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Allotment newbie, any clay-related advice?!

Hi everyone,

I have just taken over an allotment that seems as though it has been neglected for a while, there are thistles and weeds and grass everywhere. I am a newbie so apologies for any inaccuracies in this post!

I started tackling it yesterday and removed some weeds. The soil is very much clay with some small stones in, and there are a few raised beds with some John-Innes-type fine soil which have strawberry plants and rhubarb in.

Does anyone have any tips for how to make the clay soil better? I have access to lots of perlite if that might help drainage? Or will I need something bigger like stones as perlite might be difficult to mix with the clay?

I plan on putting some more raised beds in, and also have a cold frame that I intend to grow cabbages/pak choi in to keep out the slugs.

I also have a few leftover bags of topsoil, will this be suitable?

I haven't tested the pH yet but will do very soon.

Other than this, I plan on growing broccoli, french beans, babycorn and tomatoes.

Any suggestions welcome, thanks very much image


  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 71,758

    Hi Loz and welcome image

    Dig the weeds out (roots and all) and then incorporate as much well-rotted farmyard manure/garden compost/ spent mushroom compost as you can get your hands on.  

    Clay can be the most productive of soils if you keep adding organic matter such as manure and compost over the years.  No need to add perlite or gravel.  

    I'd save the topsoil for the raised beds (mixed 50:50 with well rotted farmyard manure).

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • from someone who has clay soil I can tell you  you will have to dig a lot of compost peat  or similar to make it work ,if it has been worked over the years it might not be to bad but you will need to dig and put new compost in and possibly lime it too.image

  • Loz46Loz46 Posts: 103
    Thanks very much guys, very helpful image
  • artjakartjak Posts: 4,167

    Welcome Loz46; when I started my veg beds 13 years ago, we had had to move so much earth to build my studio, that the area for the veg bed was not even top soil, it was very sticky clay. I created raised beds (about 15cm high), by buying in some compost, some sharp sand, collecting some free horse manure and gently mixing them. Over the years, a lot of homemade compost plus more horse manure has made them very fertile. But actually, even with only 2 or 3 cm dug into the first few cm of heavy clay in the first few years, the beds produced good veg. I grow carrots in v. large plastic pots; it's easier.

    Good luck with itimage

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