Ed Hume Logo

Gypsum Helps Recondition Clay And Hardpan Type Soils

Are clay or hardpan problems in your garden? Gypsum may be just the answer to help break -up and loosen the soil structure. It's not a miracle and it doesn't work over-night, but a three-year program of yearly applications should help improve poor soil conditions. It's easy to apply and relatively inexpensive for the job it does.

One of the biggest problems a home gardener faces in a new or established garden is a clay or hardpan type of soil. Poor drainage, soggy soil, and soil compaction are just a few of the conditions that clay or hardpan soils create.

In a new garden one can work organic humus into the soil to help break-up poor soil. Bark, sawdust, manure, compost, peat moss and soil mulches and conditioners are often used for this purpose. Incidentally, if bark or sawdust are used they will leach nitrogen from the soil, as they decompose, so additional nitrogen will need to be added on a seasonal basis.

But what do you do in an established garden? It would be too much work and take too much time to dig, replant and then recondition the soil. Here's where Gypsum may be just the answer for reconditioning the soil, because it can be applied on the surface soil in the vegetable garden, flowerbeds or on the lawn. In other words it does not have to be worked (cultivated or spaded) into the soil, it can simply be spread on the surface. What does Gypsum do? It has the ability to penetrate the millions of fine clay particles in heavy or hardpan type soils and loosen the soil structure. This process then creates air and moisture spaces that eventually loosen and break-up the soil structure. The only problem is that this doesn't happen overnight, it takes yearly applications, over about a three-year period to get the job done.

It should be noted that Gypsum does not contain any major plant nutrients, so it will still be necessary to continue a regular fertilizing program. Plus, you should continue to add organic humus in new areas, as you plant. Gypsum does contain calcium and sulfur, which are beneficial to plant growth.

Gypsum is easy to apply! Simply spread it on the lawn with a lawn fertilizer spreader, at the rate of 40 pounds per thousand square feet. The granular grade is the best, and easiest to apply, for home garden use.

A single application each year is sufficient. And, it can be spread at any time of the year. Water it in right away, in order to get it working in the soil. Gypsum is neutral, non-toxic to humans and animals and does not burn.

When preparing new soil for planting flowers, shrubs, vegetables or a new lawn, mix 20 to 30 pounds of Gypsum per one thousand square feet of heavy soil. Mix the Gypsum into the soil and water well.

If you are making an application of Gypsum on the soil around established plantings use it at the rate of only 40 pounds per thousand square feet. Under these circumstances the Gypsum can be spread or broadcast over the beds. And, like with the lawn, a single application should be done only once a year, over a three-year period. There is no need to mix it into the soil, simply water-it-in.

Since Gypsum is neutral and does not change the soil pH, you can use it in areas where plants like Rhododendrons, Azaleas, Camellias and other acid loving plants grow, because they need a little calcium too. As with all products, Gypsum must be applied as directed on the label of the brand you use.

It is very possible that your local garden outlet may not stock Gypsum, simply because they do not get enough calls for the product. But, if you will request it, they can special order it for you. It is usually available in 80 pound bags, and occasionally in 50 pound bags. Ask them for a price quote before you purchase it.

Remember Gypsum doesn't work over-night, it takes yearly applications over a three-year period. But Gypsum can eventually help improve the soil structure in heavy clay or hardpan type soils.


Back to Home Page

Return to LibraryBack to Home Page