How To Amend Clay Soil Without Tilling

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By Arthur Mbanefo

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Tilling is of the most popular strategies for amending clay soil. However, it is not the most efficient. 

And in most cases, you might end up over tilling, which sometimes backfires, as it even encourages the soil density and slows down water drainage. 

So it is better to refrain from this strategy.

On the bright side, I will show you how to amend clay soil without tilling. Instead, we will use Liquid Aeration, Topdressing, Core Aeration, Deep Soil Integration, and Grass Mulching. 

All of these strategies help break up the compactness of the clay, increase aeration, and strengthen the availability of nutrients in the soil.

And if you combine all seven, it will hulk up your garden for better planting. 

How To Amend Clay Soil Without Tilling

This section will break down each of these methods, one step at a time. 

1. Using Liquid Aeration

I don’t know how familiar you are with this liquid solution, but it definitely helps moisturize your clay. 

It is a wetting agent that contains Ammonium Laureth Sulfate. And when applied, this active ingredient prevents water absorption resistance coursed by compaction. 

While it doesn’t make a drastic change to the overall structure of the soil, it softens the field for other amendments to work. 

Thus, it is not the most reliable considering it only provides a tiny improvement. 

 2. Topdressing

Topdressing is another approach that doesn’t help much, like liquid aeration. 

Your clay will benefit more when combined with other strategies. It is the spreading of organic matter over the soil. But since it can’t penetrate the layers, it can only help so much. 

This is where tilling becomes vital, as it helps it settle in just fine. But since we are not tilling, let’s look at other alternatives. 

3. Core Aeration

Since we can’t till, aerating plugs of soil would help create pockets for our compost to sink in. 

However, it must be a collaboration —core aeration and topdressing working together. 

Both help the organic matter spread below the surface to hatch a colony of worms and biological activity necessary for a thriving ground. 

Amongst the different types of soil aeration, I DO NOT recommend spike aeration, especially for clay soil —Us core aeration instead. 

4. Grass Mulching

It would be easy for you if you have an existing lawn, as mulching your grass would benefit the clay oil. 

This method requires extra work, mowing and throwing them back into the grass. 

What the mulching grass clippings do is that provides more nutrients to the soil. As they break, they release phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen. 

These are all essential nutrients for the soil. But to do this, your mower MUST come with a mulching function. 

Plants That Grow Well In Clay Soil

While all of these methods will significantly impact the productivity of your clay, sometimes, the best way to win is not to fight. 

Unlike loamy, Clay soil has fallen short in terms of fertility. It is stiff and tenacious. It is the least absorbent –impeding the flow of water and air circulation, which are the basics of plant growth. 

You must understand these quirks and, more importantly, work with them. 

You don’t necessarily have to go the extra mile to make every bit of your clay worthy of a healthy harvest.

Instead, you could save yourself the whole world of trouble by strictly planting crops that thrive the most in clay soil. 

The idea is to work smart, not hard, remember?

And you might think this is limiting you; yeah, maybe. But you have more than enough plants, fruits, vegetables, and herbs to thank for being clay-soil friendly. 

Let me list them out for you: 

Vegetables

  • Broccoli
  • Potato 
  • Lettuce
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Chard
  • Squash
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Beans
  • Carrots
  • Pea (Snap and Cowpeas)
  • Pumpkin
  • Daikon Radish
  • Cauliflower

There is more to it than this. And this article on “ A-Z Vegetables That Grow Well In Clay Soil” will feed your curiosity. 

Tree And Shrubs

  • Birch
  • Alder
  • Crab Apple
  • Hawthorn 
  • Laburnum
  • Tamarack
  • Snowberry
  • Holly
  • Willow
  • Japanese Red Maple
  • Hornbeam
  • Elm
  • Common Lilac
  • Buttonbush 
  • Nanny Berry
  • Cotoneasters

Herbs 

Flowers

  • Bee Balm 
  • Daylily Butterfly Bush
  • Roses 
  • Hosta
  • Aster
  • Black-Eyed Susans
  • Chinese Lantern
  • Cup Plant
  • Sedum
  • Elder
  • Coneflower
  • Joe Pye weed
  • Ballon Flower
  • Phlox
  • Coral Bells
  • Goldenrod
  • Fox glove
  • Perennial Sunflowers

Conclusion

In conclusion, you should combine all those strategies if you have the time, space, and energy. And stick strictly only to those plants compactable with clay soil. 

And I promise you, your harvest will be GARGANTUAN!!!

No doubt, clay can be a bit of a headache due to its properties. But as I said, you have to capitalize on its strength and use what you have. 

Happy planting!

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