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Clay soil Observations. Options
Belfrybat
#1 Posted : Sunday, December 27, 2009 2:25:13 PM
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I realise this is an old post, but since I've just moved to an area with very heavy clay (actually the lot is on the side of a mesa comprised of caliche and road fill).  I thought I'd add a note to this excellent post.  I have access to lots of mesquite sawdust plus I picked up bagged grass clippings and leaves over the past few months.  I have made raised beds from old chip board and done a kind of "lasagna garden" over the top of the clay with the addition of some barnyard waste.  It is all breaking down well.  This Spring I plan on digging the resulting compost into the clay in hopes of breaking it up enough to plant bermuda grass and groundcover.  I will remake two of the beds with 2x8 lumber for veggie gardening.  I've also wondered about just tilling in sawdust to areas I won't be planting soon and wait a year to see if that helps loosen the clay so at least grass will grow.  Any and all idea are most welcome, as right now the only things growing well is Johnson grass and yucca. 

Spark123y
#2 Posted : Monday, December 28, 2009 4:05:49 PM
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Try it and report back. Mixing any organic material into the clay cant hurt. (my opinion) And it sounds like you are on the right track using what you have readily availble. Good Luck. Brian S

Durgan
#3 Posted : Friday, January 01, 2010 1:36:41 AM
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Posts: 134,494
Belfrybat wrote:

I realise this is an old post, but since I've just moved to an area with very heavy clay (actually the lot is on the side of a mesa comprised of caliche and road fill).  I thought I'd add a note to this excellent post.  I have access to lots of mesquite sawdust plus I picked up bagged grass clippings and leaves over the past few months.  I have made raised beds from old chip board and done a kind of "lasagna garden" over the top of the clay with the addition of some barnyard waste.  It is all breaking down well.  This Spring I plan on digging the resulting compost into the clay in hopes of breaking it up enough to plant bermuda grass and groundcover.  I will remake two of the beds with 2x8 lumber for veggie gardening.  I've also wondered about just tilling in sawdust to areas I won't be planting soon and wait a year to see if that helps loosen the clay so at least grass will grow.  Any and all idea are most welcome, as right now the only things growing well is Johnson grass and yucca. 

 

I have never used sawdust, but wouldn't hesitate if it was available. Probably adding a handful of urea (nitrogen) wouldn't hurt to assist in the breaking down of the sawdust. One can add a lot of organic material to clay and it should probably be added yearly, since it disappears rather quickly. I consider soil conditioning an ongoing event, and have enough experience and knowledge to utilize the materials which are available. The proof is generally evaluated by noting how your particular plants are growing, all other variable being equal.


Durgan
#4 Posted : Friday, January 01, 2010 1:36:41 AM
Rank: Guest

Posts: 134,494

 

Clay Soil Observations

http://www.durgan.org/URL/?FOHEI 6 September 2009 Clay soil Observations.

The garden bed is composed of good clay soil. To make the clay more useful for my requirement, it has been modified utilizing much compost over the last five years.Compost alone as a clay modifier still allows the soil to coagulate or lump. The addition of sand to the clay/compost appears to reduce the lumping problem. The thrust of my note is to suggest that compost alone is insufficient to adequately condition clay. Picture of the soils are presented to substantiate my views on the matter.

It should be noted that the clay alone or with compost is still an excellent growing medium. The area is relatively small so modifying is practicable and feasible.

Initially sand, screenings, peat moss each alone was tried as a mixing agent for making the clay more friable. These efforts were all failures. I am of the opinion that compost in large quantities is best for breaking up clay, then to make the mixture more friable sand should be added. It appears to be working well in my garden. My growing area is about 2000 square feet or 186 square meters.
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