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If you have clay soil and are trying to set up a gorgeous and productive garden, then you will need to know how to improve clay soil.
What is Clay Soil?
Clay soil is mostly composed of clay particles. It’s pretty easy to spot if you have this type of soil, especially if it is sticking to your boots and garden spade. You will also find big clods of soil that are hard to separate, and the soil will crack during dry spells.
Additionally it is
- Slow to drain
- Slow to warm up in springtime
- Easily compacted, making it difficult for roots to spread out and grow
Find Out If You Have Clay Soil
If you’re not sure if you have clay then you can do a quick and easy test to find out.
Take a handful of moist (but not wet) soil from your garden, and give it a squeeze. Then, open your hand and see what you’ve got.
If it holds it’s shape but crumbles when you poke it, then you don’t have clay. What you have is the nicest soil to work with, and that is loam.
If it falls apart as soon as you open your hand, you’ve got sandy soil.
If it holds it’s shape and doesn’t budge when you poke it, then unfortunately you’ve got clay. So read on to see what you can do to fix it.
Improving Clay Soil
This does take some work, but the work you do will quickly improve your soil and make your gardening much less difficult.
You’ll be doing the bulk of the work up front and if you do a little more work each year your soil will continue to improve.
So what do you need to do to improve your clay soil? Luckily it’s as simple as adding a good thick layer ( 6-8″) of organic material to your planting area. This can be any organic matter that you have available.
- Grass cuttings
- Aged manure
Now spread the range of organic material that you have collected over the clay soil.
Ok, that was the easy part. Now you need to mix it into the soil. Digging it in well with a spade or or a fork gets the job done – but it is VERY hard work. Clay is not at all easy to work with. If you have access to a tiller, you’re probably going to want to use it!
When you’re finished, your garden bed will be somewhat higher, but it will settle back down a little over the growing season.
Over time your soil will continue to improve, as the organic material breaks down into the soil.
Finish up by adding a layer of mulch on top of your soil now. This mulch layer can be of any organic matter, too. Hay, straw, leaves, lawn clippings etc
The layer of mulch will act to help the soil retain moisture during dry periods, as well as keeping weeds at bay. Plus you’ll have a layer of organic material already in place, to work into your garden soil at the end of the season.
Make sure that you set up a compost pile or bin so that you have even more organic matter to add to your garden bed each year. There should be a compost bin in every garden, for recycling and producing quality fertilizer for your soil.