Having ideal well drained soil which flows between the prongs of your fork when you dig is never a reality in the Ribble valley, so let’s have a look at a few tips and tricks that you can use to get it more like this!
Clay-like soil is normally more of a reality in your garden, especially in the north, so how can you make it more manageable and, more importantly, improve it to make it easier to grow a broader range of plants?
Well firstly what is clay soil? Clay soil is basically compacted de-oxygenated soil with high water retention. The main aim is to encourage drainage, and get air and fibre into the soil to help break it down and improve it and this will lead to you being able to grow a broader range of plants in it. Don’t get me wrong – you will never be able to grow plants like Lavender and Salvias which thrive in a sandy well drained soil because clay just isn’t suitable for them!
So firstly when planting you want to dig over the planting hole well or, if you can, the whole flower bed and the best material that you can incorporate is bark. The reason that bark is best is because the wood in bark provides lots of little air pockets which help the roots to breath and grow as well as helping increase drainage. When bark breaks down it also produces essential bacteria to encourage root growth and development which in turn will help plants grow a larger healthier root system and establish more successfully and quicker!
So it isn’t necessary to dig over the whole flower bed as you can just dig over a good sized hole for where you are planting your new shrubs or perennials, but when digging try hard to break up any big lumps of soil as the more you break up, the more the bark will mix in with the soil and help to break down the clay like consistency.
People often suggest digging in gravel but in my opinion gravel only helps increase drainage, whereas bark helps drainage, provides air and also leaves essential bacteria behind.
So if you follow this when next planting or digging over the flower beds you will find in time that the structure of your clay-like soil will start to improve and you can grow a wider range of plants.