The Soil Recipe

In Texas we have a lot of clay; many gardeners including myself complain about it.  If you’re new to this area it can be intimidating to turn this muck into something workable.

That was me the first year I tried to garden in Texas.  My kids were little at the time and I just didn’t seem to have enough hours in the day to accomplish everything I wanted.  I settled on a rose and herb garden, which I enjoyed for many years.

Throughout Texas you’ll find different types of clay, areas of sand, and a rocky base. These types of ingredients can make it difficult if not impossible to grow anything. In North Texas we’re blessed with clay and I’m happy to say it’s not the end of the world. You can turn this dirt into soil if you have the right ingredients.

Regardless of where you live it’s important to inspect your existing dirt before you decide on your garden space.  Simply dig a couple holes, inspect and evaluate your problem areas. Perhaps this recipe with a few tweaks will work for you too.

Soil Ingredients

These three ingredients are the key to turning your dirt into a mix you can soon call soil.

  •  1/3 clay
  • 1/3 sand
  • 1/3 organic

Clay – Ingredient #1

Clay is not the enemy; we tend to complain about it because it can be impossible to work with, especially when it’s wet. Clay has a purpose but it needs a few more ingredients to make it work.  Many don’t understand the difficulty that plants face when trying to grow in clay. The hard clay cripples the root system keeping the plants from growing properly.

What plants need is a softer consistency so they can stretch and produce. Clay does have value it holds the moisture in the ground which is important when hot summers arrive.

Sand – Ingredient #2

Before we could begin to plant anything on our farm we had to add 2 large dump truck loads of sand. Our family worked together to spread the sand on a 1/2 acre field.

The sand allows the moisture to circulate by breaking up the clay.  I didn’t believe it until I saw it working and it was amazing.  We used our gas operated tiller to mix the clay and soil together; it was a lot of work and worth the effort.

Natural – Ingredient #3

All natural and organic material is a must.  In the picture above I posted llama droppings and piles of dried leaves.  These are just a couple of examples you can add to your soil to increase nutrient levels.

Adding natural material is a continuous process.  Most gardeners add natural materials during the winter months; I do this year round and it’s the key to success.  Take a moment to read Finding Garden Manure  and Direct Composting, these are helpful tips you can implement with little effort.

Always remember this; gardening is a process that involves ongoing improvements.  Everything great begins with a good foundation; this includes a positive work ethic because adding this recipe will take some muscle.

When you’re beginning with dirt, understand it can take a good 3 to 4 years before you will say, wow my soil is amazing.  This is when you discover, hard work does pay off.


  1. Carrie Jane says:

    Well I am inspired, Carole. Thank you very much .

    1. You're welcome Carrie – Glad you stopped by. So glad enjoyed your visit – Hope to hear from you again. Carole

  2. Thanks for this simple recipe. We have sand and I bet this will work.

    1. Awesome! When we spread the sand out we used our tiller to mix it all together and it was neat.. -Carole

  3. Alison Agnew says:

    Just pinned this. In SW PA we have wet soil with a layer of clay about 8 inches down. Other than composting, I'm pretty lazy about adjusting my soil. But I need to get better at it. Thanks for sharing at Fridays Unfolded!


    1. Awesome hope it helps. I drove to Dallas today and on the way road construction was going on. Piles of clay were being dug up for this new road. I told my daughter that would of been a great picture for my soil post. Course she rolled her eyes at me. Thank for stopping by and sharing! -Carole

  4. lisa lynn says:

    Can't wait to get my hands dirty! Thanks so much for sharing with us on The HomeAcre Hop! I hope to see you again tomorrow!

    1. I hear ya – I'm so done with winter this year. Thanks for stopping by! -Carole

  5. Anonymous says:

    Just found your website. Moved to home 6 years ago. here in southwest ohio soil is very tough (clay). We have a wood stove add ashes and most kitchen scraps(other scraps go to friends chickens) directly to garden. Bury kitchen scraps in dirt in the summer. Husband tills it in the spring. the dirt in garden is now not orange but a dark brown. It gets better every year. Husband says very easy to till now.

    1. That's awesome! You'll enjoy my direct compost post too! I think we forget that establishing grand soil takes time. We have dark clay too and our animals along with kitchen scrap too. We've been here 4 years and to see the change is simply amazing. Thanks for sharing hope you follow! -Carole

  6. Nell says:

    Thanks for the simple recipe that I can use to improve my red clay soil here in Central Texas. Last year some of my plant, the ones the deer didn't eat to the ground, just sat in the hole in a puddle of water. I will now keep your advise in mind when I start on my next garden project.

    1. You're welcome! The soil is so different all across this state but for the most part we can always count on clay. I was digging holes yesterday in clay for a fence project and trying to wrap my brain around why the soil is so unique through this state. – Will have to ponder that, might have to take a walk back in history to get that answer. -Carole

  7. Great recipe for great soil! I am definitely going to be using this. Thanks!!

    1. That's great glad I could help Kirsten – Thanks for stopping by Love hearing from my readers.

  8. Olyveoil says:


    I really enjoy your blog and reading about your gardening experiences. I live in an area with too much sand and not enough clay. Ain't that a I appreciate the fact that you're going into detail about soil preparation as well as plant care. It's amazing how little information is out on the internet on this subject. I have begun direct composting in one of my flower beds to encourage a good worm population. Mainly because I'm slowly coverting it into an herb garden. Apparently, herbs can be a bit tricky when fertilizing, so I hope this will be a really good alternative.

    Thank you for the information. I think I'm going to go locate a good source for clay now.



    1. I'm so glad you stopped by to share. I'm a firm believer that soil is the key to a great gardening experience. The direct composting will be great in your herb bed – I've had a wonderful experience growing herbs using this technique. I also use animal fertilizer – llama happens to be my favorite. If you live near me I'm happy to share. I've also incorporated herbs with flowers and have had amazing results. The two compliment especially roses. If I can help or answer questions just let me know. -Carole

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