The Q&A Archives: Soil in my backyard look like dry clay

Question: Hello,

I want to start learning how to plant flowers,fruits, and vegetables. As I dig the ground in my backyard, the soil look like clay-like looking.

1.What do I need to do first in order to get moist soil(?)
2.How deep of the hole do I need to dig up if I were need to add bag of soil?

3.If I were to plant flowers, fruits, and vegetable; is there a specific type of soil I need to use for each specific one?

Please advise.

Thank you,


Answer: Soil building is a continual process, not a one-time thing. To improve your soil, incorporate plenty of compost before every planting season. In clay soils, compost improves soil fertility and drainage. Add a 4-6 inch layer of compost and incorporate it about 12-18 inches deep. You can use manure if it is well-aged (6 months) or you won't be planting until it has lost it's heat and decomposed. Each planting season, add more compost. You may want to incorporate a balanced fertilizer (e.g., 10-10-10) or add organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion, bone meal, and seaweed/kelp at the same time. Follow package instructions. 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. As it breaks down, dig it into your soil and add more. A rototiller isn't absolutely necessary; you can incorporate the amendments by digging them in with a shovel, to a depth of 8-10 inches. Playground or builder's sand will suffice, but I'd stay away from the very fine beach-type sand. Both vegetables and flowers will thrive in well amended soils. Hope your garden blooms beyond your expectations!

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