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How Often To Water Plants In Clay Soil [And How To Make It Fertile]

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Understanding the plants in your garden should always start from the ground up. Do you live somewhere with clay soil and don't know how often you need to water your plants? Well, we've done plenty of research and have the answer waiting here for you. Let's check this out.

In general, you don't need to water plants in clay soil more than once a week. One of the benefits of having clay soil is that it allows your plant's roots to absorb as much water as possible, which in turn means less frequent watering on your end.

That said, if it's summertime or you live somewhere extremely dry, you may need to water 2-3 times a week, so this can be different for everyone.

As we begin, we will cover all things clay soil and discuss how to water your plants. Whether you recently started gardening or moved to a drier, desert climate, we're here to offer some help. With that said, let's dive right into this topic!

Watering fresh green basil plant and rosemary plant after repotting in new clay pots, How Often To Water Plants In Clay Soil [And How To Make It Fertile]

Is Clay Soil Good For Plants?

Yes! Clay soil can be very beneficial for plants and their root development. Generally, clay soil provides a strong foundation for plants, big or small, and allows them to anchor their roots down into the ground.

Furthermore, many perennial and annual plants thrive in clay soil, so it's good for almost anything.

Because of how thick clay soil is, this encourages plant root systems to hold tight to the ground, which helps keep them from toppling over.

Group of cactus bushes on the decorative flower garden

How Often Should I Water My Clay Soil?

Considering clay tends to hold water for long periods, you don't need to water it often. As we covered, most plants only need watering about once per week in clay, so that's our suggestion.

Of course, if it's especially dry out and your plant's soil feels super dry, you can certainly water more frequently, so everyone is different.

However, if you start to notice your clay soil remains wet between waterings, it is too saturated, and you should wait until it dries.

Should I Water Less With Clay Soil?

Man watering the ground of a garden

Although this can depend on the climate, generally, it's best to cut down on watering clay soil. As we mentioned, clay holds moisture well, meaning it won't need as frequent watering.

If you oversaturate their clay soil, your plants can also become waterlogged, so less is more. The last thing any gardener needs is a rot root outbreak, so try to schedule watering for every seven days.

How Do You Irrigate Clay Soil?

In general, you want to irrigate clay soil once per week with approximately one inch of water. You also want to make sure your clay soil is evenly watered, and you don't overdo it, as this can cause problems.

With that said, you might also want to install a drip irrigation system for clay soil as it won't flood the ground in your garden, so that's something to consider. Remember, clay prefers slow and steady watering.

What Plants Grow Best In Clay Soil?

Digging a garden bed with a spade

For those needing plant ideas for clay soil, there are plenty. A few of our top picks include:

  • Daylily (Hemerocallis)
  • Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)
  • Blue Cardinal Flower (Lobelia siphilitica)
  • Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii)
  • Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium)
  • Viburnum (Viburnum plicatum)
  • Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
  • Coneflower (Echinacea)
  • Sedum (Sedum)

Of course, the list is endless, so as long as the plant you're considering can grow in your garden's USDA zone and likes thicker soil, you should be fine to grow it.

How Often Should You Water New Plants In Clay Soil?

If you recently planted something in clay soil, you'll need to water more frequently for the first few weeks. Ideally, 1-2 weeks after planting, make sure to water daily.

This doesn't need to be much but helps your new plant develop a sturdy root system.

Then for weeks 3-12, try to water every two or three days. After roughly 12 weeks go by, this is when you can go down to a once-weekly watering schedule.

Again, if the ground around your new plant feels super wet, try to hold off on watering until it's drier, so keep that in mind.

How Do You Make Clay Soil Fertile?

The best way to make clay soil more fertile is to add compost or materials that compost quickly into it. Doing this will increase the number of nutrients your clay has and ultimately help your plants grow faster.

A few compost materials we recommend include manure, leaf mold, and green plants. If you already have a compost bin started, you can also throw some of that around the base of your plants, so there are many ways to accomplish this.

Furthermore, you might consider aerating the clay soil in your garden to make it more fertile, although this is more labor-intensive.

What Is The Best Fertilizer For Clay Soil?

Usually, the best fertilizer for clay soil is one with organic material. This can be fresh manure, compost, or even moistened peat moss.

You can also try using a slow-release formula for clay soil, which will feed your plants for months on end between you fertilizing. Liquid fertilizer also works well with clay, as it can seep into the ground, so that's another option.

Hoffman Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss

This peat moss is organic, premium-grade, increases soil's capacity to hold water and nutrients, and comes in a ten-quart bag.

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How Long Does Clay Soil Take To Dry?

You can typically expect clay soil to dry within three days after watering. As we covered earlier, clay retains water longer than other soils, making it more susceptible to waterlogging.

Of course, your clay soil might absorb water faster if it's extremely dry outside or vice versa. Every ecosystem is different, so if you can, try to feel the ground before watering your plants.

You might also notice if it's rained, your clay soil won't dry for 5-7 days, which in that case, you could skip watering that week.

What Happens If Clay Soil Gets Too Wet?

Heavy rains and storms have caused field flooding

Considering that clay soil is made up of fine-textured soil particles with limited space, too much water can be a problem. Specifically, clay soil can become waterlogged if you overwater it, which essentially means it isn't able to drain/move the excess moisture.

This can become a problem for your plants and their roots, so it has a domino effect. That said, you should be able to see the waterlogging go away after a week or so, but you might lose some plants along the way.

How Do You Fix Waterlogged Clay Soil?

If your clay soil becomes waterlogged, the best thing to do is add some compost to the ground. Compost will help create better soil drainage, thus preventing future water build-up.

You can also try to add peat moss or manure to waterlogged clay soil, although this won't work as well as nutrient-rich compost.

Furthermore, you want to avoid watering your garden for 1-2 weeks post waterlogging to ensure the ground is thoroughly dry.

Is Clay Soil Better Than Loam Soil?

When comparing clay and loam soil, this comes down to what you're growing. Generally, loamy soil works better for common garden plants, as it tends to drain better.

Loamy soils will typically have about 40% sand, 40% silt, and 20% clay, which offers a better balance than 100% clay soil.

Of course, that's not to say clay soil isn't great for certain plant species, but in general, loam takes the crown.

Is Clay Soil Nutrient Rich?

Yes, clay soil is surprisingly nutrient-rich. The reason for this is that clay soil is filled with negatively charged particles, which attract and hold positively charged particles.

These positively charged particles often include calcium, potassium, and magnesium2m, which are all great for plant growth.

Again, this isn't as much as loam soil, but overall, clay packs an impressive punch in overall plant growing quality.

To Wrap It All Up

Whether you recently moved somewhere with clay soil or want to get into gardening, understanding how the ground around you works is essential. From what we found, you should only need to water plants in clay soil about once per week.

You can adjust your watering schedule to the climate outside, so you might need to do this more frequently if it's especially dry. Clay soil tends to hold water for longer periods, so it may take up to a week to be ready for more moisture.

Regardless, remember to add some compost to your clay soil to improve its drainage and fertility, and don't be afraid to feel the base of your plants before you water.

Made it to the end? Check out these helpful related garden posts below!

11 Great Plants For Clay Soil With Poor Drainage

How To Amend Clay Soil For Vegetable Gardening

15 Shrubs For Wet Clay Soil That Will Look Great In Your Garden