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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Hops Growing > Clay heavy soil
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Old 03-08-2011, 05:50 AM   #1
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Default Clay heavy soil

I have read on other threads that you don't really want to mix in too much store bought soil with your native soil when planting your rhizomes. However, I live in northern california and my soil is very clay heavy. I wouldn't think that the soil would have enough drainage for the hops. Would it be okay to mix the native soil with store garden soil and sand?

I'm going to try growing cascade hops.

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Old 03-08-2011, 01:03 PM   #2
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I would think it's OK. I would dig a MUCH larger hole that what you need and mix in compost, and topsoil. Possibly even replace the clay with new topsoil in the hole. If you do add sand make sure it's coarse sand. I have been reading and they say fine sand has negative effects when trying to correct a heavy clay soil.

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Old 03-08-2011, 03:23 PM   #3
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Heavy clay is probably the biggest problem we have to deal with. Many many problems that are compounded - especially when you get excessive rainfall. Amending the soil with organic matter is a great idea but when you look at the big picture you end up creating what is called the 'teacup effect'. Been there and done that. After about 25 years of trying to deal with this I've come to the conclusion that some years are better than others when it comes to harvest. I've done some serious amending with different materials but water will always seek the path of least resistance and usually end up in the teacup. During wet years this leads to water-logged roots that place the plant under stress putting it at an unfair disadvantage concerning it's ability to deal with disease and insect pest issues.

Most of my plants now grow with heavily amended subsoil and in somewhat of a raised bed situation. I don't know whether it works any better or not but at the end of the day it sure makes a chilly IPA taste a little better!

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Old 03-08-2011, 03:59 PM   #4
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I live in Texas where there is very high clay content in the soil but it is also incredibly dry during the summer. From mid-June to September it usually rains maybe 3-4 days per month. I will definitely be waters every day.

Should I consider not trying to adjust for the clay so that the water stays available to the roots?

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Old 03-08-2011, 04:32 PM   #5
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why not try a raised bed with a mixture of native soil, organic matter and course sand? just a thought.

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Old 03-08-2011, 04:51 PM   #6
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I have heavy clay soil as well. What I've found that works best is to heavily mulch the beds each year. This isn't an immediate solution to your problem but will make a noticeable difference after a year with continued improvement after that. What happens is that worms and insects will migrate to the areas with the mulch and start working it into the soil. The result is a very healthy, deep, dark, friable soil after a couple of years.

EDIT: Forgot to mention, don't use wood or bark mulch but rather composted leaves for this. You can usually buy them by the truckload for relatively cheap.

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Old 03-08-2011, 07:21 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CaliBrewin View Post
why not try a raised bed with a mixture of native soil, organic matter and course sand? just a thought.
No room, swmbo doesn't want that, yadda yadda yadda.

I will be growing it along a fence. I know, not the highest yields, but that's not a big deal. I only brew one batch a month maybe. I will be removing a dwarf citrus tree that was epic fail and putting the hops there. So it will be going where there has been a plant for about 8 years. Hopefully that will have helped break up the soil.
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Old 03-08-2011, 07:28 PM   #8
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the issue with trying to amend a heavy clay soil is that you have to do it over a large area and very deeply to avoid creating a differential layering effect (of a name that does not come to mind).

Otherwise, you effective create a earthen pot of clay with nice loose draining soil taht only serve to soak/bog the roots in a miniature watershed.

There was once a time when it was advised to layer rock in the bottom of a planting to aid in drainage but it has been proven now that it doesn;t work as it was expected too.

So, it is always a good idea to amend clay soils for planting. Just be cautious of how isolated said amendments are applied.

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Old 03-08-2011, 07:31 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KingBrianI View Post
I have heavy clay soil as well. What I've found that works best is to heavily mulch the beds each year. This isn't an immediate solution to your problem but will make a noticeable difference after a year with continued improvement after that. What happens is that worms and insects will migrate to the areas with the mulch and start working it into the soil. The result is a very healthy, deep, dark, friable soil after a couple of years.

EDIT: Forgot to mention, don't use wood or bark mulch but rather composted leaves for this. You can usually buy them by the truckload for relatively cheap.
+1. Peat, Loam, Hummus, Grass clippings, Sand, Rock dust, Leaves, compost, Manure.

What do all these have in common? They are all organic and they are allrelatively quick to break down or improve the texture of the clay. The best practice for clay soil is to load it up with as much organic m,aterial as you possibly can.
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Old 03-10-2011, 06:39 PM   #10
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How deep is your topsoil and how eep is it until you come to natural bedrock
(ie. youcant dig any deeper because the earth is solid)

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