Major DUH moment! Using what I have to amend clay.

adayfromnowApril 10, 2007

This is sort of a continuation of a previous question (of mine) about amending our gray-beige-white clay soil. I feel like a complete idiot. I don't know why I didn't think of this before. I guess because everything I read said to "amend it with COMPOST".

I don't have "compost", persay. What I DO have is plenty of leaves and the humus or rich soil underneath them. I also have plenty of twigs and tree limbs. I also have a few bags of cheap topsoil and I think half a bag of soil conditioner left from a previous shopping spree (which is why I have no money left for compost!). Can I use these items to amend the [dirty-word] CLAY?

I also need some advice on the appropriate method, please. Or, if it's not even worth the effort, please let me know.

Thank you so much for your help!


Here is a link that might be useful: Plants to amend clay soil (prev post)

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Don't dispair Mari! Any well planned soil building is ABSOLUTELY WORTH THE EFFORT!

You sure can use those materials to add organic matter to your soil. Sounds like you're considering bulding a compost pile: Great idea.

I'd suggest chipping those materials you mentioned so that they "cook" faster. If you don't have a chipper, you can use a lawn mower on those leaves. And, really, for all things composting I'd recommend the composting forum.
On a practical note, most gardeners cannot produce compost on a scale appropriate for soil conditioning--mostly on account of our joyful exuberance in hacking out new beds and ending up with many hundreds of square feet to care for. I feel your pain about the shopping spree, but maybe you can consider a small budget for this project during the next few years as a smart investment.

Here's a link to a compost calculator, and just for comparison, I pick up compost in a truck by the cubic yard and pay $23-25/cu.yd.

If that's not an option, you can get a good start with what you have and keep an eye out for good sources of free compost goodies!

Here is a link that might be useful: Compost calculator

    Bookmark   April 12, 2007 at 9:09AM
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Thanks, Hannah. It was such a beautiful day here yesterday, I just HAD to go outside & play in the dirt! Hopefully my "use a little bit of everything available" method of amending will sustain the life of the gifts from neighbors that I planted yesterday (daylilies, delphiniums, irises, purple basil).

I tried to follow the lasagna method as much as I could. I think I ended up with about 3 parts "good stuff" to 1 part clay, and dug deep and wide. I didn't have any pea gravel or gypsum, though.

I finally decided yesterday that I AM going to start a compost pile of my own (hubby can just get over it!) for "emergencies". Based on the calculator link (thank you), I need about 3 cu yards for the area I'm working. About $75 worth. LOL! That's right in line with every trip I've made to the garden centers this year. No matter what I went to get, the tickets were ALL around $75! I'm not allowed to get close to a garden center for a while.

Thanks so much for your help (and support)! Wish me luck!


    Bookmark   April 12, 2007 at 10:29AM
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LOL! Most of my garden chores are excuses to play in the dirt, too! Sounds like you had a great day! Good luck,

    Bookmark   April 12, 2007 at 11:34PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

And don't mourn the pea gravel and gypsum. Neither will do anything to help with the clay issue. The organic matter will!

    Bookmark   April 13, 2007 at 11:55AM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

Mari, do you have a Home Depot nearby? They have a very well composted steer manure mix (with completely aged wood chips)for 98 cents per bag here - dry and easy to handle. 5 or 10 bags can be an enormous help. I'll buy about 30 bags per year to supplement homemade compost and top dress established beds with it - the worms help work it down in. Another plus, it's been weed free for me.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2007 at 11:38AM
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Thanks for all your help, y'all. I can't begin to tell you how much your direct answers have helped me. I'm trying to learn all of this on my own, but I've researched myself into a state of total confusion!

Rhizo_1, for example, [you] said that the pea gravel & gypsum wouldn't help, but I was under the impression they were necessary to improve the drainage of the clay. So now I'm really confused. Is there a particular KIND of organic material that helps drainage(leaves, or compost, or soil)?

Thanks for the tip morz8. There is a Home Depot nearby, but I'm afraid to go because of my "$75/day habit" (okay, so it's $75 per TRIP, but still!). LOL. How big are the $1 bags?

Seriously though, what do I do with the manure when I get it? My FIRST question is will my dogs want to roll in it? If so, I probably don't want to spread it on top of my new beds (or anywhere they can get to it for that matter, if it stinks). I also don't want to put it on the new beds if it stinks because they are right outside my bedroom window! ICK!


    Bookmark   April 14, 2007 at 1:03PM
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morz8(Washington Coast Z8b)

The bags are 1 cu. foot ea. Occasionally I open a bag with a slight barnyard odor, but for the most part this stuff is no more strongly scented than a bag of potting soil. Any scent would be gone by bedtime if you sleep with open windows, and I haven't noticed any neighborhood pets showing any interest in it.

You can either spade it in, or top dress with it and let the worms help work it in, just like any other compost.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2007 at 12:01AM
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