Suitable Crops for Clay Soil, Clay Soil Properties

Introduction: Hello farmers today we are back with a great details on suitable crops for clay soil, trees suitable for clay soil, clay soils properties and characterstics. Clay soils are mainly considered to be one of the heavier soils. The Clay soil can hold a ton of nutrients and a lot of water due to its capillaries in between the clay particles, and it takes a little bit longer to drain. Out of all the soils, the clay soil has the smallest particles.

A step by step guide to suitable crops for Clay soil

Clay is the smallest particles amongst the other two kinds of soil. The particles in this Clay soil are tightly packed together with each other with very little or no airspace. This soil has good water storage qualities and making hard for moisture and air to penetrate into it. It is sticky to the touch when wet, but smooth when dried. if you are planning for commercial crop cultivation, you must know the suitable crops for clay soil.

Clay is the densest and heaviest type of soil that does not drain well or provides space for plant roots to flourish. Identifying clay soil is relatively easy to do. It is sticky when wet, it can be rolled, it can be smeared simple and it can be smoothed into a shinier finish. Clay soil has a propensity to obtain very hard when it dries, though, which causes the clay to crack while it is drying out. What are we waiting for? Let’s get into the details of crops suitable for clay soil.

Some information about Clay soil

  • Clay soil is a heavy soil type that advantages from high nutrients. Clay soils remain wet and cold in winter and dry out in the summer season. These soils are made of over 25 percent clay, and because of the spaces found between clay particles, these soils hold a high amount of water. Because these soils drain very slowly and take longer to warm up in summer, combined with drying out and cracking in summer, they can often test gardeners.
  • Clay soils will settle into layers of fine sediment that feel like gloppy mud, and the water will take few hours to clear. The clayey soil mainly consists of very fine particles of clay. Its water holding capacity is very high. Wet clay soil is sticky. It contains little air. The size of soil particles in clay size is less than 0.2mm and clayey soil is rich in organic matter.
  • Clay soils can have great potential when worked correctly and planted to appropriate crops. Montmorillonite-smectite expands and contracts the most, while kaolinite is the hard and dead clay. Various combinations of these give different qualities to the soil. Montmorillonite is the best as it mainly contributes to movement to the soil, which is almost like self-cultivation. A hard clod will become soft and crumbly after wetting and drying. It forgives bad cultivation practices but is hard to work with, as all clays are. Some of the particles in clay are smaller than several bacteria. Montmorillonite could contain up to 60 different minerals.
  • The biggest problem with clay soil is that it gets waterlogged and this can slow the growth of plants and even cause the roots to rot. Clay soil is heavy to dig and slow to warm up in spring. But these problems are outweighed by the potential clay soil has to be the foundation for a wide range of plants.

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How to improve your Clay soil

All clay soils can be improved over time. But the most important problem to tackle is bad drainage, particularly when it is causing standing water. Dig the soil over deeply, incorporating lots of bulky organic matter as you go. Compost, leaf mold, coarse grit, and well-rotted bark chips are excellent options. But be wary of putting in too much bark or wood chippings and the bacteria needed to break down this amount of wood will deplete the soil of some nitrogen.

Many sources recommend digging in sharp sand but this is not efficient. You would want a huge volume of sand and even then the results are very variable. Organic matter is the far better choice. You should dig in the organic matter if you are starting a new bed or tackling a new plot. It is hard work but it will create a dramatic difference to the quality of your soil. You can improve clay soil in sections too and no need to turn over the entire plot at once.

Using cover crops to improve Clay soil

Clay soil is problematic for gardeners since it is heavy and doesn’t allow water to drain through simply. Many common garden crops and ornamentals need well-draining soil for best growth. Clay soil has benefits as well as disadvantages. Unlike sandy soil, it holds water and nutrients come it’s way, but it is heavily goopy when wet and hard as bricks when dry.

Lime for Clay soils

Some clay soils respond to the addition of a liming agent like calcium. This can cause the clay particles to form clumps, improving the soil structure and drainage. This tends to work best on acidic soils and if you don’t know your soil pH, test with a cheap kit from a garden center.

Add lime to acidic soils as per the packet instructions and for other soils, you can also try adding gypsum. This can help the clay structure without affecting the acidity. Test both of these methods on a small area first to make sure it works on the type of clay soil.

Cover crop plants for Clay soil

Organic matter will make clay soil easier to work and better for plants. You can work in 6 inches of raw materials, like chopped leaves or fresh manure, in autumn and allow the soil microbes to break the material into humus plants need. Another choice, and perhaps an easier one if you have time and patience, is fixing clay soil with cover crops. You will have to plan ahead since you want to plant these in the garden well before you plant your veggies or flowers. Depending on the cover crop plants you choose, you can till these under before they go to seed. Their bulk will loosen the clay soil and add extra nitrogen to boost the garden crops later.

Properties and suitable crops for clay soil


Clay is made up of minuscule particles that could form a hard, concrete-like consistency when dry, and a sticky mixture when wet. In general, clay soil is composed of sand, clay and silt particles. If soil is comprised of more than 40 percent clay, it can be classified as clay soil. You can assess the clay content in soil with a simple test. Take a small amount of soil in hand and mix with some water to form a dough-like consistency. Press the dough in your palms and try to flatten it and crumbly soil with more sand and silt with fall apart easily. Clay soil, on the other hand, can be stretched almost to the length of the palm and the more the dough stretches, the higher the clay content in the soil.

Nutrient retention

Clay is composed of different particles that have a negative charge on them. This enables the clay soil to attract and hold on to mineral nutrients that are positive in charge. Some of the nutrients like magnesium, potassium, and calcium are vital to the growth of healthy plants. Good nutrient retention is one of the positive qualities of this soil.

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Water retention

Because of the composition of clay soil, and it holds together very well to form a compact mass. Water retention is quite high and can result in problems like water-logging and root infections for plants. The roots of plants could also find it difficult to travel through the soil because of the rigid structure.

Difficult to cultivate

Clay soil can be more difficult to dig a spade or shovel into because of the hard structure of dry soil. Cultivating wet clay soil will compound the problem because it will form tough little clumps that can be hard to take apart.

Low tilth

Tilth mainly refers to the ease with which a soil can be tilled. In addition, the soil should retain the required amount of water, provide good aeration and promote nutrient absorption. Because of the hardness and compact structure of clay soils, tilth is normally poor. However, with the addition of organic matter such as compost and manure, soil structure and tilth can be improved.

Best plants for clay soil

There are several plants that will grow on clay soil. It is good for crops like paddy, which require a lot of water. Clay soil is used for making toys, pots, and many other purposes.

Heavy clay soils are slow to warm, so planting early spring crops could not be possible. Heavy clay soils are suitable for crops like Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage (red and green), Cabbage (Napa and savoy), Cauliflower, Kale, Bean, Pea, Potato and Daikon radish.

Best Vegetables for Clay Soil can be given below;

One of the best approaches to grow vegetable plants in clay soil is to stick with veggies that like clay during the first few seasons of soil improvement. Lettuce, chard, snap beans and other crops with shallow roots advantage from clay soil’s ability to retain moisture. And broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage grow better in clay soil than looser loams because their roots enjoy firm anchorage. Mid and late season sweet corn is a good choice, too, but some of the best vegetables to grow in clay are squash and pumpkins. As long as they are grown in planting holes that have been enriched with compost, summer squash and small pumpkins seem to do well no matter where they are grown.

Crops or Trees suitable for clay soil are

Many native British trees are best suited to clay soils, including oak, ash, and elder. Fruit trees like apple and pear will grow well in clay, but soft fruit bushes may struggle.

You can grow for height – Birch, and Eucalyptus

For decoration – Sorbus, Hawthorn, Magnolia, and Amelanchier

Many types of a conifer will grow happily in clay soils. They are Pine, Thuja, Juniper, and Chamaecyparis

Shrubs for clay soil

There is a huge range of shrubs will thrive in clay soil. As a general rule, they cope improved with wet conditions when they are larger and better established. They are Cornus, Viburnum, Mahonia, Berberis, Pyracantha, and Cotoneaster.

Flowering shrubs in clay soil are Weigela, Buddleja, Forsythia, Hydrangea, and Chaenomeles (flowering quince)

Different percentages of Clay soil

There are mainly four types of clay soil that differ in characteristics depending on the amount of clay in the soil. The different percentages of clay soil contain silt soils that have 0 to 10 percent clay, clay soils with 10 to 25 percent clay, clay soils with 25 to 40 percent clay and clay soils about 40 percent clay.

Clay soil particle size

Clay has the smallest particle size of any soil type, with individual particles being small that they can only be viewed by an electron microscope. This allows a large number of clay particles to exist in a relatively small space, without the gaps that would generally be present between larger soil particles. This feature plays a large part in clay’s smooth texture, as the individual particles are too small to create a rough surface in the clay.

Organic content of Clay soil

Clay contains little organic material; you often need to add amendments if you wish to grow plants in clay-heavy soil. Without added organic material, clay-heavy soil typically lacks the nutrients and micronutrients necessary for plant growth and photosynthesis. Mineral-heavy clay soils can be alkaline in nature, resulting in the need for additional amendments to balance the soil’s pH. It is very important to test clay-heavy soil before planting to determine both the soil’s pH and whether it lacks important nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

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Characteristics of Clay soil

Characterstics of Clay Soil.
Characterstics of Clay Soil.
  • Clay soil has a smooth texture because of its small particle size. Compared to other soils, a large quantity of clay can be in a small space as there are no gaps, whereas soil with large particles has way more gaps. If the soil has large particles, this will give it a rougher texture, while the small particles in clay soil give it a smoother texture.
  • Clay soils feel sticky and roll like plasticine when wet. They can hold more total water than most other soil types and, although about half of this is available to plants, crops seldom suffer from drought.
  • The clay soil swells when wetted and shrink when dried, so a certain amount of restructuring can take place in these soils depending on weather conditions. They lie wet in winter and so stock must be taken off the land to avoid poaching (the compaction of soils by animals’ hooves).
  • They are late in warming up in the spring because water heats up more slowly than mineral matter. They are usually fairly rich in potash but are deficient in phosphates.
  • Clay soils usually require large infrequent dressings of lime. Overliming will not cause any troubles that are trace element deficiency.

Identifying Clay soil

There are many tests you can use to identify clay soils. If rubbed between your fingers, a sample of clay soil often feels slick and could stick to your fingers or leave streaks on your skin. Rubbed clay soil often takes on a shiny appearance as well, as opposed to the rough texture you could see with other soils. Clay soils do not crumble well, and a sample of clay can usually be stretched slightly without breaking. When wet, clay soils become slick and sticky; the soil can also allow water to pool briefly before absorption due to the slow permeation. Visually, clay soils seem solid with no clear particles and could have a distinct red or brown color when compared to the surrounding soil.

Advantages of Clay soil

Even clay soil has good qualities. Clay soil, because of its density, retains moisture well. It tends to be more nutrient-rich than other soil types. The reason for this is that the particles that makeup clay soil are negatively charged, which means they attract and hold positively charged particles that are calcium, potassium, and magnesium.

That’s all folks about crops suitable for Clay soil. Don’t forget to leave a comment. Keep growing plants. You may be interested in Making Vermicomost at Home.


  1. Does the crop you suggested works well in Orissa (India) where
    — summer temperature goes to 48 Degree C
    — winter goes to 6/8 Degree C .
    — The rainy season last for good 2 months ..

    Please advise
    1. I was thinking to put Teak at farm boundry and inside was planning to have Banana, Papaya with ginger/turmatic as inter crop .
    2. Also few area for grean vegi like pumpkin, Guards, Cabage, Cucumber, Tamato etc…
    3. one Acer for fish farming . I have total 6 acer of land and i m in the process of finalizing the crop and layout

  2. I have land in Sri Ganganagar District in Sadulshahar tehsil. it has everage Calcium Carbonate is 15 PH of land is 7.5 kindly suggest me What kind of Fruit ttee I can Grow in my land


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