For those of us with clay soils, it can be disheartening. It’s a common thought that “nothing will grow” in them, however clay soils are usually quite rich in nutrients and can sustain pretty good plant growth. It really comes down to making the right planting choices, having good gardening tools, and managing your soil correctly.

Firstly, it’s vital to know that soils should only be prepared when the soil is just damp, and not wet. If it is wet the movement destroys the structure of the soil leaving horrible lumps of mud. When dry these become hard and unworkable. Likewise, a clay soil should not be worked when very dry, for this also destroys the soil structure, turning it into a dust bowl.

Once a clay soil has been broken up at the correct dampness, and not compacted by machinery, it will remain in a condition conducive to good plant growth.

Applying gypsum to the soil will not only improve the soil structure, but also allow air and water movement within the soil profile. Gypsum works by binding the tiny clay particles together to form larger particles. However, gypsum is not stable in the soil, leaching down through the soil, requiring further applications every 4 or 5 years, depending upon rainfall and watering. Searles make an excellent quality Natural Gypsum Clay Breaker.

Add lots of organic matter and compost to your soil! Soil microbes such as bacteria and fungi will improve the soil structure by changing organic matter into humus.

Austraflora’s top 5 native choices for clay:

Article written with the assistance of Australian Plants Society