Lime from Sheetrock

ytnok(6)August 30, 2005

Has anyone used sheetrock to add lime to clay soil? I have a new and barren yard full of rocks and red clay. I amended most of the soil with mulch and compost but want to do more in the space for next year's vegetable garden. I was thinking of using some of the sheetrock scraps from the construction around me in lasagna fashion and then turn it in the spring. Any thoughts?

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apcohrs(z5 IL)

Sheetrock is not recommended for the garden.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2005 at 10:43AM
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bill13286(7 DFWTX)

Hi. I had a large part of my vegetable garden that was very hard and not well drained. I had a lot of left-over sheet rock pieces so I ran them through my shredder and tilled it into the problem area. The ground has been much looser and tillable since then (about three years ago). It worked for me. Good luck. Bill

    Bookmark   August 30, 2005 at 10:57AM
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Why is sheetrock "not reccomended" for the garden?

    Bookmark   August 30, 2005 at 1:25PM
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Because of all of the other stuff in it -- fillers and binders.

IALBTC except sheetrock.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2005 at 1:52PM
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vicky4x4(NY 5)

This has gone through the forum before. I'm sending the link.


Here is a link that might be useful: Sheet rock

    Bookmark   August 30, 2005 at 1:54PM
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adirondackgardener(Western Maine)

>Here is a link that might be useful: Sheet rock

That thread quickly devolved into a discussion of whether it's better to use toxics on hand than import non-toxics for the garden and ended with using human waste. It may be more helpful to discuss it here.

I did a quick google search and could find anything on the the manufacture of gypsum board that discussed fillers, binders, or what they are.

I'm interested in knowing the specifics.

Many years ago, I lived a few blocks from a US Gypsum plant. When the wind was right, the stench from a mountain of scrap gyp board could be overpowering. Hadn't thought about that for a long time until this thread reminded me. Thanks for that.

Wayne in the Adks.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2005 at 2:18PM
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I had a neighbor that rototilled some sheetrock in his clay, and it worked. Another poster above said it worked for them. I kind of agree with one of posters on the previous (but short) discussion of sheet rock that if isn't too toxic to have in your house it isn't too toxic for your garden. But I also agree with Wayne that I'd like more info on the specific binder and fillers rather than just assuming they are no good.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2005 at 2:27PM
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dvdgzmn(Sunset 17 SF CA)

Seems that lignin or lignosulfates are the main binder in sheet rock. Lignin is one of the compounds tht holds wood together, and that is where they get it, so looks it should be fairly green. If you're worried about this stuff in your garden, then toss out those charcoal briquettes, cause lignosulfates hold those together, too. As for fillers, gypsum is the filler. If they could find something cheaper they would use it. Gypsum is mined but is also a byproduct of fossil-fueled power plants. See this link:

Another compound that might be used in sheetrock is polyvinyl alcohol (PVA). I'm not sure, but it may be used to bind the paper covering to the gypsum. Not something you want to make a martini out of, but it's a water soluble, chlorine-free polymer that has a hazard rating of 1 on a scale of 0 to 4. Here's a PVA link:

So if I needed some gypsum for my garden and had some sheetrock laying around, I wouldn't mind saving a couple of bucks and a trip to the garden center.

Here is a link that might be useful: lignin

    Bookmark   August 30, 2005 at 6:00PM
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Ytnok- Do you irrigate your food garden with paint? Wash your clothing in the harshest cleaner in your home? Not trying to be confrontational, just pointing out that things arent always interchangeable. Just because something is in a home doesnt mean its as safe for another use.

With the advent of low-VOC paints, untreated cotton rugs and sheets, flooring made with nontoxic-binders, there have been some realizations that some materials in building MAY be harmful. They might not kill you, they might not even harm many people (ie. only those with asthma) . but many chemicals used today arent 100% good.

If its a flower garden, id consider it, personally. The waste has to go somewhere. If its a food garden, I probably wouldnt because sheerock isnt rated for being eaten, wet, or decomposed/composted

good luck whatever you decide!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2005 at 6:03PM
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Sophie Wheeler

As far as the original question goes, sheetrock does not provide any lime to the garden at all. It provides gypsum, which can sometimes loosen acid based clay soils. So, if you're looking to sheetrock as a source of lime, you're looking in the wrong direction.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2005 at 3:13PM
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apcohrs(z5 IL)

EVEN if the sheetrock were pure gypsum, which it is not, gypsum is not a recommended soil ammendment for all (most?) soils.

IF I recall correctly, gypsum is recommended for high-sodium clay soils. Someone correct me if I am wrong.

I have clay, but not high-sodium clay.

Not everything in the house is harmless to the garden. Not even everything we recommend highly here is good for plants: a too obvious example is: boiling water and vinegar are frequently recommended here as good, organic herbicides. Certainly not recommended to pour on your favorite peony. :-)

    Bookmark   August 31, 2005 at 4:09PM
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PurpleRainbow(z8 NW WA)

Aren't vinegar and boiling water recommended as herbicides because they aren't good for plants? I can't recall them being mentioned as effective without the admonition to be careful where you put them. After all, don't herbicides generally kill all plants whether you want them to or not?

I'm not sure I'd compost sheetrock, especially after reading here. I'm not going to even try to compost the old carpet either. But if I don't want to use it on my vegetables I'll skip composting it anyhow, who knows what might end up being grown in today's flowerbed in the future.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2005 at 8:02PM
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One of the universities -- I believe it was Ohio State, but I'm no longer certain -- stated that use of sheetrock chanced poisoning the soil with boron, something plants need in tiny amounts but an element that is toxic to them in excess amounts.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2005 at 3:57PM
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While gypsum is the main ingrediant in sheetrock, wallboard, gypsum board, plaster board, and what ever else it might be called, and a large number of people have added it to their soil with apparant good results, the fiberglass used to strengthen that product alone should disuade people from using it in the garden let alone the adhesives used to hold the stuff together.
Could you use it in your garden? Sure, if you care nothing about the future of your soil. People poison their soils every day and think nothing of that. But if you are one of us that believe we should hand our grandchildren a world that is better than what we received gypsum is another product not to use in your soil.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2005 at 7:12AM
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according to the US dept of agriculture in a report titled "suggested utilization of cut-off gypsum wallboard scraps from new home construction" by Ronald Korcak 1996

"research has demonstrated that the beneficial effects of pulverized gypsum wallboard waste are nearly identical to those of agricultural grade gypsum. gypsum improves plant growth on a varitey of soils due to:

increase in available calcium and sulfer
improved soil tilth and root penetration, particularly in clayey soil
treatment of salt problems in sodic soils.

the scrap drywall should be clean cutoff drywall waste no paint, no type x, no moisture-resistant board.

it shoudl be pulverized to minus 1 inch to 1/4 inch size. it could be spread evenly around the site and allowed to disolve during rainfall events or incorporated with top soil materials."

hope this may clear up any misinformation.


    Bookmark   September 7, 2006 at 11:34PM
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squeeze(z8 BC)

so the govt says it can be useful in sodic-clay soil, as Apchors says .... they also say it should not be added to land fills, and requires recycling at special facilities, at least here in Canada which usually follows US regs, rather than leading

nowadays it's not just the typeX that has the strengthening fibers and fire retardents added, I'd find the proper recycling facility to dispose of it


    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 12:35AM
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Use the information you get from any source with caution. This source of this information is the same one that is telling you that there is no harm in genetically modified organisms in your food, that because you have been eating it for over 20 years with no adverse affects there must be no problem. This is the same source of information that allowed Vioxx on the market. Be careful.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 7:49AM
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pablo_nh(z4/5 NH)

As stated above- it's not made of lime, but gypsum.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 8:23AM
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also allowed DDT for crop dusting.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 11:26AM
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The clay soils that benefit from gypsum are rare and you probably don't have that type of clay. Simple to check local Ag-Dept who can tell you if these unusual clays are in your area.
Mulch will improve clay and some advise large, actually huge quantities of sand to improve clay.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2006 at 12:08PM
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While doing some research I discovered these posters on the web it may be of interest to some who want to deconstruct and add the product to the soil.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2006 at 8:55PM
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here is another link I found re soil augmentation using sheetrock or drywall

    Bookmark   November 1, 2006 at 1:30AM
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And again the discussion devolves.Almost like arguing religion,lots of beliefs but few facts.
If you want to know what sheetrock aka "gyp board" is comprised of,I wouldn't refer to the experts on this site.
Probably one point of agreement,it won't add lime.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2006 at 9:06AM
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After reading this and another thread on using sheet rock in the garden with many advising against it, I did some further research on the subject and found that not only can gypsum board be used in the garden, but there are companies that do recycle gypsum board to be used as a soil improvement. One company, Drywall Recycling Services, explains its use. It is not used to change soil pH, but rather to improve soil, especially clay soils. In fact, their website has the best explanation I've read anywhere for why and how to use lime to improve clay soils, even those with correct pH. A very interesting read.

Here is a link that might be useful: Drywall Recycling Services.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2013 at 10:14AM
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The people in the business of mining and selling Gypsum will tell you that it will improve your soil, especially if that soil is clay. However, soil scientists will tell you that Gypsum will not do much for your soil unless you live in an arid region where the soils are sodic.
You can believe people that want to sell you something or you can believe people that have actually studied what it does in soils.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2013 at 7:16AM
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Bill Fleming

I've been using scrap sheetrock as garden pathways for over 15 years with no ill effects. Till it in in the fall and you can hardly tell it was ever there come spring. If fact this thread is the only place I've seen anyone speak negatively about it.

Reason I came to this thread was to see if anyone had experience using the waterproof sheetrock in the garden. I'm thinking that due to the fiberglass you can actually see on the cut edges that it might not be good.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2015 at 7:31PM
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I wonder what makes someone think that fiber glass is in any way bad for a garden. It's inert. Anyhow, it only comes in the commercial (fire code) sheets.

U S Gypsum makes drywall with these ingredients only, and not all of them at once: gypsum, cellulose (recycled paper), starches, potassium sulfate (hey, fertilizer!), asphalt, paraffin wax, crystalline silica, and fibrous glass. Standard residential non-water resistant sheets don't have asphalt, wax, or glass. Some mainline commercial grade rock has vermiculite as a fire resistant amendment.

Used sheets may have other ingredients such as lead or lead-free paint, limestone/PVA based texture and seam mud, fungal and termite sprays, and so on. Don't forget the highly contaminated rock of some Chinese imports with the rumors of radioactivity and the smell of bad eggs.

All you need to do is balance possible risks against possible benefits. There are both, but there are no clear answers and there never will be. Argue away, but please cut the BS.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2015 at 11:06PM
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Many times I have seen statements like "I have used drywall in my garden for years and have seen no problems" and that may be true, but long term drywall, sheetrock, gypsum board, etc. is not of any real benefit to the soil. While the damage you do to the soil may not be apparent in your lifetime it may show up for your children or grandchildren. It is our job today to leave this world in better condition then we found it, not worse.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2015 at 6:28AM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

There is also a larger question here of waste disposal and diversion from landfills. Completely aside from the suitability or safety questions for garden soil, for me at least there is a larger issue of keeping stuff out of the landfills whenever possible and appropriate. In that sense it does not really matter what kind of soil it's added to as long as it doesn't hurt anything. My only real concern in adding it to the same soil over and over is the potential buildup of boron (borax is used as a binder). So far I have used a couple batches of municipal compost that contains a relatively small amount of it. I probably wouldn't load up the same area year after year with drywall scrap unless I had some more data on that angle (whether it leaches away, how fast it actually builds up, etc.). Other than that I'm in favor of sensible reuse rather than landfilling. If we diverted all our clean (unpainted) scrap drywall and spread it over all our farmland, I bet we'd never see a difference in a hundred years except in the amount of landfill space used.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2015 at 11:38AM
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spedigrees z4VT

Personally I'd rather see sheetrock poisoning the soil, which is already littered with toxins, in a landfill rather than in soil where food is being grown. With sheetrock being manufactured in China, I have no doubt that it is full of dangerous chemicals. Just look at the home builders who used it in home construction and the home buyers/owners who had to have it removed for health reasons. I'm sure for the one toxic substance they removed from their formula, present day sheetrock contains many more poisons, perhaps slower acting than whatever it was that they removed.

Powdered limestone is not expensive and wood ash is free if you heat with wood. These are better alternatives IMO. I keep toxins away from my property, and keep my organic vegetables safe to eat, and my acreage safe for wildlife and pets.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2015 at 1:12PM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

I certainly respect your choices for your garden, spedigrees.

To clarify the Chinese drywall issue, the offending gases were sulfur-containing (H2S, carbonyl sulfide, etc.) and were found to have resulted from a particular bacteria reducing iron sulfide (pyrite, a harmless mineral) present in the product. It certainly caused a problem in enclosed spaces, but in soil this should not be a toxic threat as the traces of those gases would be lost to the atmosphere. In fact there are other microbes already in soil doing just that. It was found that a combination of high humidity, pyrite derived from fly ash (admittedly a potential source of other heavy metals, although I don't know how much was used or is now, and American drywall also uses some fly ash), plus the particular bacteria, resulted in the fumes. Interestingly it was also found that some American drywall gave off higher levels of gases than the Asian drywall after the Chinese had corrected the problem by changing the formulation.

Also, all of this happened during the building boom that ended with the 2008 crash. I don't know how much Asian drywall is imported now, if any. But in any case the formulation was changed. If only new, non-painted drywall scrap is used as a soil amendment, the poison Chinese drywall issue is a moot point at best, and at worst, a red herring.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2015 at 4:59PM
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