Clay Soils

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by Smallaxe, Oct 25, 2013.

  1. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Does aerating wet clay soils 'relieve compaction' or should we await medium moisture conditions???

    What might increase the tilth of these clay soils better than aeration???
  2. heritage

    heritage LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,358

    Hi Axe,

    Seriously is this a loaded question? Who would dare aerate wet clay soil.
  3. Exact Rototilling

    Exact Rototilling LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,378

    Clay would be tricky. I'd have to see it to make specific recommendations. I have a PlugrĀ® time modified step aerator I use for on the spot diagnostics.

    I will be aerating a place just out of town and further than I ever travel normally. First time I aerated it 4-5 years back it was a silt clay combo. Clay is not the norm here I'll take pics on this next round.
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  4. DA Quality Lawn & YS

    DA Quality Lawn & YS LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 9,296

    I only aerate clay type soil like we have here when it is moist (not wet). You cannot aerate dry waste of time and effort.
  5. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    I'm not sure if it is loaded or not...I was reading another thread that was describing multiple passes resulting in large patches of sticky mud on top of the grass...

    In my experience, heavy topsoils can produce plugs that do not break down very quick becuz they squeeze out greasy plugs rather than 'crumbly' plugs...

    Then I read this:
    "tilth, Physical condition of soil, especially in relation to its suitability for planting or growing a crop. Factors that determine tilth include the formation and stability of aggregated soil particles, moisture content, degree of aeration, rate of water infiltration, and drainage. The tilth of a soil can change rapidly, depending on environmental factors such as changes in moisture. The objective of tillage (mechanical manipulation of the soil) is to improve tilth, thereby increasing crop production; in the long term, however, conventional tillage, especially plowing, often has the opposite effect, causing the soil to break down and become compacted."

    So it makes me stop and think of better ways to relieve compaction of heavy topsoils,,, even clay...
  6. greendoctor

    greendoctor LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,136

    What you just posted is why I tell my customers to save their money. In my experience. aeration is only a viable procedure for correcting mechanically compacted soils. Say, sports fields, or lawns that have had heavy equipment/vehicles run over it. Not useful for the lawn that has a soil chemistry issue that is causing the poor tilth. For example, serpentine soils that are also contaminated with salt and alkalinity bearing materials turn into grease. The way out of this one is to get the pH down and raise the calcium level. It is also important to dry out the area because excess water simply causes more compaction.
  7. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Why would 'mechanical compaction' of clay soils benefit from aeration as opposed to non-mechanical compacted clay soils of the exact same chemistry???
  8. greendoctor

    greendoctor LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,136

    I have yet to see a soil with the chemical issues present that is not already compacted. Only way for such a soil not to be compacted is if it were to be deep tilled and never watered or rained on again. As you said, even water can be compacting. Example: lawn in back yard, no vehicular traffic ever, serpentine pasted on top of coral. Soil is impenetrable when dry, but turns into grease when wet. Outstanding items on soil analysis. High pH, high magnesium, salts, low sulfur and avaliable micronutrients. OM is at 4%. Treatment with 2 lb citric acid per 1000 sq ft and sulfur at 20 lb causes soil to form distinguishable aggregates. Grease like texture when wet no longer present.
  9. heritage

    heritage LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,358

    2 Pounds/1000 of CA Doc that is quite a lot of Protons.

    With clays here I would have Aluminum Toxicity issue with so much CA.

    With some good OM added to buffer the Al and a drench ( 5 gal/1000) with CA water pH +/-4.5 gets things rolling. Try to get to Ca/Mg ratio at 7/1 in clays. Takes some time here with some of these high Mg clays.
  10. greendoctor

    greendoctor LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,136

    Not a problem. There is so much raw calcium and magnesium carbonate in the soil, that aluminum toxicity is never a problem. We are talking about soil contaminated with coral and ocean water. pH is 7.5. Now when the carbonates are reduced and the pH is closer to 7, the soil is much better. Note that this treatment is never done without automatic irrigation. Putting that much acid on soil without sufficient water is one way to make a desert.

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