Dry cracked ground

   / Dry cracked ground #1  

jaxs

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Black clay around here shrinks when dry causing cracks up to 3" wide. Summer 2020 I did an experiment that has surpassed my expectations. In about half the fruit and nut orchard and beneath shade trees in the yard I dumped compost then drug it with a box blade so that compost fell into cracks. As compost settled over the Summer I repeated the process to fill cracks. By summer's end cracks had opened farther and new ones appeared so I used box blade to fill them with sand. Cracks appeared in 2021 (I assume in different places than 2020) so I filled those. 2022 has been hot and dry but there are fewer cracks and they are narrower than just outside of where I filled in 2020 and 2021. The orchard trees and grass around yard trees have better color than nearby. This year I broadcast 18-24-12 while dragging compost plus I did yard where there's only grass plus balance of orchard.
The idea is to get benefits obtained from sub-soiling under trees where sub-soiling would damage roots. Assessing results after only two years makes me think this is a good plan where turf and other plants are grown because crop suffers less damage plus fuel cost is much less than pulling a heavy plow. This would be doable with a small tractor incapable of pulling a deep plow or even without use of a tractor. Having sand in strips here and there will allow deeper aeration of tight clay soil and better water infiltration when cracks close in rainy season. I only wish I thought of it several years ago so that I could see results after more years. If one had access to saw dust or small chips I believe it would do very well.
 
   / Dry cracked ground #2  

Spike56

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Lexington, Texas
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Black clay around here shrinks when dry causing cracks up to 3" wide. Summer 2020 I did an experiment that has surpassed my expectations. In about half the fruit and nut orchard and beneath shade trees in the yard I dumped compost then drug it with a box blade so that compost fell into cracks. As compost settled over the Summer I repeated the process to fill cracks. By summer's end cracks had opened farther and new ones appeared so I used box blade to fill them with sand. Cracks appeared in 2021 (I assume in different places than 2020) so I filled those. 2022 has been hot and dry but there are fewer cracks and they are narrower than just outside of where I filled in 2020 and 2021. The orchard trees and grass around yard trees have better color than nearby. This year I broadcast 18-24-12 while dragging compost plus I did yard where there's only grass plus balance of orchard.
The idea is to get benefits obtained from sub-soiling under trees where sub-soiling would damage roots. Assessing results after only two years makes me think this is a good plan where turf and other plants are grown because crop suffers less damage plus fuel cost is much less than pulling a heavy plow. This would be doable with a small tractor incapable of pulling a deep plow or even without use of a tractor. Having sand in strips here and there will allow deeper aeration of tight clay soil and better water infiltration when cracks close in rainy season. I only wish I thought of it several years ago so that I could see results after more years. If one had access to saw dust or small chips I believe it would do very well.
Central Texas, same issue with huge cracks. I have tried to fill them also. At one point, I had a load of sand brought in and tried to use that. Then, read several articles that said do not add sand to clay soils. The articles claim that (example I found)
Please do not add sand to your clay soil. Here’s what happens: clay particles are so, so very much smaller than sand particles (though they all look pretty small to us). When sand and clay mix together, the tiny clay particles sift in between the spaces between the sandy pieces, filling them up. Then you have pretty much a solid – even worse drainage than you started with.
In my case, I do not have a good source of compost, at least enough to improve the amount of area I would like to improve. Not doing an orchard here. Is adding sand really that bad ? Don't know myself, only going by these "web" articles. Just a thought here... since you have a significant investment in having an orchard, it may be worth looking into ?
 
   / Dry cracked ground #3  

jyoutz

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Central Texas, same issue with huge cracks. I have tried to fill them also. At one point, I had a load of sand brought in and tried to use that. Then, read several articles that said do not add sand to clay soils. The articles claim that (example I found)
Please do not add sand to your clay soil. Here’s what happens: clay particles are so, so very much smaller than sand particles (though they all look pretty small to us). When sand and clay mix together, the tiny clay particles sift in between the spaces between the sandy pieces, filling them up. Then you have pretty much a solid – even worse drainage than you started with.
In my case, I do not have a good source of compost, at least enough to improve the amount of area I would like to improve. Not doing an orchard here. Is adding sand really that bad ? Don't know myself, only going by these "web" articles. Just a thought here... since you have a significant investment in having an orchard, it may be worth looking into ?
I’m not sure that I understand that advice. A loam soil is considered to be the perfect agricultural soil and it’s defined by having near equal parts of clay, silt, and sand.
 
   / Dry cracked ground #4  

Spike56

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Lexington, Texas
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I’m not sure that I understand that advice. A loam soil is considered to be the perfect agricultural soil and it’s defined by having near equal parts of clay, silt, and sand.
I'm not *certain* I understand either ? Unless, they are talking about adding sand without mixing completely in ? Have read this is a "do not do" on several websites discussing how to improve clay soils. A mystery at this point - at least to me.
 
   / Dry cracked ground #5  

bnold

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I’ve heard not to use sand for top dressing in clay soils for similar reasons?
 
   / Dry cracked ground
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jaxs

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There is some truth in what you are saying about amending Central Texas black clay with sand but nay sayers overstate the issue. It doesn't improve the soil much but the addition of organic matter in combination is highly recommended by garden experts and makes a remarkable improvement. Inclusion of organic matter at depths not otherwise obtainable is my primary goal and the reason I used far more compost than sand and then only "in strips here and there." Having enough compost for several acres would likely present a challenge for most people but shouldn't preclude yard surrounding house which folks usually put more effort into than pasture land. That's why my final statment mentioned saw dust and wood chips which are widely available free in truck load quantities.
This returned more on time invested than anything old timers said over the years so I'm staying on course with expectations of continued improvement.
 
   / Dry cracked ground #7  

Spike56

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There is some truth in what you are saying about amending Central Texas black clay with sand but nay sayers overstate the issue. It doesn't improve the soil much but the addition of organic matter in combination is highly recommended by garden experts and makes a remarkable improvement. Inclusion of organic matter at depths not otherwise obtainable is my primary goal and the reason I used far more compost than sand and then only "in strips here and there." Having enough compost for several acres would likely present a challenge for most people but shouldn't preclude yard surrounding house which folks usually put more effort into than pasture land. That's why my final statment mentioned saw dust and wood chips which are widely available free in truck load quantities.
This returned more on time invested than anything old timers said over the years so I'm staying on course with expectations of continued improvement.
Oh yes, agree. I was NOT saying anything "bad" about adding sand. I just did not know how much sand was appropriate to add on top of clay. Wish I could find "free" truck loads of saw dust or wood chips !! Nothing local here I know of.
So, was not being critical of adding sand. The little I tried it did turn the soil to a weird looking mess. But, that was without any compost. I have several Post Oak trees that I chop the leaves up in fall. Really good stuff, just a pain to do with a shoulder strapped bagger.
 
   / Dry cracked ground
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jaxs

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Tree trimming services pay to dispose of chips at landfills so are happy to get rid of them but don't ask for "just a few",it takes longer to pull a wheel barrow load than dump a truck load. City public works and electric co-ops are a good source of wood chips. Cabinet shops have a dust hopper similar to feed hoppers for dairies and poultry houses. Here again the total contents must be dumped at once.
I have a 13 horse chipper/shredder but shred 90% of leaves by running a mower with bagger over them where they fall. On a side note, Post Oak is most unforgiving if soil is removed,added,compacted or otherwise desturbed in their root zone.
I hope we get rain soon so that cracks aren't an issue. Those who neglected to water foundations would be wise doing so slowly before rain inundates foundation with sudden water.
 
   / Dry cracked ground #9  

npalen

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Tree trimming services pay to dispose of chips at landfills so are happy to get rid of them but don't ask for "just a few",it takes longer to pull a wheel barrow load than dump a truck load. City public works and electric co-ops are a good source of wood chips. Cabinet shops have a dust hopper similar to feed hoppers for dairies and poultry houses. Here again the total contents must be dumped at once.
I have a 13 horse chipper/shredder but shred 90% of leaves by running a mower with bagger over them where they fall. On a side note, Post Oak is most unforgiving if soil is removed,added,compacted or otherwise desturbed in their root zone.
I hope we get rain soon so that cracks aren't an issue. Those who neglected to water foundations would be wise doing so slowly before rain inundates foundation with sudden water.
I'm a bit leery to ask but what happens when rain inundates the foundation?
 
   / Dry cracked ground
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jaxs

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I'm a bit leery to ask but what happens when rain inundates the foundation?
Hopefully nothing but there's high degree of possibility soil on outside perimeter suddenly swells causing all kinds of havoc with foundation. For a building to survive on the soil being discussed one must strive to maintain as little fluctuation in soil moisture as possible and occur slowly as possible year round. What I'm doing with soil in yard should make it easier to control moisture near and beneath foundation. If so,that alone makes it more than worth the effort.
 
 
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