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Discussion Starter #1
I just moved to Texas at the end of May. We are about 20 mins south of Dallas and the soil here is unlike any I have ever seen before. It is black and hard as a rock when dry and slick and sticky as snot when wet.
How do I prep this soil for next years garden? I don't realy want to use raised beds, but I am at a loss as to what to do to make this soil workable.
Any ideas? Please help!
 

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Hunter/Farmer
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If I remember correctly it is classified as Vertisol.
When dry it forms wide cracks, and the top layer will fall in.
Hence the name comes from the way it inverts.:D:

The black is from organic material that is mixed with fine clay. It is a rich soil, but is hard to work most of the time.
The way to improve it to make it easier to work is to add sandy soil and compost.
 
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Super Moderator and Walking Methane Refinery
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That sounds like clay. Something I have a lot of experience with down here. What worked for me was heavy doses of gypsum, along with sand and compost. The gypsum breaks the sodium bond in the clay, allowing it to break down over time. And the sand and compost keeps it from clumping back together. It takes several seasons of gypsum treatments though. The best source is probably the landfill. Most landfills have a seperate section for building waste. You can get all of it you want for free there. Just crush it up a bit and water it. The paper will break down over time.
 

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Compost compost compost and then when you get a chance get a big load of compost. Mix it 50/50 with more compost and then top it all of with a thick layer of compost. Add a bit of sand and all is well. Good luck, oh ya and water well.....with compost tea!
 

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Find some straw bales on Craigslist, should be pretty easy this time of year for a couple bucks per square bale.

Cover your entire garden area with a couple inches of straw and till it all in. May need to water it a bit if the clay is too hard. Then, cover with another couple inches, water it down, and let it set that way all winter, and till again in the spring. Probably wouldn't hurt to water it a few more times before the really cold weather hits.

It won't be great your first planting season, but it'll do. It may take a couple seasons to really break it up.
 

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Reality czech makes a good case to help lighten your soil. In the absence of finished compost, I'd go with leaves and lawn clippings. They're cost free and break down pretty well over the winter in time for Spring planting.
 

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When my son lived at home, and the dog (a big one) was still alive, I'd have him rake all that "organic leavings" into the deepest cracks in the yard and bury it. No problem with stuff at the top growing, since it cracks pretty deep. We had enough rain this year though, I'm thinking of tilling in some sand or something, it's dark and rich, but the clay in it can be a real headache.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
So as I see it the grass clippings and dead leaves that I have been composting all season are pretty much the best thing I can do along with maybe some hay and sand. To make it all work a bit better get a tiller and work it into the soil.
 

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All organic materials worked into the soil and replenished thru the grow season will change the topsoil to a much more root friendly environment.
That should be your goal.

Try to focus on only using well rotted materials...would not use hay or sand.
Unless the hay is well rotted, you will be sowing hay seed on your growspace, and sand is not necessary when using lots of organic materials...they will break down and create a porous topsoil (the reason you would use sand).
Use materials that will serve both purposes...condition soil texture and add nutrient value.

Will take effort and possibly have to sacrifice next season as a "building" year, but will be well worth your time and trouble.

A compost heap is priceless....
 

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Lots and LOTS of organic matter and compost! Work it in well...a tiller to turn it under and mix with the soil IS your friend! When you're done, add more! You need to build tilth and structure to your soil, and break up the clay. Another thing that can help, is to plant alfalfa as a cover crop. The roots will break up the clay, and after the growing season, you can till it under as "green manure".
 

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Discussion Starter #12
ok so forget the sand and hay for the fall and start using the compost that I have or get some that is good and broken down and work it into the soil. Then plant a cover crop for the winter season and work it in in the spring.
I wasn't planning on any late season growing as I figured this fall would be a soil prep season.
 
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