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A Pro Tip For Growing Plants In Clay Soil

A Pro Tip For Growing Plants In Clay Soil

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We’re well into gardening season, but it’s never too late to learn something new that can improve your harvest and flower beauty when planting in your native soil.

Jessica McCollum, a Master gardener from Indiana, shares a simple trick that works for clay soils.

Source: TikTok

If you need to till or aerate your garden, avoid doing this when the soil is too wet, warns McCollum.

Working wet, fine-textured soils like clay soil makes them susceptible to soil structure damage and compaction, adds Jessica.

Planting in clay soils is hard as it is without adding this issue. In fact, clay and sandy substrates are the most difficult to work with, so it’s natural that we want to make this chore as simple as possible.

Clay soil is heavy and dense, and if it compacts, the plants’ roots cannot get enough oxygen to thrive, which may lead to root rot. Also, this medium doesn’t drain well, so your plants’ roots will remain in water for a long time, increasing the risk of rotting.

Luckily, there’s a simple solution which can prevent this. Jessica advises checking the soil first before aerating or tilling. 

Dig down about six inches, take a sample of soil, and form it into a ball. If it easily crumbles or falls apart when you press it with your thumb, then it’s safe to work.

Source: TikTok

She goes on to say that if the soil ball keeps its shape and all you manage is to indent it a bit, you need to let it dry more before working it.

In the comments, the video creator mentions how compost and topsoil can improve soil texture, although plants can do that over time, too. 

Additionally, you might want to add bark, manure, and leaf mold to the substrate as they can feed the beneficial microbes. In return, the microorganisms will improve soil drainage and fertility. (1)


Working/aerating/tilling wet soil, especially clay soil, can cause compaction and damage to soil structure. Here’s a simple test to determine if your soil is dry enough. #claysoil #gardentok #gardentipsforyou #soiltest #gardensoil

♬ Moonlight – Villano

I wish I saw this video right before I watered my clay soil thinking it would make it easier 🥲, says one viewer.

This is what most of us thought in our beginner days, but luckily, this myth has been broken once and for all.


1. Like Diamonds, Clay Soils Are Forever (n.d.). OSU Extension Service.