Anyone who has ever broken a pick axe or had to use a digging bar to plant even the smallest plant knows the torture of gardening in clay soils. Whether your clay is a sculptor’s sort of muck or more like rock and sometimes even both, spending your gardening hours chipping, scraping, and banging your way to your dream landscape in clay takes patience and fortitude.
Fortunately, there are secret weapons that can turn your hours of sweaty labor into less of a dreadful return on investment. The first weapon of choice is using the right tool for working in clay so that you aren’t working harder than is really necessary. I won’t go through the myriad of available tools, but I’ll just mention my favorite here, and it is indeed a “digging bar”. This is what mine looks like, but there are a number of types and my neighbors borrow it constantly.
The second weapon is ironic, improving your soil. The old adage “Never put a five-dollar plant in a ten-cent hole.” By adding compost, and other high-quality soil amendments to your clay soil, you help the beneficial organisms in your soil to literally grow MORE good soil. If you continue to do this over time, you will end up with the deepest and dreamiest soil. Here is the name of one of my very favorite soil amendments by Kellogg Garden Products- Soil Building Conditioner, made specifically for helping to break up and add nutrient density to heavy clay soils.
The other, and MUCH more important tool in your arsenal for saving money, time, and labor when landscaping in clay soil is, wait for it….., “RIGHT PLANT, RIGHT PLACE”! Choosing the best possible plant options to thrive in your soil type from the very beginning makes for lazy gardening in the best possible way!
So to that end, Team Fine Foliage presents you with just a handful of extra yummy foliage-based options to consider for your landscape if you suffer from clay soil as we do!
Switchgrass or Panicum v. ‘Shenandoah’ or ‘North Wind’ is a handsome choice for medium-sized grasses in the middle of a border.
Pennisetum ‘Hameln’ or ‘Burgundy Bunny’ are long-time favorites of ours!
‘Little Blue Stem’ is a favorite yet little-known option for many parts of the country.