Truly, the effort invested to growing vegetables in clay soil may not yield a better result due to the composition and properties of clay soil. Clay soil is known for not supporting good numbers of crops, including vegetables. As poor as clay soil is, there are some notable vegetables that will thrive well in this soil. In these article, you would learn about the varieties of vegetables that will grow well in clay soil and strategies to make clay soil fit for growing other crops.
Properties of Clay Soil For Vegetable Growth
The most amazing thing about clay is its compactness. Clay particles are tiny, many times smaller than sandy soil. Wet clay feels smooth rather than grainy when it is between fingers. When the tiny particles become covered with water, small pressure can make them to stick together. Clay soils settle into layers of fine sediment that feel like gloppy mud, and the water take hours to clear.
Because of its fine texture, clay soil tends to pack down, thus limiting the amount of soil oxygen available to plant roots and soil microorganisms. When growing vegetables in clay soil, mulches slow down natural compaction and promote natural soil ventilation, hence, increasing the comfort of plants roots.
Best Vegetables for Clay Soil
One of the best methods to growing vegetables in clay soil is to stick with vegetables that like clay during the first few seasons of soil amendment.
Lettuce, chard, snap beans and other crops with shallow roots benefit from the ability of clay soil to retain moisture. Broccoli, brussels sprouts and cabbage often grow better in clay soil than looser loamy soil because their roots enjoy firm anchorage by the soil. Mid and late season sweet corn is a good choice too, but some of the best vegetables to grow in clay are squash and pumpkins.
As long as they are grown in planting holes that have been generously fertilized with compost, summer squash and small pumpkins seem to do well no matter where they are grown.
Using clay soil in the garden can be challenging, but there are actually some vegetables that can tolerate or even benefit from its growing conditions
Some vegetables that grow well in clay soil:
Potatoes are vegetables that normally break up clay soil. They grow in a wide range of soils, although they prefer soils with high organic matter with an acidic pH. Potatoes reduce compaction in clay soil in the garden, making the environment friendlier for other vegetables.
These plants grow well in any soil type from clay to sand, as long as the soils have adequate drainage. They prefer slightly acidic to slightly alkaline soils with pH ranging from 6 to 7.5. Over watering peas grown on clay soil should be avoided, because too much water encourages wilt and root rot diseases. After harvest, the plants should be cut at soil level, leaving the roots in the ground to add nitrogen and organic material to the soil, thereby improving drainage and quality of soil.
Cabbage as well as other members of the Brassica family grows well in soils ranging from loam to silt to clay. They tolerate moderate levels of salt, which most times build up in clay soils after prolonged use of fertilizer. Cabbage grows best during the cool season.
- Brussels sprouts
- Bean (Bush or Pole)
- Daikon radish
How To Amend Clay Soil For Planting
Clay soil does not suit the cultivation of many crops due to the presence of some elements like iron and its structural and textural composition. However, this soil can be corrected to fit the cultivation of any crop. There are some materials that can be added to clay soil to replenish its fertility to allow good numbers of crop grow in it.
Organic fertilizers, especially farm yard manure, are best applied to clay soil. These type of manure helps to neutralize the acidity of the soil to neutral level making it fit to accommodate other crops on it. Organic manure do not only neutralize the acidity in clay soil, it also help greatly to improve the soil structure and texture to allow it support the growth and nutrient uptake of good numbers of crops.
Examples of organic manure that can be added to clay soil to improve its status for good crop growth are:
- Poultry waste
- Cow dung and bedding
- Compost manure
- Green manure