How to Break up Clay Soil

Clay soil

Many years ago I used gypsum pellets to break up clay soil. We can not find them anymore but the problem of the hard packed clay soil still exists. Is there a different product that will solve this problem? -Barbara

Hi Barbara,

Gypsum is still available, but it’s not recommended for general use. Gypsum (calcium sulfate) is used specifically as a chemical remedy in crusty clay soils containing excess sodium (called “sodic soils”). These soils usually occur in western states and are best identified by chemical soil analysis.

For general purposes, routinely working organic material into your garden—such as well-rotted compost—will both condition and aerate the soil. The compost continues to break down underground, adding nutrients and workability to the soil, but this breakdown also means that the process will need to be repeated every year or so for lasting results.

In my garden, I’ve had good luck with an aggregated slate product called PermaTill. Worked into the soil, it not only keeps the soil loose and uncompacted, but also acts as a deterrent to moles and voles.



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6 Comments on “How to Break up Clay Soil”

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  • Donald pharisee Says:
    May 8th, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    Hi,my yard is mixed with hard clay,and I’m trying to grow some roses and grass also I have broken up the soil,but its not coming up right what do I need next to do

  • Mrs Jenkins Says:
    June 4th, 2014 at 4:17 am

    Hi, I have purchased PERLITE 10 x 100 litre bags of this from AMAZON UK and it has improved the extremely heavy red, black and grey clay in my garden. I never thought this possible as I had great difficulty putting a spade in what seemed like concrete as the spade just bounced back at me and it felt like the reverbertions shattered my wrist the pain was so bad (they didn’t thankfully. Then I purchased a rotovator/tiller off Amazon. Between the two (tiller and perlite) I now have soil like like fine bread crumbs and will be buying a further 3 x 100 litre bags of perlite (I have a large garden)…….I can catergorically highly recommend this product if you have appalling heavy clay soil you cannot put a spade through when it’s dry and too heavy and sticky when wet….go on, do yourself a favour and buy with great confidence….it’s the best thing I have done and want to shout it from the rooftops…and months later I can still dig my garden wiith great pleasure as it’s still granular. Hope this helps all the way it has me. Kind regards

  • structural soil Says:
    August 27th, 2009 at 9:14 am

    Hello Naser, what you should use is structural soil. This may be a generic term but there are different solutions of structural soil. You can combine structural soil and permatill to get the best results. Good luck.

  • naser Says:
    December 13th, 2008 at 9:26 pm


    I live in melbourne-Australia.
    there are a lots of cracks in our lawn around the house in the backyard specially when it is dry.some cracks can be 1meter long 3-5 cm wide 20 cm or more deep.
    please tell me what to do about them.


  • Official Comment:

    Julie Says:
    September 28th, 2008 at 10:56 am

    Yes, the same thing applies – gypsum reacts chemically with overly-salty soils, so it only works if you specifically have sodic soil.

    In the lawn, your best bet is to core aerate, then topdress by raking a thin layer of organic material over the lawn and down into the holes. It may take a few seasons, but in time your lawn soil will be well conditioned, organic, and nourished.

  • Official Comment:

    Barbara Says:
    August 11th, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Does the same thing apply for using gypsum on your lawn? It is a little hard to dig compost into a lawn.

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How to Break up Clay Soil