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Author Topic: What will grow best in clay soil?  (Read 2856 times)

laurelrus

  • Joined Apr 2014
  • Quainton,Buckinghamshire
  • Hobby farmer
What will grow best in clay soil?
« on: August 28, 2014, 03:34:05 pm »
We have been busy dividing up the field into paddocks and learning about livestock, but now I'm starting to think about our garden. It's fairly small but definitely room for some flowers. We have clay soil, which is new to us as up till now we've had chalky soil. So I'd be glad of recommendations on what will thrive and be happy and not plants that will struggle to do well.
I'm fairly sure that roses like clay, but that's the extent of my knowledge.
Thanks very much
2 pygmy goats, 3 Ouessant sheep, 19 chickens, 2 donkeys, 2 Shetland ponies and 2 dogs
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Somewhere_by_the_river

  • Joined Dec 2013
  • Near Llandeilo
    • Angela French Graphite Artist
    • Facebook
Re: What will grow best in clay soil?
« Reply #1 on: August 29, 2014, 10:25:58 am »
Hi laurelrus
Clay is nutrient rich soil, it's often drainage that's the biggest problem as it ponds in the wet and dries solid and cracks in the dry. How heavy is it, really thick, heavy clay, or not so bad? If the latter or you can improve drainage then there are a lot of things you can grow on it, you won't be limited. We had day lillies, aster, roses, achillea, orchids (native), verious bulbs, sedum, echinachea, rhudbekia, rhododenron, geraniums... so much (the full list would be far too long!). Things like the lavender needed improved drainage, but they still did well in the right spot.
RHS website is always good for lists and advice, have a look at some others...
https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=305
Starting a garden from scratch is exciting - so much to choose from!  :D

Greenerlife

  • Joined Mar 2009
  • Leafy Surrey
Re: What will grow best in clay soil?
« Reply #2 on: August 29, 2014, 11:37:29 am »
I am on heavy clay and the best thing appears to be bindweed and creeping buttercup!   >:(


Seriously though - rudbeckia, asters,lilacs,iris, roses, lilies, peonies, and bears breeches (can't remember what the proper name is) all thrive in my garden.  As do bulbs, although you'd think that they would rot if you have a lot of water they haven't so far.  Good luck with your garden - hope that you don't suffer the buttercups!

laurelrus

  • Joined Apr 2014
  • Quainton,Buckinghamshire
  • Hobby farmer
Re: What will grow best in clay soil?
« Reply #3 on: August 29, 2014, 11:41:25 am »
Thanks very much Greenerlife and Somewhere_by_the_river!
We have acres of nettles and thistles, so I know those grow well! I did read that if you have lots of nettles that's a good sign that it's fertile land, or is that not right? Not seen buttercups yet.
I'm not sure how heavy it is. We moved here in March and despite lots of flooding around, our field had not flooded at all. However, the clay has cracked a lot over the hot summer.
So I'd say not too heavy, as a guess.
I'll go on the RHS website, that's a great idea, thanks.
2 pygmy goats, 3 Ouessant sheep, 19 chickens, 2 donkeys, 2 Shetland ponies and 2 dogs

Somewhere_by_the_river

  • Joined Dec 2013
  • Near Llandeilo
    • Angela French Graphite Artist
    • Facebook
Re: What will grow best in clay soil?
« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2014, 10:53:25 am »
You are not wrong laurelrus, nettles and thistles are a good sign... though it might not seem to to start with!  :D I'm with you on the bindweed and creeping buttercup Greenerlife, too much of that here too, though I'm working on it. The good news with nettles is that if the ground has been undisturbed for a while then most of the roots will be quite close to the surface and easy to pull with just a little loosening with a fork. It's the larger tap-roots that you'll have harder work with. Last year our veggie patch was nothing but nettles and thistles, but you'd not believe it to look at it now (and we only had time to really work on it from February on). I'll attach pics to show you, the 'after' (June this year, so a lot more going on and harvested now) is from a different angle, but is the same space pictured in 'before' - you can do a lot in a little time.
There's another great website I came across recently - put in conditions, aspect etc. and it gives you a list of plants. There's a similar on on the RHS page and places like Crocus, but this one was by far the best. I'll post it as soon as I can find it again...

Somewhere_by_the_river

  • Joined Dec 2013
  • Near Llandeilo
    • Angela French Graphite Artist
    • Facebook
Re: What will grow best in clay soil?
« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2014, 11:07:12 am »
Found the website hidden amongst OH's 101 bookmarked sites! It's largely for hedging, trees and shrubs (a large range of), but it's given me more precise details and varied suggestions than any other site, mostly when I've wanted to check that my instincts were right about with would grow on windy corners etc. (said shrubs didn't even come up in the other searches on other sites). Very impressed with the site in general, information, prices etc. now all I need is for OH to stop buying pheasants and the wood to build the runs so I can stock my garden and replace the hedging!!  :roflanim:
http://www.hedging.co.uk/acatalog/guide.html

HesterF

  • Joined Jul 2012
  • Kent
  • HesterF
Re: What will grow best in clay soil?
« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2014, 11:45:26 pm »
Most things I think although if you can improve the drainage by digging in compost, that will improve it more. We've got clay loam over chalk and it's brilliant - best thing is that although it pans and looks awful in summer, underneath it's still wet so minimal need to water. The only things I can't grow here are the acid lovers like blueberries, heather etc. but that's down to the chalk rather than the clay! What pH do you have? Might be worth checking that if you haven't - I have the impression clay is often associated with alkali but don't know whether that's true or not.

honeyend

  • Joined Oct 2011
Re: What will grow best in clay soil?
« Reply #7 on: August 31, 2014, 12:34:11 am »
I live in a heavy clay area, my husband hates gardening and I hate digging so I just put the muck on top and let the worms do the work. In the end I had a good 12 inches of fertile well drained soil.
 If you plant roses I would go for the modern shrub varieties, once they are away you do not need to do much, on of my favourites is Buff Beauty, as it flowers into October and has scented apricot flowers.
  I have a new clay garden and this is worse than the last so I am going to cheat and make raised beds out of straw bales hoping that with the muck and when the straw finally rots it will give a good covering over the clay.


laurelrus

  • Joined Apr 2014
  • Quainton,Buckinghamshire
  • Hobby farmer
Re: What will grow best in clay soil?
« Reply #8 on: August 31, 2014, 09:41:34 am »
That's a good idea, HesterF, I'll get a pH testing kit later and see exactly what we have to work with!
What we'd like to do is prepare some beds, as well as the area where we want to start a kitchen garden, then keep putting the muck from the animals on and so in spring we've got a good start for whatever we plant.
I think I read somewhere that once we've prepared the beds we should cover them with plastic sheeting held down at the corners over the winter, keep adding muck through the winter. Does that make sense to anyone?
Previously we've had a standard back and front garden, in chalky soil, and we knew what to do with that! This is a whole new challenge (one of many....)!
2 pygmy goats, 3 Ouessant sheep, 19 chickens, 2 donkeys, 2 Shetland ponies and 2 dogs

suziequeue

  • Joined Feb 2010
  • Llanidloes; Powys
Re: What will grow best in clay soil?
« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2014, 11:22:11 am »
We have heavy clay soil and have made raised beds with imported topsoil +++++ with lots of pig manure from the nearby baconry.

We lash our weed suppressing fabric down with rope and sow EVERYTHING through the mesh which we burn holes or lines in with a blow torch to prevent it fraying - works really well. We had one bed going this summer and I must have spent all of ten minutes weeding it the whole summer.

Got another six beds now so need to get filling the rest!!
« Last Edit: August 31, 2014, 01:09:51 pm by suziequeue »
We do the best we can with the information we have

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Marches Farmer

  • Joined Dec 2012
  • Herefordshire
Re: What will grow best in clay soil?
« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2014, 11:47:45 am »
Put down old carpet or thick cardboard or layers of newspaper through the winter (weighted down with bricks or stones if necessary) and in the Spring you'll have warmed, dryish soil in which the weeds have germinated then run out of light to survive.  The following grow well in our extremely heavy clay:  roses (old HT varieties like Peace and Josephine Bruce), phlox, Japanese anemones, hydrangea, buddleja, chrysanthemum, lysymachia, phlox, tansy, fuchsia, foxglove, sedum, hebe (wouldn't think it should, but it does), olearia.

waterbuffalofarmer

  • Joined Apr 2014
  • Mid Wales
  • Owner of 61 Mediterranean water buffaloes
Re: What will grow best in clay soil?
« Reply #11 on: October 31, 2014, 03:09:01 pm »
https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=305
Here is a page about plants which like clay soil.
Hope this helps
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