Soil and Compost forum→Blackland prairie soil

Views: 248, Replies: 8 » Jump to the end
Austin, TX
Central Texas, zone 8b.
Region: Texas Tender Perennials Fruit Growers Frugal Gardener Container Gardener
Dewberry
Apr 7, 2021 12:42 PM CST
How would you improve Blackland Prairie clay soils?

The Blackland Prairies of Texas have heavy, grey-to-black clay soils that drain very slowly when saturated and crack in dry weather.

The soils tend to be deep and nutrient rich, but compact and alkaline.

My ideas for improving the soil are to use deep-rooted cover crops to improve soil drainage and reduce compaction and to use compost. Consider planting on mounds when you are planting things that can't tolerate seasonally soggy soils.

For reducing alkalinity: compost, and maybe some kind of soil acidifier.

I am not an expert at all, so take all that with a big grain of salt.

What would you do to improve Blackland Prairie clay?
Name: Rj
Just S of the twin cities of M (Zone 4b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Plant Identifier Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
Image
crawgarden
Apr 7, 2021 1:06 PM CST
Found this article where it specifically talks about your soil:

https://rockinwhomestead.com/i...

https://www.centraltexasgarden...
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
Name: Lee-Roy
Bilzen, Belgium (Zone 8a)
Irises Lilies Hostas Ferns Composter Region: Belgium
Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Region: Europe
Image
Arico
Apr 7, 2021 5:01 PM CST
Building soil is a long and slow process.

Although tilling and deep digging are not recommended, I will do so if there is severe compaction (due to a hard pan for instance) and drainage issues.
After that, mulching and/or growing cover crops are the best and last thing to do.

Avoid walking on it when wet, don't till and DON'T ADD SAND FOR GOD'S SAKE.

Mulch, mulch, mulch. And even if it might be hard, TRY growing something in it. Deep rooted annuals or perennials...anything to get life into it. Be prepared to loose a few though. You'll see improvement every year if you keep it up.
Minnesota (Zone 3b)
RpR
Apr 9, 2021 3:24 PM CST
As Lee-Roy said, deep tilling often is not recommended but just as prairies were broken and produced immensely the first time, that is not a bad idea with your soil.
If you can afford it, turn over the soil, ploughing once is not a bad idea, and then apply heavy, very heavy amounts of Peat Moss which not only acidifies but also loosens the soil, and then roto-till the ploughed soil.
Name: Thomas Mitchell
Central Ohio (Zone 6a)
Composter
Composter
thommesM
Apr 10, 2021 5:42 AM CST
Gonna agree and disagree with the others. I agree that tilling is not the best idea. I agree that it works for some, but when you think about soil structure and what your aim is, imo tilling is not the way to go. Your idea of raised areas for plants that need well drained soil is spot on. The rest of the area, heavy top mulching is organic material, either compost, shredded leaves, shredded straw, etc.
I have clay crap for soil as well that the builders used as back fill and grading 30 years ago. For years we'd have ponds and lakes in the backyards of our house and the neighbors after a hard downpour. The water would sit depending on the saturation level for days at times. I started using shredded leaves as a top mulch, 2-3" a year in the fall. Not enough to build soil height. However, the puddles drained a lot faster in OUR backyard. The soil organisms were taking the shredded mulch down through the soil column in and improving the soil structure in only two years. I have another area that I've been mulching for 15 years. I can go out and dig a hole in that mulch area straight down at least a foot using just my bare hand because the soil is loam. Sure a very small amount of that is build up of loam from all the shredded leaves, but nowhere near a foot as you can tell by looking at the grade of the rest of the yard. Few inches at most. Meanwhile the neighbor's yards are still ponds after a heavy rain.
Everyone has something they can teach; everyone has something they can learn.

"America is the most grandiose experiment the world has seen, but, I am afraid, it is not going to be a success. "
— Sigmund Freud
Name: Rj
Just S of the twin cities of M (Zone 4b)
Garden Ideas: Level 1 Plant Identifier Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
Image
crawgarden
Apr 10, 2021 9:48 AM CST
Agreed
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
Charter ATP Member Houseplants Keeper of Poultry Vegetable Grower Region: Maryland Composter
Native Plants and Wildflowers Organic Gardener Region: United States of America Cat Lover Birds Butterflies
Image
sallyg
Apr 20, 2021 4:05 PM CST
I'm adding my totally unproven vote for tilling in this case initially to get organic matter down some to start. I think there is zero existing soil structure to be broken by tilling at this stage.. Shrug!
i'm pretty OK today, how are you? ;^)
Minnesota (Zone 3b)
RpR
Apr 20, 2021 4:23 PM CST
There was a show on last night on Minnesota and how it came to be, as usual nowadays from PBS, it made sure to say Northern Europeans are the Satan incarnate but it did say in turning over the Prairie that covered one third of this state, that "killing" the existing thick plant structure by plowing started the compost process that added to the already rich soil , making it tillable and was a main reason it was such incredibly good soil for so long.
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
Charter ATP Member Houseplants Keeper of Poultry Vegetable Grower Region: Maryland Composter
Native Plants and Wildflowers Organic Gardener Region: United States of America Cat Lover Birds Butterflies
Image
sallyg
Apr 20, 2021 7:56 PM CST
Posted to Phytomemetics group on facebook:
...For #nonmemesunday I present the results of early succession soil regeneration with nitrogen fixing cover crops, and how I did it. These pics were taken about four months apart. This is surprisingly simple, easy, and cheap to do and is subject to an economy of scale, especially in moist climates where little to no irrigation is required.

The first pic depicts the condition of the soil prior. It was so compacted that I couldn't even get through it with a shovel. The second pic depicts the cover crops entering their blooming phase (crimson clover and hairy vetch). They will be terminated in a couple weeks.

You don't need to purchase and use any kind of soil amendment or fertilizer to do this. All you need are a good seed mix, the appropriate strain(s) of rhizobia (preferably a product that also contains mycorrhizae and other strains of beneficial microbes), good quality compost, and the equipment to brew compost tea or a similar microbial inoculant.

The objective here is to introduce living roots and good soil biology to begin sequestering C, N, and solublizing other nutrients that are bound up in soilborne minerals. This also has the benefit of encouraging beneficial insects that control pests. Here is the process:

1. Lightly till the upper couple inches of the soil.
2. Work in a small amount of high quality compost. You only need a light dusting. This is only to introduce biology and a small amount of organic matter. I used homemade compost and also threw on some used potting soil I had lying around (but that was unnecessary). I probably added about 1/4" of material total.
3. Treat the soil with compost tea, LAB, IMO, JMS, and/or whatever microbial inoculant you would like to use. An inoculant containing native, locally collected strains will work best.
4. Treat your seeds with the rhizobia and, optionally, a little bit of compost tea and then broadcast at the recommended rate.
5. Cover again with more compost and/or a very light mulch. This is just to protect the seeds while they germinate. I used shredded leaves that I collected from around the area. Shredded straw works well too.
6. Water them in, preferably with dechlorinated water.
7. Keep them well watered and watch them grow!

I would use a high diversity mix that also contains grasses, brassicas, and broadleaves aside from a simple legume mix. I threw in some radishes but my soil did not have enough N yet to support brassicas, and they did not do well. You will probably get even better results with a high diversity mix though. At a minimum, try to use legumes and grasses. I was unable to use any grasses here.

The total cost of materials to do this in a small to medium sized garden space - beyond the basic tools you will need to prepare the soil and make compost and compost tea - should be under $50 USD, at least in my experience. 5 lbs of multi species cover crop seed costs about $20 and a good rhizobia product will run about $10 a pouch."
i'm pretty OK today, how are you? ;^)

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

Member Login:

[ Join now ]

Today's site banner is by lauriemorningglory and is called "Pulsatilla and Phlox"

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.