Its Clay

pipnsox
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9:21 PM - Mar 15, 2004 #1

The first turf was turned in the front garden today. An area that has been laid to grass ever since the house was built.
I rushed out and picked up a lump of the soil (the builders thought I was mad) only to discover that by the front boundary at least I have clay with a load of stones mixed in.
I have absolutely no experience of gardening on clay. I know you have to add stuff to break it down, and seeing as I am going to be doing a bit of work on the soil prior to planting can anyone recommend what is the best thing to use?
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Nigella
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9:27 PM - Mar 15, 2004 #2

No experience myself, Pip, but I was talking to someone yesterday who has used spent mushroom compost to good effect. I think any kind of organic matter helps, and don't forget, clay isn't all bad news- it's usually high in nutrients.
Caroline
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wannabegardener
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9:32 PM - Mar 15, 2004 #3

Having clay soil myself, Pip , the only downside I can see is poor drainage then when it does dry , it dries completely out and will crack on you .
I've added both sand and compost to mine in the beds just to help with the drainage issue.
There are of course several plants that perform well in clay .
Peroskia atrifolia sp.? Russian sage , Baptisia , native Hereocallis sp.? -and of course , ornamental grasses.
You could always mix those in your borders if you don't wish to do amendments.
The only reason people get lost in thought is because it's unfamiliar territory.
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Saph5
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10:14 PM - Mar 15, 2004 #4

You've seen my garden Pip, I garden on clay.
I just use top soil, mixed with farmyard manure and soil improver, then add grit and mix together and dig in. I would say the top 8" is good soil, but it doen't stop things growing, as it was said earlier, clay is full of nutrients.
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salli c
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10:21 PM - Mar 15, 2004 #5

Some parts of my garden are pretty clay-y too Pip. Over the years I have added old compost, leaf mould and grit which has much improved the soil. Pretty much anything really. I agree clay is not bad to garden on - just don't do anything with it when it's wet.
What does soil improver contain Saph/anyone?


xx-Sal-xx





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Saph5
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10:26 PM - Mar 15, 2004 #6

Soil Improvers
The term "soil improver" incorporates true soil improvers, tree planting composts surface mulches and specialist products such as turf dressings.
True soil improvers are materials that are added to improve a soil's physical condition, either by improving structure and/or increasing water-holding capacity. To achieve this, they should have a large organic matter content. pH and nutrient content are relatively unimportant. They should be largely free of weeds and physical hazards such as glass and metal. There should normally be a wide range of particle sizes from dust up to about 25 mm.
Tree-planting composts are a specialist form of soil improver. Again, the main component is organic matter but a significant nutrient content is also desirable and particle size should be slightly smaller.
Turf dressings are similar in properties to tree-planting composts, but a lower organic matter content can be tolerated. The most stringent requirements are fine particle size and absence of sharps such as stones, glass, metal and sharp plastic.
Surface mulches have two main functions: firstly, to suppress weed growth and secondly, to conserve soil moisture. For both purposes, the product must be of coarse particle size, typically over 20 mm, to allow water to enter and the surface to dry quickly hence preventing weed establishment. The colour should ideally be dark brown or black since this is more aesthetically pleasing. A low nutrient content is desirable though not essential to discourage those weeds which do become established.
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PauleneS
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10:32 PM - Mar 15, 2004 #7

Ex clay and blue slipper in my last one. I go along with all thats been said, organic matter and coarse grit. Will do the job, gets better as it all worked in
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C.A.
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10:53 PM - Mar 15, 2004 #8

We've got clay and we had it in our first garden too. I've mixed in horticultural grit and added compost to the beds as I've dug them over. Those that I did first are reasonably easy to dig over this year - and I can tell immediately when I hit a patch which hasn't received any treatment. Its certainly worth doing. Now that its been raining for a couple of days I find the soil much easier to work - it is much harder in the middle of a dry summer - wonderful excuse to just sit in the garden instead of working in it.
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BunnyNo2
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12:39 AM - Mar 16, 2004 #9


Horse poo! Lots & lots or horse poo!
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pipnsox
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8:42 AM - Mar 16, 2004 #10

Thanks for all your advice From what has been posted it looks like the best thing to do is to chuck anything that I have to hand onto it.
I've got a good bulk supplier of mushroom compost, and I can trundle the seaweed off of the beach and pile it on (neighbours will love me for that one). Then I'll see what else is available and pile it on top.
As it is such a large area I was thinking of using a rotavator on it to begin with. Obviously from what you have said I need to be sure the ground is reasonably dry before I do that, but is it best to rotavate first and then throw the muck and bullets on?
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salli c
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8:52 AM - Mar 16, 2004 #11

Yes, I would say so Pip. A rotavator made a huge amount of difference to the time it took me to get my soil workable at the bottom of the garden. I wouldn't have been able to manage it myself though - mum's OH did it for me. He's a big man but still found it quite heavy going.
Thanks for the info Saph.

xx-Sal-xx





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macywack
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10:12 AM - Mar 16, 2004 #12

Mines all clay, no wonder the previous owner had little or no borders. 19 years ago I started with spent mushroom compost, till i got my garden comost bins up and running, and then it started to improve. You will notice from my garden piccies that a have an alpine border. The border was dug out 2 spade depths, then back filled using 1/3rd peat, 1/3 horticultural sand, 1/3 soil. The veggie borders were raised using railway sleepers, and topsoil bought in. When the garden is wet its sticky, and when its dry its like concrete.
good luck Pip
macy
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MacT1
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7:33 PM - Mar 16, 2004 #13

We had clay soil when we were in Croydon Pip and initially we dug in loads of leaves from the woods opposite us along with manure when we could get it , and compost from our compost heap. We didn't plant much for a couple of years so we could put as much in as possible . Eventually the ground became much more manageable .....and we left it when it was just getting to a good manageable state
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scotia10
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9:48 PM - Mar 16, 2004 #14

Hi Pip,
You say I have clay with a load of stones mixed in. this is commonly called boulder clay.
Which to my mind will not need the gritty materials pure clay needs to get it free draining,I guess yours already is.
As you say From what has been posted it looks like the best thing to do is to chuck anything that I have to hand onto it.
I've got a good bulk supplier of mushroom compost, and I can trundle the seaweed off of the beach and pile it on
is the best answer in order to get a bit of body/humus into the soil.
Digging in the lawn turf should help, but keep a look out for weeds.
You seem to have it all in hand, in a few years time you will wonder what all the fuss was about

http://www.thegardenersalmanac.co.uk
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pipnsox
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10:22 PM - Mar 16, 2004 #15

Mac. I am planning to leave the beds fallow for a while so that I can improve them without the interference of plants, but I'm not sure if I shall be able to keep to that plan
Scotia. I shall grab whatever I can to get it right. The land that the house is built on used to be marsh land with many natural ponds and frequent flooding by the sea. I'm talking about over 40 years ago now and with the sea defences I have no problems, but that was just to give a wee bit of background.
I think I shall pass on the lawn turfs. If you could see the state of my lawn, or should I say weeds plus occasional blades of grass, you would fully understand
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Laura Penstemon
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11:26 PM - Mar 17, 2004 #16

Pip,
If its any help my garden is 1 mile from the biggest clay pits in the country!! To be honest you can dig in everything known to man but if you have clay then it will remain clay!
Although as Saph says its full of nutrients, I try and avoid anything which requires free draining soil, which is why most of my penstemons are now in pots!
Shrubs do really well, as do my bulbs. Perenials need a bit more care, like watering in the summer and loads of compost etc to provide drainage in the winter. Grass remains muddy from Sept to March!
Pens
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pipnsox
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7:42 AM - Mar 20, 2004 #17

Thanks for that uplifting reply Pens
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caddywackyraces
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3:22 PM - Mar 23, 2004 #18

We have heavy clay.
We use spent mushroom compost and lots of grit and grow clay loving plants.Plants or floweres that don't like clay we grow in pots.
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