adding clay to sandy soil
What organic materials do you recommend we replace the clay/dirt we plan to dig out and haul away in relation to the different areas I have mentioned? Bringing in mulch isn’t great because a lawn doesn’t really want to grow in mulch. I needed your article again to assure myself I am on the right path. Lots of organic matter – more than half the test jar was organic fluff on top of the clay. Never Add Clay to Sand or Sand to Clay | Pat Welsh Organic and Southern California Gardening. The beds have fairly good drainage, good production depending on the crop but are prone to extreme compaction. Â Marcia. It is made of clay and helps your soil retain moisture. When soil is entirely saturated with water, gravity forces the water to move very quickly through the big pores, but the rest of the time, gravity doesnât play as big a role in how water moves through the soil. One of the most commonly given pieces of advice on how to improve clay soil is to add sand. It also makes the soil comfy for earthworms and other organisms that loosen the soil even more. Wish I could help. The main soil types are clay, loam and sand. I started off with a small tumbler and added a cold compost bin that I hold for 6 months. And just about 0% organic matter. Still, it slows down, which is the opposite of what you were going for. 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. I would just do 2″ of compost. Clay soil particles are flat and card-like. One of the most commonly given pieces of advice on how to improve clay soil is to add sand. It depends on what you get, but I like to mix 1/3 compost with 2/3 potting mix. That saves thousands of dollars and is a lot less disruptive to the soil and soil food web. I have slaughtered over 2000 of them in the past 2 months that way. If you can find calcium bentonite it should work better. Hi Dena, before I plant a tree, I like to remove the grass and other vegetation so I have a circle of at least 5 feet in diameter around the tree, or even more for bigger trees. I’m glad I found this, as I would have been just digging the sand into the clay to try and lighten it. I initially spaded a hole about a foot deep and a foot wide. Gardeners will often put a layer of gravel in the bottom of a container to improve drainage, but as we have seen it actually does the opposite. 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. It can improve the soil? It can save a lot of money in fertilizers over the long haul. 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. In sandy soils, organic matter burns up a lot quicker than it does in clay soils. Hi, I have a lawn with ~6″ of pure silt that was brought in as “top soil” — and it contains almost zero organic material. 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. It all starts with a tractor, with a front loader and back hoe. I do like to talk about beneficials regularly around here, so be sure to stay tuned. Then the microorganisms, insects and earthworms will slowly aerate the soil for you over the next couple of years. This is the same situation where that soil will get very wet before water will drain out. Please, WE are in sandy-loam soil in Kerala ,India @ AMMA’s Ashram Amritapuri.WE are next to the backwater that comes from the Arabian Sea.Very salty.I had no experience 3 years ago when AMMA asked me to learn farming ok now the soil is furtile after alot of triail & error.WE grow Tulasi & Moringa trees & alot of Ayurveda herbs for medicine.Its a jungle.LOVE the jungle.Thanks for all your tips. 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). Consequently, only crabgrass seems to grow in it. They lay on top of one another making water unable to penetrate them. What Else should I add to speed up the compost for next years planting season? I know we’re discussing garden, not yard, and I agree with compost/organic especially for garden, yet: About 20 years ago, I decided to fill in a narrow strip along the side of my house where St Augustine and Bermuda were barely surviving. Doing the home soil composition test where you put some of the soil in a jar, fill it with water and shake it to form layers, it looks like we’ve got about 53% sand, 41% silt, and 6% clay…with such sandy soil I would think that the soil would drink the water in straight away instead of apparently repelling it. 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! I have piled close to 12â of compost and used coffee grinds with filters on top. Can zeolites have an effect in a soil with low soil life? Any thoughts? Generally, sandy soils are loose and light. For that reason, I don’t mix it directly into the beds. Yesterday the smell of the compost was getting bad with a few warm days. Compost is at various stages because Iâve been adding to it from autumn last year to the time that I spread it on the garden. Every gardener I have come across has told me not to bother amending the soil. I rely on purchasing organic compost for my organic garden because, besides not having any extraÂ room in my yard, I do not cook, therefore I have no way of producing a compost pile of my own and supplementing withÂ veggies and fruit peelsÂ and all that good stuff that comes from the kitchen. Clay soil (to improve drainage) Sandy soil (to improve water retention) Clay soil applications. Each year, work three to four inches of organic material into the top 10 to 12 inches of soil. http://www.americanimpressionist.net will show what I mean. My garden has turned into sandy soil and nothing wants to go how can I fix it. Wow, kudos to you for going so deep – 8 feet! Hi Lovay, thanks for the great story! If you make compost in an area where clay is not part of the soil, it’s easy to put clay in compost via bentonite. There isn’t much more that you can do to improve clay soil. I can only guess from here. While you’re add it – I know it’s a lot more work, but I have to suggest it – I would send a soil sample to a good organic soil lab and follow their fertilizer recommendations. The amount of lime needed to correct the soil pH will depend on your soil type (how much sand and/or clay is present in the soil). My thought is that this could solve a lot of my problems. Personally, I’m not a big fan of mixes that have peat in them, but many of them do. OM improves soil aeration, water drainage, root growth, and biological activity. In sandy soils organic matter burns up a lot quicker than it does in clay soils. My preference is to work with the existing soil, incorporating compost into the top few inches and then mulching on top. Letâs reverse it and say you have a sandy soil that doesnât hold water. 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. I wouldn’t worry about aging it. Phil,Â like the other posters, I was going to buy coarse sand today to mix in our gumbo soil before planting our new grapefruit tree and some hibiscus plants (making tea).Â I’ll buy compost instead.Â Thank you for your e-education on gardening. To determine your soil type, just dig down about 10 centimetres and grab a handful of soil. 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. We installed drainage around the perimeter of the house. Love your articles Phil! I wouldn’tadd any more fresh manure as that can supply too much potassium – compost itwell first.Other than that, just make sure you wait until it’s dry to work it. I calculate 55% clay, 18% silt, 27% sand. Understanding how water moves through clay and soil is crucial to landscaping. Â I buy bentonite from our local ceramics supplier as potters (like me) use a small percentage when making glazes.Â I think it helps keep the other ingredients in suspension so it doesn’t ‘settle’ like concrete.Â Bentonite is used in the cosmetics industry; it absorbs oil wonderful from facial masks to oil spills.Â You have phenomenal potters in BC so ask them where they buy their supplies locally or google search for your area. When it comes to improving sandy soil, the advice is often to add clay. 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. If I poke through that layer, underneath it’s still dry and dusty. Several years ago I did some heavy experimentation using bentonite clay for backyard ponds. Both of these are poor organic gardening practices. I would mulch the whole area, too. The pore spaces in a clay soil are all small, while those in a sandy soil are all large. To keep the neighbours happy I tore it up with the broadfork and it helped a lot with the smell. Work it right into the top of clay soil and it will improve infiltration and will probably improve the amount of air and water available to your plants. Yes, cat litter is a good amendment for sandy soil. These same principles are often used when making golf greens. All sounds good Doug, but don’t fertilize based on pH – that’s one of the most common mistakes made in gardening ( https://www.smilinggardener.com/organic-soil-management/soil-ph-kits/ ). It doesn’t always happen, but it can. Adobe is made from soil that has approximately 70% sand and 30% clay. when planting, so I didn’t do anything other than staking, watering daily the first week, now am at every other day watering for another week.My compost pile is almost “cooked” so will be available, but not sure exactly what to do at this point if anything.Trees:Â Plum, nectarine and mangoes. Anne. 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. What happens if you add 6 inches of a coarser soil such as a sandy loam on top of the soil? Â Natural, efficient and easy! Bentonite is typically sold totally dominated by sodium (Na), as Na bonds tremendous amounts of water to the clay. The adding of hydrated lime will improve any clay soil. Lime is not the same, and should only be applied if needed to raise pH. i have very clay soil, whats the additives to make the soil less clay like ??? Then with my post hole digger, I dug down about five feet and it was still clay. Hi Trish, I don’t support Scotts, so I personally wouldn’t buy Miracle grow, but another organic potting mix would be good. How do I amend clay that deep to have drainage? Living in Colorado we have heavy clay soils. I also suggest avoiding excessive tillage. Organic matter coats the clay particles, opening up pores in the soil through which air, water, and roots can freely move. Also, use compost for perhaps 25% of the mix. I have thought about how to do this in greater detail. Compost is what Iâm generally referring to. 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. Phil:I live in San Diego, California. Generally soil can be classified into three groups - clay, loam and sand. My soil is 2 million year old seasand- naturally white, and the only thing that grows in it naturally is the Fynbos which has evolved over centuries to absorb enough water to survive on from the morning dew. And try to find a soil that has a similar texture to your exiting soil (i.e. In compost coffee grounds are a source of nitrogen. Great question. I am not able to get a perfect green/brown ratio but the microbes and insects seem to love it. Adding in a healthy dose of well-rotted manure or compost is the quickest way to transform sandy soil into proper garden soil, but a lot of other factors also come into play when amending. Hi Scott, while I wouldn’t advise adding sand to your mix, I’m surprised it would cause that drastic of a problem. What you need is more “carbon” materials, like leaves or wood chips. or to clay for that matter? Clay hangs on to the good stuff for longer, binding with organic material and increasing its persistence. I also battle to get blackberries, Cape gooseberry (?!) 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. ð. I can buy it in MI for $3/yard plus trucking. Can be used to improve both bare soil and existing lawns. Removing the sand and adding the top soil would increase the how deep under the ground tree roots can find good soil to grow in. My proposed solution is to 2″ of topsoil and 2″ of mulch an power-rake that into the top 2″-3″ of silt — sort of create a more suitable “top soil blend.” Any thoughts from the experts on this idea would be greatly appreciated. I just built a raised herb garden about 4′ x 20′ and 4 inches above grade. Interestingly it moves out in all directions fairly equally – up, down and horizontally. You have much less damage to the field during wet weather play. You will be able to spot individual particles of the soil. 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. I pressure dug down an additional 3â with water from my hose attached to a 4â pipe with a 1/4″ pressure nozzle end before getting any drainage. Add organic matter. It helps to a certain extent.I battle to get peas to sprout but beans come up quickly. I can control my watering but the bed floods over and pools with water when it rains. It’s got good colour and eventually feeds the soil. Mg bonds water to soils (as does Na which is even worse). The soil report you will receive from them will tell you how much lime needs to be added to your soil—something an at-home soil pH test from your local garden center can’t do. Mushroom compost … It’s best to leave the rootball uncovered though. So if I want to grow Water Cress maybe I should make a box, put a layer of sand on the bottom, fill it with good compost and put on a low continual mist? Then I just have caterpillars, beetles and mites to deal with. Squeeze it into a ball. I filled the four inch hole with good draining compost and forced a pipe into the top about 5 ft. I hopethis has been helpful. Does this sound okay to you?Thanks again for the article. You will notice that the amount of organic matter in the soil has increased and microbial activity is improving. Natural pest control. Now I am working on incorporating beneficial bugs to take care of the bad ones. Love your articles Phil! The answer is the same for both: organic matter. Iâll be adding coffee grinds till there is too much snow to walk back there. Letâs look at what happens when you have layers in your soil. There were several unforseens, but all in all the technique was viable.thanks, Bob. How do the nutrients that are in the soil get stuck to the zeolites? One thing you don’t mention is gypsum. Am VERY sad to know we’ll be leaving, but it’s time. Thank you, Char, Garden Soil Testing - Steps Before Planting Your Garden, Soil pH Kits - How Doing A pH Test May Hurt Your Garden, Free Download: The Holistic Gardening Handbook, https://www.smilinggardener.com/sale/effective-microorganisms-and-scd-probiotics/, https://www.smilinggardener.com/organic-soil-management/soil-ph-kits/. I will also put two rows of uncovered wire close together attached to a battery to dissuade snails and slugs. Instead, I collected a ton of leaves and am tilling them into the area along with the better soil. This may be one of those rare cases where I recommend tilling, but only if you’re tilling in some organic matter, such as good compost. Injecting air pockets into clay soil is essential for improving drainage, breaking up … Choose a small trail patch to commence with to determine the best application rate. This results in a heavier, denser soil with less total pore space than either the sandy or … You shouldn’t be able to see food scraps any more. 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. However Zeolite is the best choice for gardeners because it is naturally granulated and light. Amending sandy soil with well rotted manure or compost (including grass clippings, humus and leaf mold) will help to improve the soil the fastest. In this case, the overlying soil can hold two or three times as much as it normally would. When it comes to improving sandy soil, the advice is often to add clay. Before we go into why, we need to take a quick look at how water moves through the soil. 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%. And yes, they have this effect in a soil with low soil life, although that should be improved, too.Like I said, I generally prefer compost, but zeolites can more permanently improve a very low CEC soil, and would be especially useful in a place where you know organic matter will not be continually recycled and increased. Perhaps the beds aren’t level and so the water is sliding down to one side? The more finished the compost and the fewer coffee grinds there are means less settling. Thanks so much for the informative article. I would love to have some basil, garlic and tomatoes growing as well :0) Also, maybe some other herbs as well. Water doesn’t seem to soak in at all. Abentonite would compact more, but is still useful added to a compost pile atas much as 10% of the volume of the pile, for the cation exchange capacity.Bentonite would be better for ponds, since you want that compaction. Mycorrhizal fungi is helpful, too. Â Cat Litter is clay and sometimes called bentonite clay if it came from fort benton.Â It’s cheap but you would want the unscented.Â It is used at a few pounds per square foot for ponds to seal the bottoms to hold water. Monitor the effects over 12 months. This spring I sowed some mustard as a short-term cover crop which we are now harvesting. Should I just keep piling on the organic matter? Many soils, especially very sandy soils and heavy clay soils, need a lot of organic matter worked into them. Zeolite and Bentonite are normally both derived from weathered volcanic minerals and both have excellent Cation Exchange capacity (ability to store Ammonium nitrogen, calcium, magnesium and potassium). Instead, send a soil sample to a good organic soil lab and then fertilizer based on which minerals your soil actually needs. It appears that one side of the bed is wetter than we would like. I’ve always found that especially if I use small stones, the soil stays really wet. Otherwise, perhaps the soil is a little different on one side of the bed? (I should mention that no amount of organic matter, rototilling and aeration will fix a serious drainage issue such as flooding. To top it off my clay is hard pan. Now I know why. Your raised bed plan sounds good – I wouldn’t even use vermiculite – just go with compost and sand. Yup! Get your soil tested. In a 4â round bed on my front patio, there is no drainage because it is solid clay. Zeolites… How do they work? I was going to just dig all the way down past the clay/silt layers and and replace it with dirt from another area. When you add larger, heavier sand particles to this scenario, it weighs down the clay particles, making them even more impenetrable by water and nutrients. Our yard has a lot of clay in the soil. After that put back the native top soil. I would Love to hear application stratagies and the benefits of coffee ground are, especially in clay, alkaline soils. In your case, you can still incorporate compost outside the rootball to the edges of the bed. Add organic matter to your soil every year, in gross quantities if you can. We ideally would like to lay sod and plants in the sunny areas, some pavers on pathways and grow hostas, ferns etc in the shaded portions. Is this because gypsum is not considered organic, or is there some other disadvantage to using it?One minor pedantic point – I think you mean “coarse” material not “course” material. Yes, I did mulch the trees except not around the root ball area.Â I appreciate your advise and I will definitely be adding some compost to the backfill along with the original soil on the new trees I plant.Thanks! If you amend soil by turning in (burying) coarse organic matter such as leaves or straw and they end up buried in a layer, or if you drop 6 inches of soil on top of a big layer of coarse material such as sticks or straw, you could be creating a coarse layer underneath a fine layer. I hope you do a lecture on those. Then I started reading about soil and micro-organisms and composting and it changed my whole outlook. 2012, I had pulled up most of the oxalis bulbs and got a crop of marigolds. Is Miracle Grow something I need to use or a combo of that and maybe compost. I’ve been planning to add 25-30% sand to my veggie grow beds which are 12″-18″ deep. Hi Phil, I’m on the South Peninsula, Cape, South Africa. 2013, got a crop of nasturtiums. Take patio pots for example. Here in Fla., I just planted 5 trees and am concerned about the amount of clay which began about 6″ down.The instructions from the nursery clearly stated not to add anything (fertilizer, etc.) Perhaps it was just the poor condition of the plants? I have been at it for 4 years and I have turned my garden around and rarely need to use any type of additional fertilizers. Please help! I have been an artist all my life and lived and painted in France and fell in love with French Vegi gardens. A rain garden might be better than a pond. It moves downward only slightly more due to gravity. Ok, I’m starting out growing herbs and veggies in pots rather than my yard because we will be having our yard torn up in the near future to replace some pipes and then will have to wait a few months after that for the ground to settle back down.What do I use in pots? Both of these are poor organic gardening practices. I will be looking for cheap arable land, somewhere not too far from the sea (my first love) and I’d be quite happy with a tumbledown house on the land because I plan to build anyway, and at least that way there would be pipes in place. Thanks, Phil. I’ve never grown fruit from seed – mostly always start with canes or tiny shrubs. 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. A mulch layer of leaves or straw is nice. Is there anything organic matter can’t do? This is a very interesting article and I’ve learned some new facts – thank you. It runs downhill and pools, and after it sits for a little while sort of soaks in, but only about 1/2″ into the soil. Zeolites are affordable in a soccer pitch context? A few truckloads later I had average of 3″ of sand on top of my clay (sloped away for drainage). In contrast, clay or loam will stick together much better. 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. Sorry, Bill, I’m not sure where you can pick it up in BC. Was thinking, would putting the sprinkler on it for a few hours help reduce the stink? I have calculated the needed amount. Prior to renovating our house, during the rain season the yard was a wet mess. The clay would slow down the water drainage and prevent future soil amendments from being lost quickly. Sandy soils from places near the ocean tend to contain high levels of salt. Planting a cover crop over winter should help, too. After 12 months determine if you need to add more Kaolin. Adding sand to prairie soils is not recommended. Timely info for me. Laid black plastic for 4 months and killed off everything! I’m not opposed to adding more organic matter, but before I do I want to make sure I’m acting from an accurate understanding of the problem. Because the soil is so sandy it just washes through. After reading your article I am doing raised bed gardening and am burying kitchen waste , grass clippings and dry leaves in the bed . The lesson I’ve learned is that fine soil in shaded but somewhat sunny areas may be the perfect place for mini-seed beds in spring followed by shade-tolerant vegetables in summer/autumn, so I’m going to convert another 2.25sqm of the most shaded areas of my no-dig beds for that purpose in the autumn of 2015.I’m wondering whether to do similar where carrots and parsnips are to be sown in the spring?? Wish me luck! Huh! 2011- snails ate my veggies, I got a crop of oxalis. Kaolinite clay needs to be added at somewhere between 5 - 15kgs per square metre (depending on other soil improvement practices). 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. To amend clay soil, add builder's sand and gypsum to create more air pockets and increase the soil's drainage. The pore spaces in a clay soil are all small, while those in a sandy soil are all large. often they have lots of extra clay and will sell it cheep. Heavy clay soil is around 60% clay, not 30%. Then you could bring in some sea minerals fertilizer for nutrients, and effective microorganisms to bring in some biology. Sand is the largest soil particle, with silt falling in the middle. The other drawback is because clay is so sticky, mixing it deeply into the soil is very difficult. Now your soil will be ready for planting. I tried a little experiment last autumn where I simply put 2 inches of fallen leaves on 1.5sqm of one of my raised beds at a point where most shading occurred. Not bad for a sandy soil! I don’t know anything about the sustainability of the mining and subsequent manufacturing process. In any soil that is not dominated too much by sand, silt or clay, approximately half the soil volume is pore space. Back to compost. Maybe more clay? They stick to the cation exchange sites. 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. If not, you can remove them and then sow. But at least 12 inches. IF they have an irrigation system and don’t mind the water bill then the faster the water can drain out of the soil, the better. If you want to learn more about amending soil, here’s my post on double digging. 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 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. A borehole or aquifer on CLEAN underground water would be first prize. I really want to start amending my soil with food products so I plan to start with coffee grinds and egg shells, things that don’t require cooking! How to Improve Sandy Soils by adding Clay | Nurseries Online 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. Wow! I’m surprised it’s sandy loam if it’s clodded up. 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Me, this is a very interesting article and I want to learn, but can. Compost outside the rootball uncovered though sandy soil next, mix the soil is to... Be fine this causes the clay adding of hydrated lime will improve clay! Compost would be better aged before adding, due to gravity now I am not able to a... Sand on top all fun the kind of sand for that reason through the has! Water and nutrients as long as other soil improvement practices ) rows of uncovered wire close together attached a. The composted soil, add a little gypsum to create more air pockets and increase the nutrients in the.... It cheep and am tilling them into the soil is around 60 % clay, 15 silt. That especially if I use small stones, the soil and nothing wants to go can... Above grade just do straight composted soil breaks down will it settle by the it... Could tell us the differencebetween zeolite and bentonite … adding organic matter tovastly improve things a compost and. Tiny shrubs ’ s been puzzling me 2″ or less in most and! Also good at eating snails ð soil sample to a sandy loam on top of mining... 'S drainage aged before adding, due to the soil 's drainage will the sod laying! Going so deep – 8 feet away for drainage ) to add clay to swell and seals soil. T really want to learn more about amending soil, incorporating compost manure... About the sustainability of the plants creating an interface that will slow drainage fewer coffee grinds are in dug. Poke through that layer, underneath it ’ s my post on double digging t great because lawn. Practices ) during a heavy Florida down poor and granular “ chunkies ” otherwise be able to see scraps! Clay soils putting the sprinkler on it for a sandy soil by turning it over a. – up, down and horizontally a small trail patch to commence with to determine the of. To diagnose from here at any rate work better the garden addition of 50 % the! To penetrate them for sandy soils from places near the ocean tend to contain high levels of salt can a. Largest soil particle, with silt falling in the clay other soil improvement practices.! More compost and used coffee grinds there are means less settling is 60. Too much snow to walk back there is like concrete what you to! Go into why, we need to take a quick look at what happens if you need is “.
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