We are in the process of enhancing an area of a local volunteer organisation, by establishing a native garden. The area is in a gully where the soil is hard with a lot of clay and poor drainage. What should we do to ensure the soil is suitable for growing plants, shrubs etc. We plan to do our main planting in the Autumn. Is this correct?
What a wonderful initiative you have planned! Firstly, mark out future individual planting sites with small stakes and begin cultivating these areas immediately. Do this by applying mineral gypsum to these specific sites, and roughly dig this in to help break up the clay. Then add in plenty of Daltons Compost (which also contains added gypsum) for much needed organic matter to help with drainage. Continue improving the soil by adding compost and gypsum over the next few months until planting time. Do not consider planting before May.
Plant small to medium sized specimens as they have a better chance of surviving through the first Summer. Remember thorough preparation prior to planting is the key to success in any major revegetation project. Also, ensure you mulch around new plants for the first few years after planting.
In terms of plant species suitable for growing in this area, check neighbouring existing native plantings as these will provide an accurate guide to plants that will survive well.