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How can we break down the clay soil we have?

We've used manure and potting soil and we still have the problem. Poor plants have a hard time. What do we need to use to break it down?

Update:

You all have such good and helpful answers. It's hard to pick the best.

6 Answers

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  • jonal
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    It's a long job with clay,several years,but it will never convert to a good friable loam. You'll never buy enough potting soil to do it unless you buy lorry-loads. You can sometimes get top-soil from new construction sites when they clear and level the ground,but of course close to home it could be the same as you've got. Lime is the big friend you have,plus as much leaf mould as you can get or make,and all the grit,sand,and compost you can muster. The big problem with clay is the tiny particle size, trapping water and preventing aeration... Grit and sand help with aeration,despite some people's objections to it..it all helps,and you won't make bricks or solid cakes out of it with enough organic stuff going in as well. Increasing the average particle size is a major step in dealing with clay,so ignore the objections..it really works... Growing potatoes helps to break it too. The easy thing is to grow roses. They love it. The National Rose Society showground is just down the road from us in St.Albans,and we're in the same clay-ridden valley in the Chilterns just north of there. Fifteen feet of it before we get to the chalk underneath. Fortunately,the Chilterns are all made of chalk,which gives us some free help,nearly as good as lime,but we have to get it from miles away where it rises above the clay. Sackfuls of it have gone in to the veg area,and thirty or forty bags of leaves dug in every autumn with more spread as leaf mould in the spring and carried down by worms. My father won prizes every year in London at the National Rose Show,from 300 bushes grown on untreated clay,with leaf mould and bone meal round the base all around....the rest of the garden was enough to deal with for veg and flowers,heavy going,year after year, so the roses have done us a good service. It isn't all bad news with clay though...have a look at the clay water meadows and drier land a bit elevated....there are loads of types of grasses and wild flowers growing on them. All with no human help. Not a fork in sight.

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  • 1 decade ago

    I bought a product called soil building compost. I had previously added cow manure and it worked ok for a year. But the second year it still had too much clay. This is suppose to break down the clay. I got mine in a 3 cubic foot bag. You just add 3 inches of it to your top 6 inches of soil. So far so good. It improves drainage also.

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  • ?
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    Living in Georgia (red Georgia clay abound), I have found the best thing it to add lime, sand and compost. In a few of my garden I added a bit of vermiculite, but it can be costly. Although it is a bit unsightly, allowing the fallen leaves of autumn to remain on the beds is no hassle way of acquiring leaf mold. Removing any that haven’t decomposed in the spring. You can then cut that into the beds; this will help to create more loam over time (usually two years).

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    If there is still a bit of the organic matter in your soil, perhaps consider placing some earthworms in your garden, if you are willing to add some more organic matter for them in the future.

    Leaf mulch would be my recommendation.

    This is going to be my personal approach over the next few years for a garden that has heavy soil.

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  • Ishtar
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Compost, compost, compost. The more organic material you can get in there, the better. I've heard some say sand, but others say clay + sand = concrete. You need a LOT of sand in order to make a difference, though.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Plow it in the Fall

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