The Q&A Archives: What Can I Grow In Clay Soil?

Question: I live in southern Minnesota near the Iowa border. I have<br>a mostly clay soil and I was wondering what would grow best in this type of soil.

Answer: Actually, the best thing to do is improve your clay soil. I don't think there is really anything that grows well in clay soil. Clay soil is heavy and it is very hard for roots to expand and grow. It also has horrible drainage, often forming "bowls" around the roots of the plant which eventually drown the plant. I have experienced this first hand and I am currently improving my entire property, bit by pit. Adding organic material to your soil is the best remedy. Working in compost, leaf mould, and composted cow manure will greatly improve soil structure and draining. This does take time though, you will need to add in lots of material to the area you want to plant in. I have also had enormous success with adding powdered gypsum to my clay soil. It is added at a rate of 5 lbs. per 100 square feet of space. For some reason, it doesn't work on all clay soils, and if it is going to work, it will do so almost immediately. If you don't see results, it won't help to keep adding more. I got the best results when I tilled the gypsum into the soil. Also, it is always a good idea to have a current soil test performed by your local Cooperative Extension Agency/State University. Your extension agent can be a valuable resource in helping you improve your soil. After all, they are familiar with the challenges you face in your particular area. You can contact your local agent at 507-526-6240 to inquire about a soil test.

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