Waterlogged Beds


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Title says it all, really. Moved into this house in winter 2018. Last year seemed ok. However this winter it has rained a lot. The lawn and the flower beds are completely waterlogged. I can't even walk on them. The soil is heavy with clay I believe.

Is there a way to fix this? I don't mind doing some heavy work but I don't have a lot of money.
 

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Welcome Matt. :) Clay holds water as you've found out and sets like a brick during the summer months. To help drainage in the beds you could dig in some small gravel, sand and compost. I suggest digging in the gravel and sand to a couple of spade depths if possible. To lighten the load for you, compost can be spread over the surface and worms will do the work by taking it down. Lawns would be helped by spiking them with a garden fork and giving it a wiggle to open up the soil, then sprinkle sand over the area brushing into the holes.
 
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Aeration is key, and a bit of a raised bed helps. Use sharp sand if you must or a larger mesh or clay will not loosen as you intend. Its about 85% mineral and your target is 45% plus 5% organic matter at a minimum. The remainder being airspace. I have learned that due to this density issue, I am usually using 1.8 to 2 times the quantity of amendment as called for by most web articles. When I lime for example, it really takes a lot.
 
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Thanks Sheal and Dirt Mech!

So I need a mixture of sand, sharpsand and manure dug in to around a foot and a half if possible? I'll take as much of the Mind-Your-Own-Business, moss and other weeds out first as I can.

Am I removing any of the soil already there? Sorry if that's a stupid question it's just there's going to be a extra material going in and none coming out.
 
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No removal necessary. In my garden I just use black kow composted manure, but to start lay the bags so they touch and cover the whole area. I tried regular sand once. It made the dirt hard so it got moved to bad spots in the lawn and replaced with manure compost. A lot more than I would have thought over a 2 year period, and its is a hillrow for drainage reasons. The problem with clay is root suffocation and poor percolation. While a variety of things work to different degrees, a raised bed rather than a sunken hole is superior when faced with a variety of plants many of which having roots that hate clay wetness and density levels. The winners tend to be plants that grow roots on top of the soil unless you dig in enough amendment and\or create a drainage like a pot with a gravel layer. The hole you dig into clay will also hold water, just deeper. Here and because we have acidic clay with a 5pH, I could see digging a hole at least as deep as a shovel and placing a couple inches of marble chips as a base drainage layer ( calcium carbonate) with perlite on the marble layer. Then on top I would mix the soil and compost in a 1:1. I would have a raised bed border of at least 6 or 8 inches. Even in the wettest winter\spring early summer the roots will be happy. In the garden hillrow system I am using a tiller, so a stone \ glass drainage layer does not make sense, but for a one shot sunken raised bed setup I could see it being worth the effort to dig. Digging is hard work though, so while planning is important my back tells me to never dig twice!

edit to say a low raised bed with sloping pinestraw or mulch edge looks nice actually. It may not require a walled edge, as the first season goes and the bed settles that shrinkage from 8 inches high may well turn into a 4 inch height.
 
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There's no such thing as a stupid question, as gardeners we are learning all the time. :)

I think DirtMechanic has got it covered but if you find you have an excess of soil after settling, I'm sure there must be somewhere else in the garden you can move it too.
 
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