Composting Clay

I have pure layered tan clay and access to a lot of horse manure that I compost a hundred yards at a time. My question is how much compost should I mix with the clay to get a pretty loose soil. The clay is like concrete when dry.

Hardiness Zone: 5

Robyn from Kingston, New York

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September 6, 20070 found this helpful

A big problem with clay is the "bath tub" effect. This is where you have composted/amended the soil down inches and then plant-- but the clay is still down there acting like a bathtub, which then stunts the plant by stunting root growth not to mention holding more water than perhaps the plant can use, causing root rot. I know, that isn't your answer.

As I understand it, clay has all the nutrients that plants need but they can't get it because of the tight bonds.

I suggest you obtain some gypsum, dig your clay, mix in the gypsum with the clay and let it work a spell. How long is a spell (Southern term)? I turned my garden in the fall, sprinkled the gypsum pretty heavily over the clods and tilled it in the spring. I could see the clay literally crumble through the winter. The gypsum combines with the clay and breaks the tight bonds that makes clay so hard.

If I dug the clay out of my garden space, I would put a good layer of gypsum at the clay bottom of the space that was dug out, sprinkle the clay liberally with gypsum, mix your composted manure at a least a 2 parts compost to 1 part clay. and put it back. I hope that is clear.

good luck.

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September 6, 20070 found this helpful

Read Ann Lovejoy! Her book turned all my old ideas upside down. You can drain bathtub beds by putting a post hole filled with rocks under them. Good soil should be one-third sand, one-third clay, and one-third decaying vegetation. You can guesstimate how much sand is in your clay by rubbing it between thumb and forefinger. Raised beds are better draining, but ground-level beds don't get over dry so easily, so you may as well split the difference. Wish you could bring me ten or twenty yards of that horse compost!

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September 28, 20070 found this helpful

A better (and much cheaper) idea is to spread gypsum over the clay. This will break it up and make it easier to work with.

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