To begin with, every type of soil generally has clay, sand, and silt. However, when the soil has about 40 to 50 percent of clay that’s when it is classified as clay soil.
Honest to goodness, clay soil can be tough to deal with. But clay soil also holds several good qualities. These qualities can result in good production of a wide array of vegetables.
These days, one of the best investments you could have is working on your own vegetable garden.
Don’t be intimidated if you find out that you have to do it with clay soil. As mentioned, it has good qualities that help in growing several of your favorite vegetables.
Learn About Clay Soil
How will you know if you have clay soil in your yard? There are several tests that can be done to know if you have clay soil or not. Here, we will tackle the simplest tests that require the simplest methods.
One simple soil test would need you to take a small amount of soil in your hand and mix it with enough amount of water to form one clump of soil. Mold the soil in your hand until it comes together and feels like dough.
You can, then, start flattening the soil in your hand. If it becomes crumbly and naturally falls apart once stretched or flattened, your soil is mostly sand. But if you manage to flatten your soil without it falling apart or stretch it until it spreads in the most part of your palm without crumbling, you can tell that it is clay soil.
Another method you can try is to test the rate of absorption that your soil has. It is important to note that yard soil can sometimes be inconsistent. For example, your yard can have some layer of clay on its surface but have a different component once you go on deeper layers.
There is also the possibility that much clay is lying under some layers of soil that you can’t determine by simply picking up a piece of soil by hand.
Test The Rate Of Absorption
- Dig a hole that’s at least 2 feet deep.
- Fill it with water and let it drain.
- When the first batch of water is completely absorbed, fill it again with water.
- Observe the time that it takes for the water to be fully absorbed. If it takes more than 12 hours, then you do have clay soil in your yard and you can start planting vegetables in it.
- But if the process of water absorption exceeds 24 hours, get ready to plant some trees like the Oakwood tree.
Pros And Cons Of Clay Soil
As mentioned above, clay soil can be really difficult to deal with. But don’t forget that they also possess some qualities that are good for growing vegetables or plants and trees for landscaping.
- Clay soil is most famed for its natural characteristics of storing good minerals and nutrients for your plants.
- Because of its natural composition, it is able to store good amounts of nutrients like potassium, calcium, and magnesium which are very helpful to aid your plants’ growth. Utilize this advantage by applying organic compost to your soil.
- Because of its natural alkaline contents, clay soil usually does not need to be applied with lime and you can still expect your soil to work with good fertility.
- Because of its composition, clay soil can retain larger amounts of water for a longer period which can cause roots to rot and destroy your plants. So, you need to watch out for this, especially after heavy rains.
- Since it is the nature of clay soil to retain water or moisture for a longer time, it is more difficult to cultivate as the season changes. Retaining moisture causes the plants to heave during winter. It is also during this season when the dense nature of clay and the uncontrollable moisture increases the chances of waterlogging that will eventually tear down your vegetables.
- On the other hand, if your soil is not treated well with the right amount of water during summer, your clay soil might dry up and crack which will subsequently destroy your vegetables. While it takes more time for the soil to warm up during spring, the worst that this season can cause you are to delay your planting activities.
The Best Vegetables For Clay Soil
Now that you can determine if you have clay soil and have an idea of what you’re getting yourself into. You will appreciate it further as you get to know that there are several vegetables you can have in your garden. Some of them might even get you a regular supply of free salad!
Clay soil works best for shallow-rooted vegetables such as lettuce, chard, and beans.
Vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and several types of cabbage will also love growing in clay soil as their roots can firmly hold on to the compact characteristic of the soil.
Other vegetables that are best planted in clay soil are potatoes, cauliflower, kale, and Daikon radish.
With the help of planting holes, squash and pumpkins are the perfect vegetables to be planted on clay soil as well.
Tips For Taking Care Of Vegetables Grown In Clay Soil
Planting vegetables with clay soil might require extra effort and perfect timing but the results are rewarding if they are done right and with care.
As mentioned earlier, the level of compactness that the clay soil naturally has will work in your favor with proper treatment.
To avert the little ventilation that a dense soil may cause, it is highly important that you incorporate chunky organic compost in your soil like composted bark, weathered sawdust, or chopped leaves.
You can also put compost primarily made of manure. The bulky form of the mentioned organic matter will aid in the ventilation going through the vegetables for the best possible results.
The retention qualities of clay soil are great, which means it can hold great amounts of minerals and nutrients for your vegetables for longer periods of time.
Also, after about three seasons of putting coarse types of compost, you will notice that the denseness of the clay soil will change; the texture will be less compact, it will require less effort to keep the vegetable aerated, and there will be fewer chances of waterlogging when it’s rainy or too many cracks and dryness when it’s summer.
One basic rule with clay soil: do not dig or step on your soil when it’s wet. The best season for planting with clay soil is during spring or fall.
Oh, and don’t forget! If you have extra space in the yard and you love colors, roses love to grow in clay soil too!