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Raise it up
To avoid having to ‘deal’ with clay soil you can just build up on top. Whether it’s a raised bed (see our video here how we made ours), a wicking bed (Dirt Lovers can find our plans here for our wicking bed) or even an Aquaponics system. The most simplest way to go up is with a no dig garden bed. There are plenty of resources around on how to do this – I simply use the same method that we use for filling our raised beds directly on the ground. Last year we did our Sweet Potatoes directly on a compacted soil area and harvested 13kgs from the 1.5m square area. You can see the sweet potato setup and harvest here.
Gypsum is a natural occurring mineral composed of calcium sulphate. It’s often said to be beneficial in breaking up clay soil (this is really dependant on what type of clay soil you have). We add it more so because our soil is notoriously deficient in calcium with the hope that it will also do something to the clay. I haven’t seen a great deal of benefit in this department but we always add a couple of handfuls of it when setting up new beds or planting trees.
Add organic matter
I think this is key when it comes to building good soil no matter what the original profile may look like. My strategy specifically is using Daikon Radish as clay breakers, that I will chop and drop to break down into the soil. The Daikon is chosen because it is long and fast growing.
For an area we wanted to grow directly in the ground we used a Double Dig method (Dirt Lovers can see how to do it here). This will loosen the soil enough for us to start growing. We know that by disturbing the soil we’ve unlocked nutrients. Which is amazing for this first season of growth, but by digging we’ve unlocked a lot of nutrients that the plants don’t need. Subsequent seasons won’t be as prolific and the soil will be degraded as those extra nutrients have essentially just run off. To combat this we’re chopping and dropping our daikons and whatever else we are growing (except tomatoes, I don’t chop and drop tomatoes due to disease issues) and adding additional compost to turn it into amazing soil.
Do you have any good clay breaking strategies? Leave a comment below.