How to Improve Clay Soil in Leland, North Carolina


Leland, North Carolina, sits next to the Brunswick River. While most of the town area is blessed with rich river bottom land, many areas have a large substrate of clay soil. Clay soil makes it difficult to grow a garden. The clay must be amended with organic material to break apart the tightly compacted soil. Local organic materials can be incorporated into the clay soil, improving the fertility and separating the tightly compacted soil. The best time to amend clay soil is in the early fall after all crops are harvested.

Step 1

Collect soil samples from several locations around the garden site. Mix the clay soil together. Dry the material. Deliver the sample to the Brunswick County extension service for analysis.

Step 2

Cultivate the clay soil area with a rototiller to a depth of 8 inches. Remove all excess vegetation and rocks with a garden rake. Remove the vegetation to a compost pile for decomposition.

Step 3

Layer 2 inches of the organic material over the garden site. Use available local materials such as pinewood byproducts from a local saw mill. Include all compost material from the past year’s decomposed plant material.

Step 4

Incorporate the organic material into the soil with the rototiller. Work the ground to a depth of 8 inches. Break up any large clods of clay with the garden rake.

Step 5

Apply the recommended amounts of fertilizer and agricultural lime based upon the results of the soil test. Layer another 2 inches of the organic materials on top of the fertilizer and lime. Spread 3/8 inch diameter gravel sparingly over the garden site. Consult the soil test for recommend amounts of gravel, if applicable.

Step 6

Till the material into the soil. Make several passes over the garden site to thoroughly incorporate all material into the soil.

Step 7

Test the soil the next spring. Add the recommended nutrients to the soil based upon the analysis. Work the material into the soil with the rototiller.

Step 8

Conduct a soil test every spring, six weeks before planting. This allows plenty of opportunity to incorporate all materials before Leland spring planting time.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never work clay garden beds when excessively wet. The action of cultivation in wet clay soils compacts the ground even further.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil test
  • Rototiller
  • Garden rake
  • Organic material (pine wood-by-products, compost, river gravel)
  • Fertilizer
  • Agricultural lime


  • North Carolina State University: History of Soil Science at NCSU
  • North Carolina State University: Amending Clay Soils (PDF)
  • North Carolina County Extension Service: Topsoil
  • Leland City Website
Keywords: amend clay soils, improve hard pan, amend slimy soils

About this Author

G. K. Bayne is a freelance writer, currently writing for Demand Studios where her expertise in back-to-basics, computers and electrical equipment are the basis of her body of work. Bayne began her writing career in 1975 and has written for Demand since 2007.