I'm so tired of people maligning clay soil

Richmond, TX(Zone 9a)

I have amended clay property with vegetation that's about to swallow me, it is so luscious. Excessive May rains on 2015 have contributed but still, it's not the battle that many purport it to be.

With that in mind, attention soil gurus: Please tell me what constitutes good drainage. I was taught that if water was gone after 24 hours you had good drainage. Am I missing something? Do I need to consider beyond 24 hrs? Of course, during super dry spells my soil will crack and digging into it is not as easy as digging into loam. But if you have a amendment program, isn't draininage permanently improved?

Set me straight on this one. A pretty garden in clay soil can't mean I have the "dirt from hell".

Delray Beach, FL(Zone 10a)

When I gardened in suburban Montreal (Canada), I had nothing but clay. So much so that there was a clay quarry about 1/2 mile from where I lived. I had 2 inches of black topsoil, followed by 2 feet of dense, brown clay. When I dug deeper than that, the clay was blueish grey. I had the greatest success growing all kinds of perennials in that clay, much to my gardening friends' horror. They told me to rototill cubic yards of fallen leaves in there, to throw in sand, add compost, all kinds of amendments and it would be all right eventually. I never did any of that stuff and I had the prettiest garden around. So when somebody badmouths clay soil, I have to say Nay, Nay.

Here in Florida, the soil is more like sand or ashes. How anything grows in there is still a mystery to me, but I have to admit that things grow quite well in what passes for soil here. Drainage? The ground is dry before it stops raining, so no problem there, either.


Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Clay holds nutrients well. I used to live in a clay based area and things grew well. Now I garden on sandy loam (woe is me, LOL).

But I cannot answer your question, really.

Delray Beach, FL(Zone 10a)

I am not a clay or drainage authority and I don't purport to be. I am only sharing from my experience.

Truth be told, I never really worried about drainage too much. What I planted enjoyed boggy soil or tolerated just about anything nature could throw their way. This was not cactus country, you understand.

If everywhere around you is clay, what good would it do to work in materials that would increase drainage? Where would the drained water go? The clay that surrounds your lot will not absorb it. But I could very well be wrong. Such is life.

I grew an awful lot of perennials up there. I collect large, invasive, toxic and perennial plants, herbs medicinal plants. When something refused to grow one year (like chamomille), it promptly got replaced with something else that would. The garden was densely planted and nothing ever went thirsty. I wasn't about to start digging the perennial beds to amend the soil.

I fondly remember a corner of the garden under a huge Norwegian maple. The soil dipped a good 2 feet there and formed a pool every time it rained and when the snow melted in the Spring. It was a perfect place for a collection of ostrich ferns and giant Japanese petasites. Basically, I am trying to say that one shouldn't work against Mother Nature. Planting things that will grow in your conditions seems like a better alternative to me. It's also less work.


Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

Sometimes red clay to start with could be difficult , only said by a few here clay is mineral rich , When you find the right amending composition , it is great ,,
Where I am now I have pre- hardpan gray clay , and brown clay
It grows beautiful (weeds) so natives often grow really nice ,
Hybrids , most of them , need raised sets for growing ,

Florida sand , contains a lot of coral and salt composites , dry very quickly , very difficult to start smaller plants ,
Takes a science formula to rot sand in some places , such does exist (formula ) but I do not know it either ,

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

Drainage - to have good drainage, the drainage would have to go deep enough for the plants root zone. If it is drained on top but still soggy a few inches deep, that wouldn't count.
Also, if it consistently drains away within 24 hours, I would call that adequate drainage, not "good" drainage. I would call draining in 2-3 hours good drainage.
I have gardened on all kinds of soils. It is easier to get things started in sand, but in the long run things do better in clay.

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