The Q&A Archives: Top Soil Clumps

Question: I have spread topsoil for planting perennials and I have these clumps all over the place. I tried to iron rake them, but they just get pushed around....what can I do?

Answer: If your topsoil has large clumps, it has a high clay content and was not screened before it was delivered. Breaking up the clumps of clay will be difficult, but eventually you will be able to smooth everything out. Rake the clumps onto a tarp and mash them with your rake. A little water can help soften the clumps. Or you can try adding gypsum. Gypsum can help break up the clumps but the best way to improve the soil over the long term is to add lots of organic matter. Tight, clay soils are loosened by mixing in organic amendments, or organic materials. The amendments hold the clay particles apart, creating more space for air, which is critical to root growth. Add gypsum and then some compost or aged manure and rototil or dig it in. Plant your perennials and add another 2-3 inches of compost over the bare soil, digging it in at the end of the gardening season. Add fresh mulch each year and dig it into the soil. Eventually you will have garden loam instead of clumps of clay.

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