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Raised bed- Utilize abundant clay soil or leave out

 
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Location: Ohio
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Hello,
I’m a newbie gardener.  I just set 5 metal raised garden beds. They’re 1 1/2’ tall/deep. I’m located in Ohio, where we have heavy clay soil. I want to grow fruit (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries) in these beds. Veggies to come next year.  I’m looking for cheap/free natural resources from my property to help fill the deep beds. We have been doing serious work on our house and have accumulated a mound of clay (2 stories high). Could I layer clay over logs with grass clippings?  Just to fill the bottoms up cheaply. When it gets closer to top then start adding compost and top off with good soil. Or should I keep the clay out and not utilize it at all. 2 beds I need to use right away, the other 3 can sit until next spring.
 
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Utilise, utilise!

Clay is really great at holding nutrients. I think what you'll want to do is incorporate the clay with other things, like minerals with a coarser grit (gypsum is a great source of slow-release calcium, which solves many clay permeability issues) and buttloads of organic matter. Don't keep the clay as a discrete layer, as that's when it might cause permeability issues.

Just add other good stuff to that clay, and it'll be good to go.

-CK
 
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Thank you!  What ratio would you recommend for gypsum:clay?  
 
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My raised beds are about that high. I filled the bottom half with logs, clay, and some cow manure for good measure. I put about 6-8 inches of dirt on top of that and add more each fall as stuff composts. I've had really good luck with them.
 
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Sarah Campbell wrote:Thank you!  What ratio would you recommend for gypsum:clay?  



About one kilo per square metre, but it can vary. You can have soil tests done to determine how much calcium is needed in the clay soil and go by that measure, too.

There is a lot of information in the threads in Dr. Redhawk's Epic Soil Series wiki. He also talks a lot about great things for getting soil life into your soil and turbocharging it, using aerated compost extract, fungal slurries, and a tonne of organic material.

Pics would be great, whenever you get around to it. But keep us posted, and good luck!

-CK
 
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Clay is great, especially when mixed with other things, like organic matter! It is the best soil texture for holding onto nutrients. Your beds, being raised, will already drain much better than the surrounding soil, which balances out clay's weak point, which is that it's heavy and can tend to waterlogging and going anaerobic. But your plan to put logs in the bottom is great, definitely go with that. They will hold onto water, and guard against the sometimes excessive good drainage provided by raised beds. I would sprinkle a large variety of textures and thicknesses of organic materials throughout the beds, with the texture getting finer and more shredded as you move towards the top. This will complement and lighten the clay.

Do plan for settling over a period of years. The more (wonderful, marvellous) organic matter you include, the more it will settle. So make sure you have or plant an abundant source of additional organic matter to help you top the soil level up every year. Logs may take a time to start to break down in volume significantly. I filled my raised beds with hay and straw, and in one season, the soil level sunk to less than half its original height, so I was unexpectedly on the prowl for many, many cubic meters of soil and organic matter to top the beds up.

Good luck and post photos if you can!!
 
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Sarah Campbell wrote:Hello,
I’m a newbie gardener.  I just set 5 metal raised garden beds. They’re 1 1/2’ tall/deep. I’m located in Ohio, where we have heavy clay soil. I want to grow fruit (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries) in these beds. Veggies to come next year.  I’m looking for cheap/free natural resources from my property to help fill the deep beds. We have been doing serious work on our house and have accumulated a mound of clay (2 stories high). Could I layer clay over logs with grass clippings?  Just to fill the bottoms up cheaply. When it gets closer to top then start adding compost and top off with good soil. Or should I keep the clay out and not utilize it at all. 2 beds I need to use right away, the other 3 can sit until next spring.



Short answer: yes, great plan. I've done the same myself with great results
 
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