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Moosa Creek Blog

Plants for Clay Soil

Creekside Chat


If your soil cracks when dry, or gives your ‘mud shoes’ if walked on right after a rain, then you probably have adobe clay soil. Usually weeds with deep tap roots thrive in clay as nature tries to break up the clods, deliver organic matter into the ground and mine nutrients to be deposited on the soil surface via dying leaves. Fortunately there are many native plants that can handle clay soil while shading out the weeds, and improve the heavy soil as well.

 An unusual, attractive groundcover is Beach Strawberry, ‘Lipstick’. This lovely little strawberry has vibrant pink flowers and tasty berries. It spreads through stolens just like regular strawberries and also by roots, so spacing them a foot apart will give you a solid mat of plants.

Berts Bluff Fuchsia is surprisingly tough for a sprawling, delicate-looking; it survives on hot embankments and in dry clay soils. When it blooms, the tubular red flowers are magnets for hummingbirds and other pollinators.

For a grassy, upright form in the garden try Basket Rush, which provided materials to native Americans for weaving baskets.  This can grow tall – up to 6’- and spread underground, so use it in the background, as a boundry plant, and for soil reparation.

Most buckwheats such as Ashy Leaf Buckwheat will tolerate clay, sand, heat, drought…almost anything except wet soil. Their small umbels of pinkish white flowers are very important food sources for many insects, especially the tiny important pollinators and predators.

Adorning the sides of roads in the spring are the blue stalks of lupine. Lupine send their long tap root down into hard soils and not only breaks them up, but sets nitrogen nodules underground as well. Releasing nitrogen into the soil helps other plants grow.

There are many more clay tolerant plants. On the Moosa Creek website, on the left sidebar open up the menu for Soil Characteristics and click on ‘clay’, or whatever your soil type might be, then choose search. There are native plants for every garden soil.

Finch Frolic Garden Permaculture is operated by Diane and Miranda Kennedy, www.vegetariat.com.

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