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When to plant in clay soil


I’ve started to clear my garden of weeds the last 2 weekends. During the summer I couldn’t break the clay soil it was too hard. 

I found a huge difference between last weekend when it was a hot day, and this weekend when there was a week of rain before a dry day on Saturday. 
Weeding was so much easier I made a lot of progress. 

I am a new gardener and would like to draw on your experience: 

1) roughly how long will the soil be workable? I live in London and have clay soil. I understand that I cannot walk/dig the soil when it is wet because it destroys the soil structure. 

2) will the soil be workable again in Spring? Does this mean the beginning of March or will it go hard again? 

3) should I work hard to try and plant now (I would like to plant a eucalyptus tree, jasminoides trachelospernum and a wisteria). Or is it ok to try and spend this window to clear weeds, add compost and put cardboard on top. 

4) do I have to try and be ready to plant as much as I can in spring or are you sometimes able to plant during the summer? 

Thank you A x 



  • CeresCeres Posts: 2,691
    With clay soil it is best to plant when the opportunity presents itself rather than sticking to a rigid plan. You just have to be sensible and not in a rush......if the soil squelches, keep off it. As to whether or not you will be able to work in the garden in March, it rather depends on how much rain we get over winter. Sorry if that all sounds a bit vague but I have had to contend with clay soil in the past and found it was best to just go with the flow, so to speak. I found it a very rewarding medium but had to be patient.
    You can plant during the summer. If the ground is rock hard then a good soaking should enable you to dig and plant.
  • Papi JoPapi Jo Posts: 4,213
    @Ceres has answered re your soil and I agree with his advice.
    You say you "[...] would like to plant a eucalyptus tree, jasminoides trachelospernum and a wisteria". You do not say how big your garden is nor how much space is available to your plants. If your garden is on the smaller side I hope you are aware that eucalyptus and wisteria can become huge plants in a few years' time, and get difficult to control. Trachelospermum jasminoïdes is OK, a fairly slow grower at first.

    You are invited to a virtual visit of my garden (in English or in French).
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,844
    These jasmines aren't hardy everywhere, but I expect you'd be ok in London.  :)
    If you want to really benefit your plants, and make life much easier for yourself, it's worth adding lots of well rotted manure and compost and leaving it to work down into the soil over winter, then plant in spring.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Just what I was going to suggest @Fairygirl , feed then leave. Heavy clay, which I have too, is good to grow in but needs added compost and manure to break it up somewhat, especially if the nutrient has been used by weeds. Anytime from February is good for planting, and the wisteria will go in in March,  just make sure it has at least 6 to 12 feet of growing room, which it will fill in a few years.
  • Thanks Ceres and Papi Jo. I think I’ve realised it might be ok to garden after there’s been some rainfall and then a dry day. Every other time I’ve tried weeding it’s the ground has either been claggy and heavy or baked to concrete. 
    I have been thinking of planting choices and was going to do a formal post in garden design. But I guess now is a good as time as any to get good feedback rather than daydreaming. 
  • My garden is 4.5m wide and 24.5m long not including and extensive patio bit. This is a picture of the back of my garden that I’ve been clearing. Apologies it’s a bit dark here now 
  • A railway runs along the back of my garden. That massive fence belongs to the railway. There is a service corridor just in front and then a wire green fence that’s hard to see which is at the end of my garden. 
    My garden is north facing but that back part gets south sun directly 
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,844
    Eucalyptus get massive, so be prepared to do a lot of pruning every year. There's one not far from me which is higher than the house, with a substantial trunk.
    It could make it difficult to plant anything else near it too. 
    Wisteria get big too. Hope the fence is strong.  ;)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...

  • This is the wall fence to the left side - I don’t have a house on this side and the sun seems to run along this and at the end of the day is at the bottom of the garden. 

    I want to plant a multi stem eucalyptus niphophila in the left hand corner at the end because 
    1) I’ve always loved eucalyptus trees 
    2) it will hide that power line thing at the end of my garden. 
    3) it will hide site into the garden from that footbridge over the railway.
    4) RHS website says it grows 4-8m and multistem trees usually don’t grow as big? 
    5) spread is 2-4m but it shouldn’t shade my garden because it will be right at the bottom of my garden which gets very late sun? 
    6) O have no neighbour to my left that it will bother if I plant it in the left corner? 
  • I was thinking of putting a single pergola arch in the right hand corner and planting the wisteria there as it’s the corner with the most sun in the garden. 
    The jasmine is for that back green chain link fence - it will get full sun and us evergreen so will hide the ugly signs and steps in the service corridor.
    is it way too much stuff I’m trying to cram in? 
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