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How to Garden in Black Clay Soil in Texas

By Sommer Leigh ; Updated September 21, 2017

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.

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

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

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

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.

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

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

Water soil well until it appears completely saturated.

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


Things You Will Need

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


  • Check soil more than once to verify results.

About the Author


Sommer Leigh has produced home, garden, family and health content since 1997 for such nationally known publications as "Better Homes and Gardens," "Ladies' Home Journal," "Midwest Living," "Healthy Kids" and "American Baby." Leigh also owns a Web-consulting business and writes for several Internet publications. She has a Bachelor of Science in information technology and Web management from the University of Phoenix.