Cathy James wrote:I don't think direct seeding in heavy clay is a realistic option. My own experiments in that direction have failed. Even direct seeding lawn grass on unimproved, impacted, dense heavy clay has yielded nothing.
At a minimum, you need to dig, hoe, or rototill the heavy clay once to break up the dense, airless soil, and add a thin layer of fine seedbed soil that is enough to protect the seeds while they are getting started. You will need to irrigate frequently until the new seedlings produce deep roots that can tap the clay underneath.
I also suggest choosing plants that, once established, can spread through runners or root multiplication instead of through seed. Runners can draw sustenance from the earlier plants while waiting for their own roots to develop. Seeds cannot.
I am currently doing a small-scale experiment digging up heavy clay and adding rotting wood as a sort of hugelkultur. The only conclusion so far is that, at best, this will be a very slow process.
I'm also digging up a former flower garden, removing weeds, breaking up the clay, and adding some peat moss. Beans are struggling to grow there. At the end of the season I will turn all of the bean material into the soil as a green mulch.
Heavy clay is a real curse when you are trying to get quick results.
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