The Q&A Archives: Clay Soil Gardening

Question: I want my kids to enjoy gardening, and am thinking of planting an herb garden. Is that a good place to start for them? If not, what is? Also, what do I need to do to prepare my northern California clay soil?

Answer: You are wise to focus on soil building! Before planting, incorporate plenty of compost for improved drainage. Add a 4-6 inch layer of compost and incorporate it about a foot deep.

Herbs are a good choice for children's gardens. You may want to split the garden into sections, one for annual herbs such as basil and dill, and the other for perennial herbs such as sage and thyme. Consider allowing the children participate in the process of choosing the plants. You might also want to include some fast-growing plants such as beans and radishes, and some edible flowers such as nasturtiums.

After planting, add a 1-2 inch layer of mulch. Mulch is great to help 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.

Each spring, work more compost into your annual bed, and apply a layer of compost as a mulch to your perennial herb garden. Good luck with your new garden!

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