How to Garden in Black Clay Soil in Texas


The soil in many areas of Texas is the heavy black clay variety. While these clay soils retain moisture and are nutrient rich, clay also drains slowly and compacts, making it difficult for most plants to thrive. Some trees and shrubs thrive in clay soil, but most annuals, perennials and vegetables struggle to establish their root system in this soil. The National Gardening Association recommends adding organic matter to these soils to improve drainage and lighten the soil. The end result will be a brown, rich soil that any plant will love.

Step 1

Till soil with rototiller or rake 6 to 8 inches deep, working it into soil until it is broken into a workable consistency.

Step 2

Remove weeds and rocks from the soil by sorting through it by hand.

Step 3

Perform a soil test, available at gardening centers, to determine pH. Take samples from different areas of a dry garden, mix together and test.

Step 4

Till amendments into soil--lime if pH is too low or sulfur if pH is too high--working to a depth of 6 to 8 inches.

Step 5

Till 2 to 3 inches of compost or manure into the top of the soil.

Step 6

Rake the area level, smoothing the soil by dragging a rake back and forth across the soil until it appears even.

Step 7

Water soil well until it appears completely saturated.

Step 8

Plant garden plants or seeds in soil as you normally do.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil test
  • Rake
  • Rototiller
  • Shovel
  • Lime
  • Sulfur
  • Compost
  • Manure
  • Water


  • National Gardening Association: Improving Clay Soil
  • Testing and Improving Your Soil
  • Houston Black--Texas State Soil
Keywords: clay soil, Texas black clay, garden clay soil

About this Author

Sommer Sharon has a bachelor's degree in IT/Web management from the University of Phoenix and owns a Web consulting business. With more than 12 years of experience in the publishing industry, her work has included "Better Homes and Gardens," "Ladies' Home Journal," "MORE," "Country Home," "Midwest Living," and "American Baby." Sharon now contributes her editorial background by writing for several Internet publications.