Red clay soil often brings a frown to a gardener's face. It is difficult to work with and has several other problems. The heavy, thick soil does not drain well, which is actually a redeeming quality, as it means nutrients do not leach out. Therefore, it is very fertile if you can work it. The good news is you can solve all of your problems with red clay soil with one single solution.
Red clay is the harshest of all clay soils because it comes from volcanic eruptions. The methods used to combat the problems red clay shares with all other clay soils help to improve the acidity problem as well.
Clay soil will definitely challenge your physical condition. It is heavy to lift. Each shovelful is a muscle builder. It is thick and hard to penetrate with the tip of a shovel, and hard to break apart.
Drainage and Oxygen
Water eventually drains from clay soil, but it will take awhile. Heavy rain will pool around the bottom of plants and causes rot. Pooling water may even rise up over boarders onto walkways. The thickness of the clay also keeps oxygen from getting to the roots of plants. It makes thriving in red clay soil difficult.
Root crops have the hardest time with clay soils. The heavy, dense soil feeds them well, and they grow, but they are not tough enough to push through the compacted ground. This causes funny shapes at best. At worst, the soil is so hard it pushes the root up through the top of the soil and the vegetable dies.
The solution to all of red clay soil problems is to lighten it up. Use a strong garden tiller and work a good quantity of mulch and loam into the soil to make it airy and lighter.
Do not work with clay soil for any purpose when it is wet. Wet clay compacts more, and tilling in wet clay breaks it up and forces it to clump and compact further.
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