How to Soften Clay Soil

Written by kategierok
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How to Soften Clay Soil
A variety of organic materials can help soften clay soils. (tyre tracks in dirt image by Andrew Breeden from

Clay soil is composed of tiny, tense, closely spaced particles that limit good drainage. During spring months clay soil is typically slippery, while in summer months clay soil dries to a nearly rock-hard texture. To change the texture of clay soil, add sand and loam particles.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Soil test
  • Organic matter
  • Shovel or spade
  • Rototiller

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  1. 1

    Purchase a soil testing kit from a local nursery or garden supply store, and test the soil to determine if it needs to be softened. A soil test will indicate what percentage of the soil is clay, recommend appropriate changes, provide a schedule for amending the soil and explain the proper amounts of amendments to add.

  2. 2

    Purchase the appropriate type of soil amendment. To improve soil quality, add organic material such as compost, peat moss or even manure. Kitchen scraps, straw, hay or cotton husks can be added as well. Gypsum will improve the quality of clay soil and help raise the pH.

  3. 3

    Till the soil to a depth of 8 inches by hand or with a rototiller. Spread soil amendments over the soil as recommended by the soil test. Typically, soil with less than 3 per cent of its composition coming from organic matter should receive organic matter at a rate of 3 cubic yards per 1,000 sq. ft.

  4. 4

    Combine the clay soil and amendments by hand or with a rototiller.

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