Wet clay soil

Posted: Wednesday 22 January 2014
by Pippa Greenwood

My soil is heavy clay and has a tendency to be sticky. It's currently very wet, so I can't weed or improve it with organic matter.

Flooded clay soil

There’s no doubt about it, I’m lucky: I live on a hill. There are times when I yearn for a bit more shelter – when strong winds have ripped off parts of our cast iron guttering, when our hillside is noticeably cooler than the local village, or when I go chasing fleece and cloches during blowy weather.

I know I’ve been more fortunate than many, though, as my house is not full of flood water and I don’t need waders to cross the garden. To those of you who have been hit by serious flooding, I offer my heartfelt condolences and hope that things improve very soon.

I know I shouldn’t moan, but I will. The soil here is heavy clay, improved after many years of incorporating compost and manure, but still with a tendency to be sticky. I avoid walking on the grass but I do have to from time to time, and it's a real mess in parts. As soon as it dries out a bit I’ll try to do some aerating, and I'll feed the grass as soon as it's sensible.

The mild weather has meant that there are new weeds popping up everywhere – I even weeded out some chickweed that was in flower over the weekend. The soil is so wet that I really have to resist the urge to go on a serious weeding mission in many areas. The compaction I would cause would be worse than the weeds themselves.

Occasional weeding, using a long-handled hoe while standing on a nearby hard surface or perched on a wide plank to spread the compacting effect, is all I can do for now. Even incorporating manure and compost into the soil is a non-starter, as the soil structure would suffer too much.

So right now, at a time of year when I’m usually at fever pitch, I find myself playing the waiting game. Things are so bad that I may even have to contemplate cleaning the windows - the greenhouse windows, of course. Patience, they say, is a virtue. I guess I’m just not very virtuous.

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Lynda3 30/01/2014 at 19:10

I too have heavy clay soil and get very irritated when' jobs to do now articles say ' now is a good time to move shrubs and divide plants'--- if only they would realise not everyone can!!Also, novice gardeners may not know , it all depends on your soil to do these tasks, and may kill off their precious plants. I find this very irresponsible.Lynda.

flowering rose 30/01/2014 at 20:44

I suppose it is hard to advise for all type s of soil, I have clay soil and indeed it is difficult to work with especially when sodden .I think you have to work with a good gardening book and with the people who live near you rather than relying on magazine .