This real clay is just a few steps from my back door. This is what the ground in my yard can look like when a kiddie pool stays in one place during a dry period. Seeing this reminded me of something from the summer we moved to this place 14 years ago. As we were sorting the things we had recently unloaded from the moving van, I found the daffodil and tulip bulbs we had brought from the Michigan yard. I took a shovel and the bulbs to a spot where I thought they would look good. But when I stepped my almost 200 lbs on the shovel, it didn’t go into the ground at all.
I realized then that gardening here would not only be different because of the hardiness zone difference. I didn’t have anything that would qualify as soil in the Midwest. But it is the place I have. And I do know from meeting people who remember riding horses in the pasture that was here before this neighborhood was developed that this was never an industrial waste site. Now this is what grows in the yard:
Strawberries, grapes, figs, cabbage, beets are some of what is growing here. The jars are strawberry jam and dried strawberries next to a bag of frozen berries. Strawberries did well this spring. The beet growing above ground as it is makes me think that kohlrabi may have developed as a turnip’s adaptation to heavy clay soil.
In the first years I was here I did a lot of double digging. I got a lot of exercise without visiting a gym and I would add compost to the beds I dug. I got fine results with double digging. But today, I would recommend building raised beds and letting the clay serve as subsoil. Having clay soil does not prevent a person from growing a nice garden. It just takes a bit more effort and determination.