Crops that grow well in clay soil

Updated November 21, 2016

Clay soils, which are heavier than other type soils, retain water very well, sometimes too well for some garden plants. Some crops thrive and grow well even in heavy clay soils, while others will not do well at all. Learn which crops to plant in clay-rich soil types, and have a successful vegetable garden even in moist, heavy soil conditions.


Potatoes have a large, strong root system that pushes through even heavy, moisture-rich clay soils. Plant potato crops in rows, 70 to 85 cm (28 to 34 inches) apart, in shallow trenches about 10 cm (4 inches) deep. After placing the potatoes, cover them in soil mounds 2.5 to 5 cm (1 to 2 inches) high. Potatoes prefer well-drained soil, which clay is not, so add a 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick layer of compost to the soil after planting the potatoes. Implementing an irrigation system is a good solution for reducing water content in potato crop soil.


Peas are a common, vinelike garden crop, which grow in clay soil. Peas will not grow in temperatures above 29.4 degrees C (85 degrees F), so plant peas in early spring. The plants grow for about 60 days before maturing. Plant peas in rows 30 to 45 cm (12 to 18 inches) wide along fences, or give them stakes or a trellis to provide support. Peas grow in many soil types, including heavy clay, although they do prefer well-drained sites.

Leafy vegetables

Leafy vegetable crops, including cabbage and kale, grow in clay soil. Plant leafy vegetables in the late spring or early summer, as clay soil may not warm as quickly as other soil types. When planting cabbage in clay soils, add compost and manure to the planting bed to enrich the soil. Place the cabbage where it receives full sunlight with only light or intermittent shade throughout the day.

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About the Author

K. C. Morgan is a professional freelance writer, with articles and blog posts appearing on dozens of sites. During her years of writing professionally, K. C. has covered a wide range of topics. She has interviewed experts in several fields, including celebrated psychoanalyst Frances Cohen Praver, PhD; television personality and psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig; and entrepreneur Todd Reed.