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How To Improve Clay Soil For Growing Berries


There is a wide variety of berries that will thrive in clay soil as long as you take the time to amend it. From your typical berries such as blueberries, strawberries, cherries and raspberries to berries that are less common such as honeyberry or service berry, there is sure to be a variety that is ideal for every garden. Understanding the correct way to prepare and amend the soil before planting your berries is the key to success.

Step 1: Select a site in full sun that has good air circulation. Prepare the soil by digging a hole by hand that is twice as deep as the head of the shovel and approximately 4 feet in diameter. This technique is known as double-digging. Break up any clumps. Remove roots, rocks or other foreign material from the soil.

Step 2: Add compost or other organic matter such as leaf mould. The appropriate amount of organic matter to add to each hole is 3%, or 3 cubic yards per 1,000 square feet. Mix the soil and the organic matter well and then fill the hole back with the amended soil.

Step 3: Get a soil test at this point so you know if you need to add any other nutrients or adjust the pH of the soil. If the test shows that other amendments are necessary, add them according to the instructions on the package label of your chosen amendments, making sure to thoroughly mix them into the soil. For example, blueberries perform better in soil that ranges between 4.5 to 5.2. If the natural pH of your soil does not fall in this range, it will be necessary to add finely ground sulfur or aluminum sulfate to the soil to adjust the pH of the soil before planting the blueberries.

Step 4: Allow the amended soil to sit in the hole over winter. This will give the amendments a chance to fully integrate themselves into the clay soil. Once spring arrives, plant the berry plants in the amended soil. Mulch the top of the soil, water the berry plants in well and prepare for your first harvest.

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