New Garden in clay - Knowledgebase Question

Manchester, MO
Avatar for twill
Question by twill
March 10, 1998
I am starting a new garden at my new house. The garden will be on a slight grade. I am using landscape timbers to level the garden, so most of the garden will be elevated. I would like to know what I should mix with the clay to make my garden flourish this summer. The soil is workable, but it has a reddish color and is a bit stiff. Should I use sand? peat moss?

Tom Will

Answer from NGA
March 10, 1998
First of all, only work in your clay soil when it is rasonably dry. If you work it while it's wet, it can set up like brick, and you'll need a sledgehammer to till your garden! Organic matter, and lots of it, is the best cure for clay soil. If you can find a supply of aged livestock manure, compost, leaf mold, etc., it's usually cheaper than buying peat moss. If you don't have a compost pile, I suggest you start one so you'll always have a source of "black gold". Add all your lawn clippings, young weeds, table scraps, etc. to the pile. There's no better food for the soil than compost, and healthy soil means healthy plants. Mulch your plants for weed supression and soil moisture management, and as it decays, it will also add to soil health. Introduce some earthworms, too - they'll "till" the soil constantly and incorporate the mulch and other matter. Some clay soils can do with a dose of gypsum, but you should have the soil tested before adding it. Your agricultural extension office (ph# 314/553-5946) can help you with testing info. Have fun!

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