How can I save my garden when my soil is hard red clay?

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My old house seemed to have perfect soil. My new house has hard clay soil with bad drainage and a high water table. Poppies, peas, Lewisia, these are just a few of the plants that died almost immediately no matter what I did to amend the soil. Any tips?

  8 answers
  • I have a similar garden problem. Each time I want to plant something, I add some bagged garden soil and plant food into the hole, sometimes I put a layer of mulch around the base of the plants. I have pretty good success. Once the plants are established, they seem to be okay in the clay.
  • Lorraine Johnson Lorraine Johnson on Aug 08, 2017
    Compost , compost, compost! Did I say compost? You can improve your soil to equal the highest quality with this simple step. If you don't have a lot of room, a composting barrel would work fine, and enable you to compost everything!

  • Jan Clark Jan Clark on Aug 08, 2017
    All we have in North Texas is black clay which seems harder than concrete when it's dry. My vegetable garden is 50' X 50'. Every fall I get a tiller and start breaking it up. I go a bit deeper with every pass. When I first started, I had to add a lot of Sulphur and peat to bring down the pH. (Clay is very alkaline). I also used any raked leaves and compost I had in the yard. In late winter, I tilled again and then once before planting. By this time, I can get about 8 to 10 inches down. Then, I plant or transplant. As for the drainage, I'd try to grade the dirt so the low spot is away from the plants. And maybe even raise the bed a bit.
  • Judy Judy on Aug 08, 2017
    You would have to build garden boxes, above this area, or dig this clay out, and dump it elseware, for your soil needs good black soil, to grow with. You have 2 choices, and use good soil, for this blessing. Best wishes, J.
  • Mermaid13 Mermaid13 on Aug 08, 2017
    Wow, I am amazed. These are all excellent suggestions, every single one of them. Thank you so much for taking the time and trouble to give me (and others with the same kind of problem) such great ideas and advice.

  • Michele Pappagallo Michele Pappagallo on Aug 08, 2017
    Raised garden beds are a good solution when you have bad soil. Just build them where you want them, fill them with good soil and plant as usual. Otherwise, you will probably have to add lots of compost and organic materials to your soil over time to loosen it up and improve its quality. Use a tiller to work materials into the soil, and gradually it will improve.