If you are reading this post, odds are you have to deal with clay soil in your garden. I’m a zone 8a in Georgia, and most of the soil in our region is extremely rich in clay deposits. In fact, a major industry in our area was brick making with the rich, red Georgia clay. While that can be a positive for your plants in the way of increased moisture retention, soil density, and nutrients, it can also be a pain when it comes to actually working in it. If you have ever tried to dig a hole by hand in clay soil you already know what I’m talking about which is why I thought I would share with you my “Top Five Gardening Tools For Working In Clay Soils.”
First of all, digging is usually the biggest headache when it comes to clay soils. If you use a blunt or wide shovel, you probably won’t make much of a dent or even be able to break the ground. I get around this by using a shovel that is nicely pointed and narrow. I like this Fiskars steel shovel, because the shaft is steel as well as the head, which means it will outlast your everyday wood or fiberglass shafted shovel. This one also has a nice feature where you can adjust the height to your preference.
If you have a small area of ground near a mature tree where you want to plant, but don’t want to mess with a tiller or disturb tree roots I recommend trying a pick axe. We have several very mature oak trees near our house, and obviously closer to the house is where much of the gardening is taking place, so I had to find a work around. I didn’t want to damage too much of the established tree’s root system, and shovels didn’t work very well for me, so when I experimented with a pick axe it was like a miracle had occurred. I really like this Fiskars 5lb pick. It has a pointed end for breaking earth, as well as a flat end that can be used for hoeing or dragging out bits of dirt when you are digging around roots. It also has a fiberglass handle and technology which create less vibration and shock than picks with wooden handles.
If you are trying to break ground on a slightly larger area that is away from mature root systems I would recommend using a tiller. If you are looking for an easy to use, basic tiller for your garden, I would recommend a Mantis tiller. I used the one I have linked when I was breaking up an area for a row of boxwoods next to the side of the house. Because of it’s compact size, I was able to get right up to the edge of our brick without any trouble. It’s also fairly lightweight for a tiller at 20 lbs so just about anyone can move it around easily. Some tillers I had researched didn’t fare so well in clay soils, which is why I ultimately decided upon this one.
I know edging isn’t exactly thrilling, but it can make a huge difference in your landscape. Edging out flower beds creates definition for spaces in your garden. One tool that makes the job a little easier is the Root Slayer Edger. It’s an improved version of the more traditional half moon edger you may have seen before. The inverted V and root cutting teeth help you edge in one pass, without the need for additional tools. Clay is hard enough to cut through, add in clay soil with roots, and you really need a more advanced tool.
My last recommendation may not necessarily come to mind when considering gardening tools, but for me it is. When I refer to protection I’m speaking in terms of your hands, perhaps one of the most valuable tools you have. I will admit, I sometimes garden in my heavy clay soil without wearing gloves, but when I do, I can feel it almost immediately. This can be easily prevented by wearing a pair of well fitting, non-slip gardening gloves when you have your hands in clay soil. Not only does wearing gloves help to protect from clay drying them out, but helps protect against scratches and scrapes while gardening. I like this bestselling pair of Bamboo Gloves because they are not only non-slip, but also very flexible and breathable, as well as made from antibacterial and hypoallergenic bamboo.
All of these product recommendations are based upon my own experience working with clay soil, I have linked them for your convenience. I would love to hear any feedback you have from your own trials working in clay and what your favorite tools are for dealing with it. Happy gardening!
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