The Q&A Archives: Improving Clay Soil

Question: The soil in our garden has a very high clay content--good for the local brick-making industry but hardly ideal for plants! What do you recommend that we do to improve the quality of our soil? We roto-till, which is some help, but only temporarily. Would adding gypsum help? Would something else be better for emending the soil texture and quality? How much will we need to add, and when is the best time to do it?
Thank you for your help.

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 inchlayer 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.

Adding Gypsum may help break up the clay. Your extension service 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!
Good luck!

« Click to go to the homepage

» Ask a question of your own

Q&A Library Searching Tips

  • When singular and plural spellings differ, as in peony and peonies, try both.
  • Search terms are not case sensitive.

Today's site banner is by ge1836 and is called "Sempervivum Henry Carrevon"