Monday, August 13, 2018

DIGGING HOLES IN CLAY SOIL

A few of you have asked or commented about how we are getting things to grow in our clay soil.  It's not easy that's for sure.  

For the garden and the fruit trees, we build open bottom raised beds.  For the veggies they rarely grow deeper than the height of the raised beds but just like the fruit trees, with the bottom open, as the soil settles and we add compost etc, the worms and other things come in and the clay below the raised beds slowly breaks up and the roots get through it.  

For bushes and plants, we can't just build raised beds everywhere so I did some reading online and found this idea.  It seems crazy but so far it's worked.  

Auger hole in clay soil
First I used the auger that I posted about a couple years back HERE.  It is heavy and takes a lot out of you but it makes life SO much easier at the farm. 

I'd highly recommend something like an auger for plant holes and post holes. It always comes in handy.

Hydrogen Peroxide in clay soil
Next I took some hydrogen peroxide.  WAIT, what?  Hydrogen peroxide?  Yep...I read about it online.  It is supposed to help break up the smooth clay 'walls' inside the hole.  A problem with digging a hole in clay is that the sides smooth out, it hardens and it becomes almost like an "in ground clay pot".  That's how plants can "drown" while in the ground.  

Softening clay soil with Hydrogen Peroxide
Sure enough, after pouring it all around the hole, the clay in the soil seemed to 'melt'down the sides.  I figure it can't hurt and anything to give the plants a head start is good with me.  I used a hand tool to stab into the side walls just so it was all broken up.


I fill the holes about 3/4 full of a special soil that is supposed to prevent over AND under watering.  Not sure how they accomplish that but hey, it sounds like a good solution for a hole that doesn't drain well.  

Planting in clay soil
Finally, I just put the plant in the hole.  I decided to always use the smaller size plants to give their roots a chance to grow into the good soil.  It kind of works like the raised beds, the roots get to develop and grow and by the time they get to the clay, they should be able to penetrate.  So far so good!

I did this with the six Vitex along the driveway.  They are about 6' tall now and started as 1 gallon container plants.  It seems to be working.  This is a Mexican heather plant that I'm testing to see how it does and then I'll do more like this around.  

Have you ever heard of anything like using hydrogen peroxide in a planting hole?

12 comments:

  1. Learn something new every day!!

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    1. Don't we though? Thanks!! I love stumbling across stuff like this and hey I'll try new things and if it works (or even not) we'll share it.

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  2. how much peroxide do you put in a hole? Do you pour it down the sides? Is all that peroxide in the hole or some water, too? How long do you wait before planting? I imagine what you bought was something to hold onto some of the water. But, if the walls are clay and holding water in or out, will the plants not drown?

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    1. Good questions. I will edit the post. It was maybe about 2 cups per hole. I guess it would depend on how deep the hole was. It wasn't water in the hole I looked at the pics and that's just the bubbling of the clay as it sort of melted and slid down the hole. The soil has worked so far but I'm not going to use that anymore. I only had that one bag.

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  3. We had rented an auger some years back to dig fence pole holes when we put up our fence. Sure beats digging holes by hand using just a old fashion fence post digger.
    So much easier using an auger; faster and much quicker.
    Whenever we planted anything we always used Green Sand as well as Lava sand to put in the freshly dug holes along with good compost and then used the old dug up dirt and filled in on top, but never heard of using peroxide. Peroxide in my laundry yes, but not to put in freshly dug hole. Goes to show; never too old to learn new things. Thanks for the tip.

    Like me; I also like to start out with smaller plants; less apt to go into shock than a much larger plant.
    Enjoy your evening.
    We received more showers today and in forecast for another rain front to come through later on early evening. Woo Hoo.
    Felt like dancing in the rain this morning; which I did till I heard a large crack of thunder and then beat it in the house real quick like.

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    1. An auger is invaluable in the garden and yard. For fence posts of course, but as we've found in our hard soil, for digging holes. And yep, we've learned, the hard one, that big pretty plants aren't always the best unless you have a big deep area ready for planting . I think the smaller ones have more time to adapt and figure out their "new home", ha. Hope you get more rain!!

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  4. Should have known that trick years ago. Our trees struggles for about 4 years before punching thru hardpan and then there was no stopping them.

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    1. Oh, from your lips to our fruit trees ears, ha. We just used the raised bed for them but while they have grown, they haven't taken off yet. I'm hoping in the next year or two they too will punch through and take off. The raised beds were just to avoid trying to dig so many deep holes. The auger would not have worked for them because they were pretty good sized already. But hey, they are taller than they were, we had some fruit set this season and so hoping that one day they'll explode and take off.

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  5. Those before and after pictures of the soil in the dug hole are amazing - it really did break up the clay.

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    1. It really did a good job. And the plant is growing. I mean, I know it's not going to solve the problem but if it gives them a head start, that's the important thing.

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  6. thats a clever use for a post hole auger! and peroxide!! Thats amazing!

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    1. Thanks, I stood there one day, after using a shovel, to try to figure out what else would work and I thought "hmmmm, I wonder....." Now I don't think you could use it for tree planting, unless you did a few side by side and then broke through the walls separating them with a shovel but for smaller plants we think this is a pretty good solution. At least it's a head start and in this soil, plants can use all the help we can give them, ha.

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