Answer: Clay soil can be a real gardener's nightmare! You can begin, on a small scale, to improve the soil by working in lots of compost or other organic matter. Choose flower or vegetable beds that you want to plant this year and spread a three or four inch layer of mulch on top. Work it in to a depth of at least six inches, deeper if you can. Continue to do this year after year to help "fluff" up the soil. If you start small, in beds you plan to use immediately, you can spread your soil improvementefforts throughout the yard over several growing season. Persistence will pay off and eventually you'll have a loamy-type soil that will drain well yet hold important nutrients and moisture.
It is possible to dicourage the growth of some plants by piling too much soil or mulch over the crowns. Peonies, for instance, won't grow well or blossom if their roots are deeper than a couple of inches in the ground. Others might rot if they don't have access to air. The best solution is to use the compost as mulch around your established plants rather than over the top of them.
Adding Gypsum may help break up the clay. Your extension service (ph# 916/842-2711) can give you soil testing information, and can tell you if gypsum will improve your soil - it won't work for some clay soils. If all of this sounds like too much work, you can always garden in containers on top of your tough soil!
Q&A Library Searching Tips