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How to Treat Clay Soil

By Laura Wallace Henderson ; Updated September 21, 2017

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 Will Need

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

About the Author


Laura Wallace Henderson, a professional freelance writer, began writing in 1989. Her articles appear online at Biz Mojo, Walden University and various other websites. She has served as the co-editor for "Kansas Women: Focus on Health." She continues to empower and encourage women everywhere by promoting health, career growth and business management skills.