The Best Way to Soften Clay Soil in a Few Hours

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Things You'll Need

  • Spade or tiller

  • Organic matter

Clay soil can ruin any garden.

Maintaining a garden can be difficult under the best of circumstances, but is even harder when your soil is stiff, clumpy and uncooperative. These are the conditions that many gardeners and farmers face in areas with clay soil. The clay soil is thick and clumpy, limiting water and airflow and stunting root growth. If you need a quick fix to soften your soil, adding organic materials will help to improve airflow and water drainage, softening the soil and improving your gardening.


Step 1

Consult with an expert at a garden center or nursery regarding the type of organic material to use for your clay. Organic materials can include compost, manure and other natural decomposing material. Combining these types of materials with your clay soil will allow for better air and water flow, softening the soil.


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Step 2

Dig up or till the top eight to 10 inches of your soil. Break apart any clumps in the clay soil. Most plants extend their roots only up to 10 inches deep, and so breaking up only this much soil will allow for softer clay and save time.

Step 3

Spread a layer of organic material 2 inches deep onto the newly-tilled soil and work it in; continue to break up any clods of clay you find. Use 25 percent to 50 percent of the amount of the clay soil you are tilling; if you till a 25 square foot area, use 6.25 square feet to 12.5 square feet of organic material.


Step 4

Spread a second 2 inch layer onto the soil and work it in completely, breaking up any other clumps of clay. If necessary for your area, add another 2 inch layer. Mix thoroughly until all of your organic material has been added to the clay.

Step 5

Dampen the clay soil with water to help the nutrients from the new materials spread; do not soak the clay, as you will be unable to plant or work with the soil if it is too wet.


If you fear that you have excessively acidic or basic soil, perform a soil test before you begin to till. If you need to add lime, fertilizer or other material, do so with your second layer of organic material. Consult an expert at a local garden center or nursery if you have any questions regarding soil tests or amendment materials.


Do not work with your clay soil if it is wet. Wet clay soil is sticky and will make a mess; wet clay is also more likely to compact, and could create a worse problem than the one you started with.



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