Healthy Soil
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Author:  jp4LSU [ Sat Apr 26, 2014 6:04 am ]
Post subject:  Healthy Soil

I have grey clay in my yard. The low spots hold water for days after a heavy rain and the water runs off or evaporates too fast on the areas that have any slope to them. Even minimal slope. I have an acre and heavy shade in the back and full sun in front.

My Current Plan:
1) Aerate yard like crazy, especially the bare spots and low areas that hold water, which are also bare or really thin for the most part. Never been sodded, just natives.
2) Spray the yard with shampoo as been suggested by a few members here. Thay will take a lot of time and shampoo with an acre.

I want to get the low lying areas percolating better and healthier before bringing in dirt & top soil to level things out.

What else can I do to aid in getting my soil healthier?
After aeration, would spreading out lava sand or fine expanded shale help any? Getting some of that material down into the plug aerated openings.

Thanks for the help,

Author:  northwesterner [ Sat Apr 26, 2014 9:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Healthy Soil

Part of the reason for aeration is so that material can get into the soil. I would suggest that you look at the sick tree treatment as a way to treat the whole yard - do the parts that make the soil healthier, particularly steps 4 and 5.

Author:  jp4LSU [ Sat Apr 26, 2014 9:42 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Healthy Soil

Thanks. I just went through the process. Actually all the shade in the back is from old Pecan trees so it would help them at the same time. It used to be an orchard.

OK so the back yard is 1/2 acre alone. How much coverage of G Juice should I do on the ground. That can get very expensive for 1 acre lot. Is there anything else I use that might be less expensive as far as sprays?

I still should be ok with the shampoo spray along with the rest of the Sick Tree Treatment, right?

Heck I might mix that with G Juice and do it the same time.

Author:  northwesterner [ Sat Apr 26, 2014 5:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Healthy Soil

Do what you can within your budget - if there is only one thing you can afford to do, Howard often recommends spreading some dry molasses over the area, the sugar stimulates biological activity in the soil and gets things going in the right direction.

Author:  Fancylawnmower [ Sun Apr 27, 2014 12:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Healthy Soil

You could also try creating your own garrett juice or an even cheaper plan is to use compost tea. Other than te pump and bucket you can produce this on a very inexpensive level. Start there and add molasses, apple cider vinegar, fish, seaweed, or whatever to fit you needs be it fungal or bacterial.

Author:  seven11 [ Sun Apr 27, 2014 7:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Healthy Soil

The shampoo method is much faster and cheaper than physical aeration. Remember, it's just 1 oz./1000 s.f. so you can cover your acre with 2-3 bottles. It doesn't take too long with a hose end sprayer, either. The Garrett Juice also isn't too bad if you buy the concentrated form and dilute it yourself.

Author:  jp4LSU [ Mon Apr 28, 2014 6:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Healthy Soil

Thanks a lot all for the good information.
Here is my plan after reading this:

-Core Aerate like crazy (I can rent the pull behind type for $50-60/day
-Spray Shampoo and Garret Juice (As much Garret Juice as I can afford)
-Spread dry molasses
-Get a yard of Lava Sand and maybe Green Sand also and spread at real troublesome areas.
-If budget allows I'll try to spread some Zeolite at bad locations.

I hope this does the trick. Looking forward to trying it. If I can get the soil to percolate a little better it help out so much. I might even have less need for material at the low spots if it is absorbing water better. Instead of trying to push/drain the water away from this trouble areas, I might just be able to get the ground to absorb it better.

Author:  northwesterner [ Mon Apr 28, 2014 9:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Healthy Soil

Take a look at the library listing for each of the products you're considering so you know what strengths they bring to the soil. Greensand, for example, adds iron, but it isn't put out in the same amount as lavasand or zeolite or decomposed granite.

If you look at the Bed Preparation guide, it states:
Add amendments. Add 4 - 6” of compost, dry molasses or other organic fertilizer (2 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.), zeolite (10 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.), lava sand (10 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.), greensand (4 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.), and whole ground cornmeal (2 lbs. per 100 sq. ft.). If the budget allows, add ½ inch of decomposed granite. Rototill or fork to a total depth of 8”.

Preparing a bed isn't the same as repairing your lawn area, you are planning to spread these materials over a wider area and not till it in. You might try the shampoo aeration first to see if that form of aeration is enough.

Author:  jp4LSU [ Mon Apr 28, 2014 1:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Healthy Soil

Thanks NW'r.
Yeah I was reviewing the sick tree treatment as suggested. The doses are in lb/1000sqft, so it is a matter of converting said material from yards to lbs.

So I will need to know what the weight of a 1yard of each material is before I deceide how much I need.

What about gypsum? I've heard that this is really good for heavy gray clay in that it helps with the high sodium content in the clay.

Author:  northwesterner [ Mon Apr 28, 2014 2:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Healthy Soil

I switched over from the sick tree treatment to the bed prep list - sorry about that! But either one of them offers good tips for creating a healthy yard.

See what the library says about gypsum.

If you're buying ingredients in bulk, you can go to some of the sites that will load a yard into your pickup - it's a lot more than you might think, and is cheaper to buy by the truckload than in bags. Check with your local garden centers, or try someplace like Thelin Recycling in Fort Worth where you drive up and they pour it into the truck with a front end loader.

Author:  user_48634 [ Sun Jun 22, 2014 11:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Healthy Soil

I realize I'm late to this discussion, but if that is what you were planning to do, there is more to do than that.

jp4LSU, where do you live? Are you in Louisiana?

Before you do anything involving gypsum or lime, be sure to get a soil test that will tell you which kind of lime, what amount, and when to apply. Grey clay might not have a single bit of clay. It could be a combination of other minerals and salts which mimic clay in density and water repellancy but lead you to use exactly the wrong chemistry repairs. Howard like the Texas Plant and Soil Lab for soil testing. They are good but I think you get a more comprehensive test for less money at Logan Labs in Ohio. Also I can get you a free reading of a Logan Labs soil test but not for a TPSL test. There is a guy named Andy who moderates a soil forum on another website. He and others there have been reading Logan Labs soil tests, thousands of them, for years. If you need exotic micronutrients to improve your salt balance or soil chemistry, they will tell you where to find it online, how much you need, when to apply, and more. Andy is all organic, so the chemicals he will suggest will only be in micro amounts to tune things up. And he will never suggest using chemical fertilizers.

Assuming you can loosen the soil, you will still need to add soil to the low spots where the water accumulates. If you don't improve the drainage there, the only grasses that will grow will be swamp grasses like nutsedge.

If you have not made compost tea yet, it is too late in the south. Water (air) temps have to be in the 60s or low 70s to get anything out of compost tea. What you can do is fill the leg of some women's stockings with compost and plunge it in and out of the coldest water you can put into a 5-gallon bucket. Plunge it in, squeeze the bag of compost, wring it out, squeeze the water out, and plunge it back in. Repeat for about 10 minutes. What you're doing is washing the beneficial microbes out of the compost and into the water. Then IMMEDIATELY spray that on the yard.

You will save a lot of money by using liquid molasses instead of dry molasses. They make 40 pounds of dry molasses by taking 30 pounds of waste ag material, like chipped corn cobs, and soaking it in 10 pounds of liquid molasses. 10 pounds of liquid molasses costs about $1.00 at a farm and ranch co-op. Find one in your area that sells bulk molasses. You bring in your own container and they fill it for the wholesale cost of molasses. It used to be $0.10 per pound a few years ago. A 1-gallon bottle will hold about 10 pounds costing about a dollar. You can spray liquid molasses with a hose end sprayer, a backpack, or an ag sprayer on a tow-behind. Spray at rate of 1 gallon per acre or 3 ounces per 1,000 square feet.

You can fortify the molasses by adding milk, liquid seaweed, and/or shampoo. Milk and seaweed add protein, minerals, vitamins, and enzymes. The shampoo will help carry the liquids including water deeper into the soil. The idea with the shampoo is to moisten the soil deeper down. That allows the beneficial fungi, the ones which normally soften your soil, to repopulate. Rates for all those materials is 1 gallon per acre (3 ounces per 1,000).

If you are going to aerate, take advantage of the holes in the ground by trying to fill them with water. Here again the shampoo will help the water to penetrate, but you need to get the soil moist down deep. If the soil ends up soggy for awhile, be sure to stay off of it until the moisture either soaks in or evaporates. Keep after it and the process will work for you.

Author:  jp4LSU [ Wed Jul 23, 2014 4:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Healthy Soil

Thanks so much D_S_A. Great advice as usual and I will be looking into the soil test. To answer a few questions you asked:

-I'm in NW FW close to Eagle Mtn Lake on the east side.
-I didn't end up using any lime or gypsum despite reading great things about it. It just seemed like I should do some soil testing before I did that.

I have seen some substantial improvements to my problem area percalating better. I compare it to the vacant lot next to me that holds water and it is much much better at absorbing the moisture.
However, there is room for improvement and I'll eventually get around to adding some soil. My front yard looks a lot better too and seems to be absorbing moisture better and the grass looks better and thicker. Granted I did plant seed in the bad spots.

Here is what I did:

1) Aerated the entire acre. The bad spots with thin grass and I hit twice.
2) Spread dried molasses, lava sand, TX green sand over acre. Used recommendations from the Library page for sick tree treatment that somebody suggested.
3) Spread Bermuda seed where it was needed.

I wanted to get around to spraying shampoo as well and maybe H2O2. Just didn't get to it. I wanted to do that while the cores in the ground were open. I plan on doing this each year I think.

Now maybe the easy summer had some effect on teh grass health more than anything I did, but I think what I did helped a lot and it certainly helped the yard perculate better.

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