Starting a vegetable garden in clay soil is possible if you have patience and stick to the rules. Learn about amending and mulching for the best crops.
Many people, who like gardening, feel that with proper care and nourishment, what you grow rewards you with handsome flora, feed, and foliage. But, have you thought about how to amend clay soil for vegetable gardening?
I’m happy to have Ann Sanders as a guest contributor on PreparednessMama:
There might be a lot of questions in your mind, like “How to grow food for yourself if you have nothing but clay soil?” or “Is clay soil nourishing enough for the vegetables to grow?” Well, worry not. You will soon witness the clay mess in your garden turn into black gold! Handling gunky clay is a challenge in home gardening. It is slimy and heavy when wet, and goes hard when dried.
I have been working with clay soil for a long time by converting it into a medium, rich in nutrients. Mixing it with an appropriate organic mix does the deed. This is why, I am providing you with some fantastic tips for starting a vegetable garden in clay soil, like a pro. So, get your gardening tools ready.
Transform Difficult Clay Into Gold
If you are trying to improve the clay soil in your garden and think that it can happen overnight, you need to understand that with soil amending, patience is a virtue. Though it may seem a big task at first, these tips will give impressive results in the end.
There are numerous approaches for boosting the tilth of clay filled beds, let’s look at three of the most common.
Adding amendments to clay soil help to give it structure. Consider fine pea gravel, sand or silt.
Add about 3 inches to the top of the soil and work it into the soil to a depth of about 8 inches. These will help the soil fall apart and works in opposition to the lumpiness, the clay soil imparts. It provides a huge amount of aeration beneath the soil.
Add Organic Compost
Waste and rough organic matter are an easy addition. It includes substances like garden compost, animal waste compost, bone compost, straw, chopped leaves and dried organic matter. They improve the aeration quality further, by pulling the spoil apart.
You want to add some kind of aged compost every time you plant. It helps in improving soil fertility and brings microbes to the soil, thereby increasing the nutrient quantity.
Many types of mulch are readily available and inexpensive. Check with local tree trimmers for softwood shredding. They will often deliver it for free. A layer of thick, soft sawdust can provide a clay bed with an absorptive surface just right for sucking up all the extra water that would log itself in the clay.
How To Grow Vegetables In Your Clay-filled Backyard
Hard clay soil is tough to till and difficult for delicate roots to penetrate. An extreme clay soil tends to become waterlogged and sticky. Here are two of the easiest methods to go around the problem.
#1. Stay Compost Focused
Tilling – Tilling reshuffles the soil and breaks up the hard chunks of clay soil. It is equally important for putting away all the rocks that show up while tilling.
Composting – A lot of compost is a must for any type of gardening soil. The compost needs to be mixed with the soil as deep as 6-8 inches. If the gardening area is big, a tiller works well and can mix the compost with the clay soil, even up to 12 inches deep.
The compost and clay once mixed, will resolve the issue of flooding in the garden on being watered. In other words, the soil becomes more absorptive.
Mixing can be done using a garden tiller, over and over, for at least 4-5 times, till the blades run in, smooth.
Mulching – Wood mulch that can be found at the carpenter’s workshop or even a construction site. Be sure to stay away from pressure treated lumber though; it is not a good addition to your garden because of the chemicals. Be sure to add a thick layer of cardboard to the soil before laying the mulch over the corrected clay.
Planting And Watering – Timely watering is a must, once the beds have been planted.
#2. Remain Mulch Focused
If just a small part of your garden has the clay makeup and it is hard for a shovel to get through it, then a different method can be used.
Digging Deep – For this, a 4-5 feet deep sink hole is dug, at the identified spot. The edges of the hole are lined with a tough gardening fabric, which does not tear apart with the pressure.
Wood Layering – The bottom of this huge bed is filled with wood shavings. This is called as hugelkultur. The bed of wood dust and shreds acts as a sponge and absorbs all the water. This makes a fantastic drainage technique and removes the problem of water logging.
Composting – The next layer can be good soil, containing nitrogen rich manure such as chicken manure. The compost of your liking can be used. Over this, the compost and clay soil mix can go, together with the wood shavings, again. Veggies like tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, radish, corn, green beans, and beets are easy to grow in tempered clay soil.
Starting a vegetable garden in clay soil is possible if you have patience and stick to the rules. Aerate your soil with amendments, utilize compost for additional nutrient value, and remain mulch focused to help remove additional water from the soil.
I hope this article has cleared most of your doubts regarding vegetable gardening in clay soil. Let us know if you have any other clay soil amendments that have worked in your garden. You can leave a comment below. Happy Gardening!
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