How can I improve soil with a lot of clay in it?

Asked February 12, 2015, 1:49 PM EST

How can I improve soil in a garden when it has a large amount of clay in it?

Boyd County Kentucky

1 Response

The best way to address a heavy clay soil is to add organic matter, such as compost, manure with straw, etc. Clay soil in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing, as clay soil can be quite productive. But to loosen it up and to make it easier for water to move through it, adding organic matter is the best way. Do not add lots of sand; this will only help make the soil firmer and lessen the drainage, as it would almost make it like concrete.

Each year, add some type of organic matter. Add some in the spring before plowing the garden and then plow it in and disc or till well. Or in the fall, after the garden has finished, plant a cover crop, such as wheat or another small grain, or plant crimson clover or a combination of small grain and crimson clover. Then in the spring, before it goes to seed, plow the whole crop under and again, disc or till well. This will help build up the soil over several years and make it much more user friendly. There is no short-term magic bullet that will do this in six months or a year.

Please contact me at the Boyd County Extension Office if you have any other questions.