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How to widen borders which are clay

Anyone got any top tips. I have 1 ft wide boarders and I want to widen them. They already have perennials popping up and bulbs. Do I dig out and replace the clay at the front of the boarder. How do I improve the soil in the existing boarders?? I can't dig more stuff in as it will pick up the soil height and rot my fence. I can't dig out as I have plants in that I put in last year. I improved it when I planted but now its as heavy as ever again!


  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 27,295

    It takes years to alter soil if it can be done at all. Just keep piling on the compost and grit. Keep it away from the fence, that will be easier when the border is more than a foot wide.

    In the sticks near Peterborough
  • It's Also the cost. I spent a fortune on compost last year! I could turn the soil nicely but after overwintering I tried to plant some polyanthus and the soil was sooo heavy and claggy. I ended up digging a hole and replanting my bedding with compost!

    Wondering if I should dig out the front of the border to widen. Then scrape clay soil from back into new hole at front then top up wil new soil/compost. Think that would help??
  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 27,295

    Should help Red. Polyanthus don't mind sticky soil though do they. Don't seem to anyway. Id choose plants that like this sort of soil, something a bit substantial with roots that go well into the soil. Keep improving it as much as you can though. 

    In the sticks near Peterborough
  • Lizzie27Lizzie27 Posts: 11,627

    What's in front of the border at the moment? If it's lawn you can dig this up, pile it up somewhere upside down and cover it so it rots down (6 months or more) and you can then use it as top soil.

    Your borders need to be as deep as possible - 3ft is good and 6ft! is even better. You will probably find your perennials flopping over the front in just 1ft borders.

    As nutcutlet says it's not easy improving clay soil - I know as I've also got it and lots of compost, leaf mould, well-rotted manure and horticultural grit (which has been washed) helps a lot.

    North East Somerset - Clay soil over limestone
  • My borders can't be too deep as hardly have any lawn left. See my other post calked my garden pictures. If only I had room to make compost. It's just hard work turning clay, abs it cracks so badly in summer!!
  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 27,295

    I mulch my clay areas with the product of the shredder. It holds the moisture in summer and avoids some of the cracking. If the soil does crack the shreddings fall down the holes and roots aren't exposed.

    In the sticks near Peterborough
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