You will need to add organic materials to start to build your soil. Many folks go to raised beds to make it easier to do that. One thing you can do, is contact your local extension office (look under government in the phone book) and ask for a soil testing kit. The kits are self contained with instructions on how to use them properly. You can send that to your state lab for a nominal fee and they will send you back an analysis that will let you know what amendments you'll need to improve your soil. It takes time, but it's doable. Your NY clay can't be any worse that this lovely VA red clay we have here. We'd all be rich if we were making pottery. LOL And make yourself a compost bin, so you have ready access to organic material all the time.
Catherine's advice couldn't be better.
Thank you so much Catherine, I have a way to test my soil without any fees.
How are you testing your soil @Theresa Horton ? When you have your testing complete that should give you the answer to your question. We would love to hear the results.
When you say "mud" and clay, does that mean that it is also wet most of the time?
no only when it rains hard and we have had rain in upper NY State since last week.
Good point, Marcia. Watch the water drainage, Theresa. We've had some very unusual weather so all that rain is not necessarily a "normal" However, it does indicate clay, which is not porous so only a small amount of the water is absorbed. That you can fix as I explained. If you've got areas with large drainage issues, then opt for raised beds in that area. Theresa, if you're using one of the commercially made soil testing kits, you will get some results, but they aren't made to handle detailed analyses, just so you know. Our state lab tests run $10 in VA and I doubt NY is all that expensive either should you decide you want a more in depth look. I would also suggest you look into using probiotics, there are many on the market, but I use EM-1. Probiotics are concentrated cultures of beneficial microbes, which you can turn into a diluted mixture and spray on your soil. Your soil needs the microbial life to help your plants absorb nutrients and trace minerals to keep them healthy and get good production. The chemical composition of clay doesn't allow for many trace minerals to be unlocked. This microbial "cocktail" helps increase the number present to help overcome that problem. Yep, like I said, we should be making pottery or bricks. LOL
I live in Missouri and all the ground is clay. Yucky clay. I brought in dirt not even the good kind the free kind. I we also can get free compost from our recycling center. Even in the winter I would get it and throw it on top of my garden. Every chance I get I go get it. Then at the beginning of summer I till it into the garden. I take a soil sample to university extension center and have it tested. And add anything else they say I need. Clay soil takes works. You almost always have to add soil and compost to it to make it right.
Great answers here! The only other answer that I can think of would be to consider moving! LOL
thank you everyone for your help, I will try Sherrie's suggestion first and go from there. Thanks again.
Clay soil can grow a terrific garden. The main concerns are that it does not drain well and then once dry, can be difficult to remoisten. It also will compact and harden like concrete if worked when it is overly wet. This means that there may only be limited windows of opportunity when it can be worked. If it sticks to your shovel, it is too wet. If it is too hard to dig into, it is too dry. In general, I would suggest adding generous amounts of organic matter such as good quality compost, rotted leaves, well aged stable manure and bedding, spoiled straw, or similar materials. Loosen the soil and work in the organic matter; a layer six inches thick is not too much. You may also want to add some coarse sand (builders\' sand, not the fine play sand) or some fine grit, maybe an inch. Gardening on a slight slope or using a slightly raised bed can also help. Then take care to add organic matter on an ongoing basis by using an organic mulch year round, this will help feed the soil as it breaks down over time. Your soil improvement program will be a long term one. In addition to the above, I would recommend you work with your county extension to run some soil tests and determine if any particular amendments such as lime or fertilizer may be needed, depending on what plants you wish to grow. They may also have information on soil preparation under local conditions and on plant selection that would be helpful to you. Finally, you will want to select plants that tolerate a clay based or heavier soil, so definitely avoid those that need perfect drainage or a sandy soil. I hope this helps you get started.
Thank you so much for the information, it does help a lot. I will try adding the dry leaves and manure once all my veggies are done producing.