NEWBIES: dealing with heavy clay soil

ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5January 16, 2010

i praise the Lord.. i have never had to deal with it ....

so i cant even start this thread ...

so i will leave it to my friends here ...

HOW DO YOU START A NEW BED IN HEAVY CLAY ..... contemplate those who have nothing but their own free labor.. but also address if one has an unlimited budget [MOVE!!!) ....

all i know:.. figure out how to break up some clumps.. and add some stuff that will fill in the cracks... to start a process of making your clay porous ...

or just dump everything on top .. and use a raised bed system ...

SO HELP THESE FOLKS.. its apparent to me.. i cant.. lol


PS: when i moved from suburbia... this was the flow chart to the decision:

acreage -- 3 to 5

soil -- ANYTHING but clay

barn -- somewhere to put all my junk

some kind of house -- somewhere to collapse after a good day in the garden

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Lilyfinch z7 mid tn

Ill add my question here, is it better to add strait compost or get garden soil delivered? Our landscape supply has both. Our soil is ok but on the clay side, not serious adobe clay that cracks, but the kind of soil that sticks together. Thanks!

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 12:02PM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

Hi, Ken! Even though I am a relative newbie myself, I'll give this a go.

Here is what I've started to do on my paltry little half acre: For a new bed I'm making, I dumped my veggie/fruit/kitchen/non-animal scraps on the grass. Covered them with layers of newspaper. Covered that with soil conditioner/leaf-gro/mulch/whatever to hold newspaper down. Left it. Will have nice soil come spring-I have already put in several hosta and heuchera that I couldn't resist in a bed that lay like described for only two months and the soil was so different from the heavy clay that had been there. This is my version of lasagna gardening. It is easy, not too expensive, and good exercise-lifting those heavy bags-DH gets them from the car to the yard where he drops them in no particular organized fashion and then I open and dump contents-teehee.

I have been told that I will need to amend my soil every few years because it will revert back to clay eventually. Not sure why that is. I was hoping that my annual mulching would take care of that, but I think my yard just hates me.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 12:21PM
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People have amended their soil to get the clay broken down. Mine is 10 or so inches down; top is good and I've amended several plots with peat and compost, throwing stuff on it, mulch. The grass, trees, shrubs, and natural decay over the years have done the rest but there's still some in spots.

There should be posts on here that explain how people have dealt with it.

Put breaking down clay soil in the GW search window. You'll come up with some that don't look too relevant and some more that look very specific with lots of replies full of ideas and suggestions.

When you start seeing more worms, that might be a good sign.

This thread looks good for green manure.

Here is a link that might be useful: How should I heal some barren clay soil

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 12:39PM
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lilyfinch, that is a good question and I am wondering that myself. I have a bed that I starting in the Spring and I usually use black forest but it is expensive. I can get a truck load of superb dirt for $20 that I could use on other beds as well. So which is better? Putting compost in or getting rich dirt that has compost in it?

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 5:08PM
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We have heavy clay soil here. I was very unfamiliar with it, being from the Northeast. Honestly, it is not the horror that I thought it would be. I have done it all ways: I have amended just the digging hole, i.e, what they call the "bathtub" effect. That bed includes roses, salvia and stokesia, which by the way, hate poor drainage. They have returned.

I have also amended an entire bed the season prior to planting with large grain sand and compost. Those plants are growing well.

Lastly, I have created a raised bed with some native soil, some soil trucked in with compost and sand already mixed in. Those are growing well, including roses and perennials.

Most of my plants have returned after summers of drought and this past summer with a deluge of rain. Not all return, but nearly all. Not so bad.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 5:29PM
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There should be posts on here that explain how people have dealt with it.

There is an entire forum devoted to this issue - improving various soil conditions. Try the Soils, Compost and Mulch forum :-) There are also about a bazillion websites that address the same issue. Clay soils are best loosened and lightened by adding large quantities of organic matter - compost, composted manures, shredded leaves, grass name it. It is not an instantaneous process but requires consistant effort over a period of time.

Sand is typically NOT recommended. To be effective, the quantity needed is enormous (a 2:1 ratio is suggested), the particle size must be quite large (more of a grit or fine gravel rather than sand) and it offers nothing to promote moisture retention. If these conditions are not met, what pore space there is gets filled up and drainage tends to become worse, not better and will make the soil harder and drier in summer. Under some situations, adding sand to clay will get you a concrete-like result, not a workable soil.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 6:50PM
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Since clay is a particle size first, then a soil type second if you work to increase the larger particles in you soil you can make it more of the type gardeners love. You must remember that most of what you add will break down into smaller particles over time. This is one of the reasons than gardening in this type of soil should be a plan to continuously add material of larger size. Could be wood chips that will decompose over several years dug in or just leaves left on the surface to decompose. Water will either wash material off when left on the surface or wash it into the soil once it becomes smaller than the area between particles in the soil. This is why if you add any rocky material it should not be screened to one size but random.

I have two types of clay in my yard, alluvial, water borne, and loess, a glacial often wind borne in this area particles. The alluvial has more of an open soil structure. The loess contains particles that are similar size.

Unless you garden in only raised beds with imported soil or live and garden to be 100 it is unlikely to be the wonderful stuff you see on tv.

Except for special plants many garden plants originated in clay soils. For regular plants add stuff in planting to open the texture but I have found since I rarely do bed planting making a ray like net coming from the place you are planting will encourage most plants to put out roots into these rays which will as the plant prunes itself each year improve the fabric of the soil.

At one time I did start with beds but not garden mostly by adding and removing plants so the above works for me in my area but may not work for all.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2010 at 9:23PM
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Add compost. Adding garden soil is NOT the way to go. You get what you pay for - garden soil is much cheaper than compost because it is really just fill dirt-not the moisture retentive, rich soil plants need to thrive. Compost! I have clay soil-only about 1/4 acre-and I had 11 cubic yards of compost delivered last spring. I plan to have another 8 cubic yards delivered again this spring. It was a LOT of wheel barrow trips, but worth it. Plus, good compost inhibits weed growth-makes a fairly good mulch. Leslie

    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 10:03AM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

My other house was on a clay belt, and I've used peat moss with fair success in the past. I've also used peat moss to improve soil that was a bit too sandy (this house). It was a lot of work - had to *thoroughly* wet the peat then hand till it in. But it worked fine, and wasn't expensive (just rather labor intensive).

Whatever material you decide to till in, I would advise using organic mulch on top of the beds - over time it breaks down and adds organic matter to the soil. Takes time, but over the long run definitely improves the soil texture. I'm partial to fallen leaves, but can use compost, wood chips, grass clippings, whatever - it's all good. :0)

    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 10:14AM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

I garden on layers of clay: red, then blue, then orange. It is dreadfully sticky and nasty. It's so tight that when you beat a shovel down into it and pull back, it has a sickly sour smell to it. Yuck.

I have been in this place for nearly seven years now. I have tried a variety of methods, all of which have worked, but some required alot more physical effort than others. BTW, the clay soil around here has good nutrition in it. The problem is drainage.

When we first moved here, we tilled in "Clay Buster", which was a marketing term for gypsum along with bags and bags and bags of the $.99 (then) Composted Manure from Lowe's. The gypsum worked really well. It broke up the clay and caused it to clump together...was almost miraculous, really. The downside was it altered the soil Ph for awhile and caused my azaleas to really struggle for a couple of years. I have never used the gypsum again, mostly because I have never seen it for sale again.

If you have the finances, the best things I have tried for amending clay are peat moss and composted cow manures. You can dig these two into soil and in a matter of two weeks you can hardly believe it's the same soil: crumbly, moist, even the color is different. Note, I said "dig them in", which is an incredibly strenuous process, but then, I'm imcredibly impatient...

The way that is effective and requires the least effort, involves time. That, of course, is lasagna gardening. I like to start the process in the fall when there's plenty of leaves, trimmings, etc. available. I usually put down a thick layer of newspaper first (to smother weeds and grass), then I pile on at least a FOOT (more is better) of leaves, kitchen scraps, grass clippings, manures, greensand, rock phosphate and top it all off with a five or six inch layer of pinestraw (to keep it looking reasonably neat and to prevent it from blowing away). I let it sit through the winter (only about 2-3 months here). The difference between here and what I have read other people say about their location is, here, you still have to dig in the spring. But, the digging really is a million times easier after all this stuff has worked its magic. The best soils I have on my place were created this way. I can dig and turn the soil for a foot down into the native soil with a minimum of effort!

I also have raised beds for my vegetables. I broke and loosened the native soil under them, but did not amend. I built the frames and then filled them with a mix of compost and cow manure. Each time I plant a crop (3 times a year), I work the soil and add more manure. It's coming along very nicely.

When I started gardening here, I was told that the clay would revert back over time. I have been in this area for twenty years and that is simply not true, IF you care for your soil. I put down pinestraw or leaf mulch every fall, and I never dig a hole without adding a couple spades of compost or manure or peat, whatever I have on hand at the moment. When I dig and divide alot of plants in a bed, or when I do massive plant moving in a bed, I usually will top dress the entire bed with about an inch of home-made compost if I have it, or get a load of manure from my friend the horse farmer. I can assume that the next year, that garden will be spectactular.

Several of you asked which is better, compost or purchased soil? Well, it depends. I think it would be true that if it's YOUR compost made from leaves, grass and kitchen scraps, that would be the very best there is. However, if it's compost purchased from a big box store in a bag, that is a different story. The labels on the stuff I can buy here say they are made with pine products and sand with some manure mixed in. That's not a bad thing, but it's nowhere near as good as my homemade stuff. In my area, some small businesses offer something they call "organic mix". It looks like good topsoil, but they say it's a compost. Whatever it is, it's pure gold. Other places offer what they call "river bottom soil". It's good too, but is usually full of very bad weeds. I avoid it. The trick is to ask questions as to what's in it, where it came from, and most importantly, is it fresh, or has it been composted. The composting process kills alot (maybe all) of weed seeds.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 8:10PM
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davemichigan(zone 6a (SE Michigan))

Green manure works for my clay soil. I read so much about it but later found that the actual process was so simple (it does take time however).

If the clay is so heavy that you cannot grow anything, you need to tilt a little bit, like an inch deep (to save energy). Mix in grass clippings if it is available. Then grow something like clover. Let it spread in the summer and let it go through one winter. I read that over the winter it can grow roots up to 4 ft deep(!) although I never checked it.

There are many things that go on simultaneously. First the roots break up the clay. Then as in many perennials, some of the roots died. When they die, they leave space that water (like when snow melt) can get in. If the weather gets cold again, the water freezes and ice expand, so the clay got "broken up." This happens several times over the winter.

And as roots die and decomposes, it gives off humic acid, which helps the soil to segregate into small clumps.

Next spring the clovers will come up again as they are perennials. You need to turn them before right before they flower (like when you see some starting to flower). If you turn them too early, they will grow back. If you turn them too late, they become tougher (but that is fine. They will decompose next year anyway).

This means you need a season for the green manure. After that you can grow things. If you grow annuals, after the bloom, cut down the spent stalks and leave them to compost on site. If you grow hardy perennials, the root thing will continue over the winter. After just about 2 years you almost wan't believe that the soil was clay before.

I am sure next year my soil will be even better. I once thought I would give up growing on my clay soil. Now I see that it is not that hard to "conquer." :-)

    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 10:32PM
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Two words: raised beds.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2010 at 10:51PM
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I'm guessing clay comes in many forms, because I am on pure clay, but it's not red, adobe or unusable. In fact, it's the same clay soil that makes up the Palouse, which is the wheat farming region (pretty well known) in eastern Washington.

Our clay is a nice, dark, rich soil. It does dry out in the summer and stay muddy in the late winter/spring, but it's full of all kinds of great nutrients. Having a lot of aged horse manure sure doesn't hurt, but mom uses a little manure, some gypsum (for better drainage) and some compost. When I plant my roses (complete newbie and probably doing everything wrong) I dig out a big hole, mix the dirt so it's 1/2 dirt, 1/2 aged manure and plant the rose. So far, they all seem very happy. I had to move some of mine this fall and the soil was full of earthworms and looked good to me.

If you have clay soil that is not good, then raised beds might be a good alternative. I just don't think all clay soils are alike :)

    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 1:53PM
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marcindy(z5b, Indianapolis, IN)

I have two types of clay in my backyard. The half closer to my house is workable dark clay that must have been a field or pasture at some point because it still has the structure of clay with lots of organic material. The rest is more like pottery clay with the occasional granite pebble mixed in. It's very hard to work with, impossible to break up when wet and downright a shovel breaker when dry. That part I approach with organic stuff like grass clippings and tons of shredded leaves and let the worms and other critters dot he work for me. Tool and shovels work only for a short time before melting snow and heavy down pours return it to it's pottery clay state. Oh and don't forget to keep the organic mulch on thick. Don't let harsh rain or a sprinkler compact it back down. And finally, don't try to grow anything that hates wet feet during the winter. If you HAVE to grow lavenders or anything else your heart desires those need to go into a raised bed. All in all, I don't mind having clay, it sure helps with less watering during the summer.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 3:23PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

In regards to trees and shrubs, I've done nothing but add mulch to the top layer...and of course planted clay TOLERANT trees and shrubs.

As I progressed in my selections I ammended the soil for shrubs like Fothergilla, Hydrangea, Rose etc. No issues so far...many will argue this practice until they are blue in the face and will die off before my plants will in the ammended soil. I do the same for Perrenials.

As I progressed in my selections for Trees I was more careful in selecting loctions that had a more appealing micro-climate...for example Katsuras planted in a more rich moist location.

With the help of some folks in the Soil forum, I'm going to use start using compost as my mulch. That will help out with the soil I didn't loosen when I originally planted.

House was bilt in 95' and previous owners where nice enough to plant 2 trees and a few shrubs. I kept one freemanii maple the rest said bye bye. There is still evidence of compaction and sub-soil right at the top in multiple this case I plant plants that are more inclinded to grow in these locations.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 4:15PM
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Clay isn't all bad. My clay soil holds in moisture well so I don't need to water very often. I garden on a slope which helps with the drainage. I don't amend at all, but I do mulch so the surface is nice and workable. The best way to work with clay is to know how to use it. Don't try to plant when it is wet and sticks together, let it try out a bit and then plant. Don't plant when it is dry either (you won't be able to), wet it down and then plant the next day. And don't plant things that can't take clay soil or wet feet. I've got lavender in a dry spot under the eaves of my garage and that's really the only possible place it could go. But there are plenty of plants that like the clay - my roses have done very well in it.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 5:03PM
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donna_jj(5b Montreal QC)

Raised beds. It is the only way to go. Did it when we bought our house on recently developed (read : bulldozed to make houses) land. Outline the beds, weedmat to extend beyond the borders outlined, then slowly applying Uhaul compost from local garden center in our pick up truck. It took the first summer to make the beds, then plants went in after that, edging done all around the beds to make sure no grass crept up the raised beds. Now every autumn I empty composters on top of the beds, plus any debris from cutting down the plants in the autumn, top off with bags of leaves collected from the neighborhood and all is nice and ready in the spring.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 6:21PM
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kqcrna(z6 SW Oh)

Raised beds are a lot of work. They can be labor intersive and expensive.

I create new beds by lasagna gardening. Simply smother lawn or whatever is there with cardboard and pile on organic matter. It produces wonderful soil, very easy, and free.

For more information you can google lasagna gardening or search the soil forum here on GW.


Here is a link that might be useful: lasagna gardening

    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 5:44PM
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ofionnachta(z6 WNJ)

We have abt 2' red clay (from broken down shale) on top of what the builders call "brown sand." My husband digs down to the brown sand, and sifts out the larger chunks of not-yet-decompsed shale. Then we add builder's sand and compost. Lots of both. The sand is to make the soil ilghter and easier to work with.

We do this in the autumn when we also directly dig in organic stuff-- leaves, twigs, kitchen stuff, etc. Also, any time in the year that the soil is soft enough, I just dig my kitchen waste right into the soil. Esp. in warm weather; it breaks down quickly. If I have planted the bed, I'll dig it in near plants that are there.

Our yard is too shady for veggie gardening. I wd make raised beds for those.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 12:24PM
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We live in a new community with lots of new constructions = piles of free earth (although also heavy clay) and occasional leftover sand dune! So we can afford raised & amended beds. We also mix peat moss with clays and sands, but it shouldn't make a big difference.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2010 at 3:24PM
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I've dealt with this multiple ways. As I see it, the two main options are:

- Amend the clay soil you have. As others have said, the problem with clay soil is not nutrients, but texture, tight-clumps that hold water and expel air. Texture can be improved by tilling in an expanded shale product like Permatill or pea gravel, or organic matter like shredded leaves, compost, etc. Add mulch it breaks down, it also improves the soil. This is the cheaper route, but because results are cumulative, it takes time.

- Replace the clay. Dig out the clay to at least a 1 foot depth, haul off, and replace with good top soil amended with compost. Frankly, this is my preferred method because the results are instant, but it is expensive, particularly for a large area.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2010 at 10:17AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

the last 2 replies just days ago ...

sometimes i really wonder about my browser update function .... i dont recall seeing this since last january????



    Bookmark   September 14, 2010 at 11:45AM
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Maryl zone 7a

Having dealt with this since I started gardening I can say there is no perfect solution. A raised bed is a good option, but even it has its drawbacks. Unless you build one 5 feet tall, the roots of roses, perennials and shrubs will almost always work their way down into the substrata of the raised bed which still remains clay. The top layers of the raised bed (with all that amended soil) will dry out but the deeper roots, growing in the clay will be overly wet if there have been heavy rains. This means a delicate balancing act regarding watering. However, since the crowns of many plants are more susceptible to rot, the raised bed still wins out over just planting in pure clay. The ingredients of the "top soil" used in the raised bed shouldn't be the complete opposite of what the deeper roots will encounter. Another caveat: if you are into the raised bed gardening biz for the long haul remember that if they are made of landscape timbers someone will need to rebuild them about every 7-10 years or so. That in itself is another story...Maryl

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 8:10PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Ken, that means the point of your post worked.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2010 at 9:22PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

anyone have any more ideas ????


    Bookmark   February 1, 2011 at 9:48AM
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We have hopeless clay soil. After many trials/failures, we ended up using mostly raised bed, but it is expensive for big area. I am trying to think of a cheaper way to use the remaining acre. Has any one ever tried using wood chips in quantity? I am thinking of tilling in about say 50% fresh wood chips for about a foot or so deep (plus any leaves etc.)and let it sit for a couple of years before starting to use it for planting. Any thought?

    Bookmark   February 1, 2011 at 12:22PM
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maozamom NE Ohio

We had an abandoned alley at the back of our property where even weeds wouldn't grow. We had a company trimming trees dump off a couple of loads of wood chips. The next year we amended the holes where we planted and everything is growing well.

Here's the alley bed
From Drop Box


    Bookmark   February 1, 2011 at 3:01PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Like others, we do lasagna gardening. When I have enough materials, I have started a new bed layering up cardboard, leaves, kitchen scraps, newspaper, etc as high as I can and let it all break down. I have planted directly into a lasagna layer by digging a hole directly into the layers, then adding enough potting soil/compost/peat moss to surround the rootball. Then adding a layer of bark mulch to the top, it's an instant garden bed. Over time, the height of the bed lowers as the materials break down. I've not had any problems with plants planted this way and the soil in those areas that were started this way is the best in my garden. Tons of earthworms the next year.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 2:37AM
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sc_gardener(zone 5)

Powdered gypsum works well. Truck in or use bagged topsoil (depending on size of bed). Organic materials. Prepare the bed ahead of the season which you are going to plant. Better yet: raised beds!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2011 at 10:33AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5


    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 1:22PM
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harvwald(z5 IL)

I have learned the hard way that plants that do well in clay are the best solution. Forget those that don't. Many gardening websites (including Bluestone Perennials) have a search engine that will let you search on "clay soil" and give you a number of alternatives. My reliable favorites are echinacea, daylilies, white dome hydrangea, goldenrod, autumn joy sedum, iris, true geraniums. All of these grow well for me with no fuss. I'm slowly trialing other plants, mainly ones that are natives and grow in prairie-type soil conditions. In one small area of my yard, I dug out the clay and put better soil in. This was labor-intensive and difficult for me, so I only found this solution appropriate for a defined area. In that spot I have Japanese anemones, Asiatic lilies and white nancy ajuga. (The lily and ajuga would probably have grown in my regular soil, but not the anemone). In another area of my yard, I put in a raised bed, where I amended my soil with well-draining soil -- mostly bags of soil meant for growing cactus, along with gravel and compost. In that spot I mainly grow lavenders and sage. The lavenders need good drainage, and they do well here. Finally, I had a weedy narrow strip of impossible soil along one side of the house. I dug out some of the weeds, threw some green material down, covered with wet newspaper and then with mulch. I did that two years ago and am now going to plant some flowering shrubs. I guess my point is, there is no easy solution but analyze your yard and figure out the best answer for those areas where you want to plant.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 4:17PM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

My yard still hates me, but I did hear that gypsum can be worked into clay to help break it up. I am still adding compost and mulch. So far, so good, except in the back where the mongrel horde has turned the place into nothing but weeds and compacted dog park-type dirt patches. Plan to attack that again this weekend. [Insert whining about wanting a lovely backyard here]

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 9:44PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

another to bring up..lets get these forums rolling...


    Bookmark   January 11, 2013 at 12:21PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

bumpy, bumpy ...


    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 8:39AM
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april_wine(z7 Tennessee)

I have clay soil also. Built our house here on grandparents old homestead 9 years ago. Built large foundation bed first summer. Clay soil hard as a rock! Starts out orange, further you dig soil turns gray. I added lots of bagged garden soil, even would fill some planting holes with good dirt. But I have always mulched every year with wood chips. The first few years I lost quite a few plants too. But now the soil in that bed is pretty good! Lots of worms! I also grow plants that can tolerate clay. Very proud of this flower bed now, it has come a long way!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 8:12PM
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docmom_gw Zone 5 MI(5)

I gardened in clay for 13 years. I was lucky to have three giant maple trees that dropped incredible volumes of leaves each fall. I used the leaves as mulch in established beds, and as lasagna material if I needed new beds. The worms love the leaves and do a fantastic job of incorporating them into the clay. The result is wonderfully crumbly soft soil that my grandmother could garden in.

Now I have the opposite problem, sand. But, the solution is the same. Now I mulch with shredded oak leaves to help the sandy soil retain more moisture. I learned all I know from the Soil, Compost, and Mulch forum. You, too, can become a Compost Whacko!


    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 9:40PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

bumping this one up


    Bookmark   March 16, 2014 at 5:16PM
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DimplesGalore(San Diego Coastal 11a 23/24)

Went to college in NC and spent a lot of time working on our campus farm which had Carolina red clay soil. All we did aside from adding lime when soil tests showed it was necessary was to continually add compost. The compost was 100% of the "yard waste" generated from the daily activities of the landscaping/grounds crews. Leaves, branches, grass clippings, old plants, etc would get thrown on the pile.

We would bring up wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of compost and dump it on the beds and then U-bar the soil. This brought up more clay and dug the compost 8-12 inches down. We did the same thing in the high tunnel greenhouse we built there. Rarely did we ever need to fertilize and when we did it was a minor sprinkling of soybean meal or something similar. The plants were enormous (except the summer it rained almost everyday for 2 1/2 months) and the farm was only 3 years old when I graduated (this past May!). I can't wait to go back and see what 5-10 years of compost can do to the soils.

I've moved to San Diego and am building some raised beds for my parents in their backyard and they always comment about the "crap dirt" referring to the hard clay soils. I tell them there's no such thing as crap dirt only dirt with potential!! I'm going to be using the leftover dirt from some recent tree plantings and a lot of compost to fill the beds and expect it to produce healthy vigorous plants.

So clay soil isn't a plant death sentence so long as you know what to do with it. The clay particles are charged so they hang onto ions in the soil and help prevent nutrients from being washed out as quickly, a great thing for you and your plants.

Also, mulch is an amazing tool. We've been applying mulch to our yard for 17 years here in San Diego because it aids in water retention but it also greatly improves the soil over time as it breaks down. It would probably improve the soil faster in places where it rains more often and breaks down faster but it even works in the semi-irrigated desert.

This forum is great. Been reading and learning from it for 3 years as I finished my undergraduate degree and now finally have the time to contribute to it.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2014 at 11:19PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

the Houzz search engine.. seems better than GW was ..


    Bookmark   last Thursday at 9:31AM
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