Soils are a very important element in order for you to grow healthy plants and eventually produce the desired results.
It does not matter what type of plants that you intended to grow, either vegetables or ornamental, having good soil is very crucial in growing them successfully.
What if it happened that your garden soil is a clay type of soil that is well-known not a very good type of soil for growing plant.
Does it mean that you just need to forget about gardening at all? The answer is NO.
In case you are having the clay type of soil in your garden, please don’t worry as there are many ways that you ca do to improve the soil condition so that you can start growing any type of plants.
So, How to improve the clay soil?
Before we go straight into discussing how to improve the clay soil, it is better we first know what is the characteristics of the clay soils and why it is not suitable to grow plants in that type of soil.
2. Characteristics of Clay Soils
As any other type of soils, clay soils also have their own characteristics.
We are not going to discuss the clay soil in details, it is just a brief discussion just enough for you to know about the clay soil that you are having in your garden.
Some of the clay soil characteristics are:
One of the main characteristics of clay soils is that it has a very poor water drainage system.
This is due the clay particles that are forming the clays soils is the smallest soil particle than any other type of soil particles.
The small soil particle will make the soil structure to be so dense as they will be very close to each other.
With this conditioned, where the soil particles are very small and very close to each other and the texture is very dense, it is very hard for the water to go through the clay soil.
That is why we will usually see the water to always pounding on the area where the clay soils are available especially after raining.
b. Heavy To Work On.
As the clay soil tend to hold water efficiently and the water cannot drain through the soil, this type of soil will be a little bit heavy to work on.
You will feel very to tough to dig into this type of soil and most of the time will make your gardening work slower.
c. Organic Matter
Clay soils usually contain very little organic matter and that is one of the reasons why water cannot efficiently flow through this type of soil.
3. Clay Soil Problems
When gardening in a clay type of soils, you will encounter a few common problems that usually experienced by any other gardener around the world with the clay soil.
Some of the problems that you should be expected when gardening with the clay soils is as written below:
a. Water Penetration
As been highlighted earlier, water drains very slow through the clay type of soil.
As a result, the water that you pour to the soil will most likely to flow to other areas and does not go into the soil.
This situation is more severe if the level of the area where you are growing your plants is higher than the adjacent ground level.
When this happened, the plant’s roots will not get enough water supply to ensure the healthy growth of the plants.
You plant will dry and eventually die if this situation continuously happened.
b. Water Clog
As the water unable to penetrate the clay soil, it will clog on the soil surface.
If the ground level of your planting area is lower than surrounding area, it will make the situation worst.
All the water from the surrounding area will flow to your plants and clog at the bottom of your plants
The water that remains on the soil surface and within the clay soil for too long will be very harmful to the plants.
It can make the roots and other plant’s parts get rotten and your plants will eventually die because of it.
c. Root Penetration
It is not only the water that cannot penetrate the clay soil, even the plant roots cannot penetrate it either.
Most of the plants that are grown in the clay soils only have limited roots distribution especially the small roots.
As a result, the plants will not be going to have enough healthy roots for them to uptake nutrients to grow healthily.
With only a few roots, your plants could also easily fall down in extreme weather condition.
d. Warm Very Slow
The clay type of soil is also warm very slow. It may take a few weeks longer for the clay soils to get warm compared to any other soil types after winter.
This might lead to delays of the growing activities that you need to do and will also result to late harvesting.
e. Air Penetration
Another problem with the clay soil is that it does not have good air circulation.
As we all know, air is important to be within the soil in order to supply enough oxygen to the plant’s roots system.
Air is also important for the beneficial soil organism and microorganism to survive and eventually contribute to improving the soil fertility.
4. Ways To Improve Clay Soil
There are many ways that you can do to improve the clay soil to eventually enable you to do the gardening activities.
However, you cannot expect the result of improving the clay soil to happened over night or in very short period of time.
It might take several years for the clay soil to improve and enable you to grow anything without any problems.
It does take times for the soil to improve, however, it is still worth the effort for you to improve it for future benefits.
a. Build Raised Garden Beds
The fastest way to enable you to grow plants in your garden if you are having problems with your garden soil is by using the raised garden beds.
By using the raised garden beds, you can add the well-treated soil that is rich with nutrient on top of the clay soil and you can start to grow your plant straight away after that.
At the same time, the clay soil at the bottom will be improving as the organic matters at the top will mix together with them with time.
b.Test The Soil pH and Improve It
The first step that you can do to improve the clay soil is to first check the pH of the soil.
pH of the soil is very important to ensure the availability of the soil nutrients.
If it is too acidic or too alkaline, there will be some soil nutrients that will be not available within the soil.
c. Add Organic Matter
Add a layer of organic matter with 2-3 inches thick on top of your clay type garden soil and dig them into the soil at the shovel depth.
Adding the organic matters into the clays soil does not only increase the nutrient availability but also increase the amount of soil microorganism within the soil.
All these microorganisms will also help to contribute to improving the soil fertility.
d. Use Mulch
By using mulch, you can help to retain moisture within the clay soil and prevent the soil surface from shrink and crack in hot weather.
Using organic mulch such hays, straws and woods chips will also help to improve the organic matter within the clay soil once they rot.
e. Avoid Excessive Stepping on The Soil.
Stepping on the clay soil excessively will make the soil become more compact and will eventually harder to improve.
In order to refrain yourself from stepping on the clay soils especially the growing area in your garden, you need to make a defined pathway around your garden for you to walk around.
f. Plant Cover Crops
Whenever you are not growing anything on the growing area, it is a good move if you could plant cover crops on it.
The cover crop will act as a leaving mulch that will protect and improve the soil condition.
g. Grow Plants That Thrive in Clay Soils.
One the clever ways to successfully growing plants in clay soils is by growing plants that can grow well in it.
Some examples of plants that can grow well in clay soil are fruit trees and rose bushes.
By growing plants that can tolerate the condition of clay soil, you do not have to go through the painful work of improving or alter the clay soil according to your needs.
As been discussed, there are a lot of ways that you can do to improve the clay soil that you are having to eventually use it for gardening activities.
Instead of all disadvantages that have been mentioned about the clay soil, clay soil is actually a type of soil that is usually rich in nutrients.
Therefore, if your could find suitable plants that can tolerate the condition of the clay soil, you will have a good result without much effort from your gardening activities.
Please feel free to give your insights or any other ways that you know how to improve the clay soil in the comment section below.