Clay Soils

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

  1. heritage

    heritage LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,351

    Understood. I can see also why you like the Nitrate based N with soils like these to avoid Ammonium Toxicity with some sensitive plant species.

    My area I see an issue with the High Mg Clay soil, and Water onsite with High Alkalinity giving a "Liming Effect" from Ca Carbonates and Ca/Mg Bicarbonates from some of the really hard water sites.

    CA as well as Carbon/OM based products to buffer the anions driving pH up and buffer the sodium, and some soluble Ca helps to balance soil chemistry.

    Keeping a close eye with annual soil tests looking at Base Sat to help me adjust. Every season different with temp changes and moisture variations.

    I rarely have to aerate turf grass even my clay soils. Just balance them.
  2. greendoctor

    greendoctor LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 9,975

    I prefer nitrates because I spray everything. Sulfates are not as soluble. I am also not convinced that putting potassium chloride at high feed rates will not hurt anything. I get plenty of chlorides in the tap water and from the ocean. Unlike people with seasons, I am feeding more than a handful of times per year. Ammonium, especially ammonium sulfate is actually a good thing for me, because it is strongly acidifying. On the other hand, there have been many times where 46-0-0 has failed to perform on bad soils. I will use 46-0-0 sparingly on more acidic soils, but avoid it to limit surge growth. CA, often makes a radical change for the better. Do that to a soil that has hardpans based on carbonates and the soil becomes very loose. I have lots of calcium, but in the form of calcium carbonate. The other way would be to apply diluted sulfuric acid, but I am reluctant to go there if CA will work just as well. I like my eyes, skin, and clothing.
  3. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Not sure if there are areas on the continental U.S. that would have that kind of chemical issues,,, so I don't think it is relevant to our discussion of actual soils... especially here in the Midwest our water came from glacier fresh water,,, so the corals, salts and even limestone were pushed into deposits rather than all bubbled together such as would be expected from volcanic formations...
    Central America,,, where I've visited didn't seem to have any real soil at all, except along the coastlines where there was actual silicon sand(so it seemed) and actual sedimentary rocks,,, but inland was all about crushed volcanic material and a strange kind of dirt that wasn't really clay as we would have on the continents...

    Anyways,,, my question about aerating clay and some of the antics talked about in other threads is still on the table if anyone has any ideas that could/should modify current aeration strategies...

    To me it would seem that Professionals would consider the current condition of the soil, i.e. texture of the soil,, in determining whether aeration is the best option for the lawn, rather than a one size fits all scenario...
  4. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    I'm assuming that we are aerating to improve tilth of the soil... So if we are aerating clay to relieve compaction we should have a better idea as to whether our effort improve the tilth of the soils or not...

    I think the guy in the other thread that plopped greasy plugs all over the grass to such a volume that the mud will likely suffocate large patches of grass was way, way down the "lawn hack scale"...

    Any thoughts??? :)
  5. heritage

    heritage LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,351

    My thought is to teach Professionals in the lawn care industry be better diagnosticians, and not put so much focus on profit and production.

    Greendoctor for one knows what he is doing and understands cause and effect methods. He would do well in any soils with some practical time working with them.
  6. greendoctor

    greendoctor LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 9,975

    The easiest soils for me to deal with are the inland acidic soils that have not been affected by coral or salt. All those soils need are pH correction and rebalancing the Ca/Mg ratio if it is serpentine. My problems are 100% man made. Virgin sand is not hard to make fertile with addition of organic matter. Serpentine is not good near the beach because ocean water contains Mg.

    I cringe when aeration is sold without asking "why". Why does the soil tend to compact? Will mechanical disruption change that? Soils with the right chemical balance form stable aggregates not prone to breaking down to compactable particles. That is true no matter what part of the world the soil is in.
  7. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Well this entire thread is asking the question 'Why"...

    Are you saying that there is some chemical imbalance in our clays soils, in this part of the world,, that if we 'corrected' it,,, we would have the desired drainage with correct air/moisture ratio after each rain event???
  8. greendoctor

    greendoctor LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 9,975

    Exactly. I hear a lot about slow release urea, aeration, but hardly anything about a comprehensive soil test. I never assume what is in soil. Even if I were to find myself in the Northern part of the Continent, first order of business would be to pull soil tests. Those soil tests would go to the same private labs that I send to now. Not university extension offices that provide basic pH and NPK tests.
  9. Skipster

    Skipster LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,076

    Are you saying that all (or even most) clays that compact have improper chemical balances? By saying that stable aggregates not prone to braking down occur, are you saying that clays with proper Ca:Mg balance don't compact?

    If so, I think you're missing something. In most places I've worked (coast to coast in the US, much of Canada, and Japan), lawns are compacted by mechanical means, such as construction equipment. I haven't seen a house yet that wasn't built with something heavy (at least a truck or wagon) pulling materials into position.

    Compaction by definition is a soil physical condition. The Ca:Mg ration you're talking about is NOT compaction, but known by a different name with different purposes.
  10. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Soil test to compare to what? How would we know if the soil test was good enough or not?? What is the formula that tells us, "No compaction here."

    I think we are straining at gnats, while swallowing a camel here... the focus is on aeration of heavy muddy soils being a waste of time or not,,, becuz it seems that there is a belief out there in 'LCO Land' that aeration is good at any cost...

    I would like to zero in on what conditions/factors need to be considered before just wasting clients' money to sell aeration... Especially if people are going to start advertising for it, to convince the public at large that it is a good thing, when in fact,, what they are doing is all wrong...
    You know,,, like doll hair over-seed... :)

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