Backaches and Blisters: Ingredients For Improving Poor Garden Soil


Starting with clay 

Not every gardener starts off with the gift of good soil; some of us have to grow our garden from the ground up before we even venture into planting. If you are dealing with clay soil like we were, prepare yourself for a tedious process of amendments and backaches as you augment the clay to make it friable and root-friendly. 

Fear not for you will be richly rewarded for your efforts and surprised at the resilience of plants.

In 2011, my boyfriend spent a day plowing up the plot of field that would become our garden. He leveled and heaped and smoothed and repeated for hours, establishing a 30’x70’ plot.

The site suited us being close to the house and barn. We felt the presence of former stewards of the land upon finding a pristine spearhead that had likely been long buried by the Osage Indians who hunted in our Buck Hollow here in Osage County. 

In order to enjoy any yield, though, our garden would definitely need fencing to deter the deer, raccoons, turtles, rabbits, ground hogs, possum and the occasional armadillo who frequented the field and couldn’t read a “Keep Out” sign if we posted one.

5/27/2020 7:06:54 PM

Rock Phosphate and Granite Dust are great additions as well.

5/27/2020 12:31:10 PM

I know the problems of clay soil. We have good top soil, but underneath that is a very thin layer of sand and then nothing but clay and rocks! When my dad was still alive, years ago we would rototill our garden and then plant. As the season would go along we would much with grass clippings. At the end of the season we would rototill again and then cover the garden with grass clippings. A couple of years we got composted cow manure and rototilled that in. And one year we had a brush pile at the one end of the garden that we burned and then tilled the ashes into the soil after spreading them out over the garden. Last year I went to use the rototiller and it would not start, so I had to hoe the weeds by hands, and then loosen the soil up enough to plant, all by hand. I then put down a biodegradable paper weed barrier, and put down mulch around the plants. My dad was going to get the rototiller fixed but the person came on a day we were not home, then when we tried to arrange for another day for them to come pick up the rototiller they refused to answer the phone! Then my dad got sick in July and went to the hospital and in August 2019 my dad passed away. So I did not get much work done in the garden as I wanted to. And now with Covid-19/Corona Virus shutting everything down in the beginning of March 2020, I was not able to get the Rototiller fixed as of yet. Hopefully, now with things starting to slowly open back up at the end of May/beginning of June 2020 I will be able to get the rototiller fixed and then get the garden tilled and planted. Great article on how you dealt with clay soil in your garden.

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