soil conditioners

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by LawnCrazy, Jun 19, 2008.

  1. LawnCrazy

    LawnCrazy LawnSite Member
    Posts: 22

    Does anyone know where I can buy gypsum powder or any other organic material to help with heavy clay soil?I have contacted lowes, home depot, agri. supply, and tractor supply, etc.. no one has a clue what it is or where to get it from.
     
  2. DeepGreenLawn

    DeepGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,372

    what exactly are you trying to accomplish with this product? Are you trying to soften up the soil? Compost will do that too. Why gypsum?
     
  3. JDUtah

    JDUtah LawnSite Silver Member
    from UT
    Posts: 2,636

    LawnCrazy, the only distributer I found was in Austrailia. Hmm... But if it is to help break up the soil...

    OK, so here is the best Humus definition I have found...

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    Humus is the end result of organic matter decomposition and recomposition by microbes. When fresh, undecomposed organic matter (green manures, animal manures, crop residues) is added to soil or placed in a compost pile, a rapid multiplication of soil microorganisms takes place. Certain microbes (bacteria, fungi, and actinomycetes) break this raw organic matter down into smaller particles (gums, waxes, lignins) resistant to further decay and simple organic compounds (sugars, amino acids) that are water soluble. Following the breakdown phase, a second group of microbes bind these materials together, especially lignins and microbial biomass, into more stable humic substances (fulvic acid, humic acid, humins) in the buildup phase.

    The physical, chemical, and biological transfomation of raw organic matter into a complex humic substance is known as humification. Friable humus (also known as effective humus or nutritive humus), which supplies slow-release nutrients over a period of weeks or months, is a short-chain humic compound. Stable humus (also known as permanent humus), which has a half-life of years and may be viewed as the soil humus bank, is a long-chain humic compound.

    http://www.ibiblio.org/steved/Luebke/Luebke-compost2.html

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    I did not realize that humus had to be built back up... I assumed it was just the most base form of decomposition of organic matter. Interesting.

    The article also explains a little more clearly (at least to me anyway) how humus helps clay soils.

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    When conditions are optimal, microbes attach these long-chain humic compounds to the clay fraction, resulting in clay-humus crumb. These clay-humus crumbs are full of "nooks and crannies" which provide shelter for soil microorganisms. The enormous surface area and negative charge associated with clay-humus provides exchange sites for cations, and building soil humus is one of the few ways farmers can actually increase the cation exchange capacity (CEC) of soils. Clay-humus crumbs are highly desirable in building soil tilth and maintaining good soil structure and water holding capacity.

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    So LawnCrazy, getting more humus in your soil will help to clump the clay and let it have more room for water retention, etc.

    It seems there are different ways you can do this...

    -Mix compost into the soil (or topdress if it is a lawn) and wait for nature to finish turning the OM into humus. (I still think the compost has more than .0004% humus though)

    -Speed up the process by applying a Compost tea full of microorganisms that will help the process along. You can hit and miss by random Compost Teas. Or you can determine a formula that has select microbes that are essential to this process. The people in the article i linked to apply a Compost Tea (they call it inoculent) that consists of 50 microbes that are selected for humufication. Interesting again. I want the list of those little guys!

    -Or you can buy the humus product directly from our friends soil secretes and (till?) the humus in.

    Interesting to note however that the article I reference suggests that insoluble humus is most desirable as it will not leach with water like the soluble humus will.

    edit note:
    Haha, thanks for deleting that little bit of whatever it was...
     
  4. LawnCrazy

    LawnCrazy LawnSite Member
    Posts: 22

    DEEPGREENLAWN to answer your question yes I am trying to soften my soil up because it is about 75-80% red clay. Over half of my grass has died or is dying with all the high temps and lack of rain in my area.I read in artical that gypusm powder will work to break the clay down into good soil.It said it would take about 3-4 years to do so.I have a company here in town that has topsoil that is 80% turkey compost that I wanted to buy and put in the yard till in and reseed but it will cost about 1000.00 to buy everthing.The seed I was thinking of buying is a zeneith zoyzia. Do you maybe have any other suggestions for a better seed or means of helping my soil?
    JDUtah thanks for the info on humus I will look into that also as another way to help my soil have you had any experince working with it and if so how well does it work.
     
  5. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    Compost with some Ca added in.
     
  6. DeepGreenLawn

    DeepGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,372

    Kiril took the words out of my mouth. Throw down the compost and some CT, probably best to go with ICT, and you should be good. After the lawn is established you can topdress with compost at about a 1/4".
     
  7. JDUtah

    JDUtah LawnSite Silver Member
    from UT
    Posts: 2,636

    LawnCrazy,
    Sorry, no hands on experience with humus. You might have missed it but there was a little humus debate and my above post was the tail end of it. The mods deleted it. Is the article you read the one about the red caly in the golf course pond?
     
  8. TforTexas

    TforTexas LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 260

    I don't understand, you should be able to find gypsum at just about any garden center. It will be pelletized, not powdered, but everybody sells gypsum. It will take several years of spring and fall applications and is best to use in conjunction with an aeration so the pellets can go into the holes left by the aerator. Compost, unless you till it in will result in a layered soil.
     
  9. LawnCrazy

    LawnCrazy LawnSite Member
    Posts: 22

    Thanks for the advice DEEPGREEN do you have any words of wisdom for me on what to do with the grass that is dead and or dying?
     
  10. DeepGreenLawn

    DeepGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,372

    compost topdress with some ICT would be a start. Depending on the situation, it sounds like it probably is drought stress, it could be a number of things. In this case, you should be able to get any local lawn care company to come out and access the damage and tell you what is wrong. I would have more than one, some like to sell you stuff you don't need and you can compare the theories.

    Each issue, disease, fungus, has a reason for being there whether it may be too much N, to little N, to much thatch, water, etc etc.

    Figure out the problem and then we can walk you through how to fix it if you want to do it yourself
     

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