Clay soil can be challenging in the garden but there are actually some vegetables that can tolerate—or even benefit from—these growing conditions. From broccoli to potatoes, your favourites might just be on the list.
The Heartbreaking (and Shovel-breaking) Challenge of Clay Soil
My first garden was one giant mound of clay. I’m not talking the clay-like soil that many gardeners have, but pure, ready-for-the-pottery-studio, dense, unforgiving, relentless, clay.
The problem was, when you’re starting out as a gardener, it’s very hard to know when the challenges are caused by your own lack of knowledge or the conditions themselves.
I spent the first few years assuming I was the problem rather than the unaccommodating evils of a pit of clay.
I tried everything short of frantic dances to entice the gods of soil quality, but, after splitting a few shovel handles in half just trying to dig holes, it gradually dawned on me that my clay situation was a bit extreme.
My daughter making a pottery tea set from our garden soil was the final tipping point. Doh!
That’s when I finally installed raised beds which I now believe are the answer to just about any garden question. Okay, not really, but they sure provide a great work-around for soil problems.
In hindsight, I hate to think of how many years I wasted trying to change the nature of that soil. And don’t even suggest double-digging! No amount of double-digging, amendments, pleading, begging, or bartering is going to alter tonnes and tonnes of clay. It will always return and win.
If you can actually get a shovel in, you may have some hope. My garden rarely allowed such a luxury.
Today we live on a property that is pure sand. Not sandy, or sand-like, or sand-ish soil. Nope! Beach sand. Without the lakefront view. So sandy, in fact, that after 5 years of gardening here I am yet to find a worm or a stone in any of it.
And so the story continues.
If you have great gardening soil, consider it rare and lucky.
Related: 10 Best Vegetables for Sandy Soils
High Value Veggies by Mel Bartholomew
It doesn’t matter where you garden—in a community plot, in containers, in raised beds, or straw bales, or in a Square Foot Garden—deciding which edibles to plant is perhaps the biggest factor in whether or not your garden succeeds. While success means many things to many gardeners, there’s no getting around the issue of cost versus payback.
Does it make sense to spend $5 and use up three feet of garden space to grow one cabbage when you can buy a beautiful one at the farmer’s market for $2?
The book, High-Value Veggies, evaluates 59 of the most common home garden vegetables to determine which edible crops give you the biggest bang for your buck.
If clay is your struggle, read on to see which veggies you can grow in clay-soil conditions.
10 Best Vegetables for Clay Soils
This list from High-Value Veggies is provided courtesy of Cool Springs Press.
Shallow-rooted vegetables can tolerate—and may even benefit from the stability of—heavy clays.
Other root crops, like daikon radishes and potatoes, help to break up a heavy clay soil.
Heavy clay soils are slow to warm, so planting early spring crops may not be possible.
2 Brussels sprouts
3 Cabbage (red and green)
4 Cabbage (Napa and savoy)
10 Daikon radish
And there you go. If you’re going to plant in clay, pick the veggies that give you a fighting chance.
Got drought conditions? Here’s your best veggie list.
If you’re starting from seed, see Organic Seed Companies in Canada and the United States.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛