Improving Clay Soil - Knowledgebase Question

Name: Helen Miller
Arcadia, CA
Avatar for millertomato
Question by millertomato
June 2, 1999
I would like to grow a vegetable garden, but my soil is hard, compacted clay. Is there a cover crop that I could try to grow to help loosen up the surface? The area that is the worst used to be a horse coral - the surface is like concrete.

Answer from NGA
June 2, 1999
Green Manure cover crops are plants that are grown, then incorporated into the soil to increase soil fertility and organic matter content. To grow a cover crop, you'll need to break the soil surface enough to allow growth of roots and tops of the selected crop. For summertime growing, sow seeds of Alsike clover (1/2-1 pound per 1,000 square feet), Red or White Clover (1/2 pound), Soybeans (2-3 pounds), or Oats (2-3 pounds). For fall sowing, choose Winter Rye (2-3 pounds), Austrian peas (1/2 pound), or Hairy Vetch (1-2 pounds). Be sure to turn these crops under before they produce flowers or they will self-sow and become perennials crops! Each time you grow a green manure cover crop and turn it under, you're improving the organic and nutrient content of the soil plus helping it drain well and hold reasonable amounts of moisture. All important elements of rich, loose, friable soil.

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