by Jennifer Poindexter
Are you cursed with clay soil? Do you feel like nothing will ever grow in your yard?
Turn your frown upside down because I’m bringing you great news. There are a few vegetables which seem to prosper in clay soil.
They like to be surrounded by consistent moisture, and clay is wonderful at retaining water. It’s also great for supplying stability to root systems.
Be advised, even if you don’t like the options I’m bringing you, there are other gardening methods. You can always choose to garden in containers or raised beds where you can control the growing elements and bring in soil that’s better for growing a wider variety of vegetables.
For now, we’re going to assume you’d like to work with what you have. With this in mind, here are vegetables which thrive in clay soil.
I know this may sound backwards because don’t most gardening gurus tell you to only grow carrots in loose, well-draining soil that’s tilled up to a foot deep? They do because that’s what I typically tell people.
However, when gardening in clay soil, you still have options. You can choose to grow shorter varieties of carrots. This will allow the carrots to grow, but they don’t need to extend as far down because they’re naturally meant to be short. If you’d like fresh grown carrots, consider growing the proper varieties in your clay soil.
I’m a huge fan of kale. It’s sturdy, sticks with you longer when you eat it, and grows during cooler portions of the year. I love being able to get fresh greens even when fall is upon us. That actually seems to be the time when my body craves such things.
If you have clay soil and would like a useful, sturdy vegetable, don’t overlook growing kale. It will need nutrients, either found naturally in the soil or applied by you, and should be watered deeply. However, the clay soil should help with retaining moisture. Therefore, you may not need to water as much as you would with other soil types.
Lettuce is a fast producing crop which grows best during the cooler portions of the year. You can even grow it inside a cold frame, year-round, depending upon your planting zone.
If you’d like to be able to harvest in approximately one month, consider growing leaf lettuce in your clay soil. Lettuce needs consistent moisture to deter it from developing a bitter flavor, making it a great choice for clay dirt.
Broccoli is one of my favorite vegetables. It tastes delicious roasted, steamed, or covered in butter and cheese. However you like to enjoy broccoli, you’ll be glad to know it grows well in clay soil.
This crop needs to have consistently damp soil for it to grow as intended. It also likes to grow in full sun. If you have an area that receives the right amount of light, broccoli could be a great choice for gardening in clay soil.
I love growing chard. The reason being is because it offers so much variety. Some types of chard are green. Yet, other types of chard come in a rainbow of colors. This is important because the more colors you eat, the more nutrients you take in.
As with lettuce, chard is a shallow-rooted plant that enjoys consistent moisture. It also needs full sunlight which equates to approximately six hours per day. Though chard likes moisture, it’s important that your clay soil still drains adequately. It can lead to rot if the vegetable is left in standing water.
6. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts look and taste, in my opinion, like tiny cabbages. As with all the other vegetables on this list, it’s important that Brussels sprouts are grown where moisture is consistent.
If not, it can mess with the flavor profile of the crop. Brussels sprouts also need full sunlight to grow properly and should be grown in planting zones three through ten. If you live in these areas, have clay soil, and can provide the right growing conditions, consider growing Brussels sprouts.
Cabbage comes in many varieties and is versatile. You can ferment it, cook it, or enjoy it raw in coleslaw. If you’d like to grow a flexible crop in your clay soil, don’t overlook cabbage. Green, red, savoy, and napa cabbage all grow well in clay soil.
It’s important you plant cabbage where it will receive six hours of sunlight, plenty of moisture, and in well-draining soil. You should also plant cabbage before the temperatures remain consistently above 80-degrees Fahrenheit as this will cause the crop to bolt. However, if you live in zones one through nine, cabbage could be a great fit for your garden.
If you’ve ever grown summer squash, you know nothing short of an apocalyptic event (or pests) will stop these plants from producing. You only need to plant one or two squash plants to have an abundant harvest.
Therefore, growing squash in clay soil is no problem. They like consistent moisture and plenty of sunlight. However, summer squash can’t handle frost. Be sure to plant them after all threat of frost is over. You must also be on the lookout for fungal issues. By staying ahead of pests, diseases, and cool temperatures, your summer squash plants should do well under your care.
Pumpkins are a little more complicated to grow. They prefer to be directly sown into their growing location. The area must receive plenty of sunlight, have lots of room for the plants to stretch their vines, and the soil must be moist but drain properly.
These vegetables can’t be left sitting in consistent moisture. Therefore, ensure your clay soil drains well. If it does, pumpkins might be a good choice for such a location. You can always place a piece of cardboard beneath your pumpkin to keep it off the damp soil. This could help avoid rotting issues.
I live in planting zone seven. Unfortunately, this means my soil is nothing but clay. However, I’ve had great experiences growing potatoes in my conditions. Much of my gardening is done in raised beds, containers, or in areas where I’ve amended the soil. With potatoes, we plant too many to amend such large areas quickly. Therefore, we’ve had to grow our potatoes in the growing conditions we’ve had.
As long as the soil drains adequately and the potatoes are planted in full sun, they should grow well. You may not receive as large of a harvest because the potatoes may have a difficult time expanding in comparison to looser soil. Yet, they can still thrive in clay soil.
Radishes are a fast growing crop that can be ready for harvest in as little as a month. They do need nutrient-dense soil that drains well. However, they can grow well in clay soil depending upon the variety.
Daikon radishes tend to grow skinnier and longer. This doesn’t require quite as much room to expand as radishes which grow larger around. Pick your variety carefully, but if done correctly, radishes could be a great fit for clay soil.
Cauliflower is a particular vegetable to grow and not one recommended for beginners. You should grow this crop when temperatures are around 70-degrees Fahrenheit.
If these temperatures are exceeded, as the plant produces, it could damage your harvest. Therefore, be sure to provide plenty of sunlight, the right temperatures, and damp soil that drains adequately.
Peas are another crop which do best when grown in cooler temperatures. As the temperatures become consistently warmer, the plant will dry out and cease to form pods. Be sure to plant your peas right as the ground becomes workable. This could be winter or spring, depending upon your planting zone.
You must also provide consistent moisture which is why clay soil is a good fit for this vegetable. By providing the necessities, peas should grow well in your garden.
The last vegetable on our list, which grows well in clay soil, is beans. I’ve grown beans in clay soil for years, and they always thrive. The reason being is beans are shallow-rooted crops. Plus, they love moisture, as long as it drains away from them in a timely manner.
Be sure to plant your beans in full sun and in mounds, if using clay soil. This will force the water to drain downhill and away from your plants to deter disease. Beans should thrive in clay soil because it holds the moisture they desire.
This concludes our list of vegetables which grow best in clay soil. Though most people don’t discuss growing in clay soil, it’s still a functional way to garden.
Again, if you’d like to incorporate more vegetables in your garden, you might be better off going with raised beds or container gardening.
Yet, if you’d like to stick with the clay soil you have, pick a few vegetables from above, provide the appropriate growing conditions, and try your hand at raising a garden using clay soil.