How to Till Clay Soil

Overview

Clay soil is the bane of gardeners all over the world. It causes plants to develop root rot, starves plants of oxygen and makes it hard for young plants to grow. But clay soil can be tilled and amended with organic material to make it more suitable for growth. However, be careful when tilling clay soil as it can be temperamental, especially when wet. And don't expect results overnight. It takes several years of amendments to permanently change the composition of clay soil.

Step 1

Spread organic matter over the soil (3 to 4 inches of a mixture of peat moss and well-aged compost are standard for most heavy-clay soils).

Step 2

Till the soil to a depth of 1 foot. Till small areas with a spade. Larger areas will require a rototiller.

Step 3

Till the soil again to a depth of 1 foot. This time work at a 90-degree angle to the first direction you went in. To amend clay soil for planting, many gardeners add a 1- to 2-inch layer of coarse builder's sand to the soil before tilling a second time.

Things You'll Need

  • Aged compost
  • Peat moss
  • Spade or rototiller
  • Coarse builder's sand

References

  • Campbell's Cultivating Ideas: Clay Soil
  • University of California Davis: Managing Clay Soils in the Home Garden
  • Lawn Care Academy: How to Improve Clay Soil
Keywords: till clay, amend clay soil, grow clay soil

About this Author

Emma Gin is a freelance writer who specializes in green, healthy and smart living. She is currently working on developing a weight-loss website that focuses on community and re-education. Gin is also working on a collection of short stories, because she knows what they say about idle hands.