Clay soil and a frost..........

edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Greenfingered MoneySaving
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PixiechicPixiechic Forumite
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edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Greenfingered MoneySaving
I have been digging the border flower beds and noticed that the clay soil doesn't break up so well. I'm worried that it will be too heavy for the flower seeds that I am going to put in.

I don't know if I am imagining it or if its true but radio 4 have informed me that there will be a frost tonight. Does a frost help break the clumps of soil down?

If not, what can I do to clumpy clay soil to break it down a bit more? Or will it be fine to put seeds in? :)
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  • DaftyDuckDaftyDuck Forumite
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    A frost might help - a teeny weeny bit, and only if it's a heavy frost. But, it won't improve the texture of the soil long-term.

    Dig your compost in - that's best. Dig the bed first, then work compost into the top six inches, and let the worms do the rest of the work. Add a general mulch in late winter/early spring next year and, again, let the worms do the work.

    If compost is in short supply you can use grass cuttings. Two disadvantages of this are the likelihood of getting grass seeds onto the bed (lessened by a regular shallow cut) and depleting the nutrient level of the soil... but this is only a short-term effect, and clay tends to be rich enough in nutrients to cope.

    So, organic matter, and let the worms do your hard-work for you! :D:D
  • MojisolaMojisola Forumite
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    Pixiechic wrote: »
    I don't know if I am imagining it or if its true but radio 4 have informed me that there will be a frost tonight. Does a frost help break the clumps of soil down?

    If the soil is loosely turned over and left like that all winter so the frosts can get into it, it will help. One minor frost tonight won't make any difference.

    As DD says - humus is the answer - compost or manures. Add some each year and the soil will gradually improve.
  • LeifLeif Forumite
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    What Mojisola said, Winter frosts will break up the surface, and lumps on the surface will become brittle rather than hard, so you can create a nice tilth. A Spring frost won't do much. You need to add compost and maybe sharp sand as mentioned by the Duck and Mojisola, and then let the worms do the work.

    Damned worms seem to get everywhere, even in my water butts.
    Warning: This forum may contain nuts.
  • Linda32Linda32 Forumite
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    Pixiechic wrote: »

    If not, what can I do to clumpy clay soil to break it down a bit more? Or will it be fine to put seeds in? :)

    No not really :) However, all is not lost. Do you have a fork or rake?

    If you google images and search for "creating a fine tilth" that might help.

    As you are going to be sowing soon, you need to dig over your border. If you have a fork you can use this and as you dig a clump, you can bang the fork down onto the clump to break it up. Hope this is making sense.
    Then you need to rake it to a fine tilth. It should look something like a nice crumble mix or rubbed in pastry :D

    The reason why the lumps and clumps are not really suitable is, if you image the little seeds will just fall down the gaps and not be "in the soil" Where as if its a nice fine bed of soil the seeds will sit there quite happily.
  • PixiechicPixiechic Forumite
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    I bought a new fork today! Took me ages to decide whether to get a 'border fork' or a normal fork :o I have been digging the border and its all sort of a bit chunky at the moment.

    I will re dig it again, I understand the pastry rubbing technique! and the consistency! I bought some decent garden gloves today as the hedge, which is the neighbours is quite thorny and grown over so I've pulled all that up too. I will google 'a fine tilth', thank you :)

    So the frost isn't going to do much but I did see loads of worms as I was digging so I have got a little team ready and waiting!

    There is a forest across the road, could I use leaves from that as organic matter or mulch?

    Thank you for your replies :)
  • Money_makerMoney_maker Forumite
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    Linda32 wrote: »
    If you have a fork you can use this and as you dig a clump, you can bang the fork down onto the clump to break it up. Hope this is making sense.
    Then you need to rake it to a fine tilth. It should look something like a nice crumble mix or rubbed in pastry

    I have clay and unfortunately, banging the fork onto the clump just creates a fork shaped indent in it:mad:
    Likewise, digging it over leaves the top lumpy and no way can it be broken down to a fine tilth very quickly.

    Best I have found to help is sharp sand. Digging this in each year does gradually improve the consistency over the years.
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  • Linda32Linda32 Forumite
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    Worms are your friend, that is a good sign. Did you have any nettles by any chance? they are fussy as well and only grow in good stuff ;) Clay soil isn't as bad as it might sound by the way.

    Frost does do its job (as others have said above), but that will come in at the end of the season when your flowers have gone over. I always think the gardening year starts in the Autumn where you prepare the ground for the winter and the weather to do its job and thus saving the work you are doing now.

    Leaves can be used but they need to be rotted down. You can collect leaves if you want to. Autumn fallen are best, it called leafmould. Have a google, Oh and its not "mould" really, don't worry about that :D

    Just remembered, I haven't said, can't remember whether you asked in this thread or your other one, but you said about mixing your seeds. Why not, just give it a go and see what happens :) but please write down what you mixed and what you did, incase you want to do the same next year or not ;)
  • gazzak_2gazzak_2 Forumite
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    I got my new allotment in early March and dug loads over quite quickly, yet despite a few heavy frosts and some snow since then the soil is exactly as I dug it over, so no chance with 1 light frost tonight.

    I really wish they'd give out new plots in Autumn rather than Spring, I'd have dug it over and covered the whole plot in manure before the end of October meaning it would be looking really good by now :(.
  • PixiechicPixiechic Forumite
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    When I dig the fork in and pull it out, a big clump comes up, it's quite sticky. I knock it out and it stays sort of one chunk apart from the bits that get stuck in between the prongs of the fork :o With more effort I will be able to break it up though, I think, I hope.

    I'm hoping that that's were the mulch/organic matter will help with that. I read that when the weather improves, as I hope it does, then clay like soil really dries out and can become quite hard?

    Would sand help with drainage too?
  • PixiechicPixiechic Forumite
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    Yes! I had to pull out loads of nettles and more to go. I have the injuries to prove it amongst the scratches from the thorns :D. I've never been so pleased have nettles!

    I have a little 'gardening diary', if I don't write it down, I will definitely not remember. Good idea to note the mixes too - thank you.

    I will be making sure that I get the beds sorted properly for next year!

    I think the frost tonight was just my wishful thinking then :D
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