Q&As/Hard Soil and Clay/Growing in Clay

Question

We have just moved to Rolleston and are making new gardens. The soil is free draining but clay below. What would be the best to put on it for the growing of vegetables and flowers, especially gerberas? What would hold moisture? 

Answer

Adding plenty of compost to your existing soil will help build the soil structure, thereby improving its water holding capabilities and drainage. Depending on the size of your garden you want to grow your flowers and veggies in, there are two things you can do. For larger scale areas, first prepare your existing soil by lightly digging it over to one spade depth, without disturbing the clay pan underneath. Then evenly apply a layer of compost (approximately 12-15cm thick) and mix in well with existing soil (one spade deep). Daltons compost products contain added gysum which helps with drainage. If clay is a major problem, Daltons Organic Clay Breaker can be laid down before compost. If you suspect there are wet spots in the garden, it will become apparent through observation over the winter months. If this is an issue, you may want to add some Novoflow drainage pipe in these areas which will help remove surplus water during winter. 

If you are planning a smaller scale garden then try creating your own raised beds. There are many benefits of well-prepared raised beds, such as drainage, warmer soil temperatures etc, which help extend the season and improve growing conditions. Fill your raised beds with a mixture of compost and garden mix – this will suit both flower and vegetables. Whatever your garden size, add a layer of garden mulch on top; this helps keeps moisture in (especially during summer) and weeds out.
Top Tip: It’s a good idea to renew your soil with fresh compost at least every 2-3 years. 

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