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the whole garden seems to be clay based, any suggestions?


Hi KevT ,could you perhaps give some more details as to the size of your garden


i'll try and get some photos on

Bunny ...
What do you want suggestions with? Plants, how to help it?
Although it can be hard work , clay has plenty plant friends

Horse Manure



You could always switch some area's with different soil/compost then grow a wide varieties of plants (you can get large amounts of compost for quite cheap from certain places, like




I live on the side of a hill where springs outcrop across the top. The soil is clay with pebbles, in short an absolute nightmare. I bought a 3' square piece of galvanised chicken wire, the sort that is very study and has 3/4" square holes in. Then I made a frame out of 2x2 baton that fitted my wheelbarrow, and proceeded to cut the wire to size and then stapled it to the frame to make a giant sieve. Everytime I sort a border I stick the whole lot to a depth of a foot or so through the sieve. This is how bad my soil is, it's like 40% rock that is 1" or bigger. I then mix in a hefty load of manure in the bottom, then mix the sifted soil with spent compost from my toms or other pots. (You can just mix in normal compost but tis expensive for a big garden!.

If you have poor soil, realistically to get a good performance out of it, you need to put the effort in. My way is very hard work, but weeding/ planting etc is very easy, and I only have to mulch compost on top from now on. For my vegetables, I bought a load of second hand scaffold planks and made raised beds, then you can create the soil you wish.

Remember, clay soil is one of the best as it retains moisture brilliantly, if you get plenty of organic matter into it, and use a good mulch, you'll only be watering half as much as your neighbours.


As has been said, grit or sharp sand for drainage, horse manure/chicken pelleted manure/garden compost, even MPC compost for breaking down the clay somewhat. It will take time but year on year you will improve the consistency - try your local stables for free manure. Lots of plants will grow happily in clay.. hardy geraniums, roses, hydrangeas, plenty of shrubs do well here. 

Last edited: 13 March 2017 14:51:09


Large swathes of the country are on clay soil, and yet things grow on it.   I noticed when I moved to my area that where the farmers turn oil the soil, the clay gets claggy and then hard if allowed to dry before things planted in it.  In the woods and fields left to pasture, the same soil is a lot less sticky because it has a overlying layer of organic material (leaf mould etc.) and only a problem where cows have churned it up.

I put green waste compost on the top of my clay soil as a mulch/soil conditioner for the worms to work in.  I don't dig, unless I'm putting in a plant, and then I back fill with the clay soil and mulch on top.   I can grow most things.   Plants that specifically like sandy/dry soil probably won't do well, although you can have small areas like a rockery where you build in more drainage. 

My mother-in-law has sandy soil and envies mine. 

Be like nature and mulch on top; don't be like the cows and churn up the mud.


My last garden was sand, this garden clay. Give me the clay any day. I'm not a slave to the hosepipe and it holds nutrients too, unlike sand.


I was raised beside a clay garden and just assumed everyone had clay!  I didn't grow much back then, now have chalk, which is so different.  Biking besides farmers fields used to be a claggy nightmare!  And I love the way chalk doesn't become a mud fest.

One observation was the length of time it took for trees to get going on the clay.  Well two at least.  They were stunted for years (a good decade and a half), and then finally took off.  Both in good aspects.  Could have been drought as they didn't get any attention (watering).  Perhaps they finally got their roots down low enough to drink.

Last edited: 15 March 2017 09:03:16

Kev, clay can be hard work and you will get many ideas for making it lighter but my way is this. Stop looking at it as one whole section. Decide what you wish to grow. Either buy or grow your own plants and then plant them. Do this as a separate entity. Dig a hole larger and deeper than the pot, put plenty of grit in the base and bring to the correct height with good compost, put the plant in the hole and back fill with a mix of what you dug out and compost mixed then water in.

The idea of making the whole garden friable will take years planting as each separate item takes little time but works as in time the whole garden will get the treatment. A friend of mine lived with solid clay and had a good garden in the end by doing things that way.

For vegetables make a slightly raised bed so that a good compost can be spread on only the sections you need to grow in this will in time become friable as the compost works down into the clay, that is where occasional double digging comes into its own.

For the rest one of the suggestions above is good make a rough green waste mulch, a shredder comes in handy, spread that over the sections not planted up and let the worms do the rest. It is a long term project as is all gardening but killing yourself trying to make the whole area good at the same time will put you off gardening for life. Fancy pots full of flowering plants trays or any container put on the bald sections will give colour and can be moved about mean while your planted up areas will come good given time. Good luck.



Good advice about working the soil piecemeal.  I wonder what KevT was asking?  About soil improvement, planting or both?  I wonder how he got on?

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