just discovered my soil type...

(9 Posts)
Whimsicalgardener Sat 20-Jun-15 20:55:48

I started a thread about a week ago about doing some nice basic landscaping in my new build garden....it was just lawn with a pathetic patio.
I have successfully managed to get the grass up for one side. My hands are sore but it's worth it! The garden already looks more interesting.

On inspection though, the ground is solid clay shock

It's so thick I can barely get a spade in. What on earth am I going to do? Just pots? I wanted a shrub border, to include these:

Aucuba, fuscia, honeysuckle, lavender, cordaline and a fruit tree or two. Am I doomed?

Whimsicalgardener Sat 20-Jun-15 20:56:54

Oh and some fatsia .

EauRouge Sun 21-Jun-15 08:25:56

I have very heavy clay too. I feel your pain. First step, get yourself one of these. It will be quicker than digging. Also great for toning up your arms <flexes muscles>. If it's too dry then you can't get a spade in and if it's too wet then you can't get a spade out. So try and do all your digging after there's been a little bit of rain. It's been dry here for weeks and the ground is like concrete.

If you have a garden/kitchen waste recycling scheme near you then you may be able to get the resulting compost cheap/free from your local tip. I can get mine free but I have to shovel it myself. But I go through loads of it and it works out loads cheaper than buying it at the garden centre. Try your local council.

I've got a Fatsia japonica next to my pond. It is MASSIVE and very healthy. Tbh I don't know what the ideal growing conditions for it are, I bought it when I was just starting out gardening, but it seems to be doing just fine.

I've also got honeysuckle and lavender and they're both doing fine.

If you like roses then they love clay. I also made a bog garden and a couple of ponds in the soggiest bit of the garden.

Hope that helps a bit. Clay is hard work but not the end of the world. Lots of plants love it.

EauRouge Sun 21-Jun-15 08:28:25

Oh, and since it's a new build then you're likely to dig up a fair amount of rubble and crap when you do your beds. One of the people at my local gardening club was telling us how he dug up some Anglo-Saxon pottery when he dug his pond. I dug up 2 breeze blocks, half a ton of bricks and loads of that plastic strapping angry The joys of a new build garden.

funnyperson Sun 21-Jun-15 14:47:47

The lavender is better in a pot as it doesnt like clay
Roses love clay- choose some climbers to go up your boundaries and provide vertical interest. Large flowered clematis ( type 2) will go with the roses.

In a small space it is said to be good to keep colours simple so you can choose lots of different plants with different foliage and structure but stick to a simple colour scheme. Pale colours will recede and are restful. Reds oranges and pinks are cheerful

Pears apples and plums are said to grow well on clay, and an espaliered, cordoned or fan trained fruit tree is lovely to have against the wall in even a tiny garden. If one of your walls catches the sun you can even train a fig tree, grown in a container.

Spread a 4 inch layer of compost/manure/bark every autumn and spring and when you plant a plant dig a nice big hole and fill it with compost and your soil will improve quite quickly.

I think it is nice to have something edible so you could make room for a little herb bed or pots with herbs in, cut and come again lettuce, rocket, etc.

Monty did a nice hanging basket with herbs in on gardeners world. Joe Swift planted hostas in his hanging basket: they are good for maximising use of vertical space in tiny gardens

funnyperson Sun 21-Jun-15 14:50:19

One advantage is the space will capture flower scent so do choose a wonderful smelling rose like munstead wood or gertrude jekyll.

I alsp think the sound of water is nice in an enclosed courtyard.

VenusRising Sun 21-Jun-15 14:58:12

Roses love clay.

Get some sand and dig it in when the ground's a bit wet if you want to get it a bit loamy.

I love the sound of water features also. Nice for ferns and shade lovers.

Whimsicalgardener Sun 21-Jun-15 15:14:59

Oh great help! This board is always wonderful!
I will leave the lavender for pots and start looking at roses. I do like them but thought they were tricky to care for?

I also love the fans fruit trees...they look very expert though?

I'm writing down all your tips in my garden notepad smile

shovetheholly Mon 22-Jun-15 08:32:39

I am also on very heavy clay that was very compacted when I started, and I cannot second the advice to buy a mattock warmly enough. Also, get some Claybreaker (gypsum) and apply according to the instructions on the packet!

I also think that it's worth considering the time that you work the soil. If you turn it when it's really dry, you'll give yourself hell and you'll make a lot of nasty grey lumps that will then harden into rock-like balls. In the process, you could end up destroying a lot of the texture and goodness - soil is a living ecosystem, though a compacted soil is perhaps less alive than a nice rich friable one.

Instead of digging, then, I would cover the soil with a thick mulch of compost and manure and horticultural grit right now (I find that for me, grit works better than sand as sand can cause my soil to 'set', creating a cement-like, glassy surface that is a nightmare). Do not underestimate how much compost and manure you'll need - you want a nice, thick covering over each bed, not a piddly centimetre or two. And then you just leave over the summer. The dense, dark covering will lock some moisture in the soil, which will really encourage worms and other organisms to do some of the work for you. Then, in the autumn, you can try getting a spade into the soil underneath and see whether you do need to dig. You may find by then that just making a really big hole for each plant and filling it with more compost works fine.

If you do find that the soil still needs work, you can get that mattock out and get going. This would be the case if you had buried rubble, rubbish, treeroots etc that needed removing to give your plants the best chance.

I do realise this is rather boring advice. You're probably desperate to get some life, colour and plants into the garden and it does mean delaying the planting of things like trees and large shrubs for a bit, until the weather is cooler. On the upside, it'll save you a watering nightmare over the summer and a lot of work!

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