I have heavy clay soil. I just discovered that drywall is compostable, and possibly good for certain types of soil (like heavy clay).

I can break it into sufficiently small pieces with a hammer, but doing so directly on top of the soil actually compacts the soil more. Breaking it on flagstones damages them, too.

Is there a safe and somewhat easy way to break up drywall without causing collateral damage?

  • 1
    Take a look at my comment to Bamboo and read this MSDS information. DO NOT whatever you do CRUSH this stuff without a REAL AIR FILTER RESPIRATOR. lafarge-na.com/MSDS_North_America_English_-_Drywall.pdf – stormy Mar 18 '17 at 22:22
  • Thanks @stormy. I'm well aware of the health risks and/or precautions. If you read the article I linked, it suggests large chunks work as well as fine dusted stuff, so I'm planning for the former (less work than grinding). – ashes999 Mar 19 '17 at 1:22

Ashes! NO you should definitely NOT use drywall/plaster board in your soil!! It is gypsum as well as all kinds of petroleum and chemicals NOT good for soil, especially clay or soil you want to grow edibles!! Do you remember the site you read or where you got THAT information? Please send it if you are able.

Here is the absolute truth; the ONLY way to improve ANY soil is to add DECOMPOSED ORGANIC MATTER. The key word is decomposed, already been broken down by decomposers. That matter is what 'feeds' the micro and macro organisms in any soil. These organisms eat this stuff poop it out and mix this stuff into the soil for you. As long as you've got only decomposed organic mulch it is used immediately and these organisms go out to tell their friends and multiply like crazy. Plants and these organisms need each other. This decomposed organic matter as well as the pooped out stuff adds the necessary TILTH for porosity and holding air for plant's health. No matter if you've got sand, silt, loam, sandy loam, clay or clayey loam, etc.

Think about how concrete is made; sand, gravel, gypsum, lime, water and CLAY. Then rotation and mixing is added. Clay is a very cool soil. Most of my experience has been with clay; blue clay, caliche clay and all of it all I used was DECOMPOSED organic matter...and fertilizers as needed for the particular plants planted. I add lime ONLY when I want to raise the pH for certain plants and that is ONLY after viable tests. The only time I add elemental sulfur is when I want to lower the pH ONLY when I know the original pH for a particular plant or crop.

Clay is the tiniest of the little rocks that make a soil. They are also FLAT. This gives them an electrostatic charge that HOLDS the particles together, necessary for concrete. You never want to ever rototill and manipulate clay, especially WET. Just dig and dump, slightly chop...look up 'double digging and raised beds without any construction'

That is it! I'll never add anything else...double dig your soil and throw in DECOMPOSED ORGANIC MATTER, (not just organic matter, decomposed or the immediate decomposers will gobble up any available nitrogen to do their work and the important micro and macro organisms go dormant until the non decomposed organic matter is decomposed so that it is then available to the soil organisms for food. Raise your beds. Provide trenches for drainage. And often just add decomposed organic matter right to the top of your soil. The organisms come up and eat it, go back into the soil profile to poop it out continually improving your soil!

Take the drywall to the dump in the construction debris section!

  • 3
    The link provided in the question leads to an article about composting unpainted untreated drywall, Stormy - but they composted it with other materials. If the article is right, it's a suitable material for composting, have a look... – Bamboo Mar 18 '17 at 21:11
  • I'll take a look, Bamboo. But what I know about drywall and the chemicals for fire retardants and mildew retardant...lath and plaster were fine to compost but I'll have to update me knowledge, and get back to you and OP. – stormy Mar 18 '17 at 22:08
  • lafarge-na.com/MSDS_North_America_English_-_Drywall.pdf Here is the MSDS sheet on drywall of today. The biggest danger is crushing, pounding and inhaling the silicates. Not so very simple. Be a great idea but take a look at the additives for fire retardant and mildew. And guess what, they mix crushed drywall with my beloved biosolid, Gro Co. No wonder their tests come up looking great. Not a suitable material in my opinion for composting. Ugh! – stormy Mar 18 '17 at 22:20
  • Yahoo for bio solids! At least us humans can give something back. Excepting the heavy metals not to be used for vegetable crops. Of course, Over and above CO2, heavy metals are being sprayed daily all around this planet to cause water vapor and thus affecting our soils and water big time. Tap water is higher in heavy metals than most people realize besides the salts of Chlorine and Fluoride. – stormy Mar 18 '17 at 22:25
  • Well, I'm glad I asked. Even if the gypsum one is safe, there's no guarantees the others are safe. Thanks for the link; I don't know if mine is LaFarge or not, but it's certainly not worth the risk. – ashes999 Mar 19 '17 at 1:24

I put dry wall ( aka -gypsum) in a large clay and gravel garden . I got "bearing strips" in a rail yard at no charge. Bearing strips are about 6" X 48" so they were not big pieces. I put in a lot ( one ton +) in about 100 sq yards of garden . I spread them around by hand and after a couple rains ( no dust) I brought in a secret weapon ; a Gem rototiller ( made in the UK using a 20 Hp Wisconsin engine).The rototiller broke up the drywall as it mixed it into the soil. The paper on the drywall was a little problem , for months I picked the 6 X 48 paper strips out of my and neighbors yards. I also added tons of organic material ( spent mushroom farm synthetic manure) . Things grew well but I can't say what helped the most.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.