William James wrote:Hi Marty,
I got a lot out of reading Steve Solomon's "Intelligent Gardener". I also have near-pure clay and it's pretty tough so far. I have tried a lot of things.
You might benefit from a soil test. I have good, growing, non-sick plants, but my soil test was horrible, nearly all of the major nutrients were pretty low.
I'm currently adding lots of compost and gypsum (granulated drywall). Planning to add phosphate via amended vermiculture and poultry soon. Down the road adding Ca/Mg agricultural lime after doing another soil test.
Clay suffers from tight pore space and the absence of flocculation. Plant roots can't get down very far (carrots and daikons not rooting very far is a sign you have restrictive soil layers), and in general the plant roots will tend to just hang out on the top 3 inches where there is sufficient movement and they can grow new roots.
Magnesium tightens clay even more, so you don't want to add that. You can add calcium without the fear of over-doing it and it promotes the breaking up of clay soil.
Organic material has its limits, and this is very evident in clay soils. After 3-4 weeks whatever OM I add is eaten up by the hungry soil. Your cheapest route is to get the nutrient balance better and find cheap sources of good quality OM.
Best of luck. PM me if you want to share stories about Clay modification techniques. Otherwise check my posts for archives/updates on my constant battle with clay.
casey lem wrote:Marty,
I say follow your gut man! We have almost the same style raised beds, but I found out about hugekultur a day late. I'm considering toying w/ this hybrid idea in new beds we may start. We also double dug and kept our back yard annual veg beds close together w/ logs on the ground as frames and whatever organic mulch we could find. Sort of biointensive meets back to eden. I've lamented over not fusing hugelkultur w/ this, but I also kind of don't want to tinker w/ soil that's already thriving. We also have clay, albeit about a foot down, but double digging definitely helped. Please share if your fusion idea comes to fruit!