Clay soil (on the zone line 7b/8)

  • Clay soil (on the zone line 7b/8)

    Posted by Oklahomagirl on November 2, 2022 at 8:51 pm

    Danny and Wanda my land is mostly clay. I’ve been watching your gardening 101 and I do have leaves and could probably have leaf mold ( I have wooded area on my property). I have never tested my soil so I really don’t know what to add. But I thought I would ask about the clay. What do you think? I have so many questions. Unfortunately my dad has dementia so he gets really frustrated when I ask him questions.

    As I stated somewhere before I purchased my grandparents property long ago and have always wanted a garden like they had when I was younger. Much much younger. I finally quit listening to the naysayers two years ago. I had a very small garden this last spring summer and I’m ready to expand.

    I want potatoes and corn, Tomatoes and onions, cucumber and squash, and okra and green beans. Oh and I want blueberries, blackberries, apple trees, peach trees and maybe figs. I’ve never had figs. And more. Lol.

    So back to my original question. Should I break up the clay, add leaves till it in then cover with black plastic or tarps to keep the clay from hardening and repeat this process every couples of weeks?

    JEPS-Acres replied 1 year, 5 months ago 15 Members · 35 Replies
  • 35 Replies
  • Tina

    Member
    November 3, 2022 at 12:03 am

    I’m from Oklahoma, zone 7 as well. What part of Oklahoma are you from, if you don’t mind me asking? Just curious about people who live near me.

  • Oklahomagirl

    Member
    November 3, 2022 at 12:05 am

    Southeast Okla. McCurtain County. And you?

  • BiggKidd

    Member
    November 3, 2022 at 12:49 am

    Hi ya,

    I’ve been dealing with clay mostly orange / red clay here in VA for 15 years now and I’ve learned a few tricks. Organic material is your new best friend! How you are going to get it is the question. There are lots and lots of ways. But to me free is the best and for free contact your county and local tree services and tell them they can dump loads of tree chips at your place for free. You need a place to let them rot down AKA compost. Next get all the manure of any and all you can. You can also grow organic material and turn it in. If your soil is compacted like most clay is I highly recommend Daikon radishes, buckwheat, clover, alfalfa, hairy vetch, sun hemp, triticale things of that nature interplanted. The first three in that list are almost a MUST have to get clay soil working well.

    Check out Gabe Brown’s videos on youtube. https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=gabe+brown+regenerative+farming

    Good LUCK

    • Farm-Ranch-Homestead

      Member
      November 4, 2022 at 12:12 am

      I want to add a word of caution regarding manure. Be sure of your source(s) before you do so. Avoid manure from animals that graze where chemical treatments have been used, especially herbicides like Roundup or Grazon. If they’re in the manure, they’ll end up in your soil, and will likely have some influence on what you can or can’t grow there.

      • Oklahomagirl

        Member
        November 4, 2022 at 6:46 pm

        Thank you I’ll ask but I know the man uses it in his garden.

  • Hippocrates_Garden

    Member
    November 3, 2022 at 12:58 am

    Tilling, is one of the worst things you can do if there is a compaction situation already.

    As others have said, organic material, organic material, and more organic material. A good fix, is not a quick fix. Soil life (promoted by having living roots in the ground, and carbon to help feed them). Depending on the exact situation a sub-soiler / Yoeman’s type plow can help get some drainage going, break up some hardpan and help roots get deeper without mixing the soil. In many situations, it’s not a matter of ripping deep the first time, but just to and below the hardpan, or say if you get a hole or trench dug, just a bit below where the current root mass stops, then a year or so later, do it again a bit deeper.

    Also, simply ripping may not be the right way, if water needs to be moved, doing it on or slightly off the contour helps use those rips, to move the water. Research Keyline design, Darren Doherty, Gabe Brown, Ray Archuleta and others.

    Essentially, your goal is to create soil, and that really doesn’t happen from the surface up, but from the surface down, as life, supported by organic material (carbon) converts whatever is there (clay, sand …) to “soil”

    • Oklahomagirl

      Member
      November 3, 2022 at 8:22 pm

      What about broadfork? Some way to break up the clay.

      • Hippocrates_Garden

        Member
        November 3, 2022 at 11:02 pm

        Just depends on how large the area is, and how much work you want to do. I have two, startted with a Bully and then went to a Meadow Creature as the bully bent too easy. many people don’t want to do that much work.

  • BiggKidd

    Member
    November 3, 2022 at 9:03 pm

    The clay is going to have to be broken down and mixed with organic material. Whether you do it by hand or with deep root penetration or animals such as pigs or a tractor doesn’t matter it has to have organic material for long term healthy use. Sure you can make clay grow with chemicals but that’s bad on so many levels.

    • Oklahomagirl

      Member
      November 3, 2022 at 9:56 pm

      I really don’t want chemical. I do have leaves and leaf mold and can get some cow manure.

      • BiggKidd

        Member
        November 3, 2022 at 11:20 pm

        Good that you don’t want chemicals, they are no good especially for long term.

        For a good start use every resource you have. Trash is your friend, all your cardboard and paper, all leftover food everything that will rot down to compost USE IT ALL. You have got to use the resources you have available or spend a ton of cash. Have the boys pee in the garden and the girls can use a bucket and do the same it all adds up or Dump the pee over the material being composted to speed up the process and it adds Nitrogen. Wood stove ashes are a great add unless you live somewhere with high PH.

        Charcoal or bio-char is one of the very best things you can add BUT it HAS to be charged first or it will pull nutrients out instead of putting them in. In my experience a combination of everything yields the best results the fastest. The better you get your ground the better everything you grow will be. The cover crops I mentioned in my first post will do wonders for getting the soil started in the right direction.

  • Maytag

    Member
    November 4, 2022 at 1:16 am

    Hiya, a few thoughts…

    I’m in south TX and my yard is the heavy black clay that’s superglue when it’s wet and concrete when it’s dry. When I put my garden beds in a couple years ago, I tarped the yard to kill off the grass without chemicals, then did a shallow till to mix all the dead grass and some compost into the top few inches. This gave me a little above-ground-level height, which I covered with mulch.

    I bought the compost from a local nursery that was sourced from TX (not sure how far away from me, though).

    I’ve had really good success with this setup, other than some drainage issues (beds are against the house and I don’t have gutters, so rain runoff can be intense in that part of the yard. If I was to do it over, I might not use the tiller, but as a one-time preparation, considering there was really no layer of topsoil at all in my yard (half an inch of turf grass, then CLAY), building heavily organic topsoil layer would have taken a lot more time and material than I had available. Also, if I was to do it over, I’d use cardboard instead of tarps, as cardboard can decompose into useful filler for the soil and there’s no need to care about the sun destroying it, and chances are you can get it for free; tarps will work, but you are probably sacrificing the tarp, that could have other uses, in the process.

    I use grass cuttings for additional mulch layer and have a compost pile and leaf mold pile both going at the back fence. I’ve used some of the compost. The leaf mold pile is oak leaves so I anticipate it will take over a year to finish (so, summer 2023).

    Depending on what leaves you have to work with, they might make immediate good mix-ins or mulch. Oak leaves (which are plentiful here) are high in tanic acid and good as a cover/mulch but don’t expect them to decompose very quickly compared to many other tree leaves so I wouldn’t mix them straight into the soil unless you had no other options.

    As others have said, organic matter is key. If you have acreage from which to get plant matter from, that’s your best place to start.

    I haven’t done cover crops, really, but I’ve recycled garden waste back into my beds. I felt like doing cover crops would delay me from using the beds too long; I wanted to get going ASAP. But if I was prepping a larger area for later use, I’d definitely look into it.

    If you’re thinking you might have more land than you can initially handle gardening on all at once, definitely consider prepping some with cover crops to use in a year or two after soil has improved and you’re more confident in gardening and ready to use that space. Make leaf mold piles immediately if you have excess leaves; they will take time to be ready so the sooner you get them started, the better.

    • BiggKidd

      Member
      November 4, 2022 at 1:46 am

      Plant some daikon radishes they will help that drainage issue a lot. Better yet you can probably plant them now where you are.

      • Maytag

        Member
        November 4, 2022 at 2:34 am

        My bed space is all occupied right now, but maybe I will get some daikon seeds to sow for a spring planting once I harvest the major space-takers out there now (beans, sweet potatoes, and basil shrubs)

      • BiggKidd

        Member
        November 4, 2022 at 4:09 am

        Might want to do a little research they do best as a cool season crop. I’ve had them grow all winter long and into summer here in VA during mild winters.

      • Maytag

        Member
        November 4, 2022 at 11:53 am

        Good to know, thanks.

      • Oklahomagirl

        Member
        November 4, 2022 at 6:54 pm

        Thank you for all your advice.

    • AlphaDelta

      Member
      November 4, 2022 at 12:21 pm

      Hi Jonathan, May I ask where you are in S. TX? We have a place North of Victoria.

      • Maytag

        Member
        November 4, 2022 at 3:52 pm

        Corpus Christi area.

      • AlphaDelta

        Member
        November 4, 2022 at 5:00 pm

        I have a friend in Rockport. Ya’ll have a bunch of really good restaurants. D

      • Maytag

        Member
        November 4, 2022 at 5:53 pm

        I don’t eat out much, too expensive!

    • Oklahomagirl

      Member
      November 4, 2022 at 6:51 pm

      This is exactly what I am dealing with except my clay is not black. Maybe an inch of grass and then clay. I will take all that you said and try my best to incorporate it. Thank you.

      • Maytag

        Member
        November 4, 2022 at 7:14 pm

        If you check my profile and gallery there should be a few pictures of my garden beds during & after construction so you can see what I’m talking about

    • J.w.oldner

      Member
      November 27, 2022 at 1:55 am

      You will have to compost it for years . Black clay will grow anything if you can keep it lose. Everything you can put in it is good. It will have to be amended for a while. Disk your crops under I don’t think you can hurt it.

  • gardener-grey

    Member
    November 4, 2022 at 3:16 pm

    If you till leaves into the soil wait until they are broken down completely before planting. The carbon in leaves robs the nitrogen in the soil from plants. Cover crops are also a good option for organic matter, breaking up the soil, and nitrogen, (depending on what you plant). If you want to break up the clay, amend it well, and try to do a mininimum amount of tilling once your garden is established. Manure, compost, and leaf mold are great sources of nutrients and organic matter. I am also dealing with extremely heavy clay with very low nutrients, but I’m working at it.

  • JD-in-GA

    Member
    November 5, 2022 at 5:14 pm

    We have rocky orange clay here in GA. In a nutshell, you have to work-in organic matter to transform it from orange concrete to something you don’t have to run a jackhammer over. Compost, leaves, grass-clippings, rotted manures, wood chips — whatever you can get your hands on. You will want to use as many different types as you can reasonably get, and it is difficult to add “too much”. But if you can only get one type and a little at a time, then start with that. Just do what you can.

    The first year is the hardest. It gets easier and easier with each successive year. You can try a hoe, but I expect you will quickly want something powered by a motor, even if you have to rent it. There were times I wondered how I could get some hand-grenades and dynamite… It *does* get easier and better and I doubt you will regret it.

    Good luck with it!

  • KansasTerri

    Member
    November 18, 2022 at 3:37 pm

    Remember that plants eat last.

    A mulch pile uses bacteria to decompose the organic matter. Once the mulch pile has finished working and is all broken down that nitrogen is released back into the soil PLUS the nitrogen that was in the leaves and such. So first nitrogen is sucked up and then ALL of nitrogen is released into the soil for the plants.

    Most people deal with this by adding something high in nitrogen to their mulched garden. Personally when I mulch the garden in the Fall I also add manure from my backyard hens. Some add chemical fertilizer.

    Of course, if you mulch every year, then there will be compost that is finishing and be releasing nitrogen at the same time that the new mulch will be needing it and the nutrients will all be in balance. BUT, it takes several months for that to happen and my veggies need nutrients NOW, and so I add manure from the hens when I have it.

    My soil is also clay. And, to keep the structure nice and crumbly the mulch does have to be dug in. For me, I mulch my potatos and when I harvest them the half-used mulch gets dug in at the same time. I fertilize with either chemicals or I scatter chicken poo when I think the plants need it

  • MulberryGardens-Christina

    Member
    November 28, 2022 at 3:45 am

    Do you have the Red River clay? I’m on the Texas side a bit west of you, and we have the red clay from the river. That stuff is solid!!!! Water will sit on top of it for a week after the rain in areas we haven’t worked on.

    Really for us, we’ve done a few things… we put our chickens on the area we wanted to add garden space and let them eat it down and till a bit. Then I either broadforked and added organic material on top, or I added woodchips while the chickens were still there for them to poop on and spread it around. Generally I have seen 1-2 inches of top soil added on top of my clay this way. Some of the root vegetables and other plants have gotten down to break the clay up in places in my garden as well. I drop mulch from my garden in place around other plants to add organic material as well. No more slipping and sliding or sinking into the clay in my main garden areas! 🙂

    • BiggKidd

      Member
      November 28, 2022 at 4:03 am

      Daikon radishes work wonders with red and orange clay. They grow deep and bust the soil bringing nutrients up while letting water through. They are a cool season crop too so it doesn’t take up summer space.

      • MulberryGardens-Christina

        Member
        November 28, 2022 at 2:30 pm

        You know, of all the root veggies, and over a dozen varieties of radishes I grow, I haven’t found Daikon radish seeds anywhere the past few years….

  • GreenfieldFarms

    Member
    November 30, 2022 at 3:03 pm

    Hello. I live in Central Mississippi and also have to deal with red clay, 51 years now. Dont know if will help you or not but I will share what has always worked for us. My dad and I have always tilled our top soil to keep it lose, but, you have to be careful not to till to deep, just the top soil. You also constantly have to build top soil. Composted manure works really well also saw dust is very good for building top soil if you find enough of it. We have some local saw mills that have mountains of it. But the best thing is rabbit manure because it doesn’t have to be composted. Hope this helps. God bless.

  • JEPS-Acres

    Member
    December 6, 2022 at 12:32 pm

    I am in southeast Louisiana and have some drainage issues due to clay. I was going to use a subsoiler on my land. Looking for input on anyone that may have done this in the past and if it worked.

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