Clay – Tips For Planting Bulbs

Q: I recently relocated from central Florida. Our back yard has a slope where I want to plant bulbs but it is solid packed red clay. It is like cement! I’m used to sand! Is there a way of breaking the clay up? I did find a bulb planting auger that would attach to my drill.

A: When it comes to softening clay soil, there are no shortcuts. You have to physically introduce something between the tiny clay particles to separate then and allow plant roots to freely grow. If you’re not up to working up the entire hillside, use the bulb auger with an electric (not battery-powered) drill and spend an hour making successive holes in the hard soil. Use a shovel to remove the soil as it’s loosened and put in a wheelbarrow. Try to excavate to a depth of ten inches. To the clay in the barrow, add a two inch layer of soil conditioner or compost and mix it thoroughly together. Put a three inch layer in your planting bed, put bulbs in place and cover with the rest of the mixture, mounding it slightly. If you have areas you’ll plant in spring, use the auger to drill lots of holes and fill them with the excess soil you have in the wheelbarrow. These spots will be ready for a more thorough tilling when April arrives.

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