Making Soil From Clay (Miracles Do Happen)

choose the best soil in your garden

The end of winter/ beginning of spring is a telling time in the garden because soil is at it’s most saturated.

How goes your soil?

Water Displaces Air

Here in lies the problem. Where water sits around on top there is no room for air below. Oxygenated soils are where its at – plant health relies on it. Work your way down the chain to those microscopic life forms on which all life hinges – they gotta have O². And we gotta have them.

So first and foremost become a soil life farmer! This one job turns all your troubles around… every single one – poor crops, poor health, pests and even weeds are impacted when soils are alive! Bringing life, brings mineral balance which in turn brings the best of health to all of us – plant, animal + you + me.

broccoli bed

Lets breathe life into your squelchy soils.  

Underwater Wet

If your entire vegie patch is under water at any stage of the year you’ve got a situation you need to remedy. Raised beds aren’t it – the subsoil will still be anaerobic meaning you will never reach vegetable garden nirvana. Either relocate vegetable production to higher ground and call this a beautiful wetland with flaxes and cabbage trees and taro and frogs and ducks, or if its the one and only place you’ve got – divert the water elsewhere.  

Puddles + Squelchy Wet


Join in here if your situation isn’t quite so dramatic, but wet none the less either with puddles or squelching sound effects or probably both. If this is just a spring experience then you can turn it around faster than you think with the answer to every garden problem – compost! 

Claggy clay is not as big of a mission as you think, though it can be disheartening at the start. Like a grouchy teen, it’s best left alone when it’s at it’s soggy worst, playing with it in this state only makes it worse.

While you create decent soil, grow your crops elsewhere in tyres or pots.

3 Ways to Repair Clay

easy compost


Once the bed’s dried out (no puddles, no sound effects), sprinkle on gypsum then

  1. Cover the ground in cardboard and build a compost pile on top. So frickin easy!
  2. Or cover the ground in cardboard and spread a lovely deep compost on top, up to 15cm worth. If buying it in, work out how many cubic metres you need with this math – length of area x width of area x 150mm (or however high you are going). 
  3. Or wield your forksta and aerate the ground and spread a 1 or 2cm layer of compost on top.

Dont agonise over the one right way. Just go with the one that draws you, suits your budget and energy levels. They are all awesome.

Which ever road you travel, add a dose of mineral fert.  Full spectrum mineral fert is your friend – mineral balance is your gardens strong foundation. 

Bonus Boosters

Buckwheat, meadowsweet, yarrow homemade mulch

  • Trench foodscraps up the middle of the bed.
  • Spread homemade nourishing mulch on top.
  • Sow a greencrop as the first crop to settle new compost in. Nothing calls out to microbes like a bunch of roots – sugar exchange a go! 
  • EM is awesome! Spray it on as often as weekly and get a microbal tribe on your side.

living soil looks like this edible backyard nz

Soon you’ll see a change in colour and an increase in earthworms, you’ll feel a loosening of the texture, smell a sweeter smell and for the brave, the soil will loose it’s tangy taste.

And above ground, all your garden dreams will be coming true cos as above, so below. 

Take heart and keep on keepin’ on. Loam wasn’t built in a day!


  1. Absolutely loved this post Kath, thanks heaps! I’m not sure if I’m brave enough to taste soil yet but I’m tempted after your post!

    • Go on Sophie! You can do it! Just a little on the end of your tongue – don’t gulp it back, just taste it and spit it out. It’s amazing how good (oh lord am really putting myself out there now) good healthy soil tastes (the opposite is true as well :)) A bit of parsley afterwards is the thing…..