If you’ve been planning to use gypsum for soil amendment, you may be wondering if it is the right option for your garden. The fact is that gypsum has a lot of application in the garden, and can equally be useful in amending clay soil. We encourage you to stick around till the end of this article, as we will be sharing a few details about gypsum and how you can use it in soil amendment.
What is Gypsum?
Gypsum is the naturally occurring mineral referred to as calcium sulfate dihydrate. It is used mainly as a fertilizer and also in the making of drywall, plaster, and blackboard. There are varieties of the mineral that is also used in making sculptural works of art. It appears colorless but can also be defined as yellow, pink, tan, gray, brown, blue, or red, due to the presence of impurities.
In the garden, gypsum can serve a lot of purposes. It can be used as a soil conditioner that can be used in loosening clay soil. This it does by removing the excess sodium that is present in the soil and introducing sodium into the mix. But before you go adding gypsum to your garden soil, there are steps you need to follow. We will discuss more that later in the article.
Uses of Gypsum in the Garden
We use gypsum mainly in our garden to plant vegetables in the heavy clay subsoil we have at our backyard. It made it easy for us to till the soil once we apply the mineral before planting season. It has helped to save us the stress and cost of hiring labor to prepare the land for us.
It has also helped to improve the outcome of our crops resulting in better yield and more profit. Which is what you will be interested in if you are a commercial farmer says Bob who wrote us from Nevada.
Gypsum can be the solution to your clay soil problem. It can be applied directly to the surface of your soil to loosen it and improve the condition of the soil. But you need to be aware that even with the best application practices, it can take up to three years for it to take full effect.
You can also use gypsum to recover damaged soil. Take, for example, you have a soil that has been compacted by heavy machinery, and is no longer useful in growing plants. By simply applying gypsum over it, you can improve the condition and make it workable again.
Gypsum is a readily available and cheap option for soil improvement. It is also easy to spread and use in whatever part of the garden that needs conditioning.
Nutrients Contained in Gypsum
Before you make use of gypsum for soil amendment, it is only right that you find out its nutritional value to your soil. Gypsum is mainly sold for gardening as a dry powder so it can be easily applied. The major nutrients in the gypsum powder are sulfur and calcium. Plants need both minerals to be present in the soil for healthy growth and development.
Calcium is useful to plants as it helps in the transportation of nutrients within the plant and in building thick cell walls. Deficiency in calcium will result in yellowing of leaves and reduced plant growth.
Sulfur is useful in the production of oil and protein in both plants and seeds. It also helps in the healthy development of the plant until maturity. Deficiency in sulfur also results in the coloration of leaves.
Using Gypsum for Soil Amendment
Before you use gypsum in your garden, you must carry out a soil test to determine the nutrient condition of the soil. Gypsum reduces the level of salt in the soil which makes it suitable for use in arid and coastal regions. You shouldn’t use gypsum in sandy soil as it usually doesn’t have much effect on it. A better option will be manure of compost to improve sandy soil.
You will need to perform the test so as you can determine the sulfur and calcium content. If the result shows that they are in abundance, it will be pointless to include more in the form of gypsum.
You also need to be aware that you shouldn’t add gypsum to soil with organic matter content of over 10 percent. You also shouldn’t add it to your soil to improve the fertility, pH, or structure if you follow organic farming principles.
Since soil compaction has a negative side effect on the soil, in terms of moisture retention, percolation, soil composition, root growth, and tilt. Adding gypsum to the soil will be a good way to loosen the soil. You shouldn’t make use of gypsum alone on nutrient-deficient soil and expect to improve the soil fertility. Gypsum should be applied in preparing the soil for planting season.
The effect of gypsum on the soil is short-lived. But with regular application, it can help to soften the soil and make it suitable for plowing and sowing.
Other Alternatives to Gypsum
There are other alternative methods you can use in your garden if you are not comfortable with gypsum. But it doesn’t matter which method you choose, you should be on the lookout for options that can help in improving drainage, increase moisture retention and aeration, reduce crusting of the soil surface, and promote soil aggregation.
You can make use of any of the following alternatives instead of gypsum
- Lawn clippings
- Autumn leaves
- Organic mulch
- Cover crops
Gypsum doesn’t contain any plant nutrient but composes mainly of calcium and sulfur. It isn’t a good choice of fertilizer for your soil but can be used as a simple method to loosen clay soil and soften the subsoil.
For amending nutrient deficiency in the soil, you will need to carry out a soil test to determine the mineral content of the soil before adding gypsum. This is because you don’t want to use gypsum on your soil if there is already enough sulfur and calcium.
Which method do you use in improving the fertility of your soil? Have you used gypsum in your garden before? We will like to hear from you in the comment section.