Ok, so I won’t pretend that this one is easy….. Heavy clay soils are backbreaking and even heavier when wet and they can hold water for months, only to make an impenetrable cracked surface when they finally dry out.
The solution will depend on your site and requirements, often a garden on clay soil can have areas which drain better than others – In my garden, I have a spring that bubbles up when the water table is very high, and previously areas of stagnant standing water, yet I also have wonderful free draining organic matter rich borders too.
I have stabilised the area with the poorest drainage by planting a willow dome to drink up some water. Other areas have had lots of compost added and been planted with appropriate plants. An overall site survey done at intervals over the course of a year is ideal to ensure landscaping and planting to best effect.
However you may already have an established garden with a problem area I would recommend the following three pronged attack…..
- Once the soil is weeded, top dress the soil with organic matter and avoid digging and bringing the worst of the clay to the surface. Continue to add mulch annually when the soil is damp but not when its waterlogged or already dried out.
- Within borders, work on boards or planks to avoid compacting the soil, lay hard paths for main routes.
- Use the right plants – Gunnera, astrantia, Primula, Cirsium rivulare Calla, Astilbe, Houtunia, Carex pendula, Caltha palustris, Darmera peltata, Eupatorium, Iris, Ligularia, Rodgersia, Trollius and Zantedeschia, Cornus, Willow etc (some of these plants are very vigorous – choose carefully) Its always worth checking out your neighbours gardens to see what can work.