I've just emailed enquiring if the manure is still available; if so I can collect lots of it.

I'm resigned to yet more hard work because the first dig over is going to be hard going but once manure or shredded material is added then turning it over again will be a lot easier. I've spent an hour in the garden this afternoon before the rain came down; a few years ago I felled a couple of very big trees leaving stumps. I cleared around the first stump and have planted shrubs so it looks very tidy; the second stump was overgrown with holly; oak and laurel; I was amazed by how many little trees I've pulled up and dug up this afternoon; dozens of them; I'll shred this lot and use it for mulch. I got through a lot of work in the hour so taming our rear garden might not prove as difficult as I thought if I tackle it bit by bit. I have a Yeti so I can collect some nice big loads of manure; with the rear seats down the Yeti is virtually a van especially with the spare wheel in position giving a nice level loading area. If only it would stop raining?

Kind regards, Colin.
 
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MaryMary

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This morning it was 7.5C
Worms will stay active at temperatures above 4.4C.

The worm video is fascinating and the worms look like a virus? I've just watched it full screen on YouTube.
I love that video! :ROFLMAO: I know the dark layer is compost, but it looks like coffee, and I can't help but imagine that the worms are all hopped up, and that's why they're moving so fast. It makes me laugh. (It also makes me want cake...until it doesn't! :sick:.)


Bron and I feed every cat in the district plus lots of wildlife so I love the picture of your cat
Thank you! :) That one is named Dunder, because he is a dunderhead. :LOL:
 

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