Heavy Clay

Asked February 28, 2018, 12:43 PM EST

Vegitables: How do I go about growing in clay? The sample does not have much sand in it more of a sticky clay that balls up. I have built up beds of better soil from my woods but I feel the roots are not able to penetrate the clay. Is this true>

Kent County Maryland

1 Response

To improve a clay soil for vegetable growing, we recommend adding organic matter throughout the top 12 inches of your existing soil. Loosen the soil with garden fork and mix in organic matter (compost). Do not add sand or gypsum to a heavy clay soil in hopes of improving soil structure. You can’t change the texture of your soil (the percentage of clay) but you can improve soil structure (the arrangement of individual soil particles). Adding lots of organic matter such as compost, composted farm manure, or shredded leaves to clayey soil will allow it to drain more easily and hold the right amounts of water and air for better plant growth.

If you haven't done so already, we do recommend testing your soil before you start your vegetable garden. A soil test will give you baseline information on your soil pH and nutrient content. For vegetable gardens, we also recommend testing your soil for lead. We have a list of regional soil testing labs on our website. All the information you need for soil testing can be found here: https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/soils/soil-testing