Improving clay soils

The clay soils in the gardens of Prudhoe can be improved to make working easier.

Five steps to improve clay soils:

  1. Make raised beds to assist drainage and to reduce trampling of the soil
  2. Consider adopting a ‘no-dig’ regime, especially in raised beds, as these suit clay soils well
  3. Some, but not all, clay soils respond to extra calcium, which causes the soil particles to flocculate (clump together). Where the soil is acid, lime can be applied, but elsewhere it is better to add gypsum. Gypsum is the active ingredient of many commercial ‘clay improvers’ which can be bought at garden centres. Test on a small area in the first instance to ensure it is effective on your type of clay
  4. Dig in plenty of bulky organic matter such as well rotted manure or home made compost as this can make a noticeable improvement to the working properties of clay
  5. Apply organic mulches around trees, shrubs and other permanent plants as these will reduce summer cracking and help conserve moisture

Adding grit, sand or gravel to clay soils:
In practice to dilute the proportion of clay in a heavy soil requires very large volumes of grit or other material. It is seldom feasible to do this on anything but a small scale and, for most gardeners, other options such as raised beds, adding organic matter in the form of manure and/or home made compost along with choosing plants that thrive in clay soils are more practical methods of managing the soil.

Source of information – Clay Soils by Royal Horticultural Society

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