How to create a thriving Garden in Clay Soil

Clay soils though rich in nutrient and able to hold moisture pose their own challenges for gardeners.  Clay can get sticky and difficult to work when it’s wet and when its dry often sets hard like concrete. The dense nature of the clay and reduced air particles also means that it can become easily compacted which spells bad news for plants. 

For best results it is recommended that you improve garden beds with organic matter incorporated with some sand and Gypsum. Gypsum is most effective on ‘reactive clays’ and you can check whether your clay is the reactive type by leaving a 6mm ball of clay into a jar of water for 24hours. Reactive clay will produce a cloudy effect when left in water and non-reactive will still be an undissolved ball in mostly clear water.

Adding Gypsum into the top 30cm of a reactive clay soil will improve friability of the soil, making the medium more crumbly with improved air and water penetration.  It is essential that you continue to add organic matter in the form of compost or manures to improve soil structure and allow for a range of plants to thrive.

Choose plants that are appropriate to your soil zone, climatic situation and water supply. More information is available at www.sercul.org.au  on growing local plants and www.watercorporation.com.au for a range or hardy exotic and Australian plants.

After planting, cover all beds with a chunky mulch (one that will allow good water penetration) and be sure to keep the mulch away from plant stems. Mulching your garden in this way will help to suppress weed growth, moderate soil temperature and reduce soil moisture evaporation.