Views: 851, Replies: 17 » Jump to the end
Help for Heavy Clay Soil

By Skiekitty
May 10, 2013

This method of dealing with heavy soil is easy, cheap, and effective. In early spring after the snow melts and/or the ground is workable, start breaking up the lumps of clay with a garden fork. Then add shredded paper to the soil, working it in as you go. The paper will break down, adding organic matter to the clay, and it is a lot cheaper than "clay buster"!

[View the item] Give a thumbs up

Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
Rabbit Keeper Critters Allowed Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages
Herbs Region: Georgia Region: United States of America Native Plants and Wildflowers Dog Lover Composter
Image
greene
May 9, 2013 7:25 PM CST
Thanks for the tip; I'm gonna need a new garden fork to do this to 3/4 acre of clay.
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Marilyn
Northern KY (Zone 6a)
Laughter is the best medicine!
Rabbit Keeper Birds Hummingbirder Salvias Xeriscape Organic Gardener
Container Gardener Cottage Gardener Bee Lover Forum moderator Butterflies Apples
Image
Marilyn
May 9, 2013 8:02 PM CST
Toni

Beautiful garden! Thanks for the tip! I tip my hat to you. Thumbs up
Welcome to the Agastache and Salvias Forum!

Hummingbirds are beautiful flying jewels in the garden!


Name: Pegi Putnam
Norwalk, Ca. zone 10b
Charter ATP Member Cat Lover Dog Lover Region: California Region: United States of America Plumerias
Container Gardener Garden Art Vegetable Grower
Image
Samigal
May 9, 2013 8:18 PM CST
Have to add that one to my "to do" list. I have clay soil and longing for some nice planting soil. Thanks for posting it.
Name: Toni
Denver Metro (Zone 5a)
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.
Charter ATP Member Irises Salvias Xeriscape Birds I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Procrastinator The WITWIT Badge Region: Colorado Enjoys or suffers cold winters Cat Lover
Image
Skiekitty
May 9, 2013 8:21 PM CST
Marilyn said:Toni

Beautiful garden! Thanks for the tip! I tip my hat to you. Thumbs up


Marilyn - wish I could take credit, but that's not my yard. I don't know who's yard that is or why someone attached that picture to my tip. I wouldn't have used a picture with so much grass. Bleh!
Roses are one of my passions! Just opened, my Etsy shop (to fund my rose hobby)! http://www.etsy.com/shop/TweetsnTreats
Name: Marilyn
Northern KY (Zone 6a)
Laughter is the best medicine!
Rabbit Keeper Birds Hummingbirder Salvias Xeriscape Organic Gardener
Container Gardener Cottage Gardener Bee Lover Forum moderator Butterflies Apples
Image
Marilyn
May 9, 2013 10:06 PM CST
Thumbs up
Welcome to the Agastache and Salvias Forum!

Hummingbirds are beautiful flying jewels in the garden!


Name: Toni
Denver Metro (Zone 5a)
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.
Charter ATP Member Irises Salvias Xeriscape Birds I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Procrastinator The WITWIT Badge Region: Colorado Enjoys or suffers cold winters Cat Lover
Image
Skiekitty
May 10, 2013 11:58 AM CST
Well, I was just tree-mailed by someone stating that working clay soil while it's wet is bad. I'm going to state right now that I've been doing this every year since the spring of 2006 and haven't destroyed my soil yet. So please do speak with someone who's a master gardener in your specific area about how to work the soil in YOUR SPECIFIC AREA. My area in Colorado is heavy clay and that's what is advised in my area: work it as early as possible when the snows melt. If someone waits until it dries out to work, then you're not going to work it at all as it turns into a solid base that is impossible to work by hand. Heavy machinery is required. Trust me, my back knows!!
Roses are one of my passions! Just opened, my Etsy shop (to fund my rose hobby)! http://www.etsy.com/shop/TweetsnTreats
Name: Melissa E. Keyes
St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Zone 11+
Charter ATP Member
Image
coconut
May 10, 2013 2:35 PM CST
I wanted a zone around my veggie patch, so I tilled one pass wide around, and then spread a three or four inch layer of sawdust. "Wheee!!" said the grass. I spread more sawdust, owell, ran the tiller again, and much to my surprise, the 'dirt', heavy red clay, had become fluffy and dark brown. The sawdust was fresh pine, not treated.
Name: Debra
Garland, TX (NE Dallas suburb) (Zone 8a)
Service dogs: Angels with paws.
Dragonflies Dog Lover I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Photography Bee Lover Plays in the sandbox
Butterflies Region: Texas I sent a postcard to Randy! Charter ATP Member Annuals Garden Sages
Image
lovemyhouse
May 10, 2013 3:45 PM CST
Thumbs up
If you don't ask, the answer is always 'no.'
Name: Suzanne/Sue
Sebastopol, CA (Zone 9a)
Sunset Zone 15
Region: California Plant Database Moderator Roses Irises Clematis Garden Photography
Cottage Gardener Keeper of Poultry Hummingbirder Bee Lover Butterflies Birds
Image
Calif_Sue
May 11, 2013 1:04 AM CST

Plants Admin

All submitted tips get a photo attached to it so if you don't provide one, a suitable one is selected. Thumbs up
My gardening Blog!
Hand sewn wares and vintage finds in my Etsy store. Summer Song Cottage
Name: Ann
Ottawa, ON Canada (Zone 5a)
Hostas Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Composter Region: Canadian Clematis
Canning and food preservation Container Gardener Annuals Herbs Seed Starter Vegetable Grower
Image
ViolaAnn
May 11, 2013 5:49 AM CST
I've worked in shredded paper on occasion and in some ways it's also similar to the lasagna method where you layer the grass/weeds with a thick layer of newspaper. But I'd like to offer one bit of caution - if you use paper that has coloured ink on it or is coloured, it may be best not to plant veggies in that location for awhile at least because of the dyes.
Ann

Pictures of all my hostas, updated annually and tracked since 2008 begin at: https://violaann.smugmug.com/Garden/Hostas/Hostas-in-my-gard...
(Zone 7b)
Image
CarrieRose
May 11, 2013 6:48 AM CST
I tried a similar method. Used newspaper, some composted manure and grass and leaf mulch but did it in the late Autumn and it sat all winter. That particular bed has decent soil.
Name: Debra
Garland, TX (NE Dallas suburb) (Zone 8a)
Service dogs: Angels with paws.
Dragonflies Dog Lover I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Photography Bee Lover Plays in the sandbox
Butterflies Region: Texas I sent a postcard to Randy! Charter ATP Member Annuals Garden Sages
Image
lovemyhouse
May 11, 2013 7:58 AM CST
Good caution, Ann, thanks.

CarrieRose, I LOVE the tree in your avatar photo.
If you don't ask, the answer is always 'no.'
Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member Garden Procrastinator Greenhouse Dragonflies Plays in the sandbox I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database!
The WITWIT Badge I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Dog Lover Enjoys or suffers cold winters Container Gardener Seed Starter
Image
woofie
May 11, 2013 8:10 AM CST
Well, well, now I know what to do with all that paper that I have to shred (credit card offers, bank statements and such). Heh, heh, might even get me motivated to clean out my file cabinets! Hilarious!
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN zone 4a
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Plant Identifier
Image
Leftwood
May 11, 2013 8:44 AM CST
I am the one who says that working with wet clay soil is bad. I am not going to argue, but I will not be misrepresented.

Never did I say or advocate that clay must be dry to work with.
Quoting from my treemail:
"soil must be dry enough to work with so they [people who dig] won't destroy the soil structure"

There is still plenty of moisture in "dry enough".
When the snow melts here, the clay soil is sopping wet.
I guess you will need to research it on your own to find the right answer for you.
[Last edited by Leftwood - May 11, 2013 9:12 AM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #405061 (14)
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Keeper of Poultry Farmer Roses Raises cows
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
porkpal
May 12, 2013 8:26 AM CST
There are black clay areas here that are rich for row crops. It is often called "15 minute soil". That is the amount of time that you have to work it between it being too wet and too dry.
Porkpal
Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN zone 4a
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Sages The WITWIT Badge Garden Photography Region: Minnesota Plant Identifier
Image
Leftwood
May 12, 2013 8:37 AM CST
Oops, I was posting on the wrong thread....
[Last edited by Leftwood - May 12, 2013 8:39 AM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #405461 (16)
Name: Debra
Garland, TX (NE Dallas suburb) (Zone 8a)
Service dogs: Angels with paws.
Dragonflies Dog Lover I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Photography Bee Lover Plays in the sandbox
Butterflies Region: Texas I sent a postcard to Randy! Charter ATP Member Annuals Garden Sages
Image
lovemyhouse
May 12, 2013 8:39 AM CST
Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing Ain't it the truth, Porkpal?
If you don't ask, the answer is always 'no.'
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
Image
RickCorey
Mar 12, 2014 8:13 PM CST
>> There are black clay areas here that are rich for row crops. It is often called "15 minute soil". That is the amount of time that you have to work it between it being too wet and too dry.

:iagree:

For a few years, I thought that you needed a mattock AND a pick to work heavy clay, "because it's rock-hard until you add enough compost". Or paper, or sawdust, or leaves, or grass.

DUHH.
Finally someone explained to the sweating idiot that it needs A LITTLE water to soften it.
DUHH.

The right amount of water softens the clay and lets you break it into smaller clods to mix with organic matter. I could even force it through 1/4" hardware cloth.

However, many year ago, I worked some clay-ey soil when it was TOO wet. It was soggy enough that it slumped together and stuck to itself, squeezing the air out. You know the dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base? It got hard enough to land military jets on.

Once I have it just soft enough to work, I try to mix in as much organic matter as I can buy, borrow or steal, plus a little something gritty like crushed stone or bark fines. Then maybe a little coarse sand, like powdered sugar on gummy candy to help keep it from sticking to itself.

Then I "fluff it up" with a garden fork and think airy thoughts, like making a souffle.

Then (I THINK this last step is important), I firm it back down carefully, aiming to get it firm enough that a little rain will run through it instead of turning it to pudding, then soup, then solid-as-rock clay-crete. I try not to firm it down so much that I squeeze all the air paces out.

That step is where I imagine that the grit and sand help the clay-compost mix settle into "structure" with some open spaces, instead of slumping and oozing back into one homogenous pudding.

That's just my theory or daydream, but it either does work a little on my soil in my climate, or I imagine that it does. I have to "fluff it up" once or twice per year until it accumulates enough organic matter and roots and soil fungi to support itself.

LOTS of compost, paper, sawdust or bark fines is sure to work. If you don't have enough organic matter (like 50-50 clay and compost or richer in compost), I THINK the grit and sand help a little.

« Garden.org Homepage
« Back to the top
« Forums List
« Help for Heavy Clay Soil
You must first create a username and login before you can reply to this thread.

Today's site banner is by Baja_Costero and is called "Agave"