Clay soil has many uses from making adobe bricks for building and construction, to sculpting and agriculture. Through the centuries, the ancients regarded clay as a highly prized commodity from which to make cooking pots, baskets and trinkets. Clay is an essential element present in rich, loam soils providing nutrients and minerals to emerging crops and green ground cover.
Trees such as aspen, willow, cottonwood, pear and elm thrive in clay soils. Nutrient-rich clay soil holds moisture, enabling trees to have a steady water source. Shrubs that prefer clay soils include chokecherry, dogwood, forsythia, buckthorn and lilac. Clay is present, even in rich, loam soils enhancing its quality and nutrient value, and aiding in its water-retentive capabilities.
Bricks fashioned from clay and water and baked hard in the sun have been used for thousands of years to build solid dwellings with sustainable resources. Soils containing too much clay need an amendment of sand or dried grass to be a suitable material for making adobe bricks. Five gallons of clay dirt yields three 4 by 10 by 14-inch adobe bricks, each weighing 28 pounds. Mortar, made from a paste of thinned dirt and water, was used to "glue" the individual bricks together for a more substantial structure and to keep out drafts.
Ancient civilizations discovered many uses of clay soil, such as making clay pots and ovens to enhance their lifestyles. Clay tablets were used by the Mesopotamians, Egyptians and other ancients on which to record important events. Clay trinkets and effigies were fashioned from clay and sun-dried, of which many remain today.