kbrown1337
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Trying to make soil for a garden with clay

Hello everyone, I'm very new to gardening so I apologize for any silly questions.

I have a 10x10 raised bed that my grandfather has been using for a while, but I'm taking it over from now on. The soil on top is a little rocky, but decent. However, about 6 inches down is just clay, and the further I go down, the harder it is. My questions are:

1) Should I dig the entire garden out and mix in compost/peat moss, then fill it back in? Or should I just try digging down to the clay and mixing as I go? Also I'm not sure if I should mix the clay in with the rest of the soil or discard it.

2) Should I just mix all the soil components together evenly, or should I finish the bed off with something like compost on top?

3) How deep should I dig the clay out?

Thank you in advance for any help!

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jal_ut
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Re: Trying to make soil for a garden with clay

No use digging deep. Add a few amendments to the top and maybe mix in the top six inches then plant. Many soils are heavy in clay with an underlying clay base. They will grow crops. Just do not work them when too wet or they go all cloddy.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/- Plant a Garden

imafan26
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Re: Trying to make soil for a garden with clay

A raised bed is actually a good solution to dealing with clay. If the raised bed is at least 8 inches tall you just need to fork the soil and keep adding compost and fertilizer to it. If the bed has not been used for awhile the clay may be hard, but should become easier to work as time goes on. There are certain plants like sun hemp, mammoth sunflowers, alfalfa, and fava beans as a cover crop produce deep roots that can break through hard soil.


Depending on the kind of soil you have gypsum might help make clay soils more workable.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

Mr green
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Re: Trying to make soil for a garden with clay

Im on claysoil, the very best way i found to deal with it is adding organic material. First year i tilled some in to make it workable. But from there on only adding to the top. I also make sure the plot is mulched so that theres a ton of earthworms present, diging and aerating my soil for me. So i would just add compost and mulch in your case
Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished - Lao Tzu

joed2323
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Location: upper michigan

Re: Trying to make soil for a garden with clay

I moved from excellent soil in upper mi to the oil fields of western north dakota...

Lets just say the ground isnt great out here, very much hard clay.

Last year I tilled up my plot and added in composted manure and some other soils.

I did alot better then I thought I would have...

imafan26
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Re: Trying to make soil for a garden with clay

To make clay soil workable for the short term you can add gypsum. It will make digging through hard clay so much easier. For the long term adding organic matter continously works best. Organic matter does decay, sink and disappear so it is an ongoig proposition.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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Gary350
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Re: Trying to make soil for a garden with clay

TN soil is clay and hard as cement in July and August when it is 100 degrees and rain only once a month. 2 bags of peat moss in the spring works for me, I buy 3 sq ft bags. After you till your soil about 4 inches deep cover the soil with 6" of peat moss then till it in.

j3707
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Re: Trying to make soil for a garden with clay

I've wanted to try daikon radish to break up clay and add organic matter. You may want to consider it.

“if the soil is hard, grow Japanese radish first.”

http://dirtsecrets.com/2015/03/daikon/
Avoid predictable disaster caused by unpredictable events, keep yourself open to positive outcomes from improbable events. -Aaron C. Brown

Mr green
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Re: Trying to make soil for a garden with clay

Yeah will work with carrots and parsnips as well. I actually grew carrots, and they grew very well in the hard clay soil.
Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished - Lao Tzu

Rue Barbie
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Re: Trying to make soil for a garden with clay

I have areas of the yard that are clay as well, but not rocky. When the clay here is dryish, it takes the form of old-fashioned kitty litter. Today I decided to put in a smallish new bed in an area that had not been worked for over a decade. The weeds did well there. After removing those, I added compost and old potting mix, maybe 3 inches total, and dug it in. It's about 10 ft by 3 ft. and looks lovely. I patched and put down a soaker hose. Tomorrow I'm planning on planting some winter squash seedlings that are ready to go out. After the predicted rain this weekend, I'll mulch the area.

It was a lot of work, but I'm pleased. I'm hoping the clay soil will hold more moisture and require less added water. This bed might periodically be watered with grey water.

imafan26
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Re: Trying to make soil for a garden with clay

Watering will soften the soil over time as it penetrates. In the future for better use of water you might consider a keyhole garden. It comes with a built in basket and was designed for use with gray water as the basket filters out the bad stuff and it is lazy composting.
I recycle in the house as much as possible but I tried recycling the laundry water to the yard. Bad idea, there was too much soap residue in the water and over time it built up an impenetrable crust on the soil.

The recycled water that benefited the garden most was the water from washing rice. It is an old practice to use rice water on orchids. I also have rigged an outdoor sink to wash vegetables from the garden with a hose and the drain goes right back into the garden.

I use the recycled bath and basin water to flush the toilets.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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jal_ut
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Re: Trying to make soil for a garden with clay

Hi kbrown1337. Welcome to the forum. If you add your location and zone to your profile it will help others to help you.

The area where I live was once the ancient Lake Bonneville. The soil is the deposits of whatever washed into the lake. The soils are all clay based. Yet this is farming country. The soils are tilled and crops are grown. The machinery that till the soil seldom go much deeper than 8 inches. We work with what is on top, let the roots worry about the lower levels. Yes, they will go down, to a depth of from 3 to 8 feet deep. Just never till the soil if too wet.
Gardening at 5000 feet elevation, zone 4/5 Northern Utah, Frost free from May 25 to September 8 +/- Plant a Garden

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