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12

I have a similar problem in my garden. The clay soil is at least six feet deep and can only be broken up with a pickaxe or power machinery. Why? as the glaciers melted in Ontario about 14,000 to 10,000 years ago they dropped the silt (clay) in huge moraines and drifts. Post ice age plants started building soil and took thousands of years to do so. then, as ...


12

This sounds like a lot of work. The picture you show of the backyard looks nicer than some other lawns I have seen where people have a maintenance firm do the fertilizing and cutting. Just some points to note: if you raise the grade anything more than an inch or two this will kill any trees inside the raised area. Trees don't take grade changes well. to ...


8

Not sure where you're from but in the USA you can send a soil sample to your local university extension office and for a nominal fee they will give you a report on the soil that you can use to improve it for your intended purpose. Two key things to look for is the existing organic matter content and cation exchange capacity. This is always a good thing to do ...


8

One should always address the soil before tackling weed and plant issues. I'm a firm believer that good soil = healthy plants = few diseases and little need for chemicals. Every plant has a place in which it likes to grow, due to soil composition and climate. Once we understand and accept this principle, its a matter of deciding how to modify conditions ...


8

I have the same situation. For garden beds, I've had the best luck with lasagna gardening. I leave the grass in place, and cover it with several layers of cardboard and/or newspaper. I think I am well known at the grocery store as the lady who asks to raid the bin where they dump the broken-down boxes. If I have enough compostable material, I'll add that ...


8

You will want 3-4" diameter perforated pipes in the stone layer (also sloped 1"/10ft), and you will probably also want filter fabric on both sides of the stone layer, or it will become a layer of clay with rocks embedded in it soon enough. You might also want some much deeper "french drains" to deal with the water, rather than only having drainage 1-1.5 ...


7

If you're lucky then gypsum will work on your clay, helping the clay break up. Put a bit of the clay in a glass of water for a few hours. If the water becomes milky, i.e. the clay disperses (without any human intervention such as shaking), then gypsum will work. Spread generous amounts of gypsum when the clay is moist or even additionally spike the clay ...


7

I find that raised beds are best for: early spring production drainage square foot garden (limited space) older people And I have also found that I can grow more per plant in the ground beds, but they start a bit later. If you have the time and energy to heavily amend a ground bed, I think you will like the reults better. That is just my experience. I ...


7

You need to incorporate as much humus rich material into the soil as you possibly can, so that means things like composted animal manures, good garden compost you've made yourself, leaf mould, spent mushroom compost, anything organic like that. If its really solid clay, bad enough to make pots with, then the addition of plenty of horticultural sharp grit (...


6

In this case, because you already decided what you will put down, if you don't want to do two tests, test after. The reason? You will know what your soils current condition is, whether you need to apply lime, and what the nutrient concentrations are. All this is outdated when you add that big of a load of amendments. Also, if you mix them in properly, you ...


6

I agree with the lasagne gardening/sheet composting replies above in that adding organic matter is the very best thing you can do for clay soil. We have heavy clay soil here and we compost leaves every fall in black garbage bags (mix a bit of dirt in and make sure there are holes for air circulation and that it stays moist but not wet) and till those bags ...


6

We caught our builder burying crumbled concrete below our garage floor when building. They were bringing it from other job sites to save on dump costs. Since our house was the next to have concrete poured they thought they could hide it all below our garage floor. My husband, a concrete/materials inspector for over 16 years, just happened to show up while ...


6

The advantages of raised bed vs. ground bed are pretty much the same regardless of your native ground soil, so you can take any of the comparison lists that pop up from your favourite search engine. This UGA extension page discusses some of them. In particular with a clay soil, you'll want to keep in mind that compaction, slower warming and decreased ...


5

I MISS my clay soils! I've just moved to another state, Oregon, smack in the middle of cinder cones and my new soil is pumice and sand. Easy to work but watering is going to be every day until I can get my 'slaves' (micro and macro organisms) to find my garden, eat, make babies, do lots of pooping. I could use a tiller but I've gotten use to doing the work ...


5

The clay itself isn't going to break down due to decomposition because it is made up primarily of inorganic material - minerals and such. If you plan on doing the lazy compost method, where you pile organic material up and forget about it, then it won't much matter if there's clay other than the fact that you'll have a lot of clay in that pile. Eventually, ...


5

In your comment to kevinsky's answer you mentiond you're more into veggies so you might want to consider growing things like diakon radishes and red potatoes in the areas you want to loosen. These plants will push into and break up the clay. I've heard of Asian gardeners planting fields of diakon crop and not havesting the roots, just letting them rot then ...


5

This is similar to what I did a few years ago. I needed dirt for the back of a building foundation I was constructing, so I dug up the hard clay from 10ft down and used it to level the foundation which sat on a bit of a hill. At the end, I was left with a fairly steep slope of ground on which nothing would grow except some ragweed, pokeweed, and some ...


5

Is mulch or topsoil better for new lawn in clay soil? Assuming the new topsoil is decent topsoil, the topsoil is "better". Even if you had outstanding topsoil now, additional topsoil would still be better because it would be a thicker layer of good topsoil. You simply can't have too much topsoil. I'm trying to imagine what you have now and I'm picturing ...


5

I'd dearly love to know what part of the world you're in, because that looks remarkably like London clay, but then I guess clay looks the same most everywhere. I'm sorry to say your plan won't work terribly well - unless you compact them, the layer of stones will move and you'll end up with a bumpy lawn which still doesn't drain well in very wet weather. If ...


5

If your looking to make sure the grass actually performs well, you should be sure to amend the soil with a decent amount of compost. I'd recommend at least 1 inch, but if it was me and I was making such a large investment in time and money with the other aspects of the project, I would go with 2 or even 3 inches . At 1 inches depth, simply multiply the ...


5

I'll add in to the fine answer above that the unwanted plants can do a rather good job at loosening up the soil, so don't look at them as enemies, but as limited term employees that will help in your efforts and eventually can be let go when the desired species are taking off. Instead of fighting with these invaders, prune them, coppice them, use their ...


5

The drainage is the problem. Until the soil dries out the smell will likely continue. However there might be at least a temporary solution - how about if you build a couple of raised sand boxes? If the box is fairly deep then no matter how much rain the sand will drain really fast and the dogs will probably prefer the sand because it is drier than the ...


4

Hugel Kultur beds are basically underground compost heaps. The beds are filled with logs then covered with soil. They provide nutrients, help retain water and as the logs decompose they help aerate the soil underneath. It will take a few years for the logs to decompose. As they do the raised bed will get shorter so keep that in mind about how much volume ...


4

Clay in a compost can be good. Really good. Never in the form of clods or massed around the roots of a plant though. Clay holds on to the nutrients a plant needs really well. Thats why sandy soils need regular feeding but heavier ones keep pumping longer. If you wet all your compost ingredients with water which has clay suspended in it then the compost may ...


4

The only way one can amend any soil is by adding decomposed organic matter. I actually now have sandy soil and miss my clay. You can't use a rototiller on clay, you could but you'll be making things worse. Clay is made of tiny, tiny pieces of rock that are flat. These flat surfaces have electrostatic charges and these pieces are 'glued' to each other. By ...


4

Having done plenty of garden beds, both raised and amended rows and hills, here on our farm, I can say that my experience is that: Raised beds: tend to dry out more quickly (which is both bad and good) tend to have less weeds initially (assuming this is all "new" soil) as tilling up the existing soil can unearth weed seeds cost more to construct (between ...


4

When grass or sod is laid directly on top of clay subsoil it cannot grow deep roots. It will tend to brown out during dry times. One client I did work at had purchased a new home with sod laid directly on top of subsoil. A year after they had taken possession you could pick the sod up like a blanket. It had not rooted into the clay at all. you need to have ...


4

Here in NY, I have heard daylilies alternatively referred to as 'ditch lilies'. So called because they often grow on the upper edge of road ditches. While daylilies would prefer well-drained soil, they are liable to grow reasonably well in unimproved heavier clays as well. If you like you can improve drainage by adding some coarser soil or compost to the mix ...


4

One of my dogs (female) loves to pee on mulch. My other dog (male) loves to pee on objects (not surfaces). If she were peeing where I didn't want her to and I wished her to pee somewhere else I would make the other spot more attractive by adding mulch. If I wanted to be sure that the new pee spot did not smell like pee I would use aromatic mulch such as ...


4

If it pools on the surface, as opposed to immediately absorbing into the soil, the soil doesn't have enough drainage. As you said, the soil is clay-like. You need to improve soil drainage and aeration by mixing organic material (decomposed mulch or garden soil, compost, etc) into your existing soil. You may have to remove a lot of the crappy clay in order to ...


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