The Q&A Archives: Poor Yields in Clay Soil

Question: I planted strawberries this last spring and although they grew well they did not produce more than a handful of fruit. Our soil is very heavy -- "only good for growing clay pots". I had put in some amendments and fertilizer and it did improve the texture somewhat. Is there anything I can do to improve the soil?

Answer: You are definately on the right track. Soil building is a continual process, not a one-time thing. To improve your soil, incorporate plenty of compost before every planting season. In clay soils, compost improves soil fertility and drainage. Add a 4- to 6-inch layer of compost and incorporate it about 12 to 18 inches deep.You can use manure if it is well-aged (6 months). Each planting season, add more compost.You may want to incorporate a balanced fertilizer (e.g., 10-10-10) or add organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion, bone meal, and seaweed/kelp at the same time. Follow package instructions.

After planting, add a 1-2 inch layer of mulch. Mulch helps retain soil moisture, reduce weeds, and as it breaks down it provides nutrients to the soil. Any organic matter can be used as mulch.Try compost, bark, wood chips, straw, or pine needles. As it breaks down, dig it into your soil and add more.

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