May 22, 2024

Clay soil is common in the Ann Arbor area.It is dense, compact, and can present some unique challenges in your yard. While there are some advantages to clay-rich environments, clay soil can be a battle for homeowners, landscapers, and gardeners. Soil with a high clay content can cause poor soil drainage, resulting in areas on your property that stay soggy long after it rains with pools of standing water primed to attract pests. Rather than fighting the nature of clay soil, it is better to work around, or even with, the soil to solve your drainage issues. A drainage contractor who understands clay soil can help you navigate these issues and work with the soil you have

.Landscape design of nice home garden, landscaping with retaining walls and flowerbeds in residential house backyard.

The Challenge of Clay Soil

Soil is composed of sand, silt, and clay. The amount of minerals and percentage of each element determine the texture. Sand has large particles, which do not absorb water. Silt has medium particles and will absorb, but not retain water. Finally, heavy clay soil is made up of very fine particles that are densely packed. Clay soil is full of nutrients, but there are complications. Clay soil forms tight layers that are resistant to water movement, which results in soil that is slick and sticky when wet, but more importantly doesn’t drain well. This means that, after precipitation, drainage issues will present themselves by soggy areas in the yard and pools of standing water. This soil is not conducive to root growth, meaning that lawns will not have the foundations to grow in a healthy way, the bulbs of spring flowers may simply rot over the winter and never bloom as expected, and have the wrong pH for planting many flowers and vegetables.

Can Clay Soil Be Amended?

You can’t completely change the composition of the soil where you live, but there are things that Ann Arbor homeowners can do to improve the health of their soil. Improving clay soil does take some effort, but can be worked on to allow for a healthy lawn and landscape. This is done by adding organic matter, such as bark, sawdust, peat moss, compost, or manure to the soil. It is recommended that you tackle individual planting areas and beds and work in smaller areas.

To do this, you will start by defining the area for a garden bed. Add 6 to 8 inches of organic matter, such as manure, peat moss, untreated grass clippings, or shredded leaves. Although it may seem like a good solution, do not add sand to clay soil. While the ideal loamy soil is a mixture of sand and clay, adding sand to heavy clay soil does not work in the same way. Always use organic matter that can easily break down. Begin by spreading this material on top of the area, and then slowly work it into the top 6 to 12 inches of the clay soil. While the bed will initially be higher than other areas, it will slowly settle as the organic materials break down and become part of the soil composition. In most cases, this takes years of working with your soil during each planting season to keep your soil from simply reverting back to heavy clay.

Allowing your plants to decay naturally and work into the soil at the end of the growing season can help this process go more quickly. Having a landscape professional can help with the process, as Ann Arbor landscapers know how to work with heavy clay soil. These professionals can help you determine where you can plant and how to keep the soil healthy during the growing season.

Developing Systems for Yard Drainage

While plant health is important, clay soil can cause significant drainage issues that can damage your property. There are several potential solutions to your drainage issues that do not involve trying to amend the soil of your entire property. Different areas of your yard where you are having drainage problems may require different solutions. When it comes to solving drainage issues, a drainage contractor will suggest a fix that addresses each area. There are several common fixes for soggy pools of standing water.

  • Area Drains: An area drain may also be known as a catch basin or storm drain. It will collect the runoff water and drain it to a lower spot. Area drains work well in areas with hardscaping, or in garden areas.
  • Soakaway: A soakaway will collect and disperse water to a better area for drainage. It’s usually a space about a square yard in area, and a yard deep, filled with rock or stone. Soakaways are usually installed away from the house.
  • Channel Drains: A channel drain can be installed along a pavement area, such as a driveway or patio. Channel drains can be installed as design elements, so the solution works to enhance the look of your yard.

Clay soil can be a challenge, but there are some advantages. The nutrients in this dense soil can help your landscaping thrive if you work with a drainage contractor to address the issues with standing water. Improving clay soil is not a quick fix, but an ongoing process that is best done with the help of a professional landscape service who understands the unique challenges of your property. To learn more about how we can help you get the most out of your outdoor spaces, contact Twin Oaks Landscape today.