The Q&A Archives: Soil Drainage

Question: I live in middle Tennessee and plan on starting a garden this spring. The soil here is all red clay. How can I make the soil more suitable for peppers?

Answer: Organic matter, and lots of it, is the best cure for clay soil. If you can find a supply of aged livestock manure, compost, leaf mold, etc., it's usually cheaper than buying peat moss. If you don't have a compost pile, I suggest you start one so you'll always have a source of "black gold". Add all your lawn clippings, young weeds, table scraps, etc. to the pile. There's no better food for the soil than compost, and healthy soil means healthy plants. Mulch your plants for weed supression and soil moisture management, and as it decays, it will also add to soil health. Introduce some earthworms, too - they'll "till" the soil constantly and incorporate the mulch and other matter. Some clay soils can do with a dose of gypsum, but you should have the soil tested before adding it. Your agricultural extension office can help you with testing info. Have fun!

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