softening clay soil - Knowledgebase Question

Waxahachie, Te
Question by ratanaberg
September 6, 2010
My soil is so hard when dry and very sticky clay when wet. I live in Dallas, TX. How can I soften this soil? I have made several attempts to plant flowers and roses and they do not survive. Please help!


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Answer from NGA
September 6, 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). Good luck with your garden!

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