Growing Veggies & Fruits In Clay Soil


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Hi Guys... I am not only new to this forum but also new to gardening. I recently moved into my house built on a land that was filled with some soil which I think is clay. Like most of us, I thought I would grow lots of veggies and fruits in my backyard. The area where I am planning to grow plants was topped up by good soil and has a layer of about one inch. Later, I laid weed mat and added mulch on top of it. All this to prevent weeds.

I started with a citrus (Mandarin) tree... bought a nice 4 ft tall tree, dug a hole, about 15 inch deep, and planted the tree in. A few days later it rained heavily and there was water clogged around that area where this tree was planted. Had also planted few tomatoes in the same area. I knew this is not the right place for growing plants so I removed the citrus tree and planted at a place where the soil is well-drained. This time I dug a wider hole and filled it with a nice mix of mushroom compost and garden soil.

The mandarin tree now (post 2-3 months) looks ok but has lot of yellow leaves. Never seen a flower on it but I see small fruits which never grow beyond a certain size (ping pong ball size). They also have brown patches on them. After talking to a few friends, I started giving the tree some fertilizer which is rich in nitrogen. I am also spraying something which keeps the pests away. I am not sure but the leaves have started looking slightly better now. The tomato plants grew about 6 inches but each of them has bad looking leaves which are yellowish. Each plant would have about 8-10 leaves on them. Have taken them out and planted in a pot. Also, sprayed some aspirin today.

After consulting some people around, everyone told me that my problem is because of the clay soil below.

I have got multiple suggestions to fix this:

1. Dig a good 1 feet to remove all the soil beneath and add good soil. (Not doing this for sure)
2. Just add some more good soil on top of the current soil.. maybe around 4 inches of soil.
3. Add gypsum over the soil and let it sink in for a week.
4. Top up the current soil with a good layer of compost only.
5. Use raised beds (This is a good option but some say it won't help and it will be difficult as the area is quite big)

Today, I added some soil (about an inch) around the Mandarin tree and have placed pea seeds and alyssum seeds. The peas I think will improve the nitrogen and the alyssum should attract good insects. I also see some pill bugs around the Mandarin tree... about 4-5 maybe and don't know if they are a problem.

I plan to plant more veggies and fruits and am looking for the best way to go about it.
 
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Wood chips may work for you. Look over this guy's videos, where he uses woodchip and leaf mulch. His soil is fairly high in clay content, but he has some great success.

 
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Wood chips may work for you. Look over this guy's videos, where he uses woodchip and leaf mulch. His soil is fairly high in clay content, but he has some great success.







I put the cart before the horse in recommending the above video. The below videos better addresses your question on how best to plant in clay soil. The below videos are a collection of videos describing how the farmer tested out leaves and wood chips in creating better soil; it's by the same farmer in the above video. There are about 12 parts to this collection of videos.

 
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You say that the soil is fill. It probably is clay but fill can come from many places. Mostly, clay soil will grow just about anything but it is hard to work and it really needs a lot of organic matter incorporated into it. Yellow leaves usually means lack of nutrients but I wouldn't do a thing without getting a soil test. A good test will cost money in the short haul but will probably save you more money in the long run. Gardening is not an overnight process. It takes time to make a good garden and just doing things willy nilly is not the right way to approach this.
 
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I would take a soil sample and have it tested, to see exactly what you have and get recommendations from the soil lab. That's the only way to find out what to do and do it correctly. Here is an copy of a soil test that will tell you what you need to do to the soil to make it the best soil for plants. I had all the nutrients needed but the pH was locking out nutrients. This soil test showed that the pH was alkaline and needed to be lowered. I lowered the pH by adding peat moss with a ph of 4.8 to the alkaline soil which lowered the grow pH to 6.5 pH which was perfect.
The optimum pH level for citrus trees is between 5.5 and 6.5, but many areas have alkaline soils with a soil pH above 7.0, which can cause nutritional deficiencies that stunt the trees' growth.
 

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