How do you go from red clay to rich soil?

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Re: How do you go from red clay to rich soil?

Postby mannytheseacow » Tue May 07, 2013 2:15 pm


Don't forget the soil pyramid!

A good productive silty-clay-loam is about 60% silt, 10% sand, and 30% clay. This should give you an idea of how much volume of organic matter and sand you would need to work into your desired depth to restore some really good top soil. Producers in my area with high clay fields are using gypsum, like ArborSmarty, Dave Nrenneman, and Myrth all alluded too. They claim some serious jumps in yields just applying to the surface @ about 1 ton per acre.
Last edited by mannytheseacow on Sun Dec 15, 2013 10:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How do you go from red clay to rich soil?

Postby dave brenneman » Wed May 08, 2013 3:05 pm

Myrth wrote:Generally, you would use powdered gypsum, not sheets of drywall.

You are absolutely correct - I was thinking that the sheetrock would be broken up first, but I didn't actually type that. Ask around and see if you can borrow any young boys and let 'em loose with hammers, that should be all you need to powder some sheetrock.
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Re: How do you go from red clay to rich soil?

Postby pa_friendly_guy » Wed Dec 11, 2013 3:05 am

I was wondering how things are coming along with the yard George. Its been almost 2 years since you talked about options and were going to start your transformation of your Red Clay into beautiful lawn. I for one would love to see how things are going. Has there been much progress up to this point? Pictures would be nice. I hope things are starting to shape up for you. :D
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Re: How do you go from red clay to rich soil?

Postby okiecrat » Thu Nov 06, 2014 1:18 am

I'm sure that George has probably solved his problem by now so this is for anyone with a similar problem. You should have an extension office that is run by your main state agricultural office within a reasonable driving distance. You will need to gather soil samples from several locations in your yard and take them to the extension office for testing. In some states, this is free and in others, there will be a minimal charge. When the tests are complete the Extension Agent will be able to tell you what amendments you need to add to your soil to make it suitable for whatever you want to grow on it. Different types of grasses and garden crops need different nutrients and soil conditioning so you will need to have decided what you want to plant or at least gotten down to three or four choices for lawn grass and a list of what you want to plant in your garden.

One of the first thing you will need to do with a barren clay soil is work some kind of vegetable matter into it. If you are lucky enough to live where cotton is grown, you can get pickup loads of "cotton burrs" for free at the local cotton gin in the late fall. Like another person posted, another free source is dry leaves from any available forested area but that will involve much more work gathering the leaves. You might also want to ask all your friends if they bag their lawn clippings and then dispose of them instead of composting them. Another source is straw hay baled after a grain harvest but you will likely have to pay for it. If you are using straw, you may want to take it to your local grain elevator and have it ground which will add to the cost. Again, your local Extension Agent will be able to advise you on what and how.

Manure is a great way to add nutrients to your soil but picking up dry patties in a cow pasture is not always the best. If they have been rained on a few times, much if the nutrient value has been leached out of them. Most feedlots have piles of scrapings from the lots and that will be part way to being compost so if you have one near enough that you can haul a pickup load, you should check it out. One more time, your Extension Agent will be the best person to advise you about how much because you actually can use too much and damage your lawn. Its easy to get into the soil but hard as hell to get out. ***CAUTION*** Do NOT use horse manure!!! It has a high danger of being contaminated with tetanus which can stay in the soil for years. The agent can also advise you about how you need to adjust the PH of your soil. Gypsum can be used to raise the PH and make soil more alkaline and you can substitute scrap sheet rock but you should never use salvage sheet rock that has been painted.
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