Re: [gardeners] planting times

Kay Lancaster (
Mon, 8 Mar 1999 23:17:30 -0800 (PST)

On Mon, 8 Mar 1999, c.l. avery wrote:

> you mention it.  Of course, I don't know what I'm doing out there in the 
> dirt -- other than watching it ball up into clay blobs. (am new to 
> gardening)

oops!  clay blobs you say?  Wait!  There's a secret to working with clay
soils (besides working in every scrap of organic matter you can lay hands
on into it!).  Clay worked (dug, hoed, walked on) when it's too wet turns
into sticky messy blobs, balls, and globs on your shoes.  You're also
squeezing all the airspace out of it, which results in very bad growing
conditions for your plants.  If you try to work it when it's too dry,
you'll discover you've got clay "rocks" that a pickaxe won't break.  So
secret #1 to working with clay soil is to only work it when it won't stick
to a clean shovel or spade, and yet you can still get a shovel or spade
into it.

The second secret to working with clay soil is -- don't.  In most areas
you can build raised beds... 6-12" is plenty in most cases... and fill the
beds with compost (purchased by the truckload) or compost and loam.  In a
few years, the worms and other soil critters will start mixing your
compost and clay together, which greatly improves the clay.  And your
plants will grow quite nicely in your compost beds.

Kay Lancaster 
suffering with clay soil, and mourning that everything in the backyard
except the raised beds are underwater, just west of Portland, OR.