Does Adding Sand To Clay Soil Work?

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Last Updated on October 26, 2022

Is it true that adding sand to clay soil makes it better, or is this just a traditional myth passed on from one generation to another?

There’s no doubt working with heavy soil is a pain. Wrestling with this heavily compacted soil in your garden strains both your body and the plants.

This soil sticks to your shoes and your working tools and seems to be more challenging to garden with it than any other type of soil. But even with all its disadvantages, clay soil has its benefits.

If your garden is made up of clay soil, don’t despair; clay has many benefits that it offers. Let’s look at how you can fix your clay soil to make it easier to work with and allow you to reap a good harvest.

Identifying Clay Soil

How can you tell that your garden has clay soil? Clay  soil can be easily identified by:

    • It feels rather sticky and dense to the touch

    • Clay is smooth to touch especially when rubbed between the finger and the thumb.

    • It has high moisture and can be rolled into a ball or other shapes without cracking.

    • Heavy clay is shiny when rolled into any shape and then rubbed softly with your hands.

Identifying Clay Soil

Adding Sand To Clay Soil

A notion has been in circulation for many years that says that adding sand to clay soil helps lighten it up. This is an old traditional myth that has no scientific evidence of its efficiency.

If you add sand to clay soil, it turns your soil into something as hard as wet cement. Any clay soil treated this way becomes tough and eliminates every possibility of both good and harmful living organisms in it.

What To Do If You Have Clay Soil

So instead of using sand for clay soil, it is best to reach for an organic matter like leaf mold compost manure or well-aged manure and add it to your clay soil.

The organic matter never goes wrong in any of the soil types it’s added to.  When added to clay soil:

    • It lightens the soil texture

    • Adds nutrients

    • Discourages compaction

    • Improves drainage and aeration

    • Provides more space

    • Moderates the soil temperature

All these features are essential for plant growth.

So to amend your clay soil add as much organic matter as you can; mixing it into your existing clay soil is the aim.  And if you have sand-clay soil because you have started adding some, use the organic matter.   However, before improving the clay, carry out a soil test to incorporate phosphorus, lime, and whatever other nutrients your soil requires.

Steps To Amend Your Clay Soil

    • Use a spade to loosen the existing soil if it is it’s a small part, or use a tiller to loosen the existing soil over a large area

    • Spread about 2 inches of compost on top of the things soil and mix it with the clay soil

    • Repeat the process two or three times, working in your clay soil until you’re satisfied that it is thoroughly mixed up. Ensure that your clay soil is relatively dry; walking on wet clay soil will damage the structure you’re trying to improve.

    • Spread a few inches of compost over the ground between the plants and the soil and use a narrow spade to turn the compost into the soil

    • Repeat this method at least once, and your soil is ready for planting. Ensure that you work in small patches until your entire garden has freshly turned soil

When To Do It

The fall season is a great time to mix your clay with compost because the weather is drier than in the spring. Another reason why it is good to do this in autumn is because of the cooler temperatures that are more pleasant to work under. It becomes an annual part of your soil maintenance to add compost to your clay just before winter.

In the long run, regular applications of compost manure and other organic matter will continually improve your cell structure and overall health. Therefore, it will become much easier for you to walk in this kind of soil and for your plants to grow in.

Black Kow Composted Cow Manure 4 lb. Size (1 Bag)

Clay Soil It’s Still A Suitable Type Of Soil

It is one of the few soils that provides an excellent foundation for healthy plant growth. Its potential lies in its unique properties, making it one of the best soil types for plant growth. The individual particles that make up the clay soil are small compared to other soil types such as sandy loam or silt.

Clay soil has a more significant water holding capacity due to these tiny particles. They can hold in water and nutrients for your garden and lawn needs very well. If you manage clay soil well it requires less irrigation, less fertilizer yet produces some of the healthiest plants around the world.

Even if you may feel like you want to differ with the statements above, maybe because you have heavy clay that clods on your boots and tools when working, it is best to test your soil before you make any changes. A soil test takes the guesswork away and provides clear statistics of the composition of your soil. The extension agent can advise what type of crops to grow in the particular soil.

Your test results could also include ways to improve your clay soil, along with helpful information about its organic matter nutrients and pH. It is advisable to carry out this soil test every 3 to 4 years.

Ways On How You Can Improve Your Clay Soil

    • To help your soil drain better and reduce trampling’s make raised beds before planting.

    • Consider adopting a new gardening hack of not digging, especially in your raised beds, so that you don’t mix the soil afresh; instead, you use the already well-drained topsoil.

    • Add some extra calcium to your clay soil to help the soil particles separate inside of the clump together.

Ways On How You Can Improve Your Clay Soil
    • Add lime and gypsum to your clay soil to active ingredients of commercial clay improvers; however, before you add the rest of your garden, test on a small area first to see the changes.

    • Add plenty of bulk organic matter like composted bark old manure to improve the soil and the plant’s nutrients.

    • To reduce summer cracking when the sun is too hot, apply organic mulches around trees and plants to help conserve moisture.



What is the difference between sandy and clay soil?

Many soils are a mixture of sand, silt and clay. Sandy soil is a mixture of sand and clay. However, clay soil contains more sand than the other two soils. The most important factor in determining what type of soil you have is to determine if it is an acid or alkaline soil.

Soil acidity is determined by the amount of lime (calcium) present in the soil. Soils with high amounts of lime are called alkaline. Alkaline soil is good for growing a variety of crops because they like to grow in an alkaline environment. On the other hand, soil that has too much lime is acidic. Acidic soils have low pH levels. Low pH levels make plants grow poorly, and also can cause problems for humans who are sensitive to acidity. Soil pH levels range from 0 to 14. The lower the number, the more acidic the soil is. For example, soil with a pH level of 7 would be considered neutral. A pH level between 5 and 6 would be considered slightly acidic.

Most soils are classified as acid or alkaline. Clay soils are classified as acid or alkaline, but they are usually classified as alkaline. Clay soil tends to be more alkaline than other soils, because the clay particles are larger and hold onto more alkaline substances. The clay particles also tend to absorb the water in the soil, and prevent the water from reaching the root zone. Therefore, clay soil needs more water than other soils.

How can I make my clay soil more Sandy?

Soil compaction is what makes clay soil sandy. If you want to make your soil more sandy, then you need to compact it less. The best way to do this is to use a tiller.

What are the best soil amendments for clay soil?

Clay soils are usually high in organic matter and low in nutrients. Clay soils require compost or other organic matter. They should be worked in a way that allows the nutrients to leach into the soil. This can be done by tilling, sub-soiling, or using a rototiller.

Does lime break up clay soil?

It depends on how you want to use it. If you are going to add it to your lawn, you can mix it with your soil, but if you are adding it to the soil underneath your lawn, you will want to mix it with your topsoil. It will break up the clay, which is what you need. You will want to let it dry, then mix it into your topsoil.


One last word on gardening on your clay soil go for plants that naturally adapt well in clay soil. It is best to work with plants that do well in clay soil than try to force other plants to grow in it. An extension officer should advise you on plants that would do well in your kind of soil especially after soil test results.

That said, remember adding sand to clay soil is ultimately killing your clay soil and not adding any value to the sandy soil.

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