brekehan
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Improve Soil

I went out and bought a bag of compost. I'd like to make my own, but am working on getting the materials together.

Anyway, when I dug trenches around my vegatables...The soil is extremely clay like. I mean it took me an hour to dig a 2" deep circle around my bell peppers. I imagine this is one reason they are growing so slowly.

I swear I could of molded a clay pot out of the stuff! I had to chisel it off my spade every 5 minutes. It is black, but it is really clay like.

How can I improve the soil?

When you plant things, how much should you be packing down the dirt?
I usually just make a fist and gently push down around the plant. Perhaps I shouldn't pack it at all?

How often should I be watering in 90-100 degree temps?

Kochsgarden
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Soil

Well I would say "sand" that might be your best bet. A friend had clay in their yard and never had much success in growing any thing.

My friend called a local pool company and placed their name on a list to get free fill dirt from a different part of town that has sand. First they dug about 6" off the top to make room for the sand. Their garden was about 30 by 30 and it took 4 loads of sand (single axle). Then they rented the largest roto-tiller. With the clay they had to blend the sand in slowly to make it an even mixture. Good luck

cas0502
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You have to be careful when you add sand to clay or you could end up with something closer to concrete then good soil. The best way that I know of to amend clay soil is with lots of organic matter. We have clay also (not quite as bad as your's sounds though :) ) so I built some raised beds and filled them with top soil, compost and manure. I then tilled it in as deep as I could with my little tiller. In the spring I try to turn the beds as much as I can with my spading fork to work the good top layers deeper into the soil so the roots can go deeper too. This fall I am going to try and till in as much grass clippings and leaves as I can and then top the beds with more clippings that I will then till in in the spring before I plant.
Carol - amateur gardener

dan1003
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Hopefully some more experienced members will chime in, but I'm with cas0502--raised beds and lots of compost. While you're working on the soil, go with varieties that do well in clay-heavy soil and use cover crops ([url]https://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/covercrop.html[/url]) when you can.


Dan

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jal_ut
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"How can I improve the soil? " In spite of what a previous poster said, adding sand to clay soil helps reduce its stickiness. The thing to avoid is working the soil when it is wet. That is what makes it hard and cloddy. The addition of lots of organic matter is good to improve both the fertility and the tilth of your soil.

"When you plant things, how much should you be packing down the dirt?
I usually just make a fist and gently push down around the plant. Perhaps I shouldn't pack it at all? " If you read the instructions on the seed packet, it will always say cover with x amount of soil firmly packed down. Yes, firmly packed down is good. It helps to keep the soil from drying out. I walk on mine.

"How often should I be watering in 90-100 degree temps?" When and how much to water is a complicated thing. Wind, soil, relative humidity, temperature, and the crop, all impact the need for water. Clay soils hold water better than sandy soils so I would think you will not need to water as much as someone on a sandy lot. The plants themselves are the best indicators of when to water. If they are wilted, you need to water.

Have a great garden.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/-

The Helpful Gardener
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People get tired of hearing me say it around here, but compost, compost, compost...

Biologies add polysaccharide glues and fungal hyphae that open and conglomerate the fine particles of clay into bigger particles. Often our "clay" soils are really silts, created by chemical elimination of said biology by salts from chemical fertilization. Chemical compaction can be just as profound as mechanical compaction to a healthy soil profile.

The best delivery method for biology to the entire soil profile is aerated compost tea (delivers to the whole profile without disturbing the soil). There's a great [url=https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=17097]thread on ACT[/url]in the Organic Gardening Forum...

HG
Scott Reil

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You might want to look into getting a whole bunch of composted manure, and some good garden soil if you can find anywhere that sells it. Also, as HG said, compost as much as you can and that will help as well. And believe me, coming from someone with very sandy soil, you do not want to risk the sand, it could create more problems than it solves.

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Diane
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My sister lives in the Dallas FortWorth area. Her soil is very hard and tough. I was surprised when I couldn't just pull weeds. You either had to dig them up or, as they do, wait until it rained.
She and her hubby bought lots of brand name soil, I forget if it was potting soil or just garden soil, forked the area they wanted to plant and mixed in the new soil. Then topped it off with new soil.
They had a great harvest and the next year had lots of volunteer plants.
Gardens are a little bit of heaven on earth.

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rainbowgardener
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compost compost

Agree with HG. Just keep adding compost and organic material when you plant things then mulch with organic stuff which breaks down and adds to the soil. Also you can add gypsum which helps to break down clay. But I haven't done that and my nearly pure yellow clay soil, was very nice after just a couple years of adding lots of organics to it and gets better all the time. When I put the garden to bed in the fall, I cover everything with a few inches of leaves. Come planting time in spring, I crunch up all the (now weathered) leaves and turn them under. I credit all that leaf mould with giving my soil a nice rich crumbly texture rapidly.

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freedhardwoods
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The Helpful Gardener wrote:People get tired of hearing me say it around here, but compost, compost, compost...
HG
This is my broken record. It is a variation of composting, but the results are the same.

I turned worthless, hard as a rock subsoil into loose, very productive soil by adding and tilling in 10" of sawdust. Any organic material that could be composted would work. Here is the detailed explanation of how I did it.

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=75332&sid=cfa3f388e7b8fdd784205500fd04d71d

Third post down. 8)

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gixxerific
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I basically add, add, add, add everything every year.

Grass clippings, compost, peat moss, maybe a little sand, leaves, blood meal, bone meal, horse manure, lime etc. This seems to work for me.

I have been gardening for roughly 10 yrs. I'm in a new house (2 years) and have been working on and expanding my garden since I moved in. You can definitely tell the difference in soil texture and fertility between the different stages. This year will be a HUGE dose of bulk Class A compost to compliment my annual additions.

And yes I have some hard red clay, trust me it's hard. I just hand dug five 32 inch deep 14 inch wide pillars for my neighbors deck. Using a post hole digger i would get about maybe 1\2 inch in every time and I'm pretty strong. :shock: It's gonna take some time for me as well as you just be patient it will come. Feed the earth and it will feed you. :D

That's good I will have to put that in my sig.

dmcness
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This year I have added some sand to my raised bed to increase the pores to get the air in and water to flow easily. It has improved my yield and health of my plants.

My area is predominantly clay and I know I needed to have a raised bed when I started my garden.

I think adding sand and organic matter is good.

Dan
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freedhardwoods
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cas0502 wrote:You have to be careful when you add sand to clay or you could end up with something closer to concrete then good soil.
That is a very good comparison. In concrete, you have cement, sand and aggregate. Cement and sand with no aggregate will get hard but is weak. Adding the right amount of aggregate will make it very hard and strong. You would have to add an extremely large amount of aggregate to make it weak and crumbly.

Clay would be comparable to the cement and sand part of concrete. Sand would be comparable to the aggregate. If you add some sand, it does make the soil harder. You have to add a very large amount of sand to loosen the soil.
Kochsgarden wrote:First they dug about 6" off the top to make room for the sand.
This is a good example of my explanation. They removed most of the clay topsoil and replaced it with sandy soil. Since most tillers only reach depths of 6 or 7 inches (sometimes 8 ), after they tilled it in, it was basically sandy soil with a little clay mixed in.

For people that garden on a small scale adding sand might not be a big deal. I would have to buy semi loads of sand to amend my gardens, and that just isn't an option. It also takes a lot of organic matter to make a difference in problematic clay soils. Although I don't consider my soil problematic, I have always had access to huge amounts of free organic material whenever I want. 8)

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gixxerific
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I have thought about adding sand maybe I shouldn't do it if I don't get a truckload. I am a brick layer and can bring home buckets of sand but we all know few buckets of anything aint gonna do nothing to roughly 200 square feet of garden.

I will be adding several yards of Class A compost in a few months' when I get some extra money.

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stella1751
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Funny story. Background: Most of Casper's soil is clay. Two years ago, I visited the garden of a friend of a friend. She was growing tomatoes in what appeared to be sand. (They were very unhappy tomatoes.) I asked her why. She said the fellow at Home Depot had recommended she bring in some sand. I suspect he meant she should mix it with her clay.

This year, my cousin-in-law, frustrated by the slow results achieved in the organic garden I had helped her prepare (raised beds filled with soil and compost), went to Home Depot for advice. The fellow told her to add some sand. I suppose this is something the gardening people at our local Home Depot are taught: If someone in Casper comes in with soil problems, sell 'em some bagged sand :lol:
"Imagination is more important than knowledge." -- Albert Einstein

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gixxerific
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Don't know if sand is the answer or not but I like brekehan have terrible soil. It rained quite a bit like 3 day's ago the ground is still wet to soaked.

The Helpful Gardener
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Man walks into the doctors office and says, "Doc, it hurts when I do this."

"Just don't do that." :roll:

THAT's the sand cure; we have not addressed the issue in any ongoing fashion; we have simply addressed the symptom. Sand will open porosity to a degree, but eventually the fine nature of clay just fills those voids in and in a year or two we are back where we started. Add more sand?("Just don't do that.")? :lol: Etc., etc., etc., :lol:

My way (and FHW's and RBG's) adds back humic content and biologies that sustain beneficial effects over time. Continue to add biology and you get increasing improvement, not just treading water. Sand is short term, biology is long term...

HG
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Kochsgarden
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Thank you freedhardwoods for your incite. They removed the clay and the garden was ready the next day. They did not add sand to clay they added a little clay to the sand. The sand was free and we are not talking beach sand it was just sandy soil form a different part of town. Sorry for the confusion about the sand I should have said they just replaced the clay with sand. Clay soil, Sandy soil, Silt soil, and Loam https://kochsgarden.com/Soil.php

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