Juliette Kando FI Chor from Andalusia on December 07, 2011: Joyce Haragsim from Southern Nevada on December 07, 2011: Thanks, maybe I will get outside and do what you've suggested. Clay soil is particularly susceptible to compaction. They are very easy to use, and you can find out whether your garden soil is acid or alkaline in just a couple of minutes. PS: earthworms and kitchen scraps can help clay soil, too. I am slowly filling the new raised beds with grass cuttings and kitchen waste, but am thinking of asking the neighbours for their left-overs too because it will take forever. Topdressing the soil What do you think? Line the trench with landscape fabric to keep earth out of the gravel to allow water to percolate through easily. High-density soils such as clay soil and compacted soil have low percolation, which means they drain water slowly. Where there is somewhere for water to go (a ditch, drain or soakaway, for example), drainage systems can be installed. Cover your soakaway with thick plastic sheeting. For extreme cases where the soil takes two hours or more to drain 1 to 2 inches, mix the full amount of organic compost. Five steps to improving clay soils: Make raised beds to assist drainage and to reduce trampling of the soil Consider adopting a ‘no-dig’ regime, especially in raised beds, as these suit clay soils well Some, but not all, clay soils respond to extra calcium, which causes the soil particles to flocculate (clump together). Writer Fox from the wadi near the little river on December 08, 2011: This is an excellent article! Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map! The soakaway should be at least 6 feet deep and filled with rubble to collect the water. Then, mix sphagnum peat moss or organic compost into the top 6-inch layer of the soil. Copyright Leaf Group Ltd. // Leaf Group Lifestyle. Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic compost or sphagnum peat moss on top of your lawn. Instead, the trenches are filled with rubble and gravel and replace the topsoil. Most plants, except bog plants, do not like having their feet wet because they can quickly rot. I'm hoping to raise some Ayrshires, in the winter, in a raised bed garden. Use special drainage piping with drainage holes across the top to collect the water. Clay soils tend to be acidic, but not always. This is where raised bed gardens are useful. Make sure you don't put ordinary garden soil in your raised bed, else you're just raising the level of your garden. However, it may take from several months to a few years to completely change the structure of heavily impacted soil. Improper use can do more harm than good. If you employ a company to do it for, beware of workmen trying to charge a fortune - they'll bring in a machine and have it dug out in half a day or something and want to charge you big bucks. It’s going to take time, and the time that it takes to improve clay soil will vary among all lawns and gardens—but, there is a specific soil treatment path that works very well when followed. Aerating Clay Soil Wait to aerate your soil until it’s completely wet or dry. The first precaution you will need to take is to baby your clay soil. Don't add sand to clay soil. Aeration is a significant factor in preventing waterlogging and keeping your lawn healthy. Terry has written articles and publications for a wide range of markets and subject matters, including Medicine & Health, Eli Financial, Dartnell Publications and Eli Journals. If using dried seaweed meal, apply 100-200 grams per square meter. IzzyM (author) from UK on December 09, 2011: I installed my own land drainage system years ago when I was young and fit, and that included digging out the trenches. The 5 year old eucalyptus trees are now 20 meters high. Improve the clay and you will improve the lawn. Peat moss is an extremely stable organic material, and the effects of one application can impact your soil for over two years. Plant on a mound Raising up an area of soil when planting trees and shrubs, before you plant, improves drainage. Be mindful of the slopes of your garden when positioning the trench. forking organic material into clay soil to improve it. If the soil in your lawn clumps together and your grass is brown and patchy, you likely have clay soil. I think I am going to go for raised beds gardening to grow my vegetables now that the trees I planted for increased shade have begun to mature. In areas of poor rainfall, you may want to build a concrete soakaway to store water for gardening during drier times. Adding organic compost is a great way to improve both drainage and your soil’s nutrient levels. There are certain plants that can grow in clay soils. Another way to improve soil drainage is to install a drainage system. Adding materials such as organic compost, pine bark, composted leaves and gypsum to heavy clay can improve its structure and help eliminate drainage and compaction problems. The holes help to accelerate the natural conditioning of the clay when appropriate organic matter is added as well as allowing water to drain through to better soil below. Use special drainage piping with drainage holes across the top to collect the water. How to Test Soil Drainage Before Planting. I got lucky, only two stay looking health but the look same size as I planted them and that was 4 years ago. Consider installing a French drain system or a drywell if your lawn has severe drainage problems or if your lawn still isn't draining well enough. Hard clay soil can cause serious drainage issues in your lawn, especially if your yard is flat without any slope. Aerating the lawn will help to improve drainage and will add air into the soil which will improve the conditions for the grass roots to live in. Test the soil. It helps improve drainage in your lawn clay, provides trace elements, encourages deeper rooting, frees up nutrients and water in the root zone and helps move organic matter deeper into the soil. Clay is denser than loamy or sandy soil. This will take time and effort but will slowly improve drainage. Raised bed gardens allow you isolate your plants from the ground soil. Aerate Clay Soil. It'll be fine in a raised bed garden even if there are eucalyptus nearby because they won't share the same soil. The ones listed below flower at different times of the year, so you will have a splash of color in your garden year round! The clay soil causes most of the drainage problems in lawns and gardens. Perlite is a volcanic rock that is puffed like popcorn to be very lightweight, and takes up a … Aerate the soil. Sarah Terry brings over 10 years of experience writing novels, business-to-business newsletters and a plethora of how-to articles. Adding sand will likely make your clay soil harder and clump even more. If your lawn is growing in a poor clay soil, it will always be prone to the problems that come with clay - compaction, poor drainage, fungus, moss, weeds, poor nutrient availability and color, root-stress and a host of other undesirable conditions. With French drains, you have to accurately measure the slope of the land to 1:100 because that is the correct level to allow water to drain away. Wet soils and dead patches allow mosses to thrive in the lawn over winter. Build a soakaway—a deep circular hole with sloping sides—at the end of the main pipe. As such, they tend to get waterlogged easily in a flash rain, resulting in a soggy lawn. Dig a hole 12 inches deep and 12 inches in diameter. These are very useful tips - I really could have used these tips 15 years ago when I started planting gardens and had no clue what was doing :) Over time, I've worked more organic matter in so it's not as bad anymore - it definitely takes time and hard work! Boggy lawns are a pretty common problem for homeowners in Auckland, where many areas have clay soils. Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →, Easy Digging: Improving Your Soil to Avoid Poor Drainage in Yard or Lawn, LawnCare.net: The Importance of Good Lawn Drainage. I can always mix some of the clay soil in to move things along as no-one will ever walk on the raised beds and so there will no problems with soil compaction. Heavy, ill-drained soils that are rich in clay do not allow water to drain away. Clay soil needs regular aeration to allow water and oxygen to move freely through it. It also adds liquefied Seaweed and Humic Acids (Carbon) to help generate and feed beneficial soil microbes of all types (including mycorrhizae). Aerators remove plugs of dirt from the lawn and break up the soil, allowing grass roots to spread. The main drainage pipe (middle) drains downward, away from the house, toward the soakaway (SA). Also with raised beds you can water what needs watering and know it is not going to waste. Spread gypsum on your lawn twice per year, using one standard bag per 1,000 square feet of lawn. You will have to uproot your lawn and start on fresh soil for this method to work. It was a LOT of work, but it worked. Cover the surface of the trenches with gravel or small stones. The next day, fill the hole with water again. The best way to handle improvement of clay soil is to begin amending soil by actually digging organic matter into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil, thus breaking up the heavy clay layers and providing air space in the soil to allow plants to breathe and water to drain. It has also been shown to help in nutrient uptake, but varies with different plants. Soil that drains too slowly likely has too much clay in it. Amending your soil properly can overcome heavy, compacted clay and get it back on track for healthy lawn and garden growth. You can aerate the lawn by either spiking the lawn with a garden fork or aerator shoes, or by using a hollow tine aerator. Bulbs: Avoid the smaller, delicate ones that need light, warm soils. Else do like I am doing, and make your own. Plus, we have the drainage problem in the grassy part of the yard. IzzyM (author) from UK on December 10, 2011: It's horrible stuff to work with, isn't it? More often there is no easy way to shed excess water. It helps with water retention in sandy soils as well. Quick soil drainage (percolation) test. I hope. When it is finally ready, it should more or less pH neutral which will be great for growing just about anything. Injecting air pockets into clay soil is essential for improving drainage, breaking up … If using manure, spread to an 8 cm (3") thickness. If you can roll a handful of your garden soil into a sticky ball, it is clay. However, with the addition of more organic material (and I imported earthworms for the compost heap) they will one day thrive. This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional. (3-6 oz per square yard). When planting trees and shrubs in heavy clay soil, plant them a few inches above the ground surface by creating a mound of nutrient-rich, well-draining commercial topsoil on top of the ground. Then, if I start a new garden, or go to plant something in unimproved soil, I get the surprise of feeling like I am trying to dig in cement. It's many better for you to hire the machinery and employ someone with a bit of muscle to help you. Dig trenches that will feed into the main trench in a herringbone fashion. Improve the texture of your heavy clay garden soil, but make a point of growing flowers and vegetables best suited to the natural pH of your soil. It may take many years to truly improve the composition of clay soils. Herringbone drainage system. However. I think it should be Hub of the Day! Perlite. This involves digging series of deep trenches across your garden, in areas where you might walk. IzzyM (author) from UK on December 08, 2011: Earthworms can't live in heavy clay soil that is mostly dry like here. When sand mixes with clay, it creates a soil structure akin to concrete. Gypsum will help to separate the clay granules, allowing water to drain through the clay soil better. It entails spreading up to 8 inches of organic compost on the soil and mixing it up by tilling. Use gritty sand to top-dress clay soil or ground that waterlogs badly, as this improves surface drainage, but use bags of bought topsoil or ready … In lawns, humic acid works by breaking up clay and allowing better water penetration. Do not use sand to blend into clay soil as an amendment. Improve the soil mix. Since one of the biggest … I have had no success with them here, and the shop-bought ones are horrible. Ask us about it. Note exactly … Spread the soil conditioner across the surface, and use a garden fork to mix it in. Then just plant the usual Spanish desert plants in the garden like oleander, and palm trees and stuff. Grading may also be necessary if your lawn is soggy and does not have an adequate slope for water runoff in addition to the clay soil. We have clay soil here in Nevada. Clay soils tend to become waterlogged in wet weather; the grains tend to stick together, preventing water from escaping. Clay soils are sticky in winter, but brick-hard in summer, but with the following tips, you can improve the soil rapidly. Alpine species that are usually grown in rockeries. If the water drains out more than four inches per hour, the soil is extremely sandy. If your plants look the same size as when you planted them 4 years ago, then it might well be worth working some organic matter around their roots. This is easiest to do during spring and autumn, after the rains. While adding in compost and organic material is always beneficial, and does tend to help neutralise the soil, you are still going to have trouble growing acid loving plants in alkaline soil, or alkaline loving plants in acid soil, and this is where raised bed gardens come in useful. I've found that garden compost is best, but soil conditioners such as seaweed, farmyard manure, or bagged manure products like Scott's Organic Dehydrated Manure can also improve the soil quality. The idea stems from the fact that if clay is the smallest soil particle leading to poor drainage, and sand is the largest soil particle causing fast drainage, mixing the two will equal out to well-drained soil. Adding sand will likely make your clay soil harder and clump even more. You want to have the trench at a downward slope. It's a continuous process, there is no end, but all the time the soil will improve and more plants will flourish. We would love to show how it’s done. Aerate your lawn using a punch-core aerator. Watch your yard during rainfall. Clay soil can be a nuisance, but the addition of organic matter, and where flooding is a serious problem, the addition of land drainage can make your clay soil garden easy to maintain and enjoyable to use. Compaction will lead to poor drainage and the dreaded clods that gum up tillers and make working clay soil such a pain. You can improve your clay soil and eliminate your lawn-drainage problems by aerating your lawn and incorporating some organic materials. Another way to improve soil drainage is to build up the soil where you are having the drainage issue or create a berm to redirect the water flow. My clay soil in southern Spain has been driving me barmy. A simple way to find the pH of your soil is with a pH kit. Aerate your lawn when the soil is moist. Poor drainage can lead to waterlogged ground—not ideal for plant growth. French drains are like herringbone drains without the pipes. Drainage wells are another common underground solution for compacted soil or hard sub-layers that allows the water somewhere to run after rainfall. Start by digging the main drainage trench—two to three feet deep in a straight line across your garden. 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