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ARCHIE ADAMSEditor-in-Chief of the Handy Home Master
Clay soil can be used to cultivate a vegetable and fruit garden, an orchard, and also many other types of crops, however, it is important to know your soil based on the most important parameters.
Clay soils are the finer-grained ones and are usually very fertile, even if they tend to be compact. They require some precautions to be cultivated, which I’ll describe in this article, especially on the aspects of processing and fertilization.
What is Clay Soil?
The health of the plants depends on the fertility of the soil. A soil rich in minerals and organic matter is the key to a good harvest and clay soils are a good starting point. Clay soils are very fertile, they are distinguished by their plastic consistency and by the fact that they manage to maintain the shape conferred.
Their negative sides are strongly correlated to their structure: because they retain humidity, they present difficulties in drainage and it is not easy to improve their structure, they require a lot of manpower with the addition of compost and organic fertilizers.
Pros and Cons of Clay Soil:
Clay soil has many positive aspects: thanks to the density of the clay, it retains moisture well and is richer in nutrients than other types of soil. This is because the particles that make up the clay soil are negatively charged, attracting, and collecting positively charged particles such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
Among the negative characteristics of the clay soil, however, we must mention the tendency to get compact easily, making the growth of the roots of the plants difficult. Clay soil is also an alkaline soil, rich in limestone but low in substances such as iron, potassium and sulfur, very useful to plants.
How to Improve Clay Soil for Grass?
First of all you must measure the pH of the soil: the acidity or alkalinity of the soil is expressed through the pH, which is measured with particular reagents.
The soil must be moved and completely crumbled, preferably with a motor hoe or, if the size of the garden is small, with a hoe, digging to a depth of at least 40 cm.
If you are amending clay soil, use fertilizer based on ammonium nitrate or ammonium sulphate.
Spread 2.5 kg of ammonium nitrate or 4.5 kg of ammonium sulphate for every 300 square meters of garden.
When sowing, spread the seeds evenly on the ground. Gently rake them over the entire surface of the garden, making sure not to bury them for more than 2.5 cm and then distribute a thin (3/4 cm) layer of peat to keep the soil surface moist.
How to Improve Clay Soil for Existing Lawns?
Improving clay soil is not easy. One of the most common clay soil amendments for lawns is sand, which however is not always sufficient to achieve the desired purpose. On the other hand, it is much better to add very bulky organic fertilizer to the soil, that is, with a lot of thatch incorporated. Thatch will serve to lighten too heavy soil.
- Organic Matter
In these soils with minute pores, there is less circulation of air than in loose ones, and this means that the organic substance that we’ll add (compost, manure) oxidizes much more slowly. In practice, the distributed organic substance lasts longer.
Drilling holes and infusing organic material deep into the ground throughout the lawn is, according to some, the most effective means for truly improving the condition of clay soil.
How to Improve Bare Clay Soil?
The first thing to do when you are dealing with a clay soil is to try to improve the consistency of the soil with organic matter: compost, mold or manure will gradually improve the structure of the soil, reducing its compactness. It is necessary to be patient, this operation will have to be repeated several times during the year.
To get the most out of your soil fixture, till it into your soil as deeply as you can. Although most people can dig deep enough by hand, you might want to use a garden tiller if your clay soil is especially dense. Tilling to a depth of six to eight inches will facilitate healthy growth in your plants’ roots and will improve clay soil for your lawn.
Clay Soil Amendments for the Lawn
Clay soil is one of the most difficult soils a gardener can deal with. Compact and slippery when wet, it is even more difficult to care for when dry, as it looks like a brick. The clay particles are extremely small and tend to bind without leaving room for air or for the necessary circulation of water.
- Humic Acid
Not only will humic acid improve nutrient absorption for your plant’s roots, but it will break clay soil and allow for better water retention. When the soil has sufficient aeration, water can fill the air pockets, giving the roots of the plants access to water and nutrients. Humic acid will release nutrients that have been trapped in the clay soil and made inaccessible to the roots, which makes it one of the best lawn fertilizer.
Clay soils must be worked in-depth, given their tendency to get compact and not drain well. The first time we work them, it is important to use a spade or a fork, then a hoe, mixing the mature compost in (3-4 kg / m2) or mature manure (4-5kg / m2) with the first layers. When mixing, we recommend using a special tumbler, it will allow you to perform better work.
Most of the soils are alkaline, i.e. you will need to lower the pH. There are many ways to do this. The most common substances to add are construction sand, plaster, manure, compost and other organic material. Construction sand and gypsum allow better drainage and increase the air pockets that help break the clay particles.
Construction sand and gypsum allow better drainage and increase the air pockets that help break the clay particles. Try to mix the same amount of construction sand and organic material. Depending on the area you want to correct, many cubic meters of product may be needed.
After a while, it is a good idea to collect a soil sample and have it analyzed to see if there are nutritional deficiencies or Ph problems. The results of the analyzes will offer us suggestions on how to further improve our garden.
As a good rule, however, it is certainly useful to add any organic fertilizers such as guano or monoculture crops. It will make our plants healthy, lush, and strong.
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