Improving Clay Soil

Here in NC, we have heavy clay soil that’s’ not very deep.  Two and a half feet down is rock, so improving soil is a big deal.  Rather than “deep dig” the gardens, we build them up, deepening the soil by raising the surface.  I’ve been doing this for a decade or so and have had pretty good results.

To improve the soil, I do a few things.  First, at the end of harvest, I plow under the residue of crops/plants in the gardens.  Very few people plow these days, but I love plowing.  It makes the whole farm a compost pile.  The plow flips the soil putting the new growth 6-9 inches under the soil, pulling up the composted residue that was turned over the previous winter.  On top of that soil I add 6″ or so of leaves and whatever manure we  have from the cows and chickens and plow that in in January.  Fortunately, a local leaf collector delivers loads of leaves right to our garden.  Whatever is left over, I add to my wife’s herb  garden or the compost pile.

Beginning around “Plow Monday”, I begin plowing the gardens and preparing for the early Spring planting.  Once I begin planting, I begin using the hand tiller instead of the tractor.  I plant rows 42″ apart so there’s plenty of room to walk a tiller between the rows, keeping weeds down all summer.  We use no chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides, so we have to keep the gardens clean.


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