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I Have a Clay Soil Base in My Home Vegetable Garden – Can You Help Me?

When you have a clay soil, not only do the weeds break off at the base as you are trying to pull them, the soil is just like cement in hardness making you wonder how your garden can produce anything! It is impossible to till or hoe or whatever – just to describe some of the problems.

Good soil prevents a lot of common problems. It gives plants the opportunity for vigorous growth. Let’s face it – you can’t have vigorous top growth without vigorous root growth, and you can’t have root growth without an aerated soil. Organic matter helps to aerate the soil. It also holds moisture and encourages the population of worms and beneficial bacteria.

I do want you to be aware that there is no easy way to convert heavy clay to rich loam soil. There are ways that are hard work that don’t work and ways that are hard work that do work. Two years ago, I was able to work a great amount of aged manure on my garden – what a difference. If you have a larger garden plot, this may not only be affordable, but almost impossible to do.

I would strongly recommend adding organic matter in very large amounts in that case. By adding organic matter, I mean things like cover crops that are able to rejuvenate your soil naturally (i.e., bird-cage cleanings, corn cobs and husks, dust from your vacuum cleaner, evergreen needles, beet and carrot tops, grass clippings etc).

Let me explain why organic matter is so important for your clay soil. In the forest, when leaves fall to the forest floor, the tree returns to mother earth the nourishment that will fuel a new spring’s growth. Check it out – now I ask if you have ever wondered why the forests seem to get thicker every year? This should answer that question for you.

A thin layer of organic matter won’t help your soil – you will be wasting your time with a thin layer. Spread organic matter at least two inches thick over the soil and work it in to a depth of four to six inches. If peat moss is used, add limestone at a rate of five pounds per 100 square feet. If raw sawdust is added, extra nitrogen should be applied to feed the bacteria that break down this organic material. Broadcast one pound of nitrogen per ten square feet.

In order to cover 100 square feet, at a depth of 6 inches, you will need approximately 2 cubic yards of organic matter. On the other side of the coin, to cover 100 square feet, at a depth of 1 inch, you will need 9 cubic feet of organic matter.

Even with this information in hand when you are thinking of helping your soil base, remember that this organic matter must be worked in very thoroughly. If this organic matter just lies on the top of the soil without working it in, you will take a lot longer to heal your soil.

I tend to put organic matter on my soil year-round and as I till my vegetable garden, I work it in. This works wonderful for me and my soil!

I work this organic matter into my soil in the fall to allow the soil time to rejuvenate somewhat until spring before I begin planting my home vegetable garden – it has always worked for me!

If you have heavy clay soil, what are doing about it?