Planting with clay soil

We're in SC. We have clay instead of soil! What is the best way to plant flowers and bushes. It's almost impossible to dig up enough clay to add soil to plant in. Any suggestions? Thanks

  6 answers
  • Cindy Cindy on Feb 07, 2018
    Hi Theresa, You're right, adding soil is vital. But you should add more soil than just the holes to plant in. The roots need soil to reach out and grow. I would also recommend adding sand into your beds. It will help with water retention and with keeping the clay from forming solid. Best of luck to you.

  • Nancy Turner Nancy Turner on Feb 07, 2018
    You could go with container planting for a lot of your plants. You could also do a search for plants that will thrive in clay soil. Another thought would be your local extension agent who knows the local soil conditions and would know what would grow in your area and what you need for them to thrive.

  • Karen Karen on Feb 08, 2018
    I think the best thing to do is plan on at least a year to improve the areas in which you want to plant. You can layer cardboard, purchased compost, garden soil, newspaper, grass clippings and leaves if you have them, and repeat ... lasagna-style bed creation. In a year or two, continuing to repeat the layering every few months, you'll be able to use a garden fork to turn and mix the materials into a wonderful planting medium. Over this time period, with rain and possibly snow (depending on where exactly you are in the state), supplemented with water from an outside faucet occasionally, the bed materials will settle and sink. When ready to plant, you can add additional organic material, including an organic fertilizer suitable for what you plant. Your plants will thrive and you will be the envy of the neighborhood! Until then, you can do container plantings that you bury in the soil to the extent you can, and mulch around the pots to hide the upper portion of the pots.

  • Carol Carol on Feb 08, 2018
    I had adobe soil for 25 years and swore I would not buy a future house if it had adobe soil because it is so difficult to work/live with. I found that adding sand to it helped a lot.

  • M. M.. M. M.. on Feb 08, 2018
    I also live in clay soil and have found that as labor-intensive as amending soil is, it can reward you for years! At this time of year (Feb). I go outside with a slender but not short pick axe. Get one with a long handle which is easiest to use, no bending, kneeling and you can get more power going. What you want to do right now is just punch holes in the soil, in your area of planting. Of course, you will know where your plumbing and other utility lines are buried or have called your gas/electric company - it's usually no charge. With a big over-the-shoulder swing, plunge the ax into the soil and pull it out again. Being clay, it will stick to your tools, but keep going. Discard or set aside any rocks you find. When your area is free of frost, the go out and with a long handled shovel,start lifting out the broken up soil and set it to the side of your planting area. When you've dug the whole, say, rectangle down about 8-12 inches, looking like a sunken box, then begin to layer your soil amendments(ask your local nursery to recommendations specific to your area, adding sand, sphagnum moss, potting soil, compost, vermiculite, to name a few), perhaps a layer of sand first into the hole. When it's time to add back the dirt, chop it up with the shovel until it's small bits, add some sand and keep chopping. Lightly toss it back into the hole and do NOT pack down. You might have some extra but fight the temptation to get it all back in there. IF there's no room to take the soil out, then chop it up well in its "box", and move most of it to one end. Jumping down into the box may help for this: Gradually add your treatments to the empty end of the box you dug out and bring soil back to mix with it. When you get to the mid point, you might have to temporarily put your soil in TOP of what you've done for room.However, it will all spread out and your last bit of work will be done from outside, on the original height soil outside the box. I did this once and the 'double dug' soil had tremendous yields of both veggies and flowers for 7 years. In fact that area was so fertile, that even years after there were all kinds of volunteer plants. Sorry if this is long winded, just didn't want to leave any out!