How To Fix Clay Soil Before You Stop Gardening

By Ann Sanders | Soil Care

how to fix clay soil

Are you thinking about how to fix clay soil? Having clay soil in your garden is a challenge, not just for the plants but for the gardeners too. This make us stop gardening, since, most of us do not see the sunny side up.

It seems like wherever you move, there is clay all around, whether you are in your kitchen garden or in the lawn before your house. What could be the possible way to fix the clay soil?

​Clays, which are heavy drains slowly, and stays saturated even after a heavy shower. Then when the sun comes up, it dries and forms a hard, cracked surface. However, clay soils do have one plus point; they are rich in nutrients compared to sandy soil. Moreover, the advantage to retain water makes it the right choice for many gardeners.

​I am having clay soil in my backyard kitchen, does not mean I will give up gardening. I can still grow oak, maple or hickory without much treatment to the soil. However, a lingering pain stays that the plants are not going to their full potential.

​If you face a similar problem like me, then do not fret. You simply need to treat your soil structure and turn into the dark, crumby soil of your dreams.

Tools And Materials You Need To Fix The Clay Soil

Wondering how to fix the clay soil? Do you want to know what could be the right tool to improve the soil structure in your kitchen garden? Well, here is a list of the improved tools, in case you are trying to upgrade your soil.

  • Soil test kit or commercial test equipments
  • You need organic mulches – composts and highly old manure, straw
  • You might need a cart or a wheelbarrow
  • A shovel
  • A rake
  • Buy some cover crops like Rye, Oats or Clover

Step-By-Step Guide On How To Fix The Clay Soil

As said that you must not take it as an omen, if you garden is cursed with clay soil. You do not need to stop gardening, all you need to follow these steps and precautions and upgrade your clayey soil.

Step 1: ​It Is Important To Perform A Soil Test

As I said earlier, clay soils are rich in nutrients, but in case if your soil is acidic or alkaline, the nutrients will not be of much use. Therefore, you need to conduct a home test, using a soil kit or simply dug some soil using your spade and send it to a soil-testing lab.

After you conduct a test, it is important to follow the guidelines and adjust the pH level of your soil. For every garden plant, the soil needs to have a pH balance 6.3 to 6.8. So call up a local social testing lab and ask to perform a test to clear your doubts.

Step 2: ​You Must Avoid Compaction In Your Soil

How To Fix Clay Soil

After you are done with the soil test, the first precaution that you need to take is nursing your clay soil. Clay soils are often vulnerable to compaction. It is due to compaction that soil can have a poor drainage. Clayey soils build up clods that gums tillers and make working on the soil such a pain.

​Therefore, to avoid compaction of soil, you must stop working on a wet soil. Until your clay soil is fixed, avoid working on your soil with undue tilling. Make sure you do not walk on the soil much before you correct it.

Step 3: Time To Add Organic Matter​

How To Break Up Clay Soil

To go a long way to improve your clayey soil you need to add organic material. This helps to improve the drainage and lightens your clay soil. This will also help to add nutrients to your soil, which are a boon to the microorganism and in turn to your soil.

While there are a number of organic materials that composts quickly such as well-rotted manure, green plants, leaf molds, or straw.

​You need to work a 2 to 3 inch layer of the chosen soil matter and work it gently down as much as 4 to 6 inches. In the first season or two, you need to take care of the soil by watering.

The slower draining of soil around the flowerbed or vegetable bed could build up a water level slowly. Since microorganism eat up organic matter, so do make it a habit to add it to your soil at a frequent interval.

Step 4: ​Build Raised And Mulch Beds

how to fix clay soil

As I was saying that clay soil has the power to retain water, so creating raised beds will help to improve the drainage. Simple mounds of soil are easy to construct or you can construct mounds of wood, stone or brick, to let the water runoff. In order to reduce, compaction, you need to size the beds so that you can reach the middle with stepping in the bed.

​Along with construction of raised beds, you need to build mulched beds with organic matter during both the winter and the growing season. Place a layer of straw over the soil to protect the soil from compaction and lessen erosion. This also acts as a boon, as it helps to minimize the weed growth completely. When the spring onset, transfer the mulches to your garden paths.

Step 5: ​Plant A Cover Crop

How To Fix Clay Soil

In the cold season, when your garden is at rest, you can plant cover crops.

​Well, what are cover crops?

​A cover crop is organic mulch. You will find many a cover crops that suits a variety of regions. In the north, winter wheat or rye is a popular choice, while in the warm region clover and oats are good to go.

​If you are sowing a winter crop, then sow after your have completed the harvest of the last crops completely. Since the spring will be sometime closer and by that time, the soil would gain much of the organic matter to support high growing plants in clay soil.

​You can also plants, Timothy hay, Hairy vetch or Borages as they have long roots, which grow deep into the soil and acts as a self-amendment.

Conclusion

Improvement of your clay soil will take time. You cannot expect overnight results, neither did I? What you can do is follow the above steps that we mentioned and you should notice the improvement every year. You can expect a plant friendly soil in a few years.

​We know amending soil is not an easy task. It might take years to overcome the issue. You need to keep on adding composts any time. However, if you are tilling fresh organic matters, like a cover crop or straw wait at least a few more weeks, before the thing fully decomposes.

If you do not have the time and energy to invest in improving your soil, you can easily take the raised bed route. When you build a raised bed on top of your clay soil and fill them with new high quality soil. This is a quick improvement process. Whatever route you might choose, you must not allow the clay soil to ruin your habit of gardening.

​What do you think, are these one of the successful ways to fix clay soil? Do you have any more ideas or experiences? Do share us in the comments below.

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About the Author

With the endless passion for organic living, I - Ann Sanders has come up with the idea of creating A Green Hand. Being the founder and editor of A Green Hand, my goal is to provide everyone with a wide range of tips about healthy lifestyle with multiform categories including gardening, health & beauty, food recipe,...