How to Treat Clay Soil


Soil contains many different components, such as minerals, clay and organic ingredients. Depending on geographical location, some soil contains heavy amounts of clay, making it difficult to grow vegetation. Not only does clay soil inhibit the growth of many types of plants, it is often very difficult to work with. You can treat and improve your clay soil to enhance plant growth. Soil additives loosen heavy clay soils to encourage porosity and increase nutrients.

Step 1

Test your soil by performing a soil test. Purchase a test kit from your gardening center or landscaping store. Follow all instructions included on the test kit when taking your soil sample. Soil test results offer important information regarding nutrient composition.

Step 2

Loosen your clay soil with a garden tiller. Avoid working the soil when it is wet. Go over the planting area numerous times with your tiller to remove all hard clumps. Clay soil creates drainage problems by holding the moisture near the surface. Work the soil deeply to encourage good drainage.

Step 3

Add compost to increase soil porosity. Spread composted animal manure over the tilled surface of your clay soil. Spread a layer of course sand over the entire area to encourage drainage. Do not use fine sand in clay soil. Add any ingredients recommended by the results of your soil test to provide necessary nutrients to your soil. Thoroughly incorporate the added ingredients with your garden tiller. Work the soil until the clay soil, compost and other additives create an even blend. Lightly rake your soil before planting anything.

Step 4

Use a tiller to break up your clay soil in the fall to encourage loose soil during spring planting. Wait until the vegetation goes dormant in late fall or early winter. Remove vegetation before tilling. Till during a day when the soil is dry to avoid soil compaction.

Things You'll Need

  • Soil test kit
  • Garden tiller
  • Compost
  • Coarse sand
  • Rake


  • University of Minnesota: Planting and Transplanting Trees and Shrubs
  • Ohio State University: Improving Soils for Vegetable Gardening
Keywords: clay soil, compost, soil test

About this Author

Laura Dee is a writer, artist, and the co-owner of Wallace & Wallace Copywriting,an online business which specializes in providing marketing materials and copy to various companies. She has written for Demand Studios since 2008 and is currently working on a series of childrens' picture books.