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27/03/2014 at 20:03


after having enough of the clay soil in my garden I have started to dig some of it up to introduce plants that require good drainage.

i have dug various 12 inch deep areas but now have a dilemma.

can I fill these areas with jut unscreened topsoil or do I have to get screened as we'll because filing screened this deep will just cause mud baths (due to having little stones in etc)???

27/03/2014 at 20:48

Digging holes in the clay will mean that even if you put well drained compost, you are in effect putting it in a clay pot sunk in the soil. I would add as much fibrous compost as you can get to the whole area and mix well in. Clay with a lot of added  humus can be very  fertile and productive.  If you want  to make separate beds for plants that require sharp drainage and sandy soil, consider raised beds. It is easier to plant plants suitable for the conditions, rather than trying to drastically alter it.

27/03/2014 at 22:57

Many thanks fidgetbones.

i have masses of horse manure at my disposal. It's a mix of fresh and a couple of months old. would this help If I dug it in?

also got a bit of sand. Would this do anything?

27/03/2014 at 23:00

I think the manure is too fresh. Use it in the compost heap mixed up with other stuff and leave it for a few months.  I can't see the sand being much use. Can you get a sack of peat or fine composted bark or other soil conditioner?

27/03/2014 at 23:30

Hi lee 3, I wouldn't use fresh manure as this wont be good for your plants, I believe it 'burns' them in some way.  If you are collecting from a stable yard or the like, make sure you ask them where the oldest muck is.  It needs to be a good few months old, in fact, the older the better then you will be well thanked by your plants 

27/03/2014 at 23:47

if you can lay the fresh manure on areas you don't intend to cultivate in the short term, that's great, but don't use it near any , especially , young plants. If it's an area you're not planning to work in , say, this season, pile it one and let the worms etc do their best.


27/03/2014 at 23:56

Heavy clay is hell to dig, as I'm sure you've discovered. If you can possibly get the worms to do it for you (as Hostafan says), do.

You might try council-produced compost from the recycling centre if you can't get well-rotted manure for this year.

28/03/2014 at 00:01

we have , at best 4 -6 inches of soil over dense ,heavy clay. Worms are your friends. A spade is, erm , your killer.



28/03/2014 at 00:02

any organic matter you can get hold of, be it garden compost , farmyard/ stable manure etc , grab it and use it.


28/03/2014 at 00:32

Clay always seems to be a problem.  However, without it.  Heaven knows where we would be.  I have just browsed over the forum comments. Applying fresh stable or farmyard manure is safe, however one or two points to bare in mind.  Yes the acidity the animal pee etc, can be quite toxic.  So if using such.  Spread it over your plot late in the year, around the start of winter.  The weather will break it all down and the acids and other nuitriments will soak into the soil.   What remains on the surface, will add fibre etc when dug in.  Double digging seems to have faded into oblivion, however it works.  From the general comments of todays gardeners.  Forgive me for saying so, but.  the less work the better.  In brief.  Most of us would like to garden a plot, something rfesembling a giant seed tray.  Buying in from garden centres etc, bags of top soil.  Beware.  You gets' what you pay for.  I bought several bags of top soil from B&Q.  I ended up with a fine plantation of earth balls,or puffball fungi.  If clay is a real problem to you.  The usual advice isto dig in gypsum and the like.  Try digging out a spit.  Now infill with shredded branches and other cut down growth. Then turn over your next spit, and do the same.  The difference being in techniques, is.  Gypsum and the like.  The gritty substance tends to cut it's way through the barrier of clay.  Whereas, the perhaps more bulky twiggy chopped up woody material, will gradually be absorbed by the stcky clay  eventually bein devoured etc, but in the process, it will cause to be kept open the clay particles.  Added to the more courser ingredients, of course vegative compost is also of great help.  A wee tip however,  Adding compost to the soil, can also change the pH level.   Don't worry.

28/03/2014 at 07:56

Mike, what is a 'spit'.  Is it a trench?

28/03/2014 at 08:30

A spit is the depth of the blade of your spade, so what Mike means is to dig it to that depth

28/03/2014 at 09:41

Thanks, Dove.....  


28/03/2014 at 23:16

Many thanks all.

i have found on a website compost direct 3 things to mix in but which one will prove optimum results? The


soil conditioner

black gold

farmyard manure


Any thoughts?



29/03/2014 at 07:17

Hi lee

Soil conditioner is just another name for garden compost, manure or spent mushroom compost, all of which will improve the condition/structure/fertility of your soil.

Garden centres sell bags of compost labelled 'soil conditioner' to differentiate between it and the various types of potting compost. 

Black Gold is just a brand of compost with soil added.

Farmyard manure is what it says it is - if you're buying it in bags from the garden centre it should be well rotted when you get it and it can be dug straight into your soil - it's my first choice to improve my soil!!!

You can also buy 'spent mushroom compost' (look online) and this will also improve the condition of your soil - however it will contain lime so if you garden on acid soil and wish to grow acid loving plants it's not a good idea to use it.

29/03/2014 at 09:19

What about spent compost from growbags?  Someone dumped a load of this near my allotment in the winter.  I've already put 4 barrowfuls on my potato plot and one on (well, under) the I doing the right thing?  Looks like remains of tomato or similar plants (roots) in there

29/03/2014 at 09:20

That'll be fine as a soil conditioner Steve - stir it about, dig it in 

29/03/2014 at 09:31

Good - that's wot I fort.  And what I did.  Spread in on top (about 3" deep) then made the trenches for spuds, added compost & planted.  Looking forward to lots of yummy Charlotte (reminds me of of a girl I once knew....)

. Happy days.  Now I just need to shift the rest of it - will raise the not-very-raised beds at last!  About another 30 barrowfuls at a guess!  And me with a bad back

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