Bringing in topsoil may cause some drainage problems unless you can really blend it well with the silt. Then I started reading about soil and micro-organisms and composting and it changed my whole outlook. Take patio pots for example. Thin, porous, sandy soils benefit from calcium bentonite's water-holding properties, and it can be added to a general soil improvement mix for raised beds or intensively cropped vegetable beds. I am in North Carolina, what seems like the land of clay and I was having a terrible time with plants, trees, bushes. Hi Janet,Wow, that’s a lot of clay. The rest of the time, adhesion (how water molecules tend to stick to other surfaces) and cohesion (how water molecules tend to stick together) govern the movement of water in the soil. To amend clay soil, add builder's sand and gypsum to create more air pockets and increase the soil's drainage. Rake it out to level your surface and give it a good water. Now I’m wondering what to do. Improving sandy soil with 6 inches of good compost will drastically improve the water-holding capacity of the soil. 2012, I had pulled up most of the oxalis bulbs and got a crop of marigolds. It also makes the soil comfy for earthworms and other organisms that loosen the soil even more. You will notice that the amount of organic matter in the soil has increased and microbial activity is improving. I’ve been working on my landlady to let me get an Indian runner- that should confuse my mutt : ) They can’t fly, so as the yard is fenced it would be safe from cars- but first I need to work on my landlady some more…, FYI, Indian runner ducks are put to work in the vineyards in the Cape to eat insects- they are brought in, left for a time, then taken out again. My preference is to work with the existing soil, incorporating compost into the top few inches and then mulching on top. For the first 6 years of the beds I added peat moss yearly, but for past six it’s 2″ – 6″ organic matter (compost, leaf mold, chopped rotted straw or hay and/or manure), using a fork to incorporate. This will prevent you having sandy soil sitting beneath the nutrient-enriched good soil on the top. As the composted soil breaks down will it make the areas we plan to sod lumpy over time? Bentonite is normally a fine powder which would translocate to lower soil horizons in rainy well drained enviroments or for less well drained soils it would add to the heaviness of the soil reducing porosity further. Will that work for veggies? Then I just have caterpillars, beetles and mites to deal with. Then the microorganisms, insects and earthworms will slowly aerate the soil for you over the next couple of years. I may still occasionally have some brief flooding but hopefully not as long lasting. I hope you do a lecture on those. Before we go into why, we need to take a quick look at how water moves through the soil. I’ve not tilled in 3 years, using a broadfork when compaction gets real bad or to pull infiltrating roots from a neighbor’s tree. I suppose itdepends on the kind of sand and kind of clay and many environmental factors. The adding of hydrated lime will improve any clay soil. The more finished the compost and the fewer coffee grinds there are means less settling. I started off with a small tumbler and added a cold compost bin that I hold for 6 months. Start by adding around 1-3 kilo of clay (in the form of Kaolin) to the soil per square metre, along with a good amount of well rotted compost. Very difficult for me to diagnose from here at any rate. This is not necessarily a bad thing with the right plants, but it is important to know how this works. Getting the proper nutrients in there will make a lot of things work better. Clay is capable of hanging on to the good stuff for longer, binding with organic material and increasing its persistence. Unfortunately, I can’t tell from here what you should do, other than I would suggest finding a landscaper/gardener (organically-minded) who has experience with a situation such as yours to advise you on what to do. I know this post has been online for a long time but the information is still very timely for me. Sandy soils from places near the ocean tend to contain high levels of salt. It is like a sponge, holds water and air in just the right proportions. i have very clay soil, whats the additives to make the soil less clay like ??? Hi Phil, I’m on the South Peninsula, Cape, South Africa. Interestingly it moves out in all directions fairly equally – up, down and horizontally. Thanks for the tips. The soil created on top is the best in the garden. My bro-in-law was working home finalization and warrantee for a construction company and turned me loose on piles of excess sand at nearby home sites. Or will the sod and paver areas need a mixture of topsoil and sand on the surface? Do we just do straight composted soil, top to bottom? It may be that removing some soil is the right move, but maybe not. Summer is hot and dry, winter cold and wet. They will die. Isn’t it amazing that things truly can be this simple? Just put it right on the soil and you’ll be fine. Ideally add that clay to your compost in order to form clay/organic complexes, add a little gypsum to add Ca to the clay. Check your local well driller. I have these large wine casks that were cut in half to make large flower pots.Â They have always worked extremely well.Â this year I decided to add some delphiniums to the mix and I looked up what additives I should use to make the soil the right mix for the delphiniums.Â I was told to add sand to the soil which I did.Â But the water with all of its nutrients seems to drain down so quickly that I can’t see it is doing any good.Â Delphiniums are generally very fast growing plants but mine are growing at a very slow rate.Â Admittedly they arrived in very poor condition and at first I was just pleased that they’d survived and were growing at all, but, now I think there must be some problem with the soil mix.Â Can you advise?Scott. Even more interesting, if the finer soil is on extremely coarse sand or even gravel, the finer soil must become very wet before water will move down through the coarse layer. I consulted for one soccer field where they were spending $3000 per year on sand, just to topdress the field. Within 2 years the St Augustine had spread thickly throughout and did very well until this year when my grape plants resulted in too much shade on that west side. Consequently, only crabgrass seems to grow in it. Get your soil tested. It can improve the soil? I rely on purchasing organic compost for my organic garden because, besides not having any extraÂ room in my yard, I do not cook, therefore I have no way of producing a compost pile of my own and supplementing withÂ veggies and fruit peelsÂ and all that good stuff that comes from the kitchen. Am VERY sad to know we’ll be leaving, but it’s time. If straw is incorporated very well, this will not occur, but if it is just turned under, it will. What Else should I add to speed up the compost for next years planting season? I do try not to wet the leaves! Add organic matter. My wife and I have had a very hard time gardening because of how much clay there is where we live. But I have an idea and I’d like your opinion. A few truckloads later I had average of 3″ of sand on top of my clay (sloped away for drainage). Kaolinite clay needs to be added at somewhere between 5 - 15kgs per square metre (depending on other soil improvement practices). They are beautiful to paint but making one is equally challenging! I’m a very new gardener, much less an organic gardener and would like to spend as little as possible of my time doing the wrong things. Amendments in Florida soil disappear faster than free donuts at a Star Trek convention. When it comes to improving sandy soil, the advice is often to add clay. If your soil is sandy, it will start to crumble and fall apart. Soil texture test last year showed 75% clay, 15% silt and 10% sand. To determine your soil type, just dig down about 10 centimetres and grab a handful of soil. Add organic matter to your soil every year, in gross quantities if you can. But 2″ of good quality compost would be great. How do I amend clay that deep to have drainage? How to zeolites compare to Bentonite? Gardeners ask how to improve clay soil more often than about improving sandy soil, but the reasons are generally the same, and the main reason has to do with water. How much it settles depends on how “finished” the compost is and how many coffee grinds are in there. How to Improve Sandy Soils by adding Clay | Nurseries Online Is Miracle Grow something I need to use or a combo of that and maybe compost. The lesson I’ve learned is that fine soil in shaded but somewhat sunny areas may be the perfect place for mini-seed beds in spring followed by shade-tolerant vegetables in summer/autumn, so I’m going to convert another 2.25sqm of the most shaded areas of my no-dig beds for that purpose in the autumn of 2015.I’m wondering whether to do similar where carrots and parsnips are to be sown in the spring?? I just built a raised herb garden about 4′ x 20′ and 4 inches above grade. Organic matter coats the clay particles, opening up pores in the soil through which air, water, and roots can freely move. Too much clay will not make hard bricks. Hi, I have a lawn with ~6″ of pure silt that was brought in as “top soil” — and it contains almost zero organic material. Perhaps you need to buy 1 yard of compost if yours won’t be ready in time. Back to compost. It’s got good colour and eventually feeds the soil. Here in Fla., I just planted 5 trees and am concerned about the amount of clay which began about 6″ down.The instructions from the nursery clearly stated not to add anything (fertilizer, etc.) Yes, cat litter is a good amendment for sandy soil. It runs downhill and pools, and after it sits for a little while sort of soaks in, but only about 1/2″ into the soil. They lay on top of one another making water unable to penetrate them. Prior to renovating our house, during the rain season the yard was a wet mess. Any thoughts? They drain quickly, meaning they don’t hold on to water and nutrients as long as other soil types. The danger of adding sand—especially in small amounts—is that large sand particles mixed with tiny clay particles will result in a concrete-like mixture. Adding sand to clay soil, in any amount, has been proven by the University of California Agricultural Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be about the worst thing anyone can do for their garden soil. Ya, that would be something to try. Â Cat Litter is clay and sometimes called bentonite clay if it came from fort benton.Â It’s cheap but you would want the unscented.Â It is used at a few pounds per square foot for ponds to seal the bottoms to hold water. I would love it if someone could tell us the differencebetween zeolite and bentonite. Does this sound okay to you?Thanks again for the article. Not the clumping kind, but the regular old cat litter. I don’t know the acidity of the soil, but plants are grateful for ANY nutrients they get.I compost all my kitchen peelings and add some crushed eggshell. I have calculated the needed amount. Huh! I filled the four inch hole with good draining compost and forced a pipe into the top about 5 ft. It took more than a day to drain the first filling.This summer I spent breaking hard pan and building a finished compost pile. I guess the question is once therock has been removed, what is the best plan of attack to improve the soil?Â Thanks for your advice!Thanks for your advice! Past years I have rototilled fall and spring but this year Iâm trying less tilling. This results in a heavier, denser soil with less total pore space than either the sandy or … Wish me luck! The beds have fairly good drainage, good production depending on the crop but are prone to extreme compaction. Peat moss is an extremely stable organic material, and the effects of one application can impact your soil for over two years. Positively-charged nutrients stick to zeolites the same way they stick to clay. The main soil types are clay, loam and sand. Any clay will add CEC to soils, but it may import a cation load which is disadvantageous for soil structure or plant growth. Yes, alfalfa pellets are great. However Zeolite is the best choice for gardeners because it is naturally granulated and light. Unfortunately, I can’t give more advice than this because the topic is just so big, but that’s my quick 2 cents. Sorry, Bill, I’m not sure where you can pick it up in BC. Filled this and the top bigger hole with more compost and topped the pipe with a drain cap. It will help you avoid future problems of water pooling in the wrong places. I have very poor sandy soil and I want to plant fruit trees. Phil,Â like the other posters, I was going to buy coarse sand today to mix in our gumbo soil before planting our new grapefruit tree and some hibiscus plants (making tea).Â I’ll buy compost instead.Â Thank you for your e-education on gardening. Adding a bit of sand will not create soil with 70% sand, so it does not make adobe. Â We have had very good luck with 20 lb bags of alfalfa pellets obtained from the feed store and incorporated to the soil around individual plants and broadcast over the soil so they can dissolve over time. 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