Grow Your Own Magazine

Navbar button growfruitandveg.co.uk Logo
Forum Navigation

+ Reply to Thread
Page 2 of 3 FirstFirst 123 LastLast
Results 9 to 16 of 17
Like Tree27Likes

Thread: Growing in clay soil - what to do?

  1. #9
    sparrow100's Avatar
    sparrow100 is offline Early Fruiter
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    London
    Posts
    2,874

    Default

    If your plot's just grass and has been fallow for a year or more, it is possibly quite fertile on its own, so you could choose to see the additions of muck etc as soil improver rather than fertiliser.

    Do you have muck deliveries to your site? Or can you visit a local stables with a pitchfork and a trailer or bags and a well-lined boot/car? Lots of the local yards here have big piles of well rotted manure, particularly the private livery yards for some reason, rather than the public riding stables. Our site has an arrangement with some stables for regular deliveries of fresh manure (paid in beer) so I usually have a couple of daleks plus the hotbin full and 'maturing' during the year.

    Rather than manuring the whole thing, you could just use manure/compost in the seed drills and planting holes as you put veg in. It's much more cost-effective if you are getting your wallet out.

    As for stones, it depends on their size and what you want to do there. My friend's plot over in High Wycombe seems to be on a flint seam and we take out stones the size of a child's head fairly regularly. My stones are much smaller and I leave most of them in. If I am growing roots (parsnips, salsify - which is GAWJUS, carrots etc) I tend to stick my hoe handle in the ground about 8 inches deep, twiddle it a bit (technical term!) and backfill with damp compost and sow into that. Or you could riddle a particular area.

    Let us know how you get on. I'm on heavy orange clay so you have my sympathies for its challenges, but it really is fertile stuff. You need to keep the hoe moving once you've dug as it does tend to set a crust on top which can be hard for seeds to break through and for water to get down through.
    marchogaeth and SusieG like this.

  2. #10
    marchogaeth's Avatar
    marchogaeth is offline Early Fruiter
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Preseli Hills North Pembrokeshire
    Posts
    2,236
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default

    Here you are, one lazy raised bed. Three or four years ago this was the roughest of rough permanent pasture. It has had anything that will rot chucked on it under cardboard over every winter. My soil is pH 5.1 and only a few inches deep before hitting serious clay and rock.

    This winter has been quite dry so I did pull the cardboard off and tidy it for the pic! Although, it's probably a bit early. I've put it under some clear plastic now to encourage it to warm up (North facing slope) and keep it a bit dryer before planting.

    As you can see,I hope, I cut in the sides, this is to encourage ground beetles to fall in and stay and eat slugs, these edges will be cut in much more sharply after planting - the only spade work involved, any lumps are broken up with a fork. Cutting in also means that, as the soil slumps, it doesn't fall onto the paths. The bed will be forked over again and raked smoother/leveller before planting. (It is a long bed - it's filling a funny corner and two would have been too short. And please don't look at the weeds in the leeks!)

    Attachment 54394

    Attachment 54395
    Last edited by marchogaeth; 22-03-2015 at 12:51 PM. Reason: web playing up!
    "A life lived in fear is a life half lived."

    PS. I just don't have enough time to say hello to everyone as they join so please take this as a delighted to see you here!

  3. #11
    TheChemist's Avatar
    TheChemist is offline Seedling
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    South Bucks
    Posts
    81

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by sparrow100 View Post
    If your plot's just grass and has been fallow for a year or more, it is possibly quite fertile on its own, so you could choose to see the additions of muck etc as soil improver rather than fertiliser.

    I think it's been empty three years

    Do you have muck deliveries to your site? Or can you visit a local stables with a pitchfork and a trailer or bags and a well-lined boot/car? Lots of the local yards here have big piles of well rotted manure, particularly the private livery yards for some reason, rather than the public riding stables. Our site has an arrangement with some stables for regular deliveries of fresh manure (paid in beer) so I usually have a couple of daleks plus the hotbin full and 'maturing' during the year.

    I'll ask, but it's a tiny site. My daughter rides at very small yard, so I'll try there on Saturday.

    Rather than manuring the whole thing, you could just use manure/compost in the seed drills and planting holes as you put veg in. It's much more cost-effective if you are getting your wallet out.

    Again...why didn't I think of this? That'd be much easier, and cheaper.

    As for stones, it depends on their size and what you want to do there. My friend's plot over in High Wycombe seems to be on a flint seam and we take out stones the size of a child's head fairly regularly. My stones are much smaller and I leave most of them in. If I am growing roots (parsnips, salsify - which is GAWJUS, carrots etc) I tend to stick my hoe handle in the ground about 8 inches deep, twiddle it a bit (technical term!) and backfill with damp compost and sow into that. Or you could riddle a particular area.

    Yes...lots of flint. Lots of childrens heads. Guy on the site says he removes 20 buckets a year and he's been there 25 years!

    Let us know how you get on. I'm on heavy orange clay so you have my sympathies for its challenges, but it really is fertile stuff. You need to keep the hoe moving once you've dug as it does tend to set a crust on top which can be hard for seeds to break through and for water to get down through.
    Thank you so much. My mind is at ease a bit. I was wondering if we'd manage to grow anything this year!

    Marchogaeth - thanks - fab looking beds! I think we'll need a few "lazies" as we can't afford the wood for it all right now. How you get it looking so neat I do not know!
    SusieG likes this.

  4. #12
    sparrow100's Avatar
    sparrow100 is offline Early Fruiter
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Location
    London
    Posts
    2,874

    Default

    I'm going to do lazies on the plot I've just taken on - with gravel boards around the edges to keep the grass out. I have put in terraced raised beds on my first plot and they are fab, but it's a hell of a lot of work to begin with. My plot's not as steep as yours, but it does drop about 8 ft from the sw corner to the NE.

    Attachment 54414

    Attachment 54413

  5. #13
    SkyChild's Avatar
    SkyChild is offline Sprouter
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    Dundee, East Coast, Scotland
    Posts
    140

    Default

    Check gumtree and places where there is building work going on for old pallets - they make an excellent source of free/cheap timber for building beds/fences etc.
    I'm on clay too and would back up what people are saying - clay does actually hold lots of nutrients, it's more the drainage and acidity you need to worry about. I'd test the PH and maybe if you can't afford lots of compost do half compost and half sand? this should help drainage as well as fertility.
    Don't dig when it's wet or it'll dry into a horrible hard crust (it often does this anyway)
    TheChemist likes this.

  6. #14
    marchogaeth's Avatar
    marchogaeth is offline Early Fruiter
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Preseli Hills North Pembrokeshire
    Posts
    2,236
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by TheChemist View Post
    Thank you so much. My mind is at ease a bit. I was wondering if we'd manage to grow anything this year!

    Marchogaeth - thanks - fab looking beds! I think we'll need a few "lazies" as we can't afford the wood for it all right now. How you get it looking so neat I do not know!
    Photoshop!
    "A life lived in fear is a life half lived."

    PS. I just don't have enough time to say hello to everyone as they join so please take this as a delighted to see you here!

  7. #15
    BertieFox's Avatar
    BertieFox is offline Tuber
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Pays de la Loire
    Posts
    709
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default

    'Real' clay soil is so heavy and wet you can't dig it in winter, or only with great difficulty and then it becomes rock solid when it dries out in late spring and summer. So you only have a small window of opportunity to cultivate your soil in spring!

    The answer to this is to open up the soil with lots of organic matter, which sounds so easy but can take years. Lime does help but you need loads of it and to work it in to make a real difference.

    I am a great believer in methods using loads of top mulch, everything from straw to wood chips, as long as they are not dug in as this will rob nitrogen from the soil. Take a look at the Youtube videos on 'Back to Eden' (rather hyped) and One Yard Revolution which is well informed, and you will get the idea.

    Essentially, by keeping the very poor soil completely covered with a deep layer of mulch, you retain the moisture meaning it can still be cultivated in summer, and the mulch suppresses the growth of annual weeds.

    It can be tedious as it means you need to grow the plants in modules or pots to plant out by drawing back the mulch, and to sow you need to clear a wide drill of mulch and work the surface layer into a decent tilth.

    I do believe this is one of the easiest ways of dealing with difficult and weedy ground, though you need a good source of free mulch. You might find a wood supplier who has bark chips for free and you can use ruined straw from a farm or stables.

  8. #16
    TheChemist's Avatar
    TheChemist is offline Seedling
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
    Location
    South Bucks
    Posts
    81

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by BertieFox View Post
    'Real' clay soil is so heavy and wet you can't dig it in winter, or only with great difficulty and then it becomes rock solid when it dries out in late spring and summer. So you only have a small window of opportunity to cultivate your soil in spring!

    The answer to this is to open up the soil with lots of organic matter, which sounds so easy but can take years. Lime does help but you need loads of it and to work it in to make a real difference.

    I am a great believer in methods using loads of top mulch, everything from straw to wood chips, as long as they are not dug in as this will rob nitrogen from the soil. Take a look at the Youtube videos on 'Back to Eden' (rather hyped) and One Yard Revolution which is well informed, and you will get the idea.

    Essentially, by keeping the very poor soil completely covered with a deep layer of mulch, you retain the moisture meaning it can still be cultivated in summer, and the mulch suppresses the growth of annual weeds.

    It can be tedious as it means you need to grow the plants in modules or pots to plant out by drawing back the mulch, and to sow you need to clear a wide drill of mulch and work the surface layer into a decent tilth.

    I do believe this is one of the easiest ways of dealing with difficult and weedy ground, though you need a good source of free mulch. You might find a wood supplier who has bark chips for free and you can use ruined straw from a farm or stables.

    Luckily I have a friend who owns an arable farm with a few hundred chickens and some cows knocking about Thanks for the Youtube video suggestions. I'll give them a watch tonight!

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts