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Help please - Cannot cope with heavy clay soil



  • Nanny BeachNanny Beach Posts: 8,669

    We would love some pics of your garden.

  • RedwingRedwing Posts: 1,458

    I too, would really like to see some pictures of your garden....all six acres.

    Based in Sussex, I garden to encourage as many birds to my garden as possible.
  • TopbirdTopbird Posts: 8,238

    Hi Barbsl

    I'm in mid-Suffolk and share your pain of managing our heavy soil - I dig up huge lumps of yellow and grey clay in parts of my garden (usually stuck round a large flint or two!) and, as you say, the lack of rain for months means that some areas has set like concrete & is impossible to dig.

    I agree with others that the way to go would seem to be to get rid of your old beds and have specimen trees and shrubs in grass (with or without wild flowers and bulbs underneath) and to have a couple of strategically placed raised beds built to grow a colourful array of perennials. I quite like the idea of a gravel / alpine garden (think Beth Chatto's dry garden) as well.

    One note of caution regarding using raised beds is that they tend to dry out much quicker than regular level soil - especially if you raise them quite high (which you might have to do to stop the clay mixing into the raised bed). We live in an area of very low rainfall (it's low even in 'normal' years) so you might want to consider some sort of irrigation system to spare you hours of watering. (It's tedious and it wears you down after a while.)

    A permanent soaker hose snaking through each bed can be plugged into a hosepipe when the bed needs watering or (if you have suitably placed taps) you can have a fully automated watering system.

    I hope you feel a little better for talking to people who understand your problem and you can find a solution. You know the problem isn't going away so it makes a lot of sense to sort it out nowimage

    Heaven is ... sitting in the garden with a G&T and a cat while watching the sun go down
  • BarbslBarbsl Posts: 11


  • BarbslBarbsl Posts: 11

    Here are a few pics, bottom one is old, when the reeds were starting to grow. The top one, you can see the weeds.  Third one up is the meadow later in year. 

  • Nanny BeachNanny Beach Posts: 8,669

    SEVEN acres redwing!  well barbs it is truely gorgeous!  I especially love that you managed to get a rainbow, how clever of you, that was a lovelly touch.  I have a friend who lives in Suffolk near the American Airforce bases who moans she is on sandy soil which drains away too quickly.  How long have you been there, did you ever have animals?  I mean the farm type.not your average cat or dog.

  • BarbslBarbsl Posts: 11


    and a few more, you can see field beyond. It is all flat sadly. We just wanted a country cottage that needed doing up, with a biggish garden. This was the only one we could afford (it had been empty for 2 years) and came with 7 acres !!

  • BarbslBarbsl Posts: 11

    My son must take credit for the rainbow one, just luck. Others were taken this evening. You can see the ruins of old barns that OH is clearing away. There were quite a few when we came, we have had lots of old concrete removed. There wasn't one decent barn, all falling down!

  • BarbslBarbsl Posts: 11

    Thanks Topbird

    It is good to know others have same problem. People say they have clay soil, but ours is so bad. I know it has a lot of nutrients. We find things take ages to start growing well too. The roots have to force their way down through that sticky waterlogged soil. We do best planting very small saplings, they get away faster in the end than bigger trees.

    I know Beth Chattos well, used to live near there about 30 years ago, and used her nursery before she was famous. I have several of her books including the Gravel Garden. I am thinking of trying that on part of our uneven old concrete, with holes broken in it.

    Nanny beach, thankyou. Wish we had just a little pocket of sand here. No we don't have other animals - too much of a tie. Just 6 cats and a peacock.

  • BuzzbeaBuzzbea Posts: 5

    I agree with Onopordum.  Mulch your beds with compost.  That will cut down on the weeding and improve the soil quality.

    I started a flower bed in a clay and rock lawn 20 years ago.  The soil  was bad and digging was very difficult.  I needed a pick ax. Fortunately I was younger and stronger.  I mulched regularly with compost and shredded bark.  After 20 years, my flower bed is fertile and friable.  Now that I can hardly lift a shovel, I can dig a hole with a little hand spade.  

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