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poor soil improvement- help needed


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#1 Mushrooms201

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Posted 19 September 2009 - 05:33 PM

Question: How to grow grass on clay soil?

History/background: Recently I had rented a backhoe to make a backyard at my parents house (it was cut into a hill.) We live in the PNW and the new backyard currently consists of 6 inches to a foot of high clay content soil and rock/slate under that. The area is several hundred square feet and money is tight.

Plan:

I was thinking I would purchase the cheapest straw or hay I can find and compost it following some of the recipes that I have for making mushroom compost. I am hoping that this will break it down quickly and kill off many of the weeds.

I am also hoping to do something similar with any manure that I can get cheaply.

I was planning on adding gypsum, lime and fertilizers in an attempt to balance the soil to the best of my abilities.


I had also thought about planting a cover crop, and starting grass next year.


If anyone has any experience or resources to share I would appreciate it.

#2 Wild-find-I.D.

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Posted 19 September 2009 - 07:48 PM

contact your county & see if you can get a land burn permit if you are not near too much & burn the ground whatever is living weeds & all till the ground after everything has burned off the ash from whatever burned should help enrich the soil & they say fire has a way of bring life back to the soil also while the soil is bare till those grass seeds you were talking about in the soil as soon as possible so they we take over the soil first also enriching the soil with a nitrogen fertilizer after a burn off will help too


best off luck to you

if you cant get a burn permit burn in small patches at night keeping the fire down most the time if your gonna get in trouble it on how much smoke they can see so try to control that too even at night

#3 TastyBeverage

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Posted 19 September 2009 - 07:51 PM

I moved this to Animal Farm, as it seems more appropriate. Hopefully you will get more replies.

Instead of spending money on straw which you will then have to compost, why not try finding a local stable and asking if you can haul away some of their horse poo? It will be free and at the most to prep it you'll just need to lay it out in the sun to leech a bit before plowing it into the soil. Once it's leeched there won't be any smell.

#4 Mushrooms201

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Posted 19 September 2009 - 08:01 PM

Tasty thank you for moving it over.

#5 Beast

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Posted 19 September 2009 - 08:42 PM

Get bales of hay, cheap as you can, leave em out in the field til there's rain comin, and then cut the baling cord and spread the hay out as best you can, going for like 6" of piled hay everywhere.

Better to wait til right b4 it rains cuz otherwise the wind will blow it all over your neighbors place.

This is best done in fall, as then over winter the hay seed will sprout and you'll end up with a field of grass, and the old straw should compost on its own, in place.

If you want to kick things up a notch, get some clover or bell bean seeds from local garden/landscape store, and toss em out there in the spread hay.

The combination of legumes and grass, when cut and left on the field next spring will be just what the ground needs.

I know it doesn't sound like much, but you'd be surprised what a lil hay can do.


Next spring, when it comes time to garden, an easy way to kill existing weeds without disturbing the stratification of soil underneath is to just make layers of newspaper over your prospective garden, and then spread out straw (not hay). Then all you have to do is poke a hole in the paper and stick your veggie starts into the ground, keep things wet to continue the decomposition, and you'll be on your way to a healthy harvest, and recovered land.


I highly recommend purchasing a copy of One Straw Revolution by Masonobu Fukuoka, commonly referred to as Zen and the Art of Farming.

#6 charvo

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Posted 20 September 2009 - 12:14 AM

sweet man, soil building is what its all about.

Cover crops or green mature is a good way to amend the soil. burning would also help if you have something out there to burn. You could add burned wood like from the fire place or wood stove. It add's carbon to the composting cycle. carbon is one of the factors in composting right. So good idea. Most people i know complain about clay soils cause their hard to work with, but think out this clay is the smallest of particles that makes up soil right. So by volume it can be the most nutritous and well generally need something added to break up it's hard packed nature.you'll want a well draining soil.

I have found adding horse mature/cow mature even chicken mature helps greatly. it's a must. boost nitrogen level

also look into this stuff http://www.fungi.com...row/index.html
It is a natural approuch to compost accerating.

#7 finite_synapses

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Posted 20 September 2009 - 03:19 AM

Clay actually tends to have a high nutrient content to it, although it is indeed hard to work with. if you can get some sand or silt cheaply, working that into the soil will allow an adequate enough amount of aeration for grass seed to firmly root. Most commercial grass seed actually requires little nutritional content within the soil, and you could try planting a small patch of seed... simply wait a couple weeks to check for sprouts. All that is required to plant most grass seed is to rake the soil down around 1/2" or so at most, and simply sprinkle the seed on top of the overturned soil. You may want to spend the couple of dollars on testing strips, just to see whether your soil actually has any nutrient deficiencies. The reason behind most large quantities of soil staying barren for long periods of time is the simple fact that they have not been seeded. The longer you wait to introduce vegetation, the lower your soil's nutritional content will be, as direct sunlight on soil and runoff cause big problems. Chemical fertilizers are cheap and easy to work with, but they will wreak havoc on any bodies of water you have around you in the event of over-fertilization. Honestly, though... just try to plant some grass seed right off the bat, and if it doesn't grow, practice any of the afore-mentioned methods. If you truly want a vibrant lawn, use hay/manure/compost. Burning is practical if you live in an area that has consistently been covered in grass for multiple years. The reason for burning increasing the nutritional content of soil lies within the fact that there are years' worth of not-quite-decomposed plant materials lying under your current vegetation, and burning will speed up the decomposition process. However, be aware that there is indeed some overall nutrient loss when one does burn.

If you have weeds, burn 'em if it's feasible. If not, just cut them down and let the natural composting process do it's thing. It's probably late enough in the season that the weeds have already seeded, so removing them would be an unnecessary chore. Some native weeds will actually only seed when they're burnt, but seeing as how you live in the PNW, you'll have no problems burning the plants. You may actually be best-off by burning them, as the seeds may not be able to withstand the high temperatures. Be VERY careful if you do burn, though, as you don't want to set your parents' house on fire. The most-commonly used practice is to clear all the way down to the dirt in a meter-long area around the entire perimeter of what needs to be burned, then waiting for a windless day. Wet the entire perimeter, as well as the walls of the house, and place someone at every corner. Start your burn at the corners and be extremely wary of any stray fires. If you can't burn and the weeds haven't seeded yet, cut them down and move them away from the yard, then plant grass seed. if the weeds have seeded, just cut them down and plant grass seed. There are plenty of grasses available that will grow even throughout winter. What you're going to want to do is create enouhg of a canopy for weeds to not be able to take root and grow. In the spring, just stay on top of mowing, and after 2-5 years, your yard will generally be weed-free.

Edited by Beast, 20 September 2009 - 03:00 PM.


#8 Mushrooms201

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Posted 20 September 2009 - 10:10 AM

thanks for the tips all. any other suggestions are welcome.:bow:

#9 bugs

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Posted 20 September 2009 - 11:46 AM

Gardenweb.com has a lot of good suggestions, as do many other sites. I just googled "amending clay soils" and got a ton of info.

In summary:
Lots and lots of organic matter - compost, dung, etc.
If you use sand, use Very Coarse sand. The kids' sandbox sand, builders sand, silt etc. are too fine and won't help, or could make matters worse.
After harvest, plant a cover crop. Google it for suggestions for your climate.
A suggestion I see often is lots and lots of coffee grounds.

Chicken shit's pretty "hot" with nitrogen. A little goes a long way. But it's great stuff.

My dad's recipe for compost is really killer stuff. Leaves, cow shit, chicken shit, seaweed and/or kelp, kitchen stuff like eggshells, coffee grounds, veggie peelings etc. Horse poo is good too, but we didn't have horses nearby.




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