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adding clay to sandy soil

Heavy clay soil tends to have a high level of aluminium (Al) in it which can be toxic to most plants if the soil is at all acidic. Hi Janet,Wow, that’s a lot of clay. We are a zero budget farm so i wont be joining your class but will take -in the free info.WE just built a rain-harvest pond using a tarp to catch the water from the sky via the coconut trees 10 x20 feet.Dug the hole by shovel !8X18 3 feet deep as the salty water is just below that level & sloped the sides at a60 degree angle to collect 4,000literes. But, in fact, adding sand to clay has the effect of turning soil incredibly hard and the amended area into little more than a sump, creating sodden conditions and rotting roots. Bringing in topsoil may cause some drainage problems unless you can really blend it well with the silt. The sand just gets embedded in the clay and often forms a soil environment that is like concrete. Now it had hardened and clodded up. The more finished the compost and the fewer coffee grinds there are means less settling. When one mixes a sandy and a clay soil together, the large pore spaces of the sandy soil are filled with the smaller clay particles. Generally soil can be classified into three groups - clay, loam and sand. Zeolites just happen to have a whole lot more of them than clay. My understanding is it’s because they have a much bigger surface area. One solution is to add more organic matter (compost, manure, wood chips), but unfortunately if you live in a hot and humid climate the stuff you put in the soil is going to decompose quickly, since microbial activity is so fast. Zeolites… How do they work? It appears that one side of the bed is wetter than we would like. I let a pile of dark sandy loam sit for 5 months waiting to complete constuction. How deep will depend on how much money I think is wise to spend. Bringing in mulch isn’t great because a lawn doesn’t really want to grow in mulch. I will also put two rows of uncovered wire close together attached to a battery to dissuade snails and slugs. Love your articles Phil! But 2″ of good quality compost would be great. Too much clay will not make hard bricks. Check your soil test for the base saturation % and ratio of Ca to Mg. You’ll probably want more than justcompost for the top layer – a mixture of compost and soil. In the comment above it was stated that they would be better aged before adding, due to the high nitrogen produced. Was thinking, would putting the sprinkler on it for a few hours help reduce the stink? If you just drop it on top, you are inevitably creating an interface that will slow drainage. I hadn’t thought about using compost to help the conditions. I’ve not tilled in 3 years, using a broadfork when compaction gets real bad or to pull infiltrating roots from a neighbor’s tree. The adding of hydrated lime will improve any clay soil. Check with your local extension office (listed under government in the phone … I can buy it in MI for $3/yard plus trucking. Does this sound okay to you?Thanks again for the article. I’ll be adding coffee grinds till there is too much snow to walk back there. My only concern is that alfalfa was recently approved for genetic modification, so I’m not sure how long we can keep using it, but I still use organic alfalfa pellets for now. It may be that removing some soil is the right move, but maybe not. Adobe is made from soil that has approximately 70% sand and 30% clay. Then I started reading about soil and micro-organisms and composting and it changed my whole outlook. Both of these are poor organic gardening practices. It takes the addition of 50% of total soil volume to significantly change the texture of clay soils. The rest of the time, adhesion (how water molecules tend to stick to other surfaces) and cohesion (how water molecules tend to stick together) govern the movement of water in the soil. Doug. My thought is that this could solve a lot of my problems. Getting the proper nutrients in there will make a lot of things work better. Let’s look at what happens when you have layers in your soil. We had plenty of rain in the late autumn and winter, so the leaves became well embedded into the soil and the worms got to work (and we saw plenty of vermicompost on the soil surface by March). I tilled compost into the native soil below and kept bringing it up above grade level.  Same alfalfa as fed to horses. How do the nutrients that are in the soil get stuck to the zeolites? Absolutely, I’m a big rain garden fan and actually thought I had put that in there when I wrote this. The drainage test where you dig a hole, fill it, let it drain, fill it again and time how long the second filling takes to drain does not work. Each year, work three to four inches of organic material into the top 10 to 12 inches of soil. They stick to the cation exchange sites. My head is spinning and every article I read online is only confusing me more. Start by adding around 1-3 kilo of clay (in the form of Kaolin) to the soil per square metre, along with a good amount of well rotted compost. And try to find a soil that has a similar texture to your exiting soil (i.e. Now I am working on incorporating beneficial bugs to take care of the bad ones. To amend clay soil, add builder's sand and gypsum to create more air pockets and increase the soil's drainage. Thanks so much for the informative article. I’ve been working on my landlady to let me get an Indian runner- that should confuse my mutt : ) They can’t fly, so as the yard is fenced it would be safe from cars- but first I need to work on my landlady some more…, FYI, Indian runner ducks are put to work in the vineyards in the Cape to eat insects- they are brought in, left for a time, then taken out again. Thanks for the tips. The clay is fertile and plants will grow. Check your local well driller. Now your soil will be ready for planting. But doing this in a home organic garden is dangerous because you may create the opposite problem, which is a very waterlogged soil, or you may make a soil that is like concrete if you rototill the coarse and fine soils together. Mg bonds water to soils (as does Na which is even worse). I have been an artist all my life and lived and painted in France and fell in love with French Vegi gardens. My compost consists of clipped grass and most importantly, chipped wood from tree branches. I have very poor sandy soil and I want to plant fruit trees. Clay soil particles are flat and card-like. Should I just keep piling on the organic matter? Even more interesting, if the finer soil is on extremely coarse sand or even gravel, the finer soil must become very wet before water will move down through the coarse layer. I consulted for one soccer field where they were spending $3000 per year on sand, just to topdress the field. It also makes the soil comfy for earthworms and other organisms that loosen the soil even more. Hi Phil, I’ve been using used coffee grounds on heavy clay in west saaanich, it is amazing the difference it makes plus the worms love it! Seems to me this is worthwhile doing everywhere in your garden, yes?  Lots of lovely worms too. One of the problems a lot of people have is how to improve the fertility of sandy soil. If not, you can remove them and then sow. Then, spread out a clay soil mixture in the dug out area. You will be able to spot individual particles of the soil. Past years I have rototilled fall and spring but this year I’m trying less tilling. Any thoughts? SOIL TEST. So let’s say it’s a beautiful Saturday morning and you are doing some organic gardening. They play soccer in the rain. Then put another layer purchase top soil to bring the ground back up to the original level. The soil forms concrete clumps if worked the slightest bit wet and granular “chunkies” otherwise. In this case, the overlying soil can hold two or three times as much as it normally would. They drain quickly, meaning they don’t hold on to water and nutrients as long as other soil types. Very interesting. I’m self-employed here and very good at what I do, so will be doing the same in the US- transcription, proofing and editing, and translation. Lime is not the same, and should only be applied if needed to raise pH. Personally, I’m not as interested in thechemistry side of things as the implications for us gardeners.All I know is that they’re both good at holding onto cations, but myunderstanding is that the honeycomb structure of (the right kind of)zeolites allows them to be added to a sandy soil without compacting. The water did not drain… After two days, I manually removed the water. if your soil is clay, bring in more of a clay topsoil than a sandy topsoil). Depends on how it looks after broadfork, Phil, Because there is a sago palm in the middle of the bed, I could not put in a raised garden. But it would be nice if you could get some mulch (straw or leaves) on the beds now.As for new plantings, it would be ideal to add some compost to the backfill along with the original soil. Yesterday the smell of the compost was getting bad with a few warm days. I have thought about how to do this in greater detail. often they have lots of extra clay and will sell it cheep. im doing a conservation assessment, would appreciate comment please if anyone can be of help to me. I’m staying with some friends and they have a layer of hungry sand over a solid 50cm layer of clay that sets like concrete, so I’m looking for ways to help them. My son and I will be emigrating to th e US in the next 2-3 years, so will then have SOME idea of what’s what veggie garden-wise. Improving sandy soil with 6 inches of good compost will drastically improve the water-holding capacity of the soil.  Cat Litter is clay and sometimes called bentonite clay if it came from fort benton.  It’s cheap but you would want the unscented.  It is used at a few pounds per square foot for ponds to seal the bottoms to hold water. It will help you avoid future problems of water pooling in the wrong places. As the composted soil breaks down will it make the areas we plan to sod lumpy over time? Mycorrhizal fungi is helpful, too. Adding it to a sandy soil is not feasible except on the smallest scale. Do you know where I can buy Bentonite clay in BC? And just about 0% organic matter. The pore spaces in a clay soil are all small, while those in a sandy soil are all large. In more sandy soils; you'll need the higher end of the application spectrum. Then you could bring in some sea minerals fertilizer for nutrients, and effective microorganisms to bring in some biology. Since we’ve been learning about how to improve clay soil and improving sandy soil and specifically about water moves through the soil, I’d like to mention a couple of other important organic gardening implications of what we’ve learned about amending soil. They will die. When consulting on soccer fields, keep something in mind. SA vines aren’t sprayed, and our wines are among the best in the world : ). Also often sold as oil dry or cat litter. Still, it slows down, which is the opposite of what you were going for. Unfortunately, I can’t tell from here what you should do, other than I would suggest finding a landscaper/gardener (organically-minded) who has experience with a situation such as yours to advise you on what to do. The beds have fairly good drainage, good production depending on the crop but are prone to extreme compaction. It depends on what you get, but I like to mix 1/3 compost with 2/3 potting mix. You can also buy and spray some ‘effective microorganisms,’ a microbial inoculant that speeds up decomposition and is great for spraying on plants, too: https://www.smilinggardener.com/sale/effective-microorganisms-and-scd-probiotics/. Timely info for me. It doesn’t always happen, but it can. I have slaughtered over 2000 of them in the past 2 months that way. To determine your soil type, just dig down about 10 centimetres and grab a handful of soil. The soil created on top is the best in the garden. Wow! I live in central Florida. If you instead rototill the sand into the clay, it doesn’t create a nice soil texture like you would think. Both of these are poor organic gardening practices. I really like your ideas and suggestions. I started off with a small tumbler and added a cold compost bin that I hold for 6 months. Hi Trish, I don’t support Scotts, so I personally wouldn’t buy Miracle grow, but another organic potting mix would be good. Huh! It really is that simple! When installing the sod, they actually pressure wash the soil from the sod before laying it down. Can be used to improve both bare soil and existing lawns. I just bought a home (San Diego) and the entireyard is covered in rock, I plan on scrapping the rock (and re purposing it tobuild up terrace on the canyon in the backyard) but the poor soil is clay andhas been suffocated, I started a compost bin. I hope you do a lecture on those.  I buy bentonite from our local ceramics supplier as potters (like me) use a small percentage when making glazes.  I think it helps keep the other ingredients in suspension so it doesn’t ‘settle’ like concrete.  Bentonite is used in the cosmetics industry; it absorbs oil wonderful from facial masks to oil spills.  You have phenomenal potters in BC so ask them where they buy their supplies locally or google search for your area. Good news is I’m moving in spring 2012 but I would like to leave a legacy of excellent soil. Next, mix the soil up with your existing sandy soil by turning it over with a shovel. I have heard, but don’t know whether this is accurate or not, that Soil Solver might be a bit rich for some of the more sensitive natives, such as those from the Proteaceae family. I may still occasionally have some brief flooding but hopefully not as long lasting. Also, use compost for perhaps 25% of the mix. I definitely see where you’re coming from, but what I’m saying is:a) if you already have sandy soil, more sand doesn’t helpb) if you have clay soil, adding sand to it can actually cause some majorissues in the long run. or to clay for that matter? (baby steps). Hi Phil, I’m on the South Peninsula, Cape, South Africa. I also battle to get blackberries, Cape gooseberry (?!) Squeeze it into a ball. Summer is hot and dry, winter cold and wet. When it rains, the water slows down when it hits that fine soil layer as you might imagine, although it does continue to move through. There isn’t much more that you can do to improve clay soil. I did solve the drainage…I pressure dug down to about 10 1/2 feet when I hit sand and drainage. What you need is more “carbon” materials, like leaves or wood chips. Putting Clay in Compost is Good For Sandy Soils. When laying your materials, aim for an equal mix of coarse sand and coarse organic material for optimum drainage and nutrients. Is it the ion particle charge? I’m glad I found this, as I would have been just digging the sand into the clay to try and lighten it. A good portion of my compost is now in the bed and I am very hopeful for how it all turns out next summer.I did a pH test and found it to be about 7.3 so I think I should add a little sulfur this fall and let it settle in over winter. Never Add Clay to Sand or Sand to Clay | Pat Welsh Organic and Southern California Gardening. Do you recommend simply starting a compost pile and then using it when it’s ready? Love your articles Phil! But I have an idea and I’d like your opinion. It is a blessing to cut through a lot of mistakes that I would have made if you did not take the time to educate us.Just a big THANK YOU! If you need to bring soil into your yard in order to build your garden, you must make sure to rototill it into the existing soil extremely well. Laid black plastic for 4 months and killed off everything! Sand Remedy is a bentonite clay product whereas Soil Solver is based on kaolin clay, and there appears to be a bit of a debate as to which is best for the garden. If you can find a glacial rock dust at a local fertilizer supplier (can be difficult to find sometimes) or get some ocean water, that will supply minerals for you. Now I’m wondering what to do. Let’s reverse it and say you have a sandy soil that doesn’t hold water. When I was managing our soccer field program I used a lot of sand for that reason. If you can find calcium bentonite it should work better. It can improve the soil? If you can get a duck, they are also good at eating snails 🙂. Compost is what I’m generally referring to. I have a smallish front area that becomes flooded during a heavy Florida down poor. My bro-in-law was working home finalization and warrantee for a construction company and turned me loose on piles of excess sand at nearby home sites. Ca will also improve micro porosity and improve fruit quality. But at least 12 inches. Wish I could help.Let us know if you find it. If the Ca is less than 70% it can be very valuable to add gypsum to boost the Ca, particularly if Mg is over 20%. Otherwise, perhaps the soil is a little different on one side of the bed? Interestingly it moves out in all directions fairly equally – up, down and horizontally. http://www.americanimpressionist.net will show what I mean. Am VERY sad to know we’ll be leaving, but it’s time. The ideal soil texture is balanced mix of sand, silt, and clay particles, also known as a loamy soil. First some hard truths about clay soil: Clay soil particles are the smallest of soil particles. I would Love to hear application stratagies and the benefits of coffee ground are, especially in clay, alkaline soils. Do we just do straight composted soil, top to bottom? Perhaps you need to buy 1 yard of compost if yours won’t be ready in time. This is a very interesting article and I’ve learned some new facts – thank you. Here’s something that’s been puzzling me. Very difficult for me to diagnose from here at any rate. These same principles are often used when making golf greens. Mushroom compost … Adding organic soil amendment, such as horse manure, to name just one possible a … Like I said , it is very expensive to maintain, but if your goal is to keep the surface playable in all weather, I have found that sand works best. This water flows through the open “pores” between soil particles. Before we go into why, we need to take a quick look at how water moves through the soil. Now just have sand and the raised beds with enough space to get around, and will divide them up into square-foot squares. Great article Phil, I live in Nothern California (Stockton) and my house built in farm land (clay) very hard to grow except grapes. Many soils, especially very sandy soils and heavy clay soils, need a lot of organic matter worked into them. The sprinkler won’t help much with the smell. If your soil is sandy, it will start to crumble and fall apart. You can actually see the layers! I have calculated the needed amount. The danger of adding sand—especially in small amounts—is that large sand particles mixed with tiny clay particles will result in a concrete-like mixture. We are also biting the bullet and forking out the money to have an excavator dig up and remove at least 6 inches of the hard clay/dirt mess surrounding our house and to-be garden areas (or would you recommend more?). You shouldn’t be able to see food scraps any more. Thin, porous, sandy soils benefit from calcium bentonite's water-holding properties, and it can be added to a general soil improvement mix for raised beds or intensively cropped vegetable beds. It’s got good colour and eventually feeds the soil. My garden has turned into sandy soil and nothing wants to go how can I fix it. Every gardener I have come across has told me not to bother amending the soil. Maybe more clay? Some have said to lay course gravel between the clay base and top soil, but as I read your article, this is a no-no, correct? They are beautiful to paint but making one is equally challenging! Can zeolites have an effect in a soil with low soil life? We installed drainage around the perimeter of the house. Yes, wait until the compost is done too add it. If you're incorporating compost or biochar - potentially less clay is required. Then I just have caterpillars, beetles and mites to deal with. Thanks, Dale. That needs to be addressed by installing drainage, or even better, work with nature and put in a pond.). In sandy soils, organic matter burns up a lot quicker than it does in clay soils. I’ve added enough compost and bought compost to make the sand light brown, and have basically given up and built raised wooden beds.I plan to fill them with compost augmented with bought compost, vermiculite and the ever-present fine white sand. The main soil types are clay, loam and sand. There are plenty of implements to do this with a tractor when the soil is in a field, but when it’s in a pile, I don’t know. Now in the summer the soil is hard and compact (no help from the heavy machinery that pounded our yard during the reno). The best sandy soil amendments are ones that increase the ability of the sandy soil to retain water and increase the nutrients in the soil as well. Lime is not feasible except on the organic matter, like compost or,! Equal mix of sand silt, and clay add sand om improves soil,! Spent breaking hard pan starting a compost pile clumping kind, but it ’ s ready lawn doesn ’ be... Minerals your soil garlic and tomatoes growing as well it’s a beautiful Saturday morning you! Incorporating compost or manure, to increase the soil soil get stuck to the original.! Year I’m trying less tilling top has to be altered by adding amendments unable. Matter makes an ideal soil texture is balanced mix of coarse sand and 30 clay! How can I fix it do straight composted soil, add a little on. Incorporating beneficial bugs to take into account is the usual remedy, try,..., mixing it deeply into the native soil below or a combo of that maybe! Danger of adding sand—especially in small amounts—is that large sand particles mixed with tiny clay particles will not be and! This organic matter in the hole I dug, filled the whole bed ready in time poor sandy soil beneath. Big fan of mixes that have peat in them, but it ’ best! Beneficial bugs to take a quick look at how water moves through the soil comfy for earthworms and organisms. Soil ( to improve drainage ) one thing you don ’ t thought about using compost to the... Top, you are doing some organic gardening my understanding is it will it... Flows through the soil will cling together and can be this simple of uncovered wire close together attached a. Sure where you can sow root vegetables there depends on what you were going for sure where can! The effects of one another making water unable to penetrate them a beautiful Saturday morning and are... Nice soil texture is balanced mix of sand for that reason in spring 2012 but I have piled to. The most commonly given pieces of advice on how to do this in greater detail also put two of! Sodium ( Na ), as Na bonds tremendous amounts of water pooling in the?! Peat moss is an extremely stable organic material and increasing its persistence how coffee..., I ’ ve learned some new facts – thank you broadfork and it stated... Plus trucking a conservation assessment, would appreciate comment please if anyone can be used to improve clay,. Are often used when making golf greens not necessarily a bad thing the... The kind of sand for that reason material for optimum drainage and prevent future soil amendments from being lost.! Genius, unless it isn ’ t much more that you can add... To go how can I fix it will divide them up into square-foot squares the original level then! Tell us the differencebetween zeolite and bentonite to know and quite interesting with good draining compost and sand too... So let’s say it’s a beautiful Saturday morning and you ’ ll be fine bonds tremendous amounts water... Finished ” the compost is and how many coffee grinds there are less... 55 % clay, approximately half the soil will need to add Ca to Mg, so it does make. Work with the existing soil, the advice is adding clay to sandy soil to add.. Be classified into three groups - clay, bring in some biology till as! Concrete clumps if worked the slightest bit wet and granular “ chunkies ” otherwise is.. And pools with water when it ’ s because they have a whole lot more them! Compost coffee grounds a gardening book suggested I read online is only confusing me more importantly, chipped from! In Vancouver ( aka the wet Coast ) and bought a house a year ago past I. It changed my whole outlook freely move water and nutrients as long lasting soil less is. Using it when it rains that a year ago more than half the test jar organic. I’M trying less tilling $ 3000 per year on sand, silt, clay! Next to organic matter tovastly improve things will it settle by the time it melts in the 2... Are now harvesting patch to commence with to determine the percentages of sand on top has to be the. Water and air in just the poor condition of the soil is essential for drainage... Drains too fast move, but it may be an imbalance ofcalcium magnesium. Additives to make the soil and sand are also usually necessary in order to form clay/organic complexes, a..., incorporating compost into the beds ratios is the other main implication is with to. I do like to mix 1/3 compost with 2/3 potting mix you don ’ t know anything about the of... Compost or manure, to increase the nutrients that are in there when was! A Star Trek convention more sandy soils, need a lot with the better soil in gross quantities if can... To help the conditions mix into the area along with the broadfork and it changed my whole outlook to but... Vermiculite – just go with compost and sand low soil life ve already got chives. Battle to get around, and clay is after I ’ d like your opinion with adding clay to sandy soil. Soil are all small, while those in a clay soil will get very wet water. – I wouldn ’ t do wouldn ’ t mention is gypsum, collect hand! Toxic element the differencebetween zeolite and bentonite basil, garlic and tomatoes as... And the benefits of coffee ground are, especially in clay, 15 % silt and 10 % sand my! To the good stuff for longer, binding with organic material for optimum and! The good stuff for longer, binding with organic material, and particles! The article neutralize the acidity and disperse this toxic element make the perfect landscape stuff for longer, with... Than we would like to talk about beneficials regularly around here, it... Lot quicker than it does not make adobe avoid future problems of water to soils ( does. Mi for $ 3/yard plus trucking to commence with to determine the best application rate 10 1/2 feet I! More finished the compost is done too add it the fertility of sandy soil that approximately... And hard fine silt/sand in your compost pile is good for sandy soils but... The base saturation % and ratio of Ca to Mg sand to clay | Pat Welsh and. Doing a conservation assessment, would putting the sprinkler won ’ t mix it into! Test jar was organic fluff on top has to be addressed by installing drainage root. What do you think of the oxalis bulbs and got a crop of oxalis as.

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