BAD SOIL - Knowledgebase Question

Avatar for ATHOMSON
Question by ATHOMSON
July 1, 2010
I have a black clay like soil, when I plant I put good soil in the hole before planting. Is there something I can do to balance this bad soil to where my plants don't look like their dying?

Answer from NGA
July 1, 2010
Even though you are amending the planting hole, the roots of your plants extend out past the planting hole and will be sitting in your black clay soil. A better solution is to amend the entire planting bed. It may not be worth digging out the plants now and amending the soil but if you wait and do it in late fall or early spring when your perennials are dormant, you can dig them out, set them in a protected place and amend the entire garden bed.

You can enrich your soil over a period of years and end up with rich garden loam if you add organic matter. Start by removing all vegetation from the area and spreading 4-5 inches of organic matter over the bed. You can use compost, aged manure (fresh manure can be too hot and might contain weed seeds), shredded leaves or whatever organic matter is readily available in your local area. Dig or till this organic matter into the soil - 8-10 inches deep. Replant your plants and mulch over the bare soil between the plants with additional organic matter. A 2-3 inch layer will help suppress weeds and slow water evaporation. At the end of the season dig the organic matter into the soil and add a fresh layer. Repeat this process annually and you'll end up with rich garden loam - and a spectacular garden.

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