What do I need to do to my clay soil before I plant tomatoes?

chukka1May 8, 2012

I want to plant a small garden 12'x 3' with mostly tomatoes and peppers, what can I do to make them thrive? I'm not afraid of digging and hauling away some clay, and adding stuff to it to make it better.

Please help! I've been reading for 3 days, and have taken pain relievers all 3 days cuz of headache...lol- It seems as if the more I read, the more confused I get.

Soil Description:

Clay soil,(color gray and taupe mixed together)

DRY-hard like cement. If you hit it with a shovel, it sounds like you hit a rock.

WET- kind of reminds me of play dough, and if you walk on it, you will start to sink a little, and you will lose your shoes..lol

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I have the same type of soil. CLAY! What I did, that worked well for me, was to loosen up the soil with a shovel. Then I dumped compost and bags of garden soil over top of the area. I used the shovel to mix it up a bit. Every fall I cover the area with leaves that decompose and really improve the texture. Whenever I plant now, I toss in more compost if I have it or Garden Soil from a bag. It keeps getting better and better. I don't think you'll need to haul away any soil. Just bring add some good stuff to what you have.

Here is a link that might be useful: My gardens

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 12:35PM
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Thank you sooooo much! I've been so edgy last few days, because of not knowing what to do.
I appreciate your help!


    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 1:09PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

Well, a soil test is always the best starting point. However, mixing in compost and mulching after planting are pretty universal treatments with good results. Use a pick to break it up if need be.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 1:10PM
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gardenlen(s/e qld aust)

with clay by far the best garden method is no dig style, if the clay dissolves in water use gypsum and heaps of it, you might have PH test done just in case it is acid, if so add some dolomite.


Here is a link that might be useful: lens straw bale garden

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 2:59PM
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We have many types of "clay" in the US. The "red" and the "grey" are the two main types, though there's others and differences even within the color types.

The clay types act differently aside from the awesome nutrient exchange capabilities they both have (clay is awesome stuff).

The grey stuff usually benefits for organic amendments because of it's swelling/cracking tendencies. The red stuff is a bit more forgiving without amendments, though it doesn't hurt.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 3:37PM
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I'd say compost and/or bags of Garden Soil mixed in will give you a good start. I second mulching tomatoes as well. You do not want to allow soil to splash up on the leaves. It's an invitation for disease. I find that straw from our local nursery works very well and starts to break down quite nicely over winter.

Happy gardening!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 3:52PM
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You need to condition it, and although compost will work, it is even better to mix in dead leaves, 3 or 4 bags for your area. The earthworms will then condition the soil for you.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 4:23PM
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Hi and thank you everyone! Now that I went outside and it's not so wet I dug up an area and the clay is gray, not taupe..lol

    Bookmark   May 8, 2012 at 6:04PM
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