Fixing soil

ducks4you

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This year I planted red clover and after it stopped flowering I just pulled it out. Was I supposed to leave it in the ground?

Mary
Yuck! I Hate red clover. It always grows too tall. Yeah, I think the idea is too work it into the soil. Something else to grow is turnips. If you don't eat them they will come up next year and go to seed, but the bulb and roots will have worked underground before you work it in.
 

ducks4you

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Also consider buying a 50 pound bag of oats, ~$10-$15.
It will sprout easily, NOT burn out in the summer heat, make a nice mat for you and die back in a freeze, so you can work it in next Spring. You can mow it, OR let it go to seed. DD found a couple from last year that had sprouted And gone to seed.
 

flowerbug

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There is definitely clay in our yard.

ours too! the base subsoil here is mostly clay with some sand. it's really fertile but you do have to work around the issues it can have too. the garden i'm working on now has one edge where i piled some gravel and you don't ever want to mix gravel into mostly clay soil. that's like asking for trouble in so many ways... my normal quick weeding method is to use a stirrup hoe which scrapes along the surface. well if you have gravel in the soil it makes it nearly impossible to get the weeds cut off as you'd like for them to be so it's a hassle. i have a box with wire mesh in it for screening the gravel from the garden soil and i've already done part of the edge, but i still need to clean up the rest of it. good task for a hot day. cold well water and playing in the dirt/mud/water/gravel... :)


I have tons of mulch. I had a local arborist drop a whole load for me in the fall.

that's great! :) we've sometimes been able to get people to dump loads of that for us too and we also have a company that makes wood chips and sells them for a reasonable price so we get some of those too at times. i'd love to have a lot more right now as several areas could certainly use them.
 

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This year I planted red clover and after it stopped flowering I just pulled it out. Was I supposed to leave it in the ground?

Mary

leave it as it is or bury it. i'm not sure the red clover you're talking about is the same red clover that @ducks4you is talking about. i don't have experience with crimson clover but i do have plenty with red clover.

the red clover we have is a magnet for powdery mildew. :(
 

Alasgun

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There’s many directions you can go when trying to improve a patch of ground. Green manure is just one of many but was suggested for it’s rapidity. There’s a “chop and drop” discussion (@Phaedra Geiermann) on the boards currently and then there’s “dynamic accumulators; i’ve attached a link. The important part is to form a long term vision for your plot and stay with it. Many organic methods will take longer but those of us “into that sort of thing” dont mind the wait!
If cash flow’s not a concern you can till the plot, lime it heavily, dump on a multitude of Organic amendments and plant the same year. It wont be perfect but it will be a start and you can continue to improve the area as you go.

 

ninnymary

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leave it as it is or bury it. i'm not sure the red clover you're talking about is the same red clover that @ducks4you is talking about. i don't have experience with crimson clover but i do have plenty with red clover.

the red clover we have is a magnet for powdery mildew. :(
I planted the Baker Creek Crimson Clover. Like Ducks said it does get a little tall maybe 2'? I didn't get powdery mildew on it. So I guess that was good.

Mary
 

Ridgerunner

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I agree with Seedcorn. The first thing I'd do is get a soils analysis so you can see what you are working with. I'd call your county extension office to ask about getting an analysis. Each state is different but usually the most cost effective way to get a good report is through them and they can help you interpret it. Since it is at least partly clay you probably have most of the nutrients you need except maybe nitrogen and maybe one or two more. Nitrogen leaches out with water so it can be low. My main concern with a soils analysis would be the pH of the soil and just to see if there are any surprises. Sometimes pH can take a little while to adjust.

You probably know this already, when you work a wet clay it can set up as hard as a brick when it dries. If it gets wet it can be a sticky mess. As far as tilth (workability) clay is not great. One way to greatly improve the tilth of a clay soil is to add a lot of organic material. You don't add it just on top, it needs to be worked into the soil. I can't tell for sure but that may have a compacted crust which would need to be broken up. That's one advantage to some of those green manure crops they are talking about. If you can get them to grow on it the roots can break it up but that may take a little time. If you can turn them under, especially before they go to seed, you can help yourself.

A lot of us have greatly improved the quality of our soil by adding organic matter, whether clay soil or sandy soil. That organic matter could be from green manure but you are somewhat limited in volume from how much you can grow on the spot. Some other stuff you can use is animal manure, grass cuttings, dead leaves, hay, straw, really about anything organic. Those wood chips will work too but some wood decomposes faster than others. If that arborist was chipping oak those might last a lot longer than if he were chipping a sycamore. But since you got them last fall they have probably started breaking down. They probably would be a good choice, especially of you can work them into the ground. Some wood chips I get from utilities trimming trees break down in a season, some last two seasons.

To break down into compost the organisms that do the actual breaking down need some moisture. In climates drier than yours some people like @digits just about have to bury their stuff to get it to break down. In Pennsylvania you should be wet enough that it will break down on top of the soil but watering it in dry weather can speed up the process. Or burying it to start with.

You are trying to change the character of the soil there. You are not going to do that with tiny amounts of organic matter. Don't be afraid to think big and pile it on really thick. Once you transform it you can cut back to a maintenance level.

I'd avoid putting organic matter on there that is diseased or a noxious weed that could make seeds or come back from roots. This one's more tricky because you need to know your bugs and their lifestyle, but if the crop is infected with a bug that overwinters in the soil you probably don't want to use that. I mentioned hay above, that can put a lot of seeds in the soil but some hay varieties might be more of a problem than others because od the types of seed.

People mentioned Red Clover and Crimson Clover. I think I remember correctly, I'd have to look it up to confirm, but one will come back from the roots in your climate, the other probably won't. I think Crimson is the one that will probably die out so it might be the better choice if you go with a clover.

I mostly remember @baymule working on her sugar sand with organic matter. I think it took her three years before she got it to where she was fairly happy and trust me, Bay can lay it on thick. :hide I used a lot of organic matter in my garden, especially a certain section that was a silty clay. I could tell a big difference. mainly in tilth. Drainage was helped too and drainage may be where it does you a lot of good in your clay.
 

Manda_Rae

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Thanks so much for all the info! I'm not in a rush to repair to soil I just felt it was wasted space that I could be using. I didn't feel like building another raised bed. Maybe I could put one of my off the ground raised beds there as i repair the soil.
 

digitS'

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Here is a caution about wood chips.

I can usually get through several years without a cold. Until 2018 when a bad cold turned into pneumonia, the worst "cold" that I can remember as an adult, I had good reason to believe was caused by molding wood chips.

The neighbor had a fairly small Spruce tree taken out. When I saw that they were running everything through a chipper, I told the crew that they could dump their load in my driveway. It took more than 2 pickup loads to haul it off to serve as a mulch in a distant garden. That was process that was initially delayed by about a week of rain.

It was a stay in bed all day with a fever infection. Wear A Mask.

Steve
 

Manda_Rae

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Here is a caution about wood chips.

I can usually get through several years without a cold. Until 2018 when a bad cold turned into pneumonia, the worst "cold" that I can remember as an adult, I had good reason to believe was caused by molding wood chips.

The neighbor had a fairly small Spruce tree taken out. When I saw that they were running everything through a chipper, I told the crew that they could dump their load in my driveway. It took more than 2 pickup loads to haul it off to serve as a mulch in a distant garden. That was process that was initially delayed by about a week of rain.

It was a stay in bed all day with a fever infection. Wear A Mask.

Steve
My wood chips have been in a big pile since last fall. I take as I need from it. I will definitely remember that! There have been a few times I thought I saw some white stuff and wondered. As soon as the sun dried it out, it would be gone.
 

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