Planting Solutions For Clay Soils In The Garden

Planting Solutions For Clay Soils In The Garden – Different gardens in the same street, and even different parts of the same garden, can have different types of soil, so don’t assume that, because your neighbours have clay soil, you will too. It’s also important not to worry. There are some wonderful gardens that have done very well on clay soil because it’s such a fertile growing medium and nutrients are retained well in the soil.

Some perennials, and woody plants, will do particularly well. Other suggestions for your clay soil garden design include hawthorn trees, daylilies, lady’s mantel and blue rug juniper.

Equally, many repeat-flowering roses actually prefer these ‘difficult’ soils. If you add extra Gypsum, you will break up the clay particles as you plant, if you want to. Alternatively, add Perlite to the planting hole by combining it with the soil and then backfilling to aerate and warm up the soil.

Ones to avoid include drought-tolerant plants with aromatic, silver or finely divided foliage. If you do want to have them, one idea would be to have raised beds at a higher level than the paths, allowing water to drain away.

Climbers and many bulbs can be easily grown on clay soil. Plants needing a lot of sowing, planting or dividing, such as bedding plants or annuals, may fare less well.

If you place woody plants on slightly raised mounds, this can ward off root damage which can occur from waterlogging.


Fruit trees in particular are also worth having in your design, since these thrive on clay soils. Soft fruits like raspberries and strawberries, however, may be more difficult to grow.

When this soil gets wet, because it has poor drainage, your plants may struggle to deal with excess water. After a heavy rainfall, clay dries to a concrete-like surface.

Another potential challenge is that clay also tends to crack quite easily, but using an organic mulch will assist with hiding the cracks, stop moisture from escaping and add organic matter to the soil underneath. Plan to do this in late spring when soil has warmed up. This is also a good time to plant – never do this in cold and wet conditions with clay.

If you are planning swaths of free draining plants like lavenders add to the soil horticultural sand up to 50% but still plant the lavenders on small mounds so that their roots won’t be in danger of waterlogging.

Don’t walk on the soil since it can become compacted under pressure. Instead, stand on a plank while digging and only walk on it when it’s at least relatively dry.

When designing try and connect your garden’s most important areas with either firm paths or stepping stones, to avoid walking on the clay as mentioned above, and to protect lawns. And don’t forget to still do your soil test as these soils can be either acid or alkaline.

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