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What to do with the horrible red clay?

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  1. #1
    BetsyE
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    What to do with the horrible red clay?

    We have got this awful red clay here, and if it is in the sun it bakes so hard, almost like a rock. And if it is in the shade it stays wet and will not drain much at all. The clay is so awful that you cannot easily get a shovel into it. Seriously, the last bed I did, I had to get a small sledge hammer and bang the shovel handle into the dirt and then pry the stuff out of the ground. It is terrible!

    So obviously I have to amend this stuff. I was just wondering what would y'all do? For my red clay, I have been mixing in perlite and sphagnum moss, plus a little potting mix, some mushroom compost and a handful of general fertilizer. I know, next will be the kitchen sink! I just grabbed bags of stuff I thought sounded good. What would you use?
    Betsy & John (11/7/02)
    & my furbaby Piper


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  3. #2
    3boys2luv
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    I don't know what is really recommended as far as a soil test is concerned but I think I'd do like you were doing with the perlite and topsoil but that can get expensive.

    You want to work in stuff to loosen up the clay particles and interfere with them so they can't stick together - just like you are doing.

    Cheap things I can think of are mainly organic stuff from your property - leaves from your trees (if you have a tiller that makes it really easy) as well as homemade compost (veg. peels, etc. - but never any meat products). Grass clippings if they aren't treated with chemicals. It's all going to break down probably within a season so you're going to be doing it a lot until you get the texture like you want. Put as much leaves and stuff in there as you can get, it's amazing how much stuff you can mix into dirt, even if it's not evenly mixed at first it will help.

    You could add sand (not the really fine stuff, that just makes it set up harder) I think they call it builder's sand or foundation sand - something like that - but you're back to buying stuff if you go that way.

    The more "stuff" you work into it the better. I've been working on my garden plot here for going on three years using mainly leaves and clippings and kitchen veg. scraps and some topsoil and it's finally looking pretty good and growing things well.
    Last edited by 3boys2luv; 07-29-2005 at 11:53 AM.
    Raising children is like being pecked to death by chickens.






  4. #3
    jow
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    gypsum. try that it helps with clay soil in my area. then do all the soil amending that has been recommended. it is a slow process so be patient.

    jo


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    katrack
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    I'm interested in this as well. 2B2L has some ideas I will use next year since we have really hard clay as well (okay, I live in the same town as she does). Actually, I guess I'll start with leaves this fall since we have trees on our property, although no grass for clippings. I even have a Roto-tiller, so I guess I have no excuse at all. I hadn't thought of putting in kitchen peelings, etc. Egg shells too?
    dd (10), dd & dd (12), ds (22), dd (24) + dgs (5 & 2), ds (27)

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    GalaxyGirl
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    I don't have enough property to compost my own, but I bought lots & lots of leaf compost and tilled it into our clay. It took a couple years, but our beds are soft & squishy and grow everything now.

    Janet
    Janet (44), DH (44)
    Genevieve & Victoria 10/04
    via IVF#6 w/PGD
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