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Friday, May 18, 2007

Clay Soil

One of my worst woes when it comes to gardening here at the homestead {besides living in a semi-arid dessert, weeds that hold a grudge, and insects that not only eat my tender plants, but seem to have a liking of human flesh} is all the clay soil I have to contend with.

Clay isn't all bad, it does have many minerals that some plants like, once you can get water to penetrate, it will keep moist. Yet it is thick, tends to clump, and becomes very hard once dried. So what's a gal to do?

With much trial an error, with many different gardening and homesteading books that weren't that helpful I have figured out my land, and what grows well where.

The lighter clayed area has now been conditioned quite well with giant edible sunflowers rotated with corn. They both grew well in the clay.

Where I have thick clay, the bigger the seed the better. Our zucchinis and squashes did well here, acorn squash did wonderfully. We discovered that it was a bad idea to mound up the clay like some of the books {ok the majority} said to do when planting gourds. When the seeds sprouted, the clay would come up in a small chunk, reminding me of a lid. My gourd patch has no hoed rows, just turned over strips.

When it comes to your own soil, unless you have gone to the store and bought perfect earth, then you will end up experimenting for a time. The books, as well as what I say, can only tell you how your plants should be planted and tended to. What ends up growing and thriving will tell you what you can do. Invest in home composting and a journal. For a successful garden, take note of what and where something is placed, and how much it yields. This will help come next spring.

And speaking of gardens. I seemed to have misplaced my radish seeds that I harvested last year. I have several volunteers coming up along with lettuce. They are just about ready to harvest. And my flower bed as been taken over by several small pumpkin plants again this year. Did you have any volunteers pop up?


El said...

Hey Phelan...clay city here, too. I am a mulchaholic, though, so I tend to smother every inch of my gardens (except the seed beds) with mulch (mostly grass clippings, straw or chopped leaves; depends on where in the season it is). It keeps the soil from crusting, thus making it easier to work. (I have raised beds so I don't have to worry about the plants getting their feet too wet).

Volunteers? Only in the perennial bed, where I want them. If they show up elsewhere they're weeds. But I usually let something interesting sprout near the compost heaps. My best melons grow from there, unplanted!

Bob Westbrook said...

Would be glad to trade you my West Texas sand for your clay. That way I could start making adobe bricks for this house. This soil still crusts some so there must be some clay in it but certainly not much

April said...

What about adding peat moss to your soil along with compost?

Gina said...

I have lots of pumpkins coming up all over the garden area. i am going to let a few grow. Also, have volunteer current tomatoes most years (haven't found any this year, though...)

Anonymous said...

Hey El! Some people do not mulch for various reasons. It took me time to find good free and plentiful mulch. thank you though for reminding me.

Bob, I take some of that sand!

April, peat moss is great. the reason I suggested making your own compost is that it unless you live in a bog, it wil be cheaper. It will take a lot of organic matter to loosen up clay. This is why I plant sunflowers and corn. It helps treat the clay, and is oh so much cheaper.

gina, for the longest time I would find tomatoes popping up in the oddest places. The past 2 years I haven't seen any.

Stephanie Appleton said...

I never thought you'd have clay there. Did you post this for me? :) I'm keeping a garden log, so I hope that will help in the future. I guess I was spoiled by the rich dark farm land soil I was raised in. Don't know what to do with this clay!

Volunteers? we didn't have a garden last year, but I feed scraps to the rabbits and then used the manure for the gardens. So I have pumpkins, and tomatoes in places I wasn't expecting.

Celeste said...

I lovemy volunteers. None for the past couple years. Probably because of the drought.
Crowder peasproduce very well on clay soil.

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