Thursday, March 15, 2012

Clay soil

Clay soils are a problem for a number of reasons. Many garden plants cannot tolerate heavy clay soils. The particles of clay are so fine that the roots of plants cannot penetrate the spaces between them. This fine nature of clay also means that there is little aeration in the soil, thus little oxygen for plant roots and soil-dwelling animals such as earthworms. Fewer animals means less soil turnover and poorer oxygenation which exaccerbates the problem.

Is there anything good about clay soils? They are full of nutrients, but the plants can’t access them. It is possible to treat clay soils and improve the soil quality, freeing up nutrients for plants. Coir and cocoa peat are quite expensive and can be substituted with compost, which can be made at home very cheaply.

When planting in treated clay soils, make a slight mound in which to grow the plant. Peter demonstrates how clay-intolerant plants such as azaleas and rhododendrons can now thrive in the treated nutrient richsoil. By the time the plant develops roots that are long enough to penetrate below the treated layer, the plant will be big enough to cope with the clay soil.

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