Growers often complain about steps to improve clay soil and soil with proper management can provide a good foundation for the healthy growth of plants. Clay’s unique properties allow it to hold more nutrients and water than other soil types, so it needs less irrigation and less water. In addition, clay soil particles have a lot of surface area and their particles are tiny. The challenge is compacted soil restricts air water and nutrient movement, creating nutrient deficiencies and lack of air movement plants need.
It’s essential to know how much clay soil you have in your farm. To do this, you should test your soil. Here are 2 excellent articles on how to complete a soil test for your farm and this one from modernfarmer.com.
Here are 5 steps to improve clay soil:
1) Aerate The Soil For Water & Oxygen To Flow More Easily
For around $100 a day, you can rent an aerator that can cover 32,000 square feet per hour. For small spaces, a manual tool works well too. Aerating soil increases the space in the soil for oxygen. A plug aerators are best because they remove actual plugs from the soil. Spikes can contribute to more compaction in clay soils. Take care to mark the irrigation, so you don’t run the spikes over any components. The soil benefits from the aeration because water and oxygen flow more easily between soil particles. This is a significant first step to improve clay soil.
2) Add Organic Material To Improve The Clay Soil
There is a wide variety of organic materials to help your soil. Compost, composted leaves, worm casting, and manure are excellent examples of organic materials that improve clay soil. The plant material breaks down the clay particulates, and your plants will benefit from the nutrients as well. Bark, sawdust, and wood chips work well but take longer than the items above.
3) Add Gypsum or Calcium Sulfate To The Soil
Gypsum or calcium sulfate helps break down clay soil and reduces salt in the soil. It also contributes to the soil’s ability to drain. This improves the water use efficiency of the soil, and as a result, less water runs off when it rains.
4) Use a Soil Surfactant (Product Link)
A Soil surfactant can drastically improve clay soil in your farm or garden. The interaction between soil and water is vital to soil health, especially in clay soils that often restrict water movement. Soil surfactants, like Tolero and Quicken from Precision Laboratories, help water infiltrate into clay soils, instead of pooling or running off. This also helps move nutrients into the soil profile and reduces compaction.
5) Stay Disciplined With The Process
It doesn’t take long for the soil to return to its original rigid and clumpy state if you don’t keep adding new material to it. Fertile soil with good tilth does not come about with a single or even several additions of organic material but from a consistent soil-building program.
Thomas Edison taught us three essentials to achieve anything worthwhile: Hard work, stick-to-itiveness, and common sense and to improve your clay soil you require all three. However, staying consistent with a program will yield a beautiful, fertile farm that provides food and flowers for years to come. If you liked this article on clay soil here is an interesting article from Oregon State University on farmers and gardeners who use clay soil and read our other articles on precision irrigation here.