No Till, Amendments
So, I understand the concept of "no till", but if you clay soil that doesn't drain, don't you need to dig out some of the clay and add amendment it with compost, peat moss, top soil for better drainage? I don't have heavy equipment or much help to do this.
We don't want to just assume, but are you hoping to grow vegetables? How large an area?
Has your soil always had drainage problems or just this year while we have had such incredible rain? If you dig a hole a foot deep, does it fill with water? If you fill it with water, it should drain within a day. Given your area, perhaps you have a high water table?
See this page on soil: http://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/prepare-your-soil
This tells you more on soil amendment. You don't remove clay, but incorporate organic material.
You definitely don't want to work or dig in wet soil as that can hurt the structure.
If the soil in your sunny area where you want to grow vegetables does not drain, it may be time to consider raised beds or container gardening. Here is some information on that:
If you meant that you are trying to grow ornamental shrubs and flowers, you would think about installing a rain garden that you put in a low area, filled with plants that can thrive in wet conditions.
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It is not forbidden to till a garden--it's more like a trade-off. Tilling disrupts and kills the healthy soil microorganisms you want in your soil, but gardeners may need to do it once to correct a severe problem.
That said, you don't have to till. You may want to approach your vegetable and ornamental beds very differently.
You could work soil amendments into the raised beds, since they are smaller and it's a more manageable job. You could also just scratch up the surface and just layer on or raise the height with soil amendments in the raised beds.
The shrub bed it so large, you can plant a mix of rain garden plants in the wettest areas and plants that like better drainage in the dryer areas. That would not require digging the entire bed. Each planting hole can include some soil amendments. Make the planting holes wide, but not deeper than the plant's container. The plant's roots will eventually extend past the planting hole anyway, so ultimately it must be able to handle the native soil conditions around it.
Deer are a huge problem in most of Maryland. (Support hunters and managed community/park hunts.) You may need to fence the shrub bed temporarily while the shrubs are small, until they get good sized. Once they get over deer's heads, they tend to leave shrubs alone. Winterberry, for instance, when mature will be left alone. A shrub border of tall shrubs is easiest.
Though your shrub border is in full sun, if it runs somewhat east-west, the shrubs will shade each other.
Thanks so much... this was very helpful!!