Thursday, March 3, 2011

Gardening Tip - Fixing Clay Soil with Gypsum

       In the previous post I talked about identifying clay soils, now its time to fix the problem.  Clay soils have 2 basic problems that are harmful for healthy plant development.  The first is that the chemical makeup of clay soil tends to be high in salt and the salt is tightly bound to the soil particles.  This chemical composition also holds water tightly to the salt and soil, so that drainage is poor.  The second problem is that clay soils tend to be lacking in organic material and the soil micro-organisms that help plants to thrive.  Some California natives actually prefer this type of lean soil, but I will save that for another post.
      To address the first problem you need to add some gypsum to the soil.  Gypsum is another word for calcium sulfate, a chemical that replaces the sodium in the soil with calcium.  This chemical action helps to unlock the soil, getting all that salt to flush away from the root zone, which in turn lets the water drain away as well.
      You can either use gypsum for a new landscape by mixing it into the soil with a rototiller, or by spreading it on an existing landscape and watering it in.  The standard gypsum powder takes awhile to take effect in the soil, so you can also use a liquid form of gypsum to speed up the process. There are various types and strengths of gypsum on the market, so always follow the label when it comes to how much to use.   Gypsum is not a fertilizer, so you will still have to feed the plants but it will allow the soil to better process future plant food.  Gypsum should only be used on clay soils; it is worthless for sandy soils.
      Since we have gone over the 2 minute mark, part 2 will have to wait until Saturday when I talk about Gro-Power.

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