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Amending clay soil


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I had the same problem, soil more fit for making bricks than anything else. If you can buy quartz sand (from a river) rather than calcareous sand (bubbles like hell when you add Vixol bathroom cleaner (Hydrochloric acid (!)). I scattered sand over the surface and bit by bit earth worms plus my weeding and harvesting activities mixed the stuff in. Lovely stuff now, mulching with rice straw, cattle dung and compost. Don't add too much at a time or you will finish up with sandy soil. Took me about a year by trial and error, I thing we still have a corner that needs a little attention.

Burnt rice husks can also do the job apparently, I haven't tried that yet.

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I've been told that lime works as well. What Is the common available additive? When I ask at the garden supply stores they try to sell me a small and expensive bag of grey pellets.

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I really don't think lime would help, gypsum, yes, as mentioned... (but it's a long process adding organic material too, I was always taught that using sand with turn it more to "concrete". (unless the organic stuff is added too! .... follow Cooked's advice there... )

The grey lime they are selling you is dolomite lime, which actually releases slower. If you want to try using it some more, depends on plants you are growing.... try finding a farm supply store and buy in a 25 Kg bag... it will be lots cheaper! .... Same would be true with fertilizer or gypsum wink.pngthumbsup.gif

The nurseries and small shops like to maximize profits so don't like selling the big bags!

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Cooked has offered good advice. CRH (Carbonised Rice Hulls) will raise the pH slightly but will open up the clay soil. Check your local area for sugar mills, if there are any near you try for a load of cane bagasse. Like CRH it is sold for the cost of loading and delivery. Of the three limes, I would use dolomite as it contains the best range of minerals. Rock phosphate and potash are both cheap, at under 200 baht for 50kg.

But it all comes down to adding humus, organic matter and lots of it. Manure based compost is the best way of doing that. And of course, since this is me answering, do not overlook extended EM application as a drench to get the microbes happening. .

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'Sand' isn't just sand. Over the years I learnt that calcareous sand was not suitable for childrens' sand pits, only quartz sand would do. Same thing for garden soil, quartz sand works wonders with heavy soils, it seems to me that I have been fighting all my life for this very simple solution.

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If gypsum is not working your not spreading it thick enough,you'll need at least 400 kilo per rai,yearly for real clay soil to see the clods become smaller and the breakdown process.

Detergent will also break it down however being the organic section,forget i said that.

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Having been reading about soil conditioning for some time no one has mentioned about using a sub-soiler, or a cultivator the op has clay soil ,which would hold water ,which will not help its brake down , also a sub-soiler or a cultivator ,would open the soil and help it to breath ,then your sand , rice bran ect, would work even better.

All so the Thai way of using a pan sam,pan jet , 3-7 disc plough must leave a pan under the ground and a forward sloping tine cultivator would brake the pan, and help drainage, they is an old field near me sand land soon as the rains come water just sits there can not drain sub- soil it would do it a world of good , and if your land is like mine , old rice paddy’s , and as I am trying to grow grass ,it needs braking down. And draining

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I had a sub-soiler make not over successful,l the foot is to big would not go in the ground a long way , going to make Mark 2 some time, what did work is the cultivator ,I make it with 5 tines way over the top for my small Hino tractor, but 1 tine as a sub -soiler works well especially dueing the dry season it opened up the soil a treat it brought up lumps that have not seen day light in a lot of years , when the rain came I put on 3 tines ,up and down the field and across ,then across with the harrows, we planted Naiper grass ,with what rain we have had it is growing well.

The main problem where to find a cultivator / sub-soiler, I have seen some chisel ploughs here they look imported and would need a fair sized tractor to pull them ,my sub –soiler idea came from a FAO website, the cultivator came from a guy in the US make one and put all the details on the net, I had to down size it to fit my tractor .

Yours KS

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Cooked has offered good advice. CRH (Carbonised Rice Hulls) will raise the pH slightly but will open up the clay soil. Check your local area for sugar mills, if there are any near you try for a load of cane bagasse. Like CRH it is sold for the cost of loading and delivery. Of the three limes, I would use dolomite as it contains the best range of minerals. Rock phosphate and potash are both cheap, at under 200 baht for 50kg.

But it all comes down to adding humus, organic matter and lots of it. Manure based compost is the best way of doing that. And of course, since this is me answering, do not overlook extended EM application as a drench to get the microbes happening. .

What do the Thais call Dolomite? I would like to get some in Chiang mai.....

I find worms really help break up clay, especially the clay under a compost pile that was full of worms! The slower method is to keep all your crop residue on top of the soil, and/or "chop and drop" mulching.

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My dictionary says dolomite in Thai แร่แคลเซียมแมกนี้คาร์บอเนต or in english, calcium magnesium carbonate if that is rightI do not know. which I think is what Sumijimmy said dolomite lime.

A lot of english mineral names are the same in Thai.

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  • 3 months later...

Get a complete soil analysis as a starting point for understanding what you are dealing with. Get a soil test and correct the deficiencies and imbalances accordingly, without the guess work.

For example,: Drainage can be improved by correcting the Calcium:Magnesium ratio, an important factor in soil and plant health. With rainfall and irrigation Calcium leaches readily into lower levels of the soil profile and contributes to the 'tightness' of the subsoil and poor drainage. Dolomite contains Magnesium. Don't add dolomite unless you are sure that your Mg is low in relation to the Ca in the top six inches of soil. If you don't correct the Mg level in proportion to the Ca you are missing an important factor in improving soil conditions.

Calcium is an essential plant nutrient and Boron is important to Calcium metabolism. So don't shortcut the soil test with a home NPK kit. See past posts on the subject of soils and soil testing.

See: www.soilminerals.com Read: The Ideal Soil by Michael Astera.

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