what grows in clay dirt - Knowledgebase Question

Pocatello, Id
Question by debbierupe
April 29, 2010
i have clay dirt in my flower beds and cant seem to get anyhting to grow. how do i water in clay?


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Answer from NGA
April 29, 2010

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Clay soil can grow a terrific garden. The main concerns are that it does not drain well and then once dry, can be difficult to remoisten. It also will compact and harden like concrete if worked when it is overly wet. This means that there may only be limited windows of opportunity when it can be worked. If it sticks to your shovel, it is too wet. If it is too hard to dig into, it is too dry. Generally speaking I would suggest adding generous amounts of organic matter such as good quality compost, rotted leaves, well aged stable manure and bedding, spoiled straw, or similar materials. Loosen the soil and work in the organic matter; a layer six inches thick is not too much. You may also want to add some coarse sand (builders' sand, not the fine play sand) or some fine grit, maybe an inch. Take care to add organic matter on an ongoing basis by using an organic mulch year round, this will help feed the soil as it breaks down over time. Your soil improvement program will be a long term one.

Some plants actually thrive in clay soils so include some of these in your flower beds: Amsonia Blue Star, Butterfly Weed, Aster, coreopsis. Purple conefloewr, Sea Holly, Swamp Sunflower, Daylily, Liatris (gayfeather), Wild Bee Balm , Black eyed Susan, Sedum Autumn Joy, Solidago, Ironweed and Adam's Needle.

Hope this information helps!

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