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Anyone have clay soil? Commiserate with me!

(15 Posts)
ShrinkingViolet Tue 11-Aug-09 08:29:33

Sympathy please! I'm turning a chunk of garden into a veg plot, and need to have it prepred within the next fortnight (when my potatoes and winter veg arrive). And the soil is just clay, practically nothing else. So it's really fertile (good), but a nightmare to dig over (bad).

I've managed a strip 5m long so far (took me three hours) - goodness knows how long the rest is going to take. Fortunately it's been well covered for the past few years, so there's minimal weeding to do, just the back-breaking digging over.

On the plus side, I'll have a fab toned figure at the end of it all grin.

StinkyFart Tue 11-Aug-09 08:31:21

dig in loads of organic material

Double digging might help to break it up

clay soil is BACKBREAKING indeed

CybilLiberty Tue 11-Aug-09 08:44:14

I've got a garden claw for tough turning over. it's fab.

ABetaDad Tue 11-Aug-09 08:48:12

My mother had a clay soil garden.

A nightmare to dig until we put a huge amount of farm manure into it. I really do mean huge amounts though. Spread it about 30 cm deep all over your plot and dig it in every year. It is back breaking so you might want to hire a rotavator once a year in the Spring.

Great for growing peas and beans and roses though.

neversaydie Tue 11-Aug-09 09:19:26

We bought a trailer load of spent mushroom compost and a rotavator - after 4 summers it is just about getting there!

crumpet Tue 11-Aug-09 09:21:40

Bit of a hijack - we have heavy clay soil as well and find the lawn becomes very waterlogged in the winter - has anyone any idea how this can be alleviated?

ShrinkingViolet Tue 11-Aug-09 09:25:46

CybilLiberty - is the Garden Claw really good then - I've seen mixed reviews, and wondered if it would be up to the job (my "soil" genuiniely is total clay - dig up a spadeful, and it stays brick-shaped, even when you chuck it down again).

I'm planning lots of potatoes in Year 1, and hoping they'll do some of the breaking-up for me wink.

StinkyFart -I thought about double-digging for about two seconds, single digging is enough for me! Next year though I'll put in raised beds, as the top layer of the "soil" will have been broken up.

ABetaDad - am seriously considering a rotavator as I don't seem to have much in the way of weeds which is the only blessing in the whole thing.

Bettymum Tue 11-Aug-09 09:31:40

ShrinkingViolet we garden on chalky clay, and raised veg beds are definitely the way forward. Also as people have said, dig in loads of manure/compost/spent mushroom compost. This improves the structure of the soil and also encourages in the worms. You might also want to dig in some grit.
If you can roughly dig the areas that you aren't planting just now, and leave them for the winter cold and frosts to break down, this makes it much easier to dig in the Spring.
crumpet have you tried aerating your lawn? You can buy special tools or you can just go over it spiking with a garden fork, then you can brush a top dressing of compost and sand over, trying to get it down into the holes. This should help (from the owner of a very waterlogged and mossy lawn) .

shigella92 Thu 13-Aug-09 14:00:54

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

saramoon Fri 28-Aug-09 20:03:27

One half of our allotment is clay soil. We got loads of horse manure - not fresh - and mushroom compost and rotivated it. Then grew potatoes on it and it is much better

Tinfoil Sat 29-Aug-09 00:23:36

Horse manure and lots of it!

kiwibella Mon 31-Aug-09 11:06:59

we have clay too and dh put in a raised bed - after digging it over once. I'm for the rotavator too grin but planting potatoes is a good tip too. We'll try that!

ShrinkingViolet Tue 01-Sep-09 09:39:19

well, two thirds of the area is now dug over, half of that is planted up with potatoes, and I bought a smallish electric tiller (was looking at petrol rotavators on ebay, but they were £££ sad) which breaks up the clumps once it's first dug over.
Winter brassica plugs arriving sometime this month, so I need to get it finished.

throckenholt Tue 01-Sep-09 09:45:23

you can also try breaker http://www.capitalgardens.co.uk/v3/clay-breaker-soil-conditioner-p-6321.html

rotavators are not a magic answer - they are really hard work as well - especially on clay.

Organic matter - lots of it - and let the works do the rest. You can also dig in some sharp sand or grit which helps the drainage too.

Once you have broken it down clay is really good - usually very fertile.

throckenholt Tue 01-Sep-09 09:46:30

oops - no idea what went wrong with that link - google clay breaker and you will find it.

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