Clay soil is one of the most difficult conditions a gardener can face. It’s wet and dense, and can bake as solid as a brick in the sun. The Lehigh Valley consists mostly of deep, moderately wet and sometimes poorly drained soil and if you have a property in the Lehigh Valley as I do, you’ll find that you may need to add organic matter every few years to your existing garden beds, whether for plants or vegetables.
Planting and growing in clay soil can be downright discouraging. But there are many plants that can tolerate this type of soil. You will improve your plants overall health if you do a little digging…literally. Add organic matter, and plenty of it, to the existing soil and mix well. To improve your soil, you’ll need to add about six to eight inches of organic matter to the top six to twelve inches of soil. If mixing it by hand is too hard on your back, use a rototiller. Many home improvement stores offer daily rental rates. When you’re all done, your garden will be several inches higher but won’t be for too long as the organic matter settles and breaks down over time. The soil’s structure will continue to improve as microorganisms work to break down the organic matter that you’ve added. Once you’ve gotten this far, it’s time to plant!
One thing you won’t want to do is to add sand. Clay and sand will tend to resemble concrete and no one needs any more of that in their soil. Consider having a soil sample tested to see if you have any nutrient deficiencies or pH problems so you can correct them and continue to have a healthy garden for years to come.