If the Greeks used it

Troy, VA(Zone 7a)

then it should be OK right? Gypsum!! Said to break down clay soil and help the nutrients flow better. Any thoughts anyone? And just what exactly is gypsum?

Memphis, TN(Zone 7b)

Louisa, gypsum is calcium sulfate and is available in a relatively pure mined form. Gypsum treated soils do allow for greater water infiltration. It is not effective immediately and requires a yearly application over a three year period. Gypsum is neutral and non-toxic, and contains calcium and sulfur. Will give you more info if wanted or needed. You also have my sympathy...while it has advantages, clay soil is such a pain!

Memphis, TN(Zone 7b)

Louisa, a postscript. The value of gypsum is highly dependent upon the type of clay soil you have. As you know, the best solution for breaking up clay is the addition of organic matter - and lots of it! Gypsum is most effective in reclaiming sodic soils; therefore, it is important to know the type of soil you are dealing with.

Troy, VA(Zone 7a)

Thanks - have already been into that with Marsh and am amending the soil as each bed is dug. I guess I could have researched gypsum but felt lazy. I am still ashamed to say that I have not tested the soil yet, we have been inundated with 'stuff' and family in the last 4 weeks since we moved in. The ground contains lots of quartz and some white quartz and other stone. The woods are a mixture of pine and hardwoods and I think it has to be rich soil because we have many Liriodendron tulipfera. Dogwoods abound too and I am finding a new tree species every day. Exciting!! Thanks so much for the info on gypsum. I am so glad it is not toxic :-)

Santa Barbara, CA


Gypsum is not going to help in acid soil which is likely given your plant cover. Yes, sounds like good forest soil so you want to be sure to keep the organic content up.

Sounds like you're having fun -- ain't gardening a blast??!!

Troy, VA(Zone 7a)

Oh Marsh - isn't it though! A blast I mean! I feel so good tonight. Went to the doc today and was told that my bp was down and good. It has to be because I'm out of the rental and in my own home again. I am blessed :-) - OK so organic it is!! How about sawdust and how long should I let it "stand" before using it - any ideas? We have a lumber mill very close by.

Santa Barbara, CA

Good for you Louisa! My grannie worked in her garden into her late 70s even with Osteop. and Arthritis. I planning to do the same, God willing.

Sawdust......very slow to breakdown in the soil and will take away nitrogen if applied too fresh. When I get some, I add it to my compost pile. Once I received about 7 cu.yds (dumptruckload) and had to wait several years to use. Better to compost.

If you can find a source of fresh organic green material, you can add the sawdust and some other "brown" material, about 50-50 green-brown. Water the material as you build the pile, mixing the greens and browns as you go.

If you can (or find someone that will), turn the pile after a week, watering as you rebuild the pile. Repeat two more times about a week apart. Then let sit for a few months to cure. OR.... After the third turn (about a month to month and a half from the start) you can sift out the coarse parts and use the fines scratched in around your favorite plants.

OR You can just leave the pile, covered with a layer of straw or burlap for 6 months to a year. By the end, you will have beautiful compost under that outside rind of undecayed stuff.

Troy, VA(Zone 7a)

Thanks again Marsh. Gardening is not only good for the soul it is also good for the body!! I have back and neck problems and heaven knows what else, but I won't let it beat me. I never sit still for too long :-) So back to compost and saw dust. Yes, I knew I would not be able to use it fresh and I've had many a compost heap :-) - but usually made up of kitchen scraps and grass, paper etc. So if I mix it just with grass, alternate layers, would it be ready in 6 months do you think? What do you mean by 'other brown' material? Manure?

Powhatan, VA(Zone 6b)

If you still have lots of decidous trees, leaves are good brown material. Paper & cardboard is also brown material.

I am glad you are having fun. The red clay isn't all that bad . As you have already been told the best thing to do is keep amending it with organic matter. You will have an acidic soil most of the soil in our area is acidic.


Troy, VA(Zone 7a)

Yes Sally I did think the soil would be acid. But so many hardwoods. I have also added paper to the compost heap but leaves? I thought leaves took over a year to break down - my heap of leaves always did. I would have one compost pile with quick decomposing material and the other with leaves. Almost finished the second bed today :-)

Allen Park, MI(Zone 6a)

I run my leaves thru the chipper shredder they break down much quicker. If you dont have a shredder run them over with the lawn mower this works very well.


Troy, VA(Zone 7a)

Paul you really have been so helpful of late!!! Are you following me around....lol!!! Thanks yet again, and yes it does make sense now I think of it - to break down the leaves first!

This message was edited Thursday, Aug 16th 7:22 PM

Troy, VA(Zone 7a)

Sis thankyou for all that encouragement!! I am not allowing myself to be overawed by it all because I do think I have let myself in for quite a large undertaking. It really is a challenge but one that I am going to enjoy. However, at my age, and I must remember that... I have to get my priorities right and take it a little at a time. That is exactly what I am doing. If I'm tired, I stop. If I feel I haven't got my design quite right, I sit and take stock a little more. Thanks for all your tips. The second bed is almlst ready and will take some pics. :-)

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