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What to do with clay??

Gardening Reference » Gardening in 2005
by CoolCookie on March 26, 2005 08:49 AM
My mom 'n law's yard is mostly clay and she has been having a heck of a time getting her grass to grow evenly. She also has a lot of bald spots especially on the north and west side of the house. She's tried aerating and in the bald spots she's tried adding soil/fertilizer and sowing grass seed. Unfortunately it didn't take. I was wondering if anyone might have any reccomendations on what we might do with this lawn?? Should we just start all over and lay down new sod and if so what should we add in to balance the high clay content?

I've never had a lawn mine or otherwise to care for and quite frankly, I'm pretty clueless! [grin] I would be very grateful for any ideas!!
by tkhooper on March 26, 2005 02:25 PM
I was just looking at a product called "open all" ($69.00 per gallon) that is suppose to "melt" clay and open up the soil so that plants can reach the nutriments in the soil. Hope someone comes by that knows something about it. I've read on this site that layer compost can give you a really nice raised bed that can be put over clay but that doesn't work for my situation cause I can't go up lol. I know there are different kinds of grass that do better in different climates/growing zones. I wouldn't spend all the money it costs to sod unless I knew I had a soil that was going to support it. That is way expensive.

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by duckie on March 26, 2005 06:25 PM
I lived in Ok for awhile.That darn red clay almost made me give up. [Razz]

That's when I began my "Compost Quest"and btw gypsum is your friend.Here's some good info.

good luck [wayey]

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by CoolCookie on March 29, 2005 10:45 PM
Hey thanks!! That gives me a couple ideas. lol Now the hard part will be convincing my mom in law to try something other than just giving up and re-sodding!! (She's kind of stubborn and wary of trying something she hasn't heard of or done before) [Roll Eyes] [grin]
by frustratedattimes on March 30, 2005 01:58 PM
Since you are considering resodding the entire yard, you might try this instead. Find a dairy or chicken farm and get a couple of truckloads of manure,, either cow or chicken. Spread it on the yard, and rototill it into the soil, as deep as the tiller will work. Yes, it is a bit smelly for a week or so, but it will definately break up the clay, especially the chicken manure,,,plus it is full of nitrogen, that your grass needs to grow healthy and green..... after it has been tilled in, let it set for a week or two, then reseed the lawn, 6 weeks later with regular watering,,,, you should have a gorgeous lawn, plus no chemical fertilizer needed at least for the first year.
Good luck.

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I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted, and I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people and I expect the same from them." John Wayne
by CoolCookie on April 11, 2005 02:35 AM
Thanks so much!! I am really intrigued by the chicken manure idea. My husband and I have been looking around at the local garden/lawn suppliers here for possible things to try as well.

In the northern bald patch where it's shaded and damp I have been thinking maybe ferns will work if grass doesn't? Or am I naive and just wishing something would grow? LOL [Big Grin]
by Yeow on April 11, 2005 07:58 AM
I have assembled some links related to lawn aeration at that might be helpful. Just click on the "Lawn Aeration Links" section. I live in Kansas so I feel your pain. BTW - I am a firm believer in gypsum. I have a flower bed that I prepared using my tiller with gypsum, compost, and peat moss. Six years later (now) the clay soil is still very loose even after the compost and peat moss have long decomposed. Good luck!
by nasturnium on June 07, 2005 07:56 AM
Thank you CoolCookie for starting this thread. I'm happy to learn these things others have shared! Does anyone know where I can buy stock in gypsum?...LOL!

Also, can anyone suggest what to use as a compost bin that I might have around or that is inexpensive? Thanks!
by tkhooper on June 07, 2005 10:55 AM
Hi nasturnium,

Cardboard boxes with holes cut in the bottom. They decompose right along with the compost lol. I think longy recommends them but I don't remember so good.

I have a trashcan on wheels with holes cut in the bottom. I love it. But it only makes alittle bit at a time cause the composting material shrinks as it decomposes.

I had a neighbor once that just put up a circle of chicken wire and then lifted it up to get to the "good stuff" as needed. But he only put grass clipping in his. And if your looking to "hide/decorate" your compost pile that wouldn't work well lol.

Weezie has all kinds of information on composting. She is the Compost Queen. She has been teaching me all kinds of things about it. Which is good because the potting soil was getting very expensive.
by Longy on June 08, 2005 02:13 PM
Cardboard boxes with holes cut in the bottom. They decompose right along with the compost lol. I think longy recommends them but I don't remember so good.
LOL TKH. You remember too well.
Here's a foto nasturnium to give you the idea.
Use the garden fork (in the foto) to give you an idea of the size of the box. It's about a cubic metre in volume.
Gypsum is the clay-breaker. It works. However, there is no better fix for any soil than the addition of bulk organic matter. Frankly the best lawn for me is buried under 12 inches of poo and compost and mulch and turned into a garden...... but that's just me:)
Which brings me to your next query:
"In the northern bald patch where it's shaded and damp I have been thinking maybe ferns will work if grass doesn't? Or am I naive and just wishing something would grow? LOL"
No! Your not naive, You're exactly right. There are plants which have adapted to growing on rocks on the sides of mountains at temperastures less than freezing. There are plants which have adapted to grow underwater. Others grow on the lip of volcanos. The question isn't how to change the environment to grow what we already know, it's what can we grow which is suitable to the environment we already have. Keep thinking along the shade loving plants which like poor drainage. Probably not ferns as they generally like good drainage but there are lots of plants that can tolerate the conditions you describe. Go on. Pursue the line of thought. You'll be amazed at how easy it can be.

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The secret is the soil.

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