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Old 04-19-2017, 12:02 PM
 
Location: Virginia
168 posts, read 116,521 times
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Have an area of my yard where I would love me to plant some perenials and the soil is mainly clay. I guess I need to amend the soil and I have received many different suggestions on what to use from compost to top soil to soil conditioner with vermiculite, black soil and or peat moss.

Could some suggest what to condition with and how to determine an approximate percentage amount to strive for? Thanks
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Old 04-19-2017, 12:18 PM
 
1,269 posts, read 381,647 times
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There are many kinds of clay soil, much of it quite fertile, but hard to work. If you have the kind that dries to a hard surface you can't sink a shovel into, then you have a bit of work to do.

Since watering clay is difficult given that it absorbs water very slowly and does not drain well, the simplest you could do would be to mulch heavily with good mulch (not some ground bark dust mix that just crusts) and use drip irrigation. You could sprinkle too, but you'd need to do it for a long time (not a pass over with a hose) and slowly.

Your choice of plants matters too. Some take satisfactorily to clayey conditions, others don't.

Amend the soil? You can, but it is a lot of work unless you have access to a tiller. What to use depends upon what's available locally, but don't use "top soil". It's weed filled and of unknown provenance but probably junk. Instead, you want organic matter that will decay within the soil. Your best source is probably your local agricultural extension agent.

Finally, there is no magic percentage. Soil is incredibly complex and has infinite varieties. All soil is composed of clay, silt and loam in varying percentages. Clay holds nutrients because of its chemical structure, so it's a good thing.
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Old 04-19-2017, 07:31 PM
 
Location: Virginia
168 posts, read 116,521 times
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This is Virginia clay that holds water but it does contain a bunch of nutrients as you have mentioned and that was mentioned to me at a local nursery.

I will follow your recommendation and not use the topsoil since that also holds the water like clay.

I will mix some compost into the soil however I guess you are not recommending soil conditioner with Vetmiculate ( sold at the local Lowes) or adding peat moss to the soil?
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Old 04-20-2017, 05:55 AM
 
1,269 posts, read 381,647 times
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vermiculite and peat moss are relatively expensive. Of the two, peat moss is far better. I've used it in the past for smaller perennial beds. The challenge is working it into the soil and getting it wet initially. It's sold very dry and compressed, so you're working a fluffy material (fluffs up a bit when you unpack it) into the soil. I suppose you don't need perfect mixing, though.

I recent years, I find mulch does its magic as it decays down over a few years. I use lots, and make sure to fertilize with lots of nitrogen, since some wood based mulches seem to suck it out. Wood is worst. Shredded bark is not too bad. All mulches can crust though, making watering hard, especially if you do quick hand sprays. I use a sprinkler with a valve, so I can water for an hour or two without too much runoff.

Hope this helps.
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Old 04-20-2017, 06:10 AM
 
Location: NC
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I have a tough, plastic-y clay in NC. For my perennial beds I simply buy a soil mix of 50:50 top soil and compost then put it in a pile at least a foot deep with a border of rip-rap, pavers, or whatever around it. When I plant I chop into the clay vertically with a shovel but do not mix the clay into the good stuff. So far my perennials are doing pretty well (about 6 yrs so far). To save money, the soil is delivered in a small dump truck from a local soil company. I tend to plant 1 gallon containers or less.

If I add mulch on top in the early days, I find that wood chips do better than shredded mulch. I have seen some folks use so much shredded mulch that it forms an impenetrable layer that water can't get through. Better to pull the occasional weed until the perennials take over.
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Old 04-20-2017, 04:20 PM
 
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The downside of wood chips is that they suck a lot of nitrogen from the soil as they decay. Termites also like them.
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Old 04-20-2017, 04:37 PM
 
Location: NC
4,846 posts, read 4,910,735 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bigbear99 View Post
The downside of wood chips is that they suck a lot of nitrogen from the soil as they decay. Termites also like them.
Chips probably do use up a lot of nitrogen, eventually, but they decay pretty slowly. And yes, all wood products (mulch, chips, sawdust) might attract termites, so it is recommended to not put mulch or your plants within a couple feet of your buildings if termites (or ants or slugs or other unsavory characters) are an issue. The product I use is called pine bark nuggets.
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Old 04-20-2017, 05:05 PM
 
1,269 posts, read 381,647 times
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BTW, I agree that many shredded mulches seem impervious to water. The worst seem to have a lot of dust and dirt mixed in.
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Old 04-21-2017, 12:28 AM
 
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There is a man on youtube who turned his clay soil into top soil in just a 2 years. All he did was put wood mulch on top of clay. And a few years later, the clay soil magically turned into top soil. Pretty amazing.
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Old 04-21-2017, 09:54 AM
 
315 posts, read 123,494 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by taimaishu View Post
There is a man on youtube who turned his clay soil into top soil in just a 2 years. All he did was put wood mulch on top of clay. And a few years later, the clay soil magically turned into top soil. Pretty amazing.
you can do it in an hour or two with a tiller + compost + peat moss + Pelleted Gypsum
churn all that in as deep as you can
all you need to make the best soil ever.
put some wood much ON TOP when you are done (and plants are in).
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