The Benefits of Clay Soils
Although it is tough to work with clay, there are some important benefits . Clay contains many nutrients and moisture, thanks to its thickness. This means that you can take an advantage of slow-release mineral fertilizers, like rock phosphate and gypsum. If you live in areas with long, wet springs, it is better to wait for clay to dry out. If you have numerous gardens or fields with different soil types, consider leaving the clay areas for later crops. And start your early crops in loam, gravel, or sandier soils. If clay is all you’ve got, then you’ll need to look into some improvement strategies.
Improving clay soil output impressive results, but it does take time. There are several methods you can take to boost the tilth of your beds.
Adding grit, sand or fine gravel to your soil is one of the easiest ways to improve aeration, but these materials are costly and impractical on a large scale. However, if you have a small garden, a bulk order of these materials might be your best bet.
Organic material is another option. Rough organic materials like chopped leaves, garden compost, straw and seasoned compost help aerate the soil and build fertility. Over time, organic materials can dramatically improve the performance of your garden by supplying nutrients.
Planting in Clay Soils
Aeration is key to plant growth if you have clay soils. Adding organic materials is a start, but you may also have to aerify the soil by hand. A broadfork makes this easy, and saves your back from dealing with heavy clay.
As you transplant, you can always add soil amendments to the hole. Mixing existing clay soil with compost, sand, and slow releasing fertilizers or amendments will improve both aeration and fertility, helping your transplants thrive.
Clay soils are tricky, but once you come to terms with their quirks, your garden is free to bloom. Do you have any tips for gardening in clay soils you would like to share with other readers? Please leave a comment!