The Ancient
Full Member
Posts: 18
Joined: Fri May 01, 2009 6:15 pm
Location: Orange County, CA

Considerations for planting in clay soil

Okay, so I'm starting a garden for someone else. The land I'm using is very clay like. When wet it seems to form clumps. What should I take into consideration?

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Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25279
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 6:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Hi -- I grew up in Orange County (Anaheim). Haven't been back in years and I know it's changed a lot. But I still have clay soil where I am now also. Very bad stuff for planting in. Three options:

1) Make raised beds. Build a box and fill it with good enriched topsoil and it doesn't matter if it's clay underneath.

2) Amend your soil like crazy, with lots of organic material.

3) Grow plants that are adapted to growing in clay:

Plants Recommended for Growing in Clay Soil

(Zones will vary with variety.)
Amsonia Blue Star (Zones 5-9)
Asclepias Butterfly Weed (Zones 4-9)
Asters (Zones 4-8)
Coreopsis Tickseed (Zones 4-8)
Echinacea Coneflower (Zones 3-9)
Eryngium yuccifolium Sea Holly (Zones 5-10)
Helianthus perennial Sunflower (Zones 6-9)
Heliopsis helianthoides Ox Eye (Zones 4-9)
Hemerocallis Daylily (Zones 3-10)
Liatris Gayfeather (Zones 4-9)
Monarda Bee Balm (Zones 3-9)
Rudbeckia Black-eyed Susan (Zones 3-7)
Sedum 'Autumn Joy' (Zones 3-10)
Silphium Prairie Dock (Zones 4-7)
Solidago Goldenrod (zones 5-9)
Vernonia Ironweed (Zones 5-9)
Yucca Adam's Needle (Zones 5-10)

Aconitum monkshood

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Senior Member
Posts: 253
Joined: Sun May 17, 2009 9:32 pm
Location: Southwest IN

This link is where I describe how I greatly improved some extremely poor clay subsoil. It was a 2 year process, but it was very successful.

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Green Thumb
Posts: 547
Joined: Sat Feb 14, 2009 10:59 pm
Location: South Dakota

I have a lot of clay in my soil and I amend it with loads of organic matter and compost. In order to loosen the soil you will need compost, wood shavings, decayed leaves, and composted manure. Clay soil is better than rocky soil, so be thankful. I also have two 16X6 raised beds, so that solves the clay soil problem as well.

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Super Green Thumb
Posts: 7447
Joined: Sun Jan 18, 2009 10:20 pm
Location: Northern Utah Zone 5

Most of the soil in this country is a combination of clay, silt, sand, humus, organic matter, chemicals, and lots of little critters that live in the soil. Don't knock clay too bad. Lots of good crops are grown on clay based soils.

Don't work it when it is wet and sticky. Amend it with sand, compost and mulch. Have a great garden.

Full Member
Posts: 17
Joined: Sun May 24, 2009 6:15 pm
Location: orange county

I am in the orange county area. what jal said about the sand compost and mulch is great but like he said do not overwork and compact the soil.. the soil must crumble not klump! also try adding some gypsum to the soil.. but keep an eye on the ph...

good luck....

this was planted this spring in raised beds in some nasty clay limestone soil!.
sand compost and mulch gypsum keeping the soil fluffy is essential.


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