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How to turn a thin layer of clay over solid chalk in to a flower bed?

Hi all,

We have moved to a new build property. The garden has around 100mm of heavy clay soil over solid chalk. I have de-turfed a flower bed but even with a pick am struggling to break up the chalk. I am thinking of options including:

1 - Mix in plenty of organic matter to do what I can to improve the clay. Leave the chalk as is.

2 - Use a mini digger or similar (we will have one for other landscaping) to break up the chalk - my concern here is that it will just add a load of lumps of chalk to the soil!

3 - Build up the flower bed with sleepers so I can ensure 100mm or so of decent soil on top of what is already there.

Any thoughts much appreciated! 



  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 47,122
    I'd go for option 3. 
    Much easier in the long run, although you have the expense of filling the beds, but it's then contained where you want it, and you'd have to add tons of organic matter to improve what you have anyway.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • JennyJJennyJ DoncasterPosts: 6,618
    Plenty of organic matter (either dug in or as mulch where it'll get worked in over time), and look for the kind of plants that like chalky soil. All I can think of offhand is pinks/dianthus, but I'm sure someone else will be long with good suggestions.
  • PlantmindedPlantminded WirralPosts: 1,209
    Option 3 with a mix of good quality soil, compost and grit will enable you to grow a more interesting range of plants.  You'll need to treat your raised bed like a container, keeping an eye on watering, feeding and refreshing the top layer with new compost each year.

    If your budget can stretch to oak sleepers rather than the soft wood type, they look better, last longer and don't require any staining or preserving.  Buy them from a reputable dealer where you can check them out first for quality and colour.  Good luck! 
  • We have similar issues as we live on top of a chalk hill. The soil gets thinner the further down the garden we go. We have managed by building up beds with compost and top soil. Beds look better when the are higher than the lawn anyway in my view. But the soil is still only deep enough to take bedding plants and younger shrubs that do not have deep roots yet.

    Recommend starting a compost heap if you don't already have one as you will need to replenish the soil every year and it gets expensive to keep buying it in.

    The issue I have is that I have been given rose bushes with 18" plus root systems. They are in pots at the moment. It would take a lot of soil to build up the beds to take them and it is hard to dig. We have a lot of large pieces of flint as well as chalk. 
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