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Turning a LOT of clay into top soil

Hi all,

So we have just moved into our house and have spent all summer working in the garden, we had practically a whole cars worth of scrap buried in a mound at the back along with enough kids toys to build a park. Anyway after a lot of digging we have removed all the rubbish, and started fencing (to be continued...). We also spent a lot of time manually filtering all the soil to ensure we don't waste any good quality stuff. 

Now we have just taken on the mammoth task of burying a trampoline and we have been left with a lot of clay soil. Ideally we would like to turn this into good quality soil and use it to level the rest of the garden rather than chucking it in a skip and wasting it. I have seen previous discussions regarding a small patch of clay soil but what I would like to know is whether this is really possible or we are fighting a loosing battle?

The point of the first paragraph was to point out that we are willing to put the time and effort in and willing to put the same amount of money that a skip would cost us. Which I am assuming will be quite a lot! Of course the dream would be to reuse all the nutrient rich clay soil and one day have the lush green grass we all dream of. 

I have attached a photo to give you all an idea of the volume of clay soil we are working with. Any advice on whether we should attempt this and if so how to go about it would be amazing!

Thanks all :) 


  • Maybe you could put some lime on it and leave it over winter to let the frost break it down. 
  • lovegardening77lovegardening77 Berkshire Posts: 331
    I had a similar task with my heavy clay last past couple of years. I've used the excess soil to level areas and adding loads of grit, manure, straw to open it up. Mulching with compost where the plants are.
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Bath, SomersetPosts: 6,578
    That looks doable to me. Just chuck loads of manure and Hort Grit (I think the ratio is roughly one bucketful per metre) over the heap. Dig it in and turn it over when you've the time and energy and then leave it for the winter for the worms, frost etc to the work.  Come the spring, you can check if it's in better condition and/or repeat the same mix. If you have leaves coming down, gather them up, wet them and put them in black plastic bags, stab the bags for a fork to let air in and leave them over the winter and dig thse in as well, they won't be well rotted but it will all help break up the clay. 
  • barry islandbarry island Posts: 1,054
    The soil on my allotment is predominantly clay, it has two extreme states, sticky like potters clay or bone dry and hard as stone, in between these two states it can be perfectly light and workable, in the dry spell during this summer it was hard to dig the potatoes out of the ground and would have been impossible to dig over, but after a couple of days rain it transformed into the perfect state for digging, in fact this autumn my allotment has been the easiest digging in any year since I took it over in 2012. I would say in your case that it might just pay to leave it for the frost and snow to get at it and it may turn out to be good soil by next spring.
  • Thanks for all the help everyone! it looks like it’s doable! Which is great!

    I am definitely going to leave it over the winter and mix in some manure, straw, bags of leaves etc. I will get a PH tester and then add lime accordingly and hopefully the combination of all this will leave us with some nice soil come next spring. 

    Would you advise we leave it in a big pile or spread it around the lawn? Basically thin it out?
  • barry islandbarry island Posts: 1,054
    If you want the frost etc to get at it leave it quite thinly spread out.
  • JennyJJennyJ DoncasterPosts: 3,054
    Are you planning to replace the lawn?  If not, you should move the soil onto the areas that are going to be borders/beds.  A pile of soil (or even a thick layer) will make the grass underneath yellow and weak, and eventually kill it if left for months.
  • Ideally we are not planning on replacing the lawn, however we have a large strip up the middle and areas that will need reseeding after breaking up an old path and removing an old shed. I am thinking we will spread the clay over these areas as this as possible. Its currently in quite big clumps so wont be particularly thin. There is a local farmer that will deliver manure, how much do you think we would need? And would we still need the compost and all the other bits?
  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 14,905
    I would try and mix the clay with an equal volume of well rotted manure. If you can get hold of a builders sack or two , and store it in that for a year or so, you should have some good loam.  Test for pH before you mix it into the general garden area.
    You don't stop doing new things because you get old, you get old because you stop doing new things. <3
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Bath, SomersetPosts: 6,578
    How much might depend on how the farmer is going to deliver it i.e by tractor trailer or in a digger bucket. As fidgetbones said, an equal quantity to your clay heap would be good. The only thing to be aware of is if it's fresh manure or well rotted manure - fresh could be really smelly! Of the other ingredients, the horticultural grit is probably the most important as it will help the drainage of the clay.
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