All Things Gardening forum→Soggy clay, low budget. Big beds?

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Austin, TX
Region: Texas
Dewberry
Feb 12, 2021 2:54 PM CST
I have a nice big yard and I want to make some big flowerbeds and a big vegetable garden.

The problem is, my soil is very, very heavy clay, and it stays soggy like you wouldn't believe. I dug a hole for a tree, and the hole SPONTANEOUSLY filled partway with water while I was still digging, because the moisture from the clay seeped into it. I have to protect my yard by not walking on it sometimes, because my foot dents the soaked layer of topsoil the builders added, leaving the lawn permanently uneven.

I don't want to limit myself to swamp plants. Raised beds would be a solution, but I can't afford to raise the area I'd like to make a flowerbed (About 13' - 13').

What should I do? Could I just raise it a couple of inches? What can I do to make a big area ready for plants?

Other info: I live in Central Texas in zone 8b. A soil test found nearly no nutrients in the clay, which is dark gray. It's Ph neutral to slightly alkaline. The yard is level and mostly in sun.

I'd really like to get an area ready this spring, especially since I stupidly pre-ordered plants before realizing the scope of the issue.
Austin, TX
Region: Texas
Dewberry
Feb 12, 2021 3:30 PM CST
Addendum: One good thing is I think all the plants I ordered don't need much care. Convolvulus cneorum, Anisodontea, Summer Snapdragon.

I might not need to give them perfect, rich soil.
Name: Steve
Port Orchard, WA (Zone 8b)
BrooklynStart
Feb 12, 2021 3:53 PM CST
Dewberry, I also have an area of heavy clay. My areas of clay are due to builders most likely storeing supplies/heavy equipment. For my clay, I can dig down about 3 feet, often more, to improve drainage. During winter rains, without improvement, I can could dig down and puddles will form--STILL FIGHTING ONE ARE THAT I WISH TO PLANT A JAPANESE MAPLE, AREA POOLS IN WINTER.
In my clay area, I have rototilled 2inches (+/-) cow manure to the clay area. In the area I wish to plant the maple, I removed dug holes with a post hole digger and replaced the soil with both organic matter and soil from a different area, and still have puddles during winter rains. Our summers normally require irrigation of lawns and flower beds. During winter rains, puddles do form, and some plants grow (hydrangeas, Korean spice viburnums, lupine, Dutch Iris, plus many others--as long as they are not deer food).
Hopefully, your area of clay is due to the builder and not natural. Without regard to cause, the only method I know about for one to improve clay soils is add organic material ( do not add sand, I am told it can create a concrete type soil).
MINOR EDITINGS WERE MADE TO MY ORIGINAL REPLY AFTER NOTHING THAT THIS POST WAS ALSO MADE ON THE "ASK A QUESTION" FORUM, AND REPLIED TO BY RpR. I agree with RpR's post.
[Last edited by BrooklynStart - Feb 12, 2021 4:30 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #2435261 (3)
Austin, TX
Region: Texas
Dewberry
Feb 12, 2021 4:53 PM CST
BrooklynStart said:Dewberry, I also have an area of heavy clay. My areas of clay are due to builders most likely storeing supplies/heavy equipment. For my clay, I can dig down about 3 feet, often more, to improve drainage. During winter rains, without improvement, I can could dig down and puddles will form--STILL FIGHTING ONE ARE THAT I WISH TO PLANT A JAPANESE MAPLE, AREA POOLS IN WINTER.
In my clay area, I have rototilled 2inches (+/-) cow manure to the clay area. In the area I wish to plant the maple, I removed dug holes with a post hole digger and replaced the soil with both organic matter and soil from a different area, and still have puddles during winter rains. Our summers normally require irrigation of lawns and flower beds. During winter rains, puddles do form, and some plants grow (hydrangeas, Korean spice viburnums, lupine, Dutch Iris, plus many others--as long as they are not deer food).
Hopefully, your area of clay is due to the builder and not natural. Without regard to cause, the only method I know about for one to improve clay soils is add organic material ( do not add sand, I am told it can create a concrete type soil).
MINOR EDITINGS WERE MADE TO MY ORIGINAL REPLY AFTER NOTHING THAT THIS POST WAS ALSO MADE ON THE "ASK A QUESTION" FORUM, AND REPLIED TO BY RpR. I agree with RpR's post.


You live in Port Orchard? I used to live in Port Orchard! Enjoy Anderson Beach for me. I hope Noah's Ark restaurant near there is still going strong. Check out "Celebrate Jesus" drive-they performance if Port Orchard Church of Christ still does that around Christmas. I had fun at that!
[Last edited by Dewberry - Feb 12, 2021 4:56 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #2435331 (4)
Name: Arlene
Florida's east coast (Zone 9a)
Tropicals Daylilies Bromeliad Region: Florida Enjoys or suffers hot summers Birds
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florange
Feb 20, 2021 2:02 PM CST
When I lived in Atlanta, I had heavy, red clay. The only thing that helped to break it up was perlite. I bought it in huge bags and when I dug in areas 3 and 4 years later the perlite was still there doing it's job!

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