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Can Pea Gravel Amend Clay Soil?

Updated February 21, 2017

Pea gravel, tiny stones that are 3/8-inch in diameter, is incorporated into clay soil to provide drainage and ease compaction. Pea gravel alone, however, will not benefit plants and flowers because it provides no nutrients or organic matter.

Pea Gravel Benefits

Sticky and dense, clay soil is composed of small mineral particles that stack up against one another. Water and air cannot circulate through densely stacked particles. As a result, clay soils are often saturated and pool water. To facilitate drainage, pea gravel is incorporated into soil to break up the stacks and provide water and air a chance to circulate. Sharp stones also discourage tunnelling vermin from infiltrating the garden.

Pea Gravel Drawbacks

Because clay soil is prone to compaction, working clay soils is not recommended. Problems increase when soil is stepped on and dug up. Unfortunately, to incorporate pea gravel, soil must be dug up and gravel worked into it. This is an acceptable solution to drainage problems in areas such as driveways and open space. It is not recommended for gardens. If you are planting a garden, consider pea gravel alternatives.

Alternatives

Compost is regarded as one of the better clay soil amendments. No-till methods are used to incorporate compost into soil without causing damage. Instead of disturbing soil with a shovel, cover crops are grown and used as green manure. After the crops die, they are gradually incorporated into the soil.

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About the Author

Catherine Duffy's writing can be found on gardening blogs, tech sites and business blogs. Although these topics seem quite different, they have one area in common: systems and design. Duffy makes systems and design (as they pertains to plants, supply chains or software) entertaining and welcoming to general readers.