If the soil in your garden is so sticky when wet that it clings onto your boots and garden fork, then in summer dries to form a concrete-hardened crust, then you’ve got clay. But don’t despair, because clay soils are generally very fertile and can support fabulous looking gardens if you know how to tame them. The key is to adapt your gardening to the soil, rather than go head-to-head in a battle you cannot win. Use cunning and guile to make the most of the advantages clay offers by follow our six golden rules:
Rule 1: don’t walk on your soil – always work from short planks to help spread your weight. This will help prevent damaging the fragile soil structure.
Rule 2: lay down polythene – cover areas you want to dig to help dry them out and be adaptable so that you are able to carry out any cultivation tasks when the soil is workable.
Rule 3: dig in bulky organic matter – apply as much well-rotted manure and garden compost as humanly possible. This will help improve the soil structure and improve drainage.
Rule 4: select the right plants – choose plants that are particularly well adapted to growing in clay soil without assistance (see below).
Rule 5: plant in spring or early autumn – late autumn and winter planting is more difficult and new plants are more likely to fail. Summer planting is impossible.
Rule 6: mulch each spring – top-up the organic matter in planted areas by mulching in spring. Apply 10cm deep around permanent plants such as trees and shrubs.
If you want to grow vegetables, consider installing a raised bed to help improve drainage and warm the soil for early spring sowing and planting.
Six flowers to try:
Six shrubs to try: