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RainSong

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This area is... well.. clay. In fact, they used to make bricks used world-wide from the soil here. This is that awful stuff that stains everything a nice bright orange, sticky as all heck...

My step-dad and Mom's solution was to mix cheap potting soil and cow manure into the soil. There has GOT to be a better way! I've heard rabbit droppings can work wonders. A lot of the soil here in Oregon seems to have a higher clay content (at least, the places I've lived and been doing any sort of gardening/digging work!), so even when we move, once we have someplace I can have a garden in the future, I want to be prepared.

I know the areas they were doing the potting soil/manure mixes on are better then the non-treated areas, but they're still pretty bad- and they've dumped in BAGS upon BAGS of the stuff out there. Iris grow like weeds here, so do roses with some rose food every few years, and the carnations were doing well till my step-dad pulled them all out with the grass... but the trees don't do so well, and there's quite a few other plants that don't grow very well. They "live" but... don't really thrive.

So, anyone know how to improve this stuff?

If using rabbit droppings, can you mix in wood shavings if they're mixed in with the droppings?
 

susanne

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According to the best gardeners in the northwest, the simplest solution is raised beds and lasagna gardening.

When you work compost into the clay, the clay ends up sucking up the compost, and you soon have plain old nasty clay once again, and end up continually amending your soil.

I bypass the clay altogether by first laying down heavy sheets of cardboard (big ones so that you don't have weeds growing in between), then alternate green and brown compost with sheets of newspaper in between.

Mingus Magic (aka horse doody) is our secret ingredient.

At our last place, we had established beds in which the former owner had dug years of compost into the clay (of course, I had to dig out waist-high weeds to plant). Being a manic gardener, I had to add a giant perennial border curving around the back lawn, so I used the lasagna/raised bed method there. The plants in the existing beds were planted one year earlier than the new ones, but the new plants (many of them same as what was planted in the first beds) were taller and fuller within two months.

Whereas Oregon gardening lore tells you NOT to touch your garden soil during winter and early spring lest you end up with rock-hard clods, I can work this soil year-round.
 

mad for mini's

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I've never had to deal with trying to plant in clay ( we live in a sand box
) but I have heard that mixing sand into your clay beds will help to break it up and add drainage. Want to borrow some ? I have plenty !
 

Bunnylady

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First let me say, I ain't called Bunnylady for nothin'!


If it weren't for the rabbits, I wouldn't have a lawn, or a garden, the soil here has about the nutrient value of fingernails. Although even fingernails have some nitrogen. . . .Seriously, we have Venus Flytrap, pitcher plants and Sundews growing native on our property, all insectivorous plants that need poor soil to thrive.

Rabbit droppings are great, you can use them straight out from under the cages, without burning most plants. I spread them not more than an inch deep, because, like any manure, they will breed flies if allowed to be deep and moist enough.

Cage litter (droppings mixed with shavings) should probably be composted first. The wood shavings take awhile to break down, and they actually absorb nitrogen while they do it. Mixing in a material that is relatively high in nitrogen, like grass clippings, will help the shavings break down faster.

Around here, the soil tends to be sandy. We try to get it to hold moisture. Clay soils tend to hold moisture-too well! Adding organic matter can help either problem. There is also a mineral, called gypsum, that can be added to clay soil to help with drainage. It causes the clay particles to form small clumps, allowing moisture and air to move through the soil better.

If the soil is really lousy, one approach is just to put better soil on top of it. You can make raised beds, with or without framed sides, and ignore the native soil entirely.

Boy, I wish roses grew like weeds around here!
 

Minxiesmom

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Compost! Compost! Compost! Anywhere you can get it, made out of anything. If you have stalls, pile up what you clean out of stalls and let it compost with what ever kitchen scraps, leaves, leftover old hay...whatever. Get a book on composting. It is the answer to clay, which is all I have here. Raised beds make life a little easier.

I had an area that was not only clay, but had been compacted by equipment when we built our house. All I did was pile about a foot of my composted stall waste over the entire area and started planting. The worms did all the other work mixing the compost into that compacted clay. My garden is thriving.

Where in western Oregon are you? I am in So Or. You can come get all the compost you want! Just bring a shovel.

Diane in OR
 

Reignmaker Miniatures

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I agree with the raised beds. I live on clay (with gigantic rocks in it) and rather than fight my soil I just make bottomless boxes and fill them with well composted manure and sometimes a bit of sand mixed in. The advantages are many. I can plant weeks earlier than is normal here because the beds warm up faster, the year we got torrential rains my neighbours gardens all drowned, my beds drained so well that I had islands in a lake that were growing great. And they are easier to weed. I love my beds.
 

Suzie

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Here in the south, we have hard red clay. We have some of the most famous pottery places around but that means hard dirt too.

That is what cleaning my stables out is all about. We use all our stall shavings, etc in the garden to add nutrients and allow water to be absorbed. Makes great compost after about a year of watering it and turning it occasionally- like dark loam....perfect stuff for hard clay soil. All my neighbors line up to get my stalls cleaned out!!!
 

susanne

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Keep in mind that for vegetable gardening, any manure should be aged to kill off any parasites or pathogens.

I grow mostly ornamentals -- perennials, shrubs and small flowering trees. Some, such as irises and roses, love it right out of the horse. Others prefer aged.

Bunnylady, I wish I had some rabbit droppings along with our plentiful Mingus Magic. Another great one is chicken manure, especially good if you have whiny neighbors close by to prove that horse manure doesn't smell at all...

Forgot to add...my raised beds are never boxed. Some have rock borders, others a narrow trench between garden bed and lawn to prevent grass roots from invading.
 

Bunnylady

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Bunnylady, I wish I had some rabbit droppings along with our plentiful Mingus Magic. Another great one is chicken manure, especially good if you have whiny neighbors close by to prove that horse manure doesn't smell at all...
I have a few chickens, too! You aren't kidding, chicken manure is RANK!!
 

Shari

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We are working to make are Veggie garden soil better. We also have special clay up here... keep telling my husband he should be a potter... then we could call him the..... "Hairy Potter"..! Da dum ta!

Anyway.. I want raised beds and hubby doesn't. So I will give him this year and next... then I will get my raised beds.

What we did last winter is dump every bit horse manure and shavings into our clay soil garden bed. Half of it did not turn out half bad but it will need more..much more.

I have been thinking of adding some sand to it next winter, along with more horse manure and shavings, alfalfa pellets and crushed oyster shells.

I hope in the next couple of years we can get close to having a almost,,4 season garden.

Good luck with your garden!
 

whitney

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Yep raised beds are the way to go. However if you can afford the HEAVY DUTY landscape fabric use that it the bottom it lasts 20 years or more whereas cardboard only last 2-3 years (been there done that have the T-Shirt) and horse manure lotsa horse manure. I have 5 horses and they cannot produce ENOUGH. I put the manure on the beds in the fall.
 

Bess Kelly

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Yep raised beds are the way to go. However if you can afford the HEAVY DUTY landscape fabric use that it the bottom it lasts 20 years or more whereas cardboard only last 2-3 years (been there done that have the T-Shirt) and horse manure lotsa horse manure. I have 5 horses and they cannot produce ENOUGH. I put the manure on the beds in the fall.

Now, there's just one more reason to get MORE horses
Five is NOT enough


When composting it sometimes helps to throw some fertilizer into the pile. This helps break it down faster.

This is a thought if you don't have grass clippings........with hay prices what they are, I'm into using the horses for the lawnmowers on every inch I can fence.
 

whitney

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Yep me too, but I tie them to the garden fence and they mow the lawn while I weed the vegetable garden.
 

Just Us N Texas

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Yep, we've got clay here, and we use our "stall cleanings". We compost all the bedding and manure, turn it ever so often, then work it in the soil. We grow great grass, and plenty of it. ( I just wish curly dock and goat weed was something that could be used for food, fuel, or whatever, cause it sure grows well here!) We use the horse manure because it doesn't burn the plants. The old nurseryman where we get most of our trees and plants tell us to be extremely careful with cow manure as it has too much salt, and will burn badly and quickly. Seems there are so many additives to the cow feed now that it makes the manure difficult to use. He also recommends rabbit droppings. Chicken manure is good, but boy is it ever strong, and it will burn things up pretty quickly.

This year, my husband worked up the garden with a rototiller, dumped our compost on top of it, then worked that into the soil so there was a good mixture of fertilizer and soil. One area of our garden, for strawberries, he tilled at a later date, didn't put compost on it and work it in, and you can really tell the difference in the plants! We just happened to find the strawberry plants later in the planting season, and they got put in quickly. They're doing okay, but they sure don't look as healthy and hearty as the tomatoes, beans, and other veggies.

One good thing to think about when you are putting all that feed into the horses, is all the gardening material they are putting out, and all the good fresh veggies you will be able to eat because of them!
 

RainSong

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I'm just imagining me hauling around horse poop whenever I get horses (likely I'll have to board first, at this rate)... ROFL

I know my step-dad used to mix "smart pills" as he called them (rabbit manure/pellets!) into his garden. He didn't have ANY issues with getting it to grow- his big issue was the rocks. Since we all moved here, though, he curses that soil every time he starts working with it. I've taken to dumping old fishtank water on the gardens, and in the plant pots- great for growth, but it doesn't work so well if you actually want flowers I hear LOL

The roses are freakish. My step-dad's two recent transplants were pretty pathetic for the first two years. They were in the back yard though, and didn't get rose food. The ones in front of the house, right in front of the windows.... well!! I was cutting one of them- a white rose, non-wild nor climbing, not a tea rose, and I had to use a hacksaw to cut some of the canes. That was partly because they hadn't been cut down the year before- I didn't have anything big enough, hand clippers COULDN'T do it. So I left a good 2ft of cane.... and still had a cut cane portion that was taller then my 5'2" by at least a foot. The tea roses and wild roses are just 100% insane....

Thanks for all the advice for the future guys!! I'll have to look into composting- I've been wondering how to do it anyways. Better to put food waste there (or in chickens?) then to have it go in the trash... right?
 

susanne

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If your climbing roses are old garden roses, they don't need to be cut back...just pruned for dead and weak canes and for keeping them manageable.

I would advise against using sand in clay -- at least in Oregon clay...you'll really need a posster's bench!

In addition to the horse manure, I use the spent wood pellet bedding...not too much, but a small amount keeps the soil loose and adds "brown" matter to your compost mix (manure is considered "green."
 

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