Clay soil help

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by Unregistered-1427815803, Jan 4, 2004.

  1. Well it's less than a month now till I move to the new place in the New River Valley of VA. I'm used to sand, pure sand and now I'm going to clay and rock. Any help in how to deal with the soil, other than compost and more compost and mulch, and what plants do well in clay would be most appreciated. DH won't be with me this spring so nothing too strenuos please..old body won't take it!

    Liz in NJ who still can't log in!
  2. uncle Will in In.

    uncle Will in In. Well-Known Member Supporter

    May 11, 2002
    The one most important thing you must NOT do is work the soil if it is wet. Squeeze a hand full in your hand. If it forms a ball, stay out of your garden.. Otherwise it will get so hard you won't be able to work it to get the weeds out.. Any kind of humas or sand you can use to amend the soil is good. Peat moss worked in does wonders but would be expensive on a large area. Most ground benifits from an appliction of 12-12-12 fertilizer in the spring. A 50 pound bag would cover about 5000 square feet..

  3. birdie_poo

    birdie_poo Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2002
    Every thought of gardening above ground? This may be your best alternative.

    There are people who have made a good go of clay soil, by addint ammendments, importing soil, etc. You are going to have to decide which is more practicle for you.

    My 'soil' is decomposed granite. With the chicken, rabbit and pig do, straw and other composted materials, we actually have soil, now.

    Good luck and keep us posted as to what it is you end up doing. Your info may help the next person dealing with you dilema
  4. marisal

    marisal Well-Known Member

    Jun 3, 2003
    Yes, I would love to hear what you do! Our 24 acres is All clay and big rocks, floods in a lot of places after heavy rains.....We will be moving there in about 2 years...I asked around if local farmers wanted to farm it, they laughed....some have tried on that spot, and all they could get was soy I think they said? What ever was a water loving crop....
    I want at least 2 acres of garden, soooo...
    So we plan to put in a lot of drain tiles,
    and ALOT of ammendments (Compost, sand, Peat moss....)
    Try letting a few pigs root around, (I heard they dig things up pretty good)
    And in part of the spot I am going to do some raised beds. I'm going to see what works the best. So the first season will be trial and error.

    Sorry I wasn't any help!

    Good luck!!

    ~Marisa :)
  5. kathy H

    kathy H kathyh

    Dec 9, 2002
    I like clay soil much better then sand. Holds water better in summer and has a better cationic exchange [ ability to release and store nutrients]. Takes a few years to get enough humus built up but then its great. Raised beds are nice and once in are alot less work.
  6. diane

    diane Well-Known Member

    May 4, 2002
    South Central Michigan
    When we moved here the soil was so heavy we couldn't even work it until almost June every year. Listen to the person about staying off it until it has dryed. We could make bricks with ours it was so hard. We have hauled leaves by the truck loads for years, bought ruined hay etc. and now have a decent garden with soil that you can push your hand down into. Raised beds with square foot gardening methods would be my recommendation.
  7. SueD

    SueD Well-Known Member

    Aug 1, 2002
    If you want to cheat a little, before you build your raised beds, or plant in straw, etc. - dump as much gypsum and/or sand as you can afford in the area. Gypsum doesn't 'go away' as quickly as the sand, and both will begin to break up the soil.

    I would definately go raised beds or plant 'lasagna' style if you're going to get into 2 acres worth immediately, though - that's a lot of weight and money in just two amendments just to garden the first year...

    One other thing I'd think about is going around to see about free manure. Should be at least two to three months old by now, no need for a full year's composting as the weather will help out greatly with that before you get a chance to plant this year. I had some friends in Idaho that used 100% sheep manure and put it down in February. They planted straight into it in mid-May and they had the best garden around for MILES.

    Best of luck!!!

  8. BeckyW

    BeckyW Well-Known Member

    Mar 10, 2003
    Years ago friends of our converted very similar soil to what you described into beautiful loam. They were located in Maryland. They did it by cover-cropping with green manure. It took 4 years to change that soil to loam. They planted buckwheat in rotation throughout the first summer, turning under. Winter cover-cropped then the second year it was a mixture of various green nitrogen-fixing crops. You might contact the advisory people at Organic Gardening/Rodale -- as I recall they helped them with the mixture formula and what to do when. Their soil ended up so beautiful that they did an organic u-pick market on their land.

    While you're going through all this process, raised beds will give you the instant garden you'd like. But if you're patient and willing to do a little work and buy some seed, great soil can be yours.
  9. fin29

    fin29 Well-Known Member

    Jun 4, 2003
    We use green manure, too. Buckwheat, flax, and soy. We mow it down before it goes to seed, let it dry, and till it in. We also put as much horse bedding (wood chips and manure) as we can. It brings with it some weed seeds, but our cultural practices take care of those in short order.
  10. blhmabbott

    blhmabbott We're gettin' there!

    Feb 4, 2003
    NW TN
    Sue: I have clay soil as well and was wondering if you could explain "lasagna" planting. Thanks!
  11. Thanks everyone for all your input. Think I'll probably start out with some raised beds...thanks for the gypsum/sand idea. That way I can get something decent this year. Then I'll work on amending other areas.
    I'll have access to manure from alpacas plus I raise chickens. I can do green manure and compost too. Will root crops grow in clay? Some of my yard would make great bricks! Must make sure hubby doesn't do me a favor and start diggin when it's wet.

    I'll let you know how I do. Think it will be fun to try gardening somewhere different, failures and all. Right now the place is 8" deep in snow.

    Liz in NJ still unable to log in even after 2 new passwords!