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The Oregon State University Sustainability Blog

Improving Clay Soil

August 1st, 2017

“Sand, Silt, or Clay? Texture Says a lot about Soil”, an article written by Kym Pokorny, explains the different textures of soil and how it affects your garden. Avid gardeners in the Willamette Valley know the challenge of trying to produce a thriving flower or vegetable garden in our clay soil.

It’s important to know your soil texture, and one way to do this is by using the “hand method.” This can be done by grabbing a handful of soil six-eight inches under the ground and rolling it into a ball or ribbon. If it can form a ribbon, there is a higher clay content. Learning what type of soil is in your yard will allow you to find plants that will do well under these conditions. For example, if your soil is high in clay content, fruits and vegetables will be less likely to survive because their roots just aren’t strong enough to push through the soil. However, one positive to clay soil is that nutrients and moisture are stored better in clay than in sand or silt. Once you find a plant that does well in clay soil, it will have a bounty of nutrients from the soil alone.

One way to combat clay soil is to add organic matter and do some light tilling to mix the organic matter and soil together. Over time, the soil will become healthier and have improved drainage.

Corvallis gardeners, do not fret! There is still hope for your struggling gardens. Follow these tips, do your research, and before you know it your garden will be happier than ever!

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