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-   -   heavy clay soil (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f92/heavy-clay-soil-394941/)

gabejavitt 03-04-2013 04:55 PM

heavy clay soil
hi all,

I started this year 2 hop plants cascade and chinook with the cascade in our heavy clay soil and chinook in a pot, needless to say the cascade barely broke ground and was dead looking by the end of june while the chinook did great and produced some cones. So I dug out the cascade and it put out almost no roots and i think the rhizome even shrunk in size, and I put it in another pot.

My question is, when they get too big for the pots what can I do with our soil that won't kill my plants, can I start amending it now with something to get it ready? Any help here would be appreciated.

nagmay 03-04-2013 05:46 PM

Raised beds or earth mounds.

The trick is to keep the rhizomes above the hard/wet clay. Having the clay underneath a foot of well draining soil is fine. The hops may even send some tap roots down into the clay.

gabejavitt 03-04-2013 06:02 PM

i thought about that afterwards, but wouldn't the water get locked at the clay level and the raised bed would become waterlogged? I've been reading around online and a lot of people are saying to just add as much organic matter over time, and it will unlock the soil. also a lot of people say peat is useful, or maybe coarse sand, or possibly lasagne style gardening.

Or the easiest way which is tilling the heck out of it while adding compost and planting cover crops.

Icenine61 03-04-2013 06:05 PM

Great resource, I used them with my garden which was exactly the same deal.

Just take your time and keep working it over a year or 2. Keep those plants in the pots for 2 years if at all possible.


gabejavitt 03-04-2013 06:36 PM

okay i'll take a look, and after two years you now grow hops in your soil? or are you still following the guidelines there

Icenine61 03-04-2013 08:00 PM

No hops. Just a very fertile garden.

I was kinda lucky, the previous owners of my property had raised bed planters that they had been applying compost to for about a decade.

I wanted a much larger garden so I broke those down and tilled the rich compost into the clay. After a couple weeks I started mixing sand with the compost and then tilled all that in until I had a good mixture.

I applied all my compost material throughout the season and then tilled twice a year for 2 years.

On the third year I had a garden to beat the band.

gabejavitt 03-04-2013 08:24 PM

wow thanks for the great first hand info. With the raised beds do you know what they did to the soil underneath? Also why aren't you growing hops, with all that rich soil it seems like a waste...

Icenine61 03-04-2013 10:02 PM

They actually just pitched the ground a bit and dug in 2 rows of 2" drainage tile just in case. But the beds were 16" tall so there was plenty of space there.

No hops because I'll be moving out of state in the next few months.

nagmay 03-05-2013 01:40 AM

"i thought about that afterwards, but wouldn't the water get locked at the clay level and the raised bed would become waterlogged?"

It's not intuitive, but the answer is actually no.

I doubt that the clay is 100% impervious - but even if it was, say, concrete - raises beds or mounds would still work. As long as the bed isn't lined with plastic, extra water will leave via the bottoms and sides.

Think about it this way: Would the potted hops be water-logged if set on top of the clay?

The advantage of prepping a bed on top of the clay (vs in a pot) is that they won't get root bound and can send tap roots down into the clay for moisture in the summer.

cram 03-05-2013 05:24 AM

Good points made. Over time and with some work, the clay can be an advantage for water conservation. Building raised beds and digging deep into the clay to mix in compost, sand, perlite, sand, nutrients, etc., will improve the soil over time and aid in drainage. Young hops in big pots do awesome for the first few seasons but then they need a root/rhizome trim or relocation.

To OP, I'd vote for growing hops in the biggest pots you have this season and use the year to make some good beds. By the time you get the ground ready, you'll have plenty of ways to divide the crowns from the pots for the space you have in the ground.

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