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TastyofHasty
February 25th, 2009, 09:55 AM
So reading around on Leander and Gretchen Poisson's Solar Gardening, one of the things mentioned was
http://books.google.com/books?id=YQnRrUvFPoIC&pg=PA59&lpg=PA59&dq=%22sandy+soil%22+%22kitty+litter%22&source=bl&ots=ADFpnGEil-&sig=S5qbLxeUm8Oyw4ny_iO17kk11UQ&hl=en&ei=YWilSY3lN4bKM_z6qcAK&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=5&ct=result


Untreated Kitty Litter ... Modifies Sandy Soil

One 100-lb bag for one-time application; exact quantity should be based on particle-size analysis by a professional soil lab.

Use only untreated litter clay; mix in as thoroughly as possible when initially building up bed soil.

Sounds like it might be an inexpensive way to add some clay to sandy soil? Anybody tried it?

Now, I have clay soil and am thinking about adding SAND to make sure it has a good supply of silica; this is the opposite!:D

Emerald
February 25th, 2009, 10:25 AM
I wouldn't do it! I have found that by adding good compost or leaf mold to sandy soil or clay soil to build up some good humus is far better than adding sand to clay or clay to sand. I have great soil here but my mom has awful soil- sandy out back and clay in the front-- we just put up a Leaf Corral and saved her leaves for a year and then added it in front and back and it really made a great difference to how things grow for her.

American_Gardener
February 25th, 2009, 10:50 AM
Yeah.. i'd have to agree putting sand in clay dosen't do much good. It adds no organic matter, no nutrients, no nothing. It's much better to add organic matter.

I can see the reasoning here is to break up the clay so that water can penetrate easier.. but that's just as easily accomplished by using organic matter. Leaves, straw, spoiled hay, dried grass clippings, newspaper shredded up, even small twigs and sticks would be just about as cheap if not free and it will add organic matter to the soil as well.

For what it's worth.. when we first started this garden 30 some years ago we added truckloads of topsoil which was mostly a sandy loam. I can tell ya from experience.. sand and clay make quicksand. Just picture all that silt that is deposited by a river on the banks.. that's what my soil is like. Step into an area with no plant growth on top of it to firm it up and you could go down to your waist in quicksand.

So, i'd say.. forget the clay. Go with something like peat moss or any of the free organic materials you can find.

Dave

reubenT
February 25th, 2009, 09:04 PM
bentonite clay, what kitty litter is, a very fine sticky clay, used as binder to make sand stick together, used to make greensand, (no, not agriculture greensand, foundry greensand, called green because it's not been cooked, packed into a form to make a mold to pour molten metal into to make castings, [no not worm castings] LOL) actually humus does the same job and helps feed the plants, which the clay would not do very well. although the clay does raise the cation exchange capacity.

journey149
February 26th, 2009, 11:09 AM
I used cat litter and dog food, i dug a hold and put a bag of dog food and cat litter in it buried it for a week until the dog food broke down and then i mix the our sandy soil and the dog food, cat litter together and my veggies love it. And it drain pretty darn good.

journey149
February 26th, 2009, 11:14 AM
I might add, here on the gulf coast we have white beache sand the the further you dig the whiter it becomes, i use lots of compost, cat litter and dog food.

TastyofHasty
February 26th, 2009, 12:21 PM
I was just reading about kitty litter; there are different kinds, the "non-clumping" kind is made of either zeolite or diatomite; zeolites are some kind of "molecular sieve," that's an aluminosilicate (I kind of WANT those in my garden) and diatomite is diatomaceous earth, which is 86% silica. (good again).

That's interesting about mixing the dog food and kitty litter in a hole and leaving it buried for a week, journey149. What sort of kitty litter did/do you use?

American Gardener,
sand and clay make quicksand. Just picture all that silt that is deposited by a river on the banks.. that's what my soil is like. Step into an area with no plant growth on top of it to firm it up and you could go down to your waist in quicksand.
so THAT's how you pounded the rebar to make all those deep holes to plant your tomatoes ... your dirt isn't that hard to pound into, mebbe??:D
yeah, sand and clay also make adobe BRICK. Something about the way the grains fit together; why they don't recommend adding sand to potting soil. It's all in the RECIPE, I guess. If you have a LOT of sand, like journey149, the clay would more likely be helpful, I'd guess.

American_Gardener
February 26th, 2009, 01:59 PM
ToH.. that's only good in the springtime.. during the summer it still gets hard as a brick. I did however fill in several of my drainage ditches a couple years ago.. those are the spots i really gotta look out for in the spring when the water table is so high. Those clay ditches still fill with water.. the water and my soil is what turns it into quicksand. And then only down as deep as the orginal ditches were.

Ok.. i'll revise my orginal statement. Since ToH is doing the research and finding out how safe the kitty litter is.. i'm gonna say that in small amounts it would be good. Cause i really do like my clay.. my plants love the stuff. So, with the nutrients the clay has.. plus it's water retaining ability.. i'm gonna say go for it.

G. Gordon Gumbo
February 26th, 2009, 04:48 PM
Clay particles can hold more nutrient ions than sand particles. This is because plates of clay have sites along there edges that are capable of holding nutrients. Sand is simply too big to hold these nutrients.

Soil particles are negatively charged, and nutrient particles are positively charged. Therefore, you want soil that has a high negative charge to hold more nutrient ions and make them available for the plant roots.

Organic matter also has the capability to hold nutrients. They even have more sites than clay. In addition, they can also incorporate the nutrients into their structure. Organic material also is negatively charged and can hold more nutrient ions than sand can. The nutrients will then be slowly released as the organic matter breaks down.

Therefore, the best materials to add to extremely sandy soil from a nutrient perspective is clay and/or composted organic matter.

Drainage: The best material to add to heavy clay soils is organic matter because adding sand will just form cement. In fact, you would have to add over 1 foot thickness all over the entire garden surface of a heavy clay soil to even begin to create sandy loam. I'll post a soils triangle to try to explain that fact.

In the meanwhile, just remember, organic matter will bind with the clay particles in a way as will allow water to drain through the clay via the organic matter particles because they are much larger than clay particles and they bind the clay particles to the outside surface of the organic matter which is porous.

Therefore, bottom line, the absolute best material to add to either heavy clay or heavy sand soils is well composted organic material ... both for drainage and to increase the resulting soil's ability to hold and dispense nutrients.

GGG

G. Gordon Gumbo
February 26th, 2009, 05:00 PM
Soils Triangle: http://www.uwsp.edu/geo/faculty/ritter/glossary/s_u/soil_texture_triangle.html

Click on the link and view the soils triangle.

Now, look at the percentages of sand and silt you'd have to add to heavy clay soil to bring it down to something that would be even remotely clay loam much less sandy clay loam.

Hence: impractical to add sand to clay.

beads
February 26th, 2009, 05:12 PM
Thanks Tripple-G ;)

I am applying a very thin application of the cheapie Kitty Litter to one of my test plots. As of last fall most of it had been absorbed into the sandy loam with no resulting concrete like soil. So we'll have to see. I suspect its more of a matter of adding this material in very, very gently with more humus material. Rather than adding 20% or more at a time - its not going to work well. I measured out to approximately 2-3% with no problems.

Unfortunately, the farm is experiencing one of those late winter blasts with an additional six inches predicted today. Add on the 13 inches on the ground and... well, you get the idea.

- beads

G. Gordon Gumbo
February 26th, 2009, 05:44 PM
"I am applying a very thin application of the cheapie Kitty Litter to one of my test plots. As of last fall most of it had been absorbed into the sandy loam with no resulting concrete like soil. So we'll have to see."

Beads, sorry if I left that impression. I meant that adding SAND TO HEAVY CLAY will result in cement ... metaphorically. I mean that the clay lumps will roll along like snowballs in the added sand and just make bigger lumps of cement-like clay balls ... kinda like if you were to roll a caramel log in crushed peanuts.

Besides, looking at the soils triangle, you'd have to add tons of sand to a normal home garden to even do any good.

On the other hand, adding clay kitty litter to sandy loam or even very sandy soil, if the kitty litter isn't kiln fired like that used in fire bricks, and the kitty litter dissolves down, would be the same as adding clay. No problems.

In fact, I use "baked" (not kiln fired) clay kitty litter in my potting mix. But I buy it in 50-lb bags of "oil absorb" like what you use on shop floors, and I buy it at the farm supply stores where it's dirt cheap.

But for the mix I fill raised beds with, I simply get a pickup load of native clay soil to mix with the organic material (rotted horse stall bedding and rotted bark chips, leaves, etc.) that I mix up in big batches. Cheaper than kitty litter/oil absorb.

GGG

TastyofHasty
February 26th, 2009, 07:47 PM
My girlhood friend lives near Gaylord, Michigan; she was complaining that her soil was very sandy and hard to grow in. So when I saw that quote from Solar Gardening, I thought I'd mention it for folk with sandy soil.

This Wikipedia article on "kitty litter" says
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat_litter
(under the heading "Non-Clumping Cat Litter")

Conventional clay litter is indistinguishable from clay-based oil absorbent (used to clean oil spills); as the latter is far less expensive, it is often used as a substitute. Non-clumping cat litter is often made of zeolite or diatomite.

So clay-based oil absorbent (the same stuff as "non-clumping kitty litter," only cheaper as so-called "oil absorbent") would probably be a reasonably inexpensive additive for sandy soils!

On the other hand, I was also reading about silicon binding with aluminum to form feldspar or other alumina-silicates which are stable compounds, so having silica in the soil will prevent your plants from absorbing any free aluminum in the soil; so it does seem like having some silica in your soil would be a good thing.

herb girl
February 28th, 2009, 07:55 AM
I just read that kitty litter had toulene (bad chemical) in it. I know you said "untreated" but I was wondering where the toulene comes from?

American_Gardener
February 28th, 2009, 08:48 AM
I don't want to dispute what you read. But, just wondering why they would put paint thinner in cat litter?

Toulene gives off some highly volitile vapors.. i wouldn't imagine that could possibly be good for a cat. You sure it wasn't the floor dry stuff they added it too? And i still can't figure out why. But that might be more logical.

Dave

tughillcam
February 28th, 2009, 09:06 AM
doesn't moisture try to balance itself out ?
kitty litter, which absorbs moisture, would theoretically suck
moisture out of roots it is touching if there is drought ?

I don't have anything to back it up, I'm just using common sense.
some people use cedar chips for kitty litter, I suppose that would work fine.

tughillcam
February 28th, 2009, 09:07 AM
I don't want to dispute what you read. But, just wondering why they would put paint thinner in cat litter?

Toulene gives off some highly volitile vapors.. i wouldn't imagine that could possibly be good for a cat. You sure it wasn't the floor dry stuff they added it too? And i still can't figure out why. But that might be more logical.

Dave

I would imagine it would be a drying agent,
so it clumps, maybe ?

American_Gardener
February 28th, 2009, 09:34 AM
doesn't moisture try to balance itself out ?
kitty litter, which absorbs moisture, would theoretically suck
moisture out of roots it is touching if there is drought ?

I don't have anything to back it up, I'm just using common sense.
some people use cedar chips for kitty litter, I suppose that would work fine.

I can see your point.. All i can do is tell ya that in my garden which is mostly clay.. the clay retains the water so long as it's not right on top of the ground. Below ground level once it gets down a few inches my soil will be just like modeling clay for weeks after a rain storm.

Now, i'm assuming you'd have to have some water source periodically for the clay to tap into to get the moisture. But, once in there.. i don't see where the clay could be a problem drawing out moisture from plants if the moisture isn't already in the surrounding sand to start with.

May be the plant has some sucking power that'd keep the clay from actually drawing it out from the roots. Guess it'd be a real tug of war over the water if they don't.

I'm sure some expert will explain it to me.. but, given the option between sand with no clay and sand with clay and both under extreme dry conditions i'd probably take my chances on the one with clay.

Dave

beads
March 2nd, 2009, 10:00 AM
Its still about trying to create more of a balanced soil structure. Simply adding gross amounts of humus only lasts so long. And generally the most recommended amendment to sandy soils.

Most folks have tried to instantly add clay or silt to sand based soils creating a concrete like substance. While it sounds ideal there is no good way to mix the three together and have anything that truly resembles natural soil. Think of it as shock treatment.

I don't see anyway creating a shortcut to perfect soil. I grew up in Mid-Michigan with very heavy clay soils moving North I end up with very light sandy soil. I think I prefer the sandy soils but its still a long hard recovery for the soils themselves.

My plot was decimated by bad farming techniques: First over cropped with corn with maybe 12-12-12; then hay; finally pastured out for cows. Some of which must have staved to death as I still find the occasional cattle bone in the fields. What was left was sterile sand and lichen.

Most of the fields are covered with at least 1" of good loam other areas 3-4" where I first started. So its fine. The kitty litter clay does seem to help as long as you add a very small percentage a year otherwise your asking for concrete.

The only other thing I can tell you about sand is that along with plenty of humus you can look to biochar, clay/silt tablets, if you can find them, and lots of nitrogen fixing annuals and bi-annuals.

The other question about retaining water is easy enough. Since sandy soils drain so fast on there own any water that plants are able to transpire before evaporating is still water that the plant can use. The roots will still find what they need even if it absorbs the moisture a bit slower from the clay than from sand. At least its there to absorb.

- beads

G. Gordon Gumbo
March 2nd, 2009, 11:20 AM
doesn't moisture try to balance itself out ?
kitty litter, which absorbs moisture, would theoretically suck
moisture out of roots it is touching if there is drought ?


It works the other way. Clay helps retain (yes by absorbing) moisture. But it's the roots that do the sucking. They go in their and draw out the moisture from the composite soil.

And that's why you need plenty of organic material as a component of your garden soil ... to space out the clay and provide even more moisture retention in a mixed medium into which the roots can easily seek out and draw out the moisture.

Oh, and during a drought ... YOU IRRIGATE!

GGG

G. Gordon Gumbo
March 2nd, 2009, 11:30 AM
And as far as all the "ingredients" of oil absorb ... READ THE LABEL.

Yes, some oil absorb is comprised of diotomateous earth. That's not the baked clay I'm talking about.

Yes, I've used diotomateous earth oil absorb as a part of potting mix. Diatomes are itty bitty skeletons of ancient sea creatures that have a tiny hole in the middle of their structure. When used as a water filtering medium, diotomateous earth filters out impurities because the water is forced thru those tiny little holes in the skeletons. When used as oil absorb, water is retained in those tiny little holes. When used as a component of soilless mix, roots go and get that retained water.

The reason I used diotomateous oil absorb in soilless mix is because it's cheaper than perlite, has nutrient value and retains moisture.

BUT ... we were discussing CLAY to add to sandy soil, and for that purpose, you don't want to add diotomateous earth oil absorb because diotomateous earth isn't clay. Read the label before purchasing.

GGG