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Improving soil

So there's an area of my garden that used to be overrun with weeds. About 18months ago I pulled all but a couple nice plants & covered with fabric and several inches of bark. Today pulled back a corner of fabric, since I think it's time to plant the area (apart from anything else the way it is now is causing drainage issues, it's on an incline and area below is getting very muddy). When I puimagelled back fabric it became clear that the soil beneath is awful, compact clay, common around Seattle tho I didn't realize this area of the garden was so bad . I'm a bit of a novice. What do I need to mix in - compost? Top soil? Something else? Thanks. Looks like I will have to postpone planting the new things I bought until this is fixed... 

Last edited: 09 April 2017 20:25:27


  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Posts: 11,391

    If you can get hold of well-rotted manure (which will be black, crumbly and have no bad smell), that would be ideal.  Otherwise, add compost and fine grit.  Clay is full of nutrients so makes a good soil once the structure and drainage is improved by the addition of manure, clay and grit.

    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Posts: 11,391

    Sorry Katrina, that should have ended 'manure, compost and grit'!

    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
  • StevedaylillyStevedaylilly Posts: 1,087

    As Bob As said 

    manure and grit is the best thing to do. The manure will give the soil the nutreints it need and encourage worms to go in the soil. Basically, the worms create the drainage to an extent. The grit helps the clay to break down. All in all, drainage is needed to improve the chance of success with most plant, as they require well drained , moist soil except for bog type plants 

  • katrina.okatrina.o Posts: 10

    At my local nursery they advised not to remove fabric/bark mulch but to cut holes in it in which to plant. They don't think the drainage problem could be coming from installation of fabric since water should go through it (tho without plants there, nothing to take up the water I imagine?). Said I should consult a professional. No idea this was going to become so complicated! I should mention I did see quite a number of worms when I pulled back the fabric today. 

    Last edited: 10 April 2017 03:26:25

  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 53,982

    Looks like every garden I've ever had Katrina image

    Loads of organic matter will relaly help - and surprisingly quickly, so don't despair. The area will be more compacted and solid because of the fabric layer too, as the soil isn't being used and broken up the way a garden normally would. Once you get  some good stuff in there, and a  bit of digging done,  it will very quickly become a great medium for planting.  image

    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,569

    Personally , I'd go with coarse grit, not fine, but agree , as much bulky organic matter as you can beg , borrow, or generally lay your hand on.

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