How to Improve Clay for Gardening

Last week I shared my sad looking quail garden.  I’m happy to report the new-found sunlight was a spring of goodness and over the weekend I mixed in additional soil to each raised bed.

Since we live in the Blacklands of North Texas where the dirt is a mound of clay and really is black, I knew it was time to share my tip for turning clay into gold.

People complain all the time about our Texas clay but over the years I’ve embraced its qualities instead of focusing on the negatives.  I’ve found a way to work with clay by using sand and amending with natural materials.  It works amazing and today I’m sharing my tip.

Combine clay to a wheelbarrow

Begin with Clay

In the United States our soil is split into two major types: clay and sandy.  These soils generally are topped with a thin layer of loamy soil that promotes good plant growth and healthy root systems.

That loamy layer isn’t always present and sometimes a little more effort is necessary to grow strong plants.  Since I’m adding new soil to existing raised beds we’ll be mixing in a wheelbarrow, a large tub or trough would also work.

Begin with about 5 or 6 shovels of clay, we’ve been digging clay soil out the creek so this was pretty easy since it’s pretty dry.  Once you have the clay gathered add about 4 shovels of sand.

Mix the Sand and Clay together and form a nice blend of soil for gardening

Mix Clay and Sand Together

Now we mix the two ingredients until they are perfectly blended.  I did this with my hands wearing gloves, a small shovel is also a good option.

If you run into lumps just break them up with your hands and keep mixing.

For those gardening in the ground then you may enjoy this article here.  On our farm we hauled in two truckloads of sand to work in about a 1/2- acre field.  We did this using a shovel, wheelbarrow and tiller and it was a lot of work but guess what?  It worked like a charm.

You may also enjoy my garden printable, amend soil…

Then add the mixture to your existing or new raised beds

Adding Mixture to Raised Beds

These beds were established back in March and April, they’re loaded with natural ingredients that really helped amend that clay.  They’re doing great but I knew sand was the last key ingredient to optimize my results in addition to the sunlight…

The mixture of clay and sand was incorporated by shovel; then I used my spade to mix in with the existing soil.  I did this rather carefully as these beds are planted and I didn’t want to disrupt the current progress.

The end result is a soil mixture your plants will love.

This improvement was a huge success; the clay helps keep the soil moist and the sand helps loosen things up.  To maintain these beds, I’ll continue with adding natural matter and direct compost.

Gardening with clay is very possible but you have to remember this little saying my grandma use to share with me…. “Rome wasn’t built in a day….”  Course she never gardened in Texas either…

This just means to establish amazing soil it takes time and if you put in the effort you’ll be amazed at the results.  You simply can’t rush the soil process but there are a few things that can help improve almost instantly.  The key to a successful garden is the soil and it just happens to be my favorite part of the process.

How to Improve Texas Clay for Gardening

We're Helping Others Do More

4 comments

  1. Patti says:

    We definitely have clay here in PA. Often I’ll throw some of it in with my pots and add peat, partially broken down compost from my lazy everything pile and old potting soil. I never thought of using sand but love the idea. Thanks!

    1. Carole says:

      So glad this will be helpful. I love it and it sure does make a huge difference.

  2. Re: You simply can’t rush the soil process…
    That is oh, so true. We started with mostly sandy soil but that needs work too. I think it took about three years before we had good working loam with lots of nutrients.

    1. Carole says:

      I agree you can rush the soil process and on our farm it was about three years before we got to that wow factor. We raised cows the first 4 years in addition to our sheep so we had lots of wonderful manure to help fertilize.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *