Saturday, 20 April 2013

Oh no, it's clay!

I made a start today creating the new flower beds for the garden and let me tell you this is not going to be easy to accomplish. The first area I'm doing was covered with gravel on top of carpet and carpet underlay and I had to shovel all that gravel off first. The problem is I never do things the easy way and I'd made such a mess around the garden that I couldn't get the wheelbarrow to the area so I had to hand trowel the gravel into a trug and then cart the trug to the patio to deposit the gravel. 100 trips later and I'd finally got rid of the gravel!
The underlay came up quite easy as did the carpet and I was quite excited to inspect the soil beneath assuming it was going to be half decent, well it wasn't

What you're looking at there is compacted clay. I saw a few areas of darker looking material and had hoped that it may indicate all was not as bad as it first appeared so I started test digging

Nope, it's definitely as bad as I had feared. That soil was a pain to dig and exceptionally difficult to break down, not only that but in the first 4ft x 2ft look at what came out of it

And that was just the ones I got going down a forks depth.
I've never had to work with clay soil before so this is going to be a learning curve for me but I do understand the pro's and cons of this type of soil:

  1. Retains moisture.
  2. Tends to be nutrient rich.
  1. Slow to warm up in spring.
  2. Compacts easily.
  3. Drains slow.
  4. Tends to heave in the winter.
I'm going to have to really work some manure into this, the good thing about that is I will also get the worms I need for my wormery - yay I don't have to buy any after all.
I'll also incorporate some grit and then I'm going to be barrowing plenty of top soil over from the polytunnel, hopefully in a couple of years I'll have some decent soil going on here.

On the upside my pallet wood fence has worked at keeping the dogs out - so far.
Mr TG hasn't taken pity on me yet and offered to replace it, he did however offer to furnish me with various colours of paint so I could paint it rainbow colours. Yes, he was being sarcastic! His only actual input to the fence was "Yep you're right, those pallet fences do look good". Sarcasm again Mr TG.
I did have to offer Huntly a bribe to make him feel his half of the garden was the place to be, he's lost his table top from where he watches the golfers so I offered him a little more luxury

Yup he's quite happy.
Atlas on the other hand is much happier here

6.30am, it's freezing and he wants to swim!


  1. You must have been shattered. Another plus for clay soil is that it is very fertile once you get it working for you and also you could make your own clay pots!

    1. I do not have the patience to make clay pots Sue lol.
      I'm hoping I can really make some good of this soil. More digging today, it's shattering!


  2. Good grief! Full marks for keeping going....the tenacious gardener indeed. It will be worth all the hard work, down the line you can look back on this post and go..."Hey, that was all my doing"

    Oh those dogs are adorable, they brighten up my day no end.xxxxx

    1. That thought is exactly what is keeping me going Snowbird. Been digging more of it today and I have to say it's blinkin hard work lol.
      Thanks for popping by.


  3. So here is some unsolicited advice. Chicago is notorious for clay soil. Our house now isn't so bad, but we used to live in an area that was an old clay pit and brickworks (made bricks to rebuild after the Chicago fire). For what it is worth, my experience indicates that the best thing to do is: 1) find plants that tolerate clay, 2) top dress with lots of organic matter; 3) don't break your back trying to dig the organic matter into the clay. It will work itself in eventually. Another option: raised beds.

    1. Thank you for that. I was going to dig the maure in but I won't bother now. Phew, that's saved me alot of back breaking work. The bed will be raised to the height of the sleepers anyway so I'm hoping that eventually I'll manage to get some decent soil.
      Thank you again for your advice, I will definitely follow it.


  4. I have that heavy clay soil and have done lots of amending to get anything worthwhile to grow.

    1. I've never come across it in my garden before Donna, in fact my soil tends to be on the peaty side. I'm determined to get it worthy of some beautiful plants though but I guess it's gonna take a while.
      Would love to know how you amended yours - any little secrets?
      Thanks for popping by



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