ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Grow a Garden in a Red Clay Yard

Updated on April 23, 2013

Advice for the Novice (like me!)

When we moved into our current house, I didnt know how I would get anything to grow. I knew that our house was built on top of good old southern red clay. The landscaper had laid sod on top of the red clay, so we had a nice lawn. But that didnt go very deep at all. It was just a layer sitting on top of some of the hardest, most inhospitable type of earth (for my favorite plantings, anyway). Yet, as I drove through the neighborhood and saw that my neighbors had gorgeous azaleas, palmetto trees, and other lush plants, I knew there had to be a way. Below, you will read the basics of what I learned.

(Photo mine.) The picture is an azalea that I managed to grow in my clay yard!

Find plants that like red clay (Suggestion 1)

The first, most obvious solution to your problem is to find plants that thrive in red clay (yes, there are some). Hostas and daylilies are two of my favorite options. Hostas like shade, or at least some shade. I have several that have done very well in my yard.

This Better Homes & Gardens link will provide you with a nice list from which to choose. What if you want to plant something else? Keep reading!

Raindrops on rose leaves.  Photo mine.
Raindrops on rose leaves. Photo mine.

Soil Replacement (Suggestion 2)

Maybe asters, hostas, and daylilies aren't on your list. The things you want to plant will only accept rich, black soil. What do you do?

1. Dig a hole. Your hole needs to be big enough to accommodate the full-grown root system of your plant, plus about another 6 inches. This is true of depth and width.

2. Line your hole all the way around with peat moss mixed with a little water. I don't like to add so much water that the peat is runny, but I have seen expert gardeners use some very watery peat! Matter of personal preference, I suppose. My mother, who is a very experienced gardener, keeps the hose trickling water into the hole at every stage throughout.

3. Start to fill your hole with good quailty black soil. You can purchase bagged soil from your local home and garden store, or special order it. I have used expensive Miracle Gro formulas and have also used the cheap-as-dirt bags of no-name dirt. I have had good results with both, so the brand of soil is up to you.

4. Transplant your plant from the container to the hole. If you are working with seeds, then fill the hole with soil completely, then plant your seeds according to the directions.

5. Pack the dirt firmly but not completely hard. Fill in with soil as necessary.

6. Water, water, water! Once you get something planted or transplanted, it will need a lot of water. If you have been watering throughout, as I mentioned in number 2, then your plant will probably be okay. If not, you need to leave a hose or sprinkler running on it for an hour or so. The plant or seed needs to be watered generously every day for a couple of weeks, at least. Take care to read any instructions that come with your seeds or plants, though, as there may be special exceptions to the rule (more water or less water, etc).

Azalea in my yard. Grown by digging a hole in the clay and filling it with black soil.

Azalea in my yard.  Grown by digging a hole in the clay and filling it with black soil.
Azalea in my yard. Grown by digging a hole in the clay and filling it with black soil.

Going to dig a hole in red clay? - That stuff is hard!

You're going to need good, sharp tools. Spiking a shovel into the ground and hopping on it with my weight was the best way for me to move the stuff. It's easiest when it has been raining and the soil is wet, of course, but either way, you will hit something that feels like rock when you get down a few inches. Find a good shovel and a nice, sharp trowel.

Photo Mine.
Photo Mine.

Raised Bed Garden (Suggestion 3)

If you would rather not deal with digging into all that impossibly hard red clay, you can build a raised bed garden right on top of the ground. This is also called "lasagna gardening." I learned this while working on a project with Junior League of Charleston, Inc. We were charged with building a garden to feed hungry families, but the donated field was hard, red clay. Lasagna gardening to the rescue! It is called "lasagna" because of the layers you put down on top of the earth. No tilling necessary.

1. Build a wall. If you would like to retain your soil and not allow it to wash away, build retaining walls all around the area you wish to garden (with wood, bricks, whatever you choose).

2. Lay down cardboard to avoid weeds coming up from below. Wet the cardboard.

3. Lay down newspaper, and wet the newspaper.

4. Put down a peat moss and water mixture.

5. Compost. Put down your ready-to-go compost, or just some old eggshells, coffee grounds, fruit peels, etc. This is particularly helpful for veggie and fruit gardens.

6. Soil on top of that. Again, it's a matter of preference whether you use cheap no-name black dirt that costs $1-2 per bag, or whether you use the more expensive Miracle Gro soils. I have used both and have no preference.

7. Plant your seeds as directed by the package.

8. Water, water, and more water!

Build your raised bed garden

My husband actually built ours with some wooden boards. I didn't know these kits existed! But if I could have used one of these kits, I would definitely have sprung for one. I'm betting the resin panels are even better at retaining your soil and water than the boards we have.

"Suncast RBD939 48"" by 48"" by 18"" 6 Panel Tiered Resin Raised Garden Kit"
"Suncast RBD939 48"" by 48"" by 18"" 6 Panel Tiered Resin Raised Garden Kit"

I love the two level effect of this one. A multi-level flowerbed can be so attractive.

 

Soil types

What kind of soil do you have at your house?

See results

I'm a southern author.

Do you like short stories? Please try my collection. There's something for every mood. Social injustice, murder by apple pie, and a scorned woman seeking revenge with a bottle of mustard. Paperback, Kindle, or Nook. Below, you will find the link to the paperback and Kindle versions.

Did you find a good idea for planting in red clay?

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 

      5 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Great suggestions! Our problem is rock - dig a hole and you're bound to get to rock by the second shovel-ful. It's a challenge, but amazing to realize how roots wind their way around those pesky rocks and things grow anyway!

    • profile image

      WinWriter 

      5 years ago

      Red clay is an issue here in TX as well. You have beautiful pictures here. The azaleas remind me of my mom (who used to grow them for years) and the picture was a wonderful reminder of her beautiful garden when I was a child.

    • mrdata profile image

      mrdata 

      5 years ago

      Lovely lens! Thanks!

    • Cynthia Haltom profile image

      Cynthia Haltom 

      5 years ago from Diamondhead

      Very nice lens. I love your azaleas, we have about 40 bushes at my house.

    • TopReviews2u profile image

      TopReviews2u 

      5 years ago

      Congratulations in being mentioned in the Squidoo Gardening Club Quest lens where I found your lens. Great soil replacement tips and raised bed garden suggestions.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)