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Gypsum or well rotted manure to break up heavy clay borders?

Would love to know if anyone’s had any success in dealing with heavy clay borders or if I’m doomed to mild water logging forever 😅


  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 17,247
    Manure, manure, and more manure. Then it turns into wonderful loam.  If the border is new and clear, I dug over a new clay veg patch, dressing of rock dust then 6 inch of manure, then planted potatoes. We had enormous potatoes  and the following year had decent loam for other veg.
  • Excellent advice @fidgetbones however can I ask what rock dust is? I haven’t heard of this before.
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,637
    I agree.  All the manure you can get.  Apply it in a thick layer every autumn on empty beds or after the perennials have died down and the worms and co will work it in for you. 

    Come spring, the soil should be easier to fork over for clearing any weeds before planting and you can add another layer of manure before planting except where you intend to sow carrots or parsnips and the like as they'll fork.
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • I’ll add a good dose of it now. Maybe give it a good dig to try loosen the clay a bit first, got plenty of time on my hands so want to do it properly. I’ll add another good layer come autumn also.
  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 17,247
    edited March 2020
    Rock dust is powdered granite, a by product of quarries.  It used to be labelled SEER rock dust but is now labelled as REMIN volcanic rock dust.  It puts more minerals back into the soil, trying to replicate the high fertility of volcanic regions. It works well in humus rich soil, hence adding loads of manure. It does not work well in high sand/low humus soils like Western Australia.  It seems to need worms to work it , maybe the gut enzymes help make it available to the plant.   I started by using it as a straight dressing, but I have found that if it it used in the compost bins before the worms move into it, the compost is then boosted, and a dressing around established perennial flower plants in the border resulted in stronger colours and plants. An aconitum that was supposed to be 4 ft grew to 6ft, with really good colouration.  Try a sack from B&Q if you can, but I get it by the tonne on a pallet delivered. It works out a lot cheaper, and it keeps, sat on the pallet in the open.  I figure if I am going to the trouble of growing my own veg, I want them as nutritious as possible.

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 53,942
    I'd echo the manure application @cbennett17, but remember that once you plant up your borders, there'll also be less water logging, as plants will take up a lot too. 

    Even better if you plant some shrubs or trees.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • nick615nick615 Posts: 1,458
    As above re manuring but, as clay is normally light in colour and darker soils are warmer than lighter ones, coffee grounds and tea bags from the appropriate cafes/coffee shops will help yours along.
  • I wasn’t sure if there was much point putting coffee/ tea ground in soil or not I’ll certainly start. 
    Dug down quite deep today to plant a shop and found some crazy looking grey clay that was rock solid! Think I’ll order a few more bags of manure 😅 
    thanks for all your help everyone! All advice welcome ☺️
  • BraidmanBraidman Posts: 269
    Dig, dig,dig (not dib, dib,dib) forget the crazy no dig bit, raise the area up with the addition of lots of organic matter and mix it all in often.
    Garden compost worked well for me but it takes time to accumalate and rot down especially if you run a tidy ship!

    I was lucky at first, that was before we were supplied with bins for garden waste, my neighbours used to bring green waste to me, not seeding weeds or grass mowings so that helped.

    It does take time and patience to get on top of the job!
  • PosyPosy Posts: 3,601
    I have that grey clay. Don't wait for worms to 'take it down', life is too short. Dig deep and mix in as much manure and some coarse grit if you can get it. Mix it all up, turn it over, break up lumps. VERY IMPORTANT, and a mistake I made - clay often forms a 'pan'. This is an impenetrable, smooth surface at the base where your spade has scraped up the soil you are working. Before you finish a section, take your fork and just break up the base of your dig. Once the soil is improved you can plant into it and mulch as often as possible to continue to improve it. There will be worms to help you by then.
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