Q: We recently purchased a new house and want to put a garden in the backyard. I imagine the builder skimmed off the topsoil before planting grass there. Would you remove the clay and replace it with topsoil before planting?
A: Clay is not all bad, despite its reputation among gardeners. Because clay particles are tiny and numerous, they hold lots of moisture and nutrients for plants. On the other hand, because the particles are flat, they stack tightly together, preventing roots from growing easily. Buy some soil conditioner and mix a two inch layer six inches deep in your garden bed area. The organic matter will separate the clay particles so roots will be happy. The clay will still be present to nourish the roots. Add moderate amounts of fertilizer and your garden will be quite productive this summer.