Q&A: Achieving Fluffy Soil

You can beat that tough clay soil — with the help of Mother Nature.
Related To:

Q: We are building raised beds, and the soil in my garden is clay. What can I add to it to make it fluffy?

gby108_a_glassclippings

gby108_a_glassclippings

Improve your soil by adding organic matter such as grass clippings.

Improve your soil by adding organic matter such as grass clippings.

A: Add organic matter — and plenty of it. Almost every soil type, except one that's already heavily organic (and most soils aren't), benefit from the addition of things like aged compost, shredded leaves, straw (not hay), grass clippings (if your lawn is weedy, compost first), etc. Organic matter helps sandy soils retain moisture and nutrients, and it helps loosen clay soils, making them less tough and dense.

If you're planting shrubs in your raised beds, you can even add some shredded pine bark mulch to your garden soil. Most containerized woody plants are raised in a bark mix, so that will feel like home to them. If you're planning on putting in a mix of annuals and perennials, you might want to consider adding purchased top soil (in bulk or in bags), mushroom compost (available in some parts of the country), and all the compost that you can spare.

The best time to do this is in the fall so that microorganisms have time to do their job and break down the organic matter. If it's spring, be sure to add a slow-release fertilizer to correct any nitrogen deficiencies that crop up.

A note about buying bagged top soil: Read the label carefully to make sure that the contents really are appropriate for adding to a garden bed; one type of bagged soil recently seen on the market was actually fill dirt — meant to fill holes in the landscape and completely inappropriate for planting.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Analyzing Garden Soil Quality and Sun Exposure

The quality of your garden's soil and its exposure to sunlight are just two of the factors that will influence the best spot for planting.

Can I Reuse Old Potting Soil?

Gayla Trail shares what she's learned about reusing potting soil.

The 411 on Soil Types

Get the dirt on dirt. Learn all about different types of soil.

DIY Potting Soil and Soil Blocking Mixes

Save money by making your own soil mixes at home.

Soil Solarization How-To

Try this chemical-free method of controlling weeds and pests.

Testing Soil Drainage and Texture

Your soil's texture and drainage can influence how you care for your plants. Follow these steps to better understand your garden soil.

How to Improve Clay Soil

Here are some tips for making clay soil more manageable and easier to work.

Plants That Like Wet Soil

If you can't divert accumulating water, consider Plan B -- install plants that don't mind getting wet feet from time to time.

Reusing Potting Soil

Before you repot with old soil, you'll want to try these tricks to restore lost nutrients.

Soil Is the Key to Successful Gardening

The secret to successful gardening is having good soil. Tips on determining your soil type and how to improve its structure.

1,000+ Photos

Browse beautiful photos of our favorite outdoor spaces: decks, patios, porches and more.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.