The Q&A Archives: Clay Soil

Question: I just bought a house and the 2 front flower beds against the house are not landscaped at all. The previous owners had covered them in plastic, and mulched the top. I took all that up, and found a GRAY clay soil underneath, not red. I have never seen gray. At any rate, how do I get rid of this so I can plant? Water doesn't even penetrate it. Thanks!

Answer: Sounds like hardpan, and in some areas of the country is called Caliche. In order to get things to grow you'll either need to remove the hardpan or dig into it and incorporate lots of organic matter to help loosen it. If you have the option, removing and replacing it with 3-way mix topsoil would be the ideal fix. Failing that, you can dig into the hardpan, spread 4-5 inches of organic matter over the soil and dig the organic matter in to a depth of 8-10 inches. Plant your annuals and perennials and then spread an additional 2-3 inches of organic matter over the bare soil to help suppress weeds. Best wishes with your flower beds.

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