What Can I do to Grow In My Heavy Clay Soil?
You do NOT have to replace your heavy clay soil with something better, nor do you need to add tons and tons of sand and/or compost.
To start off you simply eliminate all weeds, dig or till the soil, measure and stake your garden area into 18″-wide beds with at least 3′-wide aisles, and make raised, level, ridged beds, as described in the FREE ebook, at https://growfood.com/freebies/ and in all the vegetable gardening books by Dr. Jacob R. Mittleider.
That and just a little bit more. Just add three simple steps beyond the above procedures that apply to ANY soil, and you can have excellent success with your clay soil – without amending it!
1) When you plant seed, use the handle of your hoe or rake to make a straight shallow furrow along the inside edge of the ridges. For small seeds the furrow should be only 1/4″ deep, and for large seeds it should be 1/2″ to 1″ deep.
Mix the seed you’re planting with 100 parts sand and apply evenly and sparingly in the furrow. This greatly minimizes the inevitable thinning that is otherwise necessary.
2) Then, instead of covering the seed with clay soil, cover it with a shallow layer (1/8″ for small seed and ¼” for large seed) of clean sand. You will have much better germination and emergence of your seeds if they don’t have to fight their way through that heavy clay.
3) After planting and after you water your soil-beds, when the soil begins to crack as it loses moisture, apply just a few pounds of sand per 30′-long bed to the cracks in the planting area of each grow-bed and water the sand into the cracks. The sand will fill the cracks and eliminate the cracking. You may need to do it a second time, but this will stop the drying and breaking of your plant roots that cracking clay soil usually causes.
What type or condition of soil must I have to produce the best results?
All types of soil will produce the same healthy, high quality and heavy yield in food crops except land with standing water on it or toxic substances in it.
How is it done? Simply by restoring the essential plant nutrients to the soil.
The water-soluble minerals in soils, which plants use for food, have been leached out of the soil by rainfall and irrigation for thousands of years into creeks, rivers and oceans. This has greatly reduced the water-soluble minerals available in the soil, and thus soils everywhere are less fertile. The floor of every ocean and sea in the world contains these solidified minerals, which were once on dry land.
These same minerals, from rocks mined from the earth, are packaged, inexpensive, and available worldwide for use in your gardens. Their nutrient content is high and accurately determined – almost always far greater than comparably priced “organic” nutrients.
The quality of your soil (or lack of!) will not keep you from having an excellent garden if you follow the procedures outlined on the website and in Dr. Mittleider’s books and videos, and if you feed your plants properly.
A little natural mineral nutrient fertilizer goes a long way toward solving the worst soil problems. And here’s the simplest way to do it.
Get two packets of pre-mixed micro-nutrients from the Food For Everyone Foundation, so that you don’t have to search for the nutrients individually. We ship two 10 ounce packets, each of which is mixed with 25# of 16-16-16, or whatever similar mix is available at your nursery or farm supply store, plus 4# of Epsom Salt (magnesium sulfate) that you can get at any drug store. The Micro Mix is $13.95 for two packets plus shipping. It is the surest and easiest way to assure you have the nutrients you need.
Hard-Pan Clay Soil That Doesn’t Drain – Usable for Garden?
Are you like this person? “We are living in a very bad hard-pan soil area. When I dig a hole and add water, the water will stay for days.”
Many families only have heavy, clay soil in which to grow gardens, and some have asked how to drain the soil so it isn’t too wet to grow in. Following is a little history of commercial clay soil gardening in the USA and Russia, along with some suggestions.
The Imperial valley of California grows some of the most prolific and healthy vegetable crops anywhere in the world. The soil is hard, heavy clay, and before it was drained it was so saturated with salt the crops were very poor.
This condition existed because the Colorado River had for centuries deposited salty water on the land, which evaporated leaving the salt residue. At first the farmers tried applying large amounts of water in attempts to drive the salt down, but the benefits were short-lived.
Finally in the 40’s, the farmers put underground tile drainage systems in, consisting of 4″ drainage pipes buried more than 4′ in the ground at intervals of about 100′, which all led to larger drainage ditches and etc. Today they produce over $1 billion in vegetables per year.
You can also grow great gardens in your clay soil, but if it’s wet or saline you may need to drain it.
In Russia Dr. Mittleider’s students dug drainage ditches 10-12″ wide and 2′ deep to drain a small parcel of “waste” ground loaned to them by the Soviet authorities. It quickly became so prolific and beautiful the authorities gave them 23 acres!
That ground is now the site for the most famous and productive family-based gardening agriculture school in all of the Russian Commonwealth Countries. And millions of Russian families, themselves growing in clay soil, credit the Mittleider Method for giving them self-sufficiency in their food production.
The Mittleider Grow-Beds consisting of level, raised, ridged soil-beds themselves assist in the drainage process on clay soil. But if you have very high rain-fall, you may need to leave the ends open during the rainy season. Beyond that, either open drainage ditches, or buried drain pipes, as described above, will solve your wet-soil problems.
So long as you have plenty of sunshine and access to water, the soil is no problem!
We promise “a great garden in any soil, and in almost any climate.” And we mean it!
If you feel the clay soil is just too hard to work with, and you’d rather not fight it, then build Grow-Boxes and grow your food above-ground. Several Mittleider gardening books show you how, including Gardening By the Foot and Lets Grow Tomatoes. And The Mittleider Gardening Course has a section devoted just to Grow-Box gardening as well.