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rhetorician's avatar

What do I do about the clay in my soil?

Asked by rhetorician (108points) June 10th, 2009

I am putting in my flower beds and in a few areas the soil is mostly clay. What can I add to the soil to make it more plantable?

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19 Answers

whatthefluther's avatar

Compost…lots of it.

Aethelwine's avatar

I have the same problem here in Illinois. I’m fairly new to gardening so someone else might have a better suggestion. I usually buy soil from the local garden shop, dig out the clay and add the store bought soil.

Mr. Blondesjon works on a farm. Let’s see what he has to say. :)

Blondesjon's avatar

Whatever you do, don’t do what I did.

We have an excess of clay in our local soil. I figured, hey, life is handing me lemons, why don’t I make lemonade. I built myself a small shack in the backyard, collected the excess clay, and began to make pottery.

One night, while engaged at the wheel with a project, Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers started playing on the small stereo I had purchased for the shack. At first the music inspired me. It was almost as though there were ghostly hands guiding my own. The pottery gods were indeed smiling down upon me.

Then it got uncomfortable.

The “invisible hands” started feeling a little too “touchy feely” and I felt what I can only describe as an awkward pressure against my backside.

Long story short, Patrick Swayze is not very picky.

Aethelwine's avatar

did I mention my husband is also an aspiring writer?

gailcalled's avatar

Compost, manure, humus, sand – things to break up the clay particles, enrich the soil and improve drainage. It is heavy work unless you have a guy with a small back hoe come in and chop things up.

YARNLADY's avatar

I read “What do I do about the clay in my soul : – D
To enhance the soil, you have to dig at least six to eight inches down, and add the necessary enhancements to it. Ezine Articles has an excellent article with tips and ideas.

Many people are choosing raised beds, now, and that involves forming a bed with some boards and filling it with planting soil.

Garebo's avatar

Gypsum, breaks down the affinity of clay particles to some degree. What has already been mentioned, in particular compost, manure and peat, with a good tilling could do the trick. Than there is soil ph and what you are growing, obviously if its clay it’s acidic.
If you are talking hard pan clay 8 inches down you can raise it up a bit. If it’s clay from the get go your screwed,unless you create a raised bed of good stuff.

basp's avatar

We moved two years ago and had a barren yard of clay. We hauled in lots if dirt and worked it in for areas that we planted lawn. But, for things with deeper roots, like trees and bushes, we built raised beds.

Kayak8's avatar

I had the brilliant idea (in my head only) to add sand to make the soil more porous. When I shared the brilliant idea with an experienced master gardner at my local nursery, she pointed out how concrete is made (clay and sand would just about do it). I abandoned the idea and used straw chopped up and mixed in the soil instead.

Aethelwine's avatar

@YARNLADY That’s exactly what we did for our vegetable garden. My sons were thrilled when they heard they would have to haul the dirt! ;)

gailcalled's avatar

@all; The most precious stuff for gardens is compost. All gardeners know that.

Composting makes you also feel holier-than-thou. It’s magic. You start with egg shells, coffee grounds and slimy cucumbers; six months later you have black, friable, and rich dirt, for free.

Blondesjon's avatar

@gailcalled . . .Peruna peels eivät ole tarpeeksi hyvä sinulle?

gailcalled's avatar

@Blondesjon. Stop this. I have to go to bed.

Blondesjon's avatar

@gailcalled . . .I do as well Gail. I do as well.

Garebo's avatar

If you really want to know about black gold check out this cracker-Charles H. Wilbur’s World Record Tomatos book. He was a Guinness Champion that reveals his all organic techniques at making compost and growing 27 foot tall cherry tomatoes.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@Kayak8 I used to deliver parts to a cement factory. Cement is made of clay and limestone, cooked at high temps, and then ground fine. Chopped straw is a better alternative.

My soil is pretty good here, but highly acidic (thanks Mr. Walnut tree). I usually add lime, bloodmeal, humus, compost, shredded newspaper, and finely ground mulches. Anything that helps to break up the clay particles, in other words, that keeps them from clumping is going to work well.

Digging up your yard and adding all those things is a lot of work. Your best bet is to do raised beds. You can build them up using landscape timbers, railroad ties, concrete blocks, landscaping stones, etc, and add the soil as you need it.

Dog's avatar

I used to make adobe clay figures but no Swayze… Maybe you need a wheel.

@rhetorician Welcome to Fluther!

WifeOfBath's avatar

Milled bark.

phil196662's avatar

Everyone has the right idea, I use a Course Sand because Clay will expand Dozens of times so the airspace in the sand gives it someplace to go. add some compost as well to add nutrients !

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