The Q&A Archives: Clay Type Soil As Foundation

Question: Our home was built on what seems to be some type of clay that does not dry out easily, but when it does dry it dries like concrete. I am not sure what do do about planting a flower bed. I think that our sod successfully adhered to the claylike substance but I do not think that my perenials or annuals will be so lucky. What should I do? Where should I start?
Thank you
Desperately seeking soil

Answer: In such a situation, rather than fight it, you might try using raised beds where you can build a better soil almost immediately. Loosen and turn the native soil under the planting area, then use lots of organic matter (compost, rotted leaves, aged stable manure and bedding, etc.) and a bit of sand to increase the volume. Mix them together as best you can and plant into that. For annuals, a six inch height should be ample, for perennials you might want to go a bit higher. Over time, you will find that the soil in these areas is much improved, particularly if you add additional organic matter regularly. Using an organic mulch such as shredded bark will also help to feed the soil as it breaks down. If you are still unsure, plant annuals this year and then add lots of organic matter again this fall in preparation for planting perennials next year. This will also give you time to run some soil tests and see what if any additional amendments you may need to add.

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