Grass to grow in clay soil - Knowledgebase Question

Amherst, Oh
Question by ladyscorpion
August 26, 2010
Soil has a LOT of clay, and a LOT of drainage was put in. This is not my property so don't want to invest in a lot of money. We have tilled, put in new soil etc, but the clay always seems to be there. What can I add or do to the soil we have to break it up? Thank you


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Answer from NGA
August 26, 2010

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The best thing you can do for a clay soil is to add composted organic matter, which will improve the structure and internal drainage and aeration of the soil. Do this any time you plant or replant a garden bed. Add a couple of inches of compost and work it in deeply. You might also consider building raised planting beds which will not only make the soil easier to work but will also improve drainage. Choosing plants to grow in clay soil takes some discretion. Certainly, plants that need a well drained soil are not going to be happy growing in clay. Don't give up. There are plants that not only tolerate clay soil, many will also help break up and improve its texture. Rugged native prairie plants have the constitution to hold up in clay. Tap rooted plants can get deep enough so that their roots don't rot and they break up the texture of clay on their way down. Some plants that tolerate clay soils include the following: Amsonia Blue Star (Zones 5-9) Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly Weed (Zones 4-9) Aster (various) Aster (Zones 4-8) Coreopsis Tickseed (Zones 4-8) Echinacea purpurea Coneflower (Zones 3-9) Eryngium yuccifolium Sea Holly (Zones 5-10) Helianthus angustifolius Swamp Sunflower (Zones 6-9) Helianthus x laetiflorus False Sunflower (Zones 5-9) Heliopsis helianthoides Ox Eye (Zones 4-9) Hemerocallis Daylily (Zones 3-10) Liatris pycnostachya Kansas Gayfeather (Zones 4-9) Liatris spicata Blazing Star, Gayfeather (Zones 4-9) Monarda fistulosa Wild Bee Balm (Zones 3-9) Ratibida pinnata Drooping Coneflower (Zones 3-10) Rudbeckia hirta Black-eyed Susan, Gloriosa Daisy (Zones 3-7) Sedum 'Autumn Joy' (Zones 3-10) Silphium integrifolium Prairie Dock (Zones 4-7) Silphium laciniatum Compass Plant (Zones 5-9) Silphium perfoliatum Cup Plant (Zones 5-9) Solidago Goldenrod (zones 5-9) Vernonia noveboracensis Ironweed (Zones 5-9) Yucca filamentosa Adam's Needle (Zones 5-10) Ornamental Grasses Suited for Clay Soils Acorus gramiineus Grassy-leaved Sweet Flag (Zones 10-11) Andropogon gerardi Big Bluestem (Zones 2-7) Elymus canadensis Canadian Wild Rye (Zones 3-8) Miscanthus sinensis Eulalia Grass (Zones 4-9) Panicum virgatum Switch Grass (Zones 5-9) Pennisetum (various) Fountain Grass (Zones 6-9) Sorghastrum nutans Indian Grass, Wood Grass (Zones 5-8) Spartina pectinata Prairie Cord Grass (Zones 4-7) Shrubs for clay soils: Amelanchier species Serviceberry hardy to zone 4 Aronia melanocarpa Chokeberry hardy to zone 3 Berberis koreana Korean barberry 4 Berberis thunbergii Green barberry 4 Caragana arborescens Siberian peashrub 3 Cephalanthus occidentalis Buttonbush 4 Cornus alba Tatarian dogwood 3 Cornus alternifolia Pagoda dogwood 4 Needs moist, acidic soils Cornus racemosa Grey dogwood 3 Cornus sericea Red osier dogwood 3 Diervilla lonicera Dwarf bush-honeysuckle 3 Elaeagnus angustifolia Russian olive 2 Elaeagnus commutata Silverberry 2 Forsythia x 'Meadowlark' 'Meadowlark' forsythia 3 Forsythia x 'Northern Sun' 'Northern Sun' forsythia 3 Hamamelis virginiana Witch hazel 4 Ilex verticillata Winterberry 4 Juniperus species (most) Juniper 3 Lonicera species Honeysuckle 3-4 ? Physocarpus opulifolius Common ninebark 2 Potentilla Fruticosa Potentilla 2 Rhamnus frangula Glossy buckthorn 4 Rhus species Sumac 2 Prefers well-drained soils Ribes alpinum Alpine currant 2 Ribes odoratum Clove currant 2 Rosa rugosa Rugosa rose 2 Salix species Willow 2 Sambucus canadensis American elderberry 3 Sambucus pubens Scarlet elder 4 Spiraea species Spirea 3-4 Symphoricarpos albus White snowberry 3 Syringa species Lilac 2 Thuja occidentalis Arborvitae, white cedar 3 Viburnum dentatum Arrowwood viburnum 3 Prefers well-drained soils Viburnum lentago Nannyberry viburnum 2 Viburnum opulus European cranberrybush. Best wishes with your landscape!

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