Clay is no one’s favorite form of soil to have in a garden. It’s quite challenging to work with and persons who have been cursed with it often feel like growing vegetables successfully is next to impossible. Have no fear; there are specific vegetables to grow in clay soil so you can ensure success!

After all, loamy and well-drained soil is what many gardeners aim to have, and plants are always happy to spread their roots in this environment.

What is clay soil?

The most extraordinary quality of clay soil is that it contains particles that do not have much organic matter.

Even when dry, the soil is still very sticky as there is not much space between the particles. This results in flooding as the soil is not well-drained.

If you have clay soil in your garden, you’ll notice that after rainfall the water does not soak into the soil. Instead, it settles and floats on top of the soil making it difficult for water to flow and drain smoothly.

If you’re not sure whether you have clay soil or not, here is a checklist with a few things to help you determine.

  • Does the soil stick to your boots when you walk in the garden?
  • When you scoop up a handful of dirt, does it form into clumps that are a bit difficult to separate with your fingers?
  • Does the soil warm very slowly when wet then dries and cracks in multiple areas?

If you were able to answer yes to all these questions, you do have clay soil in your garden. You can improve the area you wish to plant your vegetables by adding up to 8 inches of compost or organic matter across the garden.

Over time, the soil structure will improve as organisms help to break down the matter. More will need to be added regularly to prevent the garden from returning to its usual clay qualities.

Vegetables to grow in clay soil:

A major challenge with clay is that with light or heavy rainfall it becomes clammy and very heavy. This is because it doesn’t have proper drainage particles, so it holds a lot of water.

Some gardeners have taken the upper hand by improving clay qualities themselves. How is this done? Well, it is possible to routinely integrate organic matter, which enhances the clay’s draining abilities.

You’ll be pleased to know that there are some vegetables which can tolerate this type of soil. So, turn your disappointed frown into a spark-filled smile as you learn more about these vegetables.

1. Beans

picking beans from plant, placing in metal bucket

Beans are not selective about soil and may work well with clay due to their shallow root system. To get the perfect set of beans, mixing the clay soil in your garden with compost or manure that is fully mature is advised.

This increases the soil’s quality, making it less waterlogged and better able to drain excess fluids. Avoid adding mulch even though it is great to limit weed growth. Mulch will only add to the increased trapping of moisture.

2. Broccoli

broccoli head growing on plant

Broccoli is a plant that thrives in soil that is filled with moisture. Once you have planted the seedlings and they begin to develop you should not let the soil be entirely dry.

Clay would be able to hold adequate moisture for broccoli to absorb nutrients. During the harvest, if you’re careful and take some time to protect the leaves of the plant, small stems and will grow. Following this, the heads will develop and produce a second harvest and this sounds great.

3. Brussels sprouts

brussels sprout stalks in market stall

Brussels sprouts depend heavily on moisture and the soil should be fertile and have a pH balance between 6.0 and 7.0.

This makes clay the ideal soil texture for them as the tightly grouped particles help to hold the roots firmly in the ground.

When it is time to harvest them, you’ll have lots to spare even at the end of the season. It’s a great vegetable that tastes very similar to little cabbages.

Clay is also quite useful to hold Brussels sprouts in place. As the plant is swayed by harsh winds, it will not be easily uprooted. 

4. Cabbage

cabbage plants growing in garden

Cabbage is a very versatile plant that grows in a variety of colors. They include purple, green, red, savoy and Napa, which is also called Chinese cabbage.

Cabbage is flexible and growing it in clay soil that has been amended with compost will bring some positive results.

As a form of nutrients, you can add fish emulsion or compost tea approximately four weeks after planting. Even though clay holds moisture, this vegetable needs access to at least six hours of sunlight per day. So, try not to plant it at the section in your garden that is too shaded.

Within four to six months, you’ll be able to harvest quality cabbages for the best coleslaws, steamed, sautéed and boiled vegetables.

5. Carrots

freshly picked carrots in dirt

Even though carrots are popularly grown in well-drained soil, it may surprise you that clay is a viable option.

If you intend to grow miniature carrots, planting them in plain clay will keep the vegetable short and fresh. This occurs because it’s harder for the roots to penetrate the dirt and grow into long and perfectly plump carrots.

6. Cauliflower

cauliflower head growing on plant close up

Cauliflower is able to survive in clay soils but for better results, it is best to infuse compost or mature manure into the soil before planting it.

It is a good idea to sow the seeds when temperature levels are around 70˚ F. If these temperatures are past the recommended degree, then it could damage the overall turnout.

7. Swiss chard

baby swiss chard plants growing in a garden

Chard grows relatively well in clay soil. A huge part of this is the fact that they consist of very shallow roots but enjoy receiving consistent moisture and nutrients from the soil in which they’re planted.

They also need a large amount of sunshine lasting up to 6 hours per day. Similar to most of the vegetables listed in this post, mixing compost with clay will provide sufficient drainage.

Overwatering is not advised even though the roots are not long because it can lead to rotting in a very short while.

Chard has many different colors, including white, green and red, which taste almost the same. Yellow is an all-time favorite among the others due to its sweet flavor when prepared.

8. Daikon radish

three freshly daikon radish on dirt

Radishes grow really fast and with the right conditions will be ready for harvest within 4 weeks or less. They do need well-drained soil so amending clay is helpful.

Daikon radishes in particular tend to grow rather long and thin while breaking up the clay particles to extend roots. They would thrive in this soil considering not much space is needed for them to expand.

Daikon is a winter radish so it would take between 60 to 70 days to become fully mature. They are grown in colors such as red, white, green and purple.

9. Lettuce

heads of lettuce growing in garden

Have you ever tasted lettuce that has a rather bitter flavor? Perhaps this is due to a lack of moisture while it developed into a mature vegetable.

Clay soil is perfect for growing lettuce because it needs consistent moisture to prevent it from establishing a bitter taste when prepared.

Within a month you’ll be able to harvest all the lettuce you need for salads, garnish and other meals.

10. Kale

curly kale plant close up

Kale is a cool weather plant that enjoys loamy soil types. Ensure to prepare the soil in your garden with compost and manure at least one week before planting.

They grow well in cooler times of the year and within fall you’ll have plenty to share and make as many vegan recipes as you like. The clay soil will remain moist and filled with the necessary nutrients and minerals.

11. Peas

close up of snow peas on plant

Peas are able to grow well in many different types of soils including sand and clay. With adequate drainage, they will thrive so avoid overwatering them when planted in clay.

This could lead to damage to the roots and eventually, diseases will impact the plant. The soil holds just enough moisture to ensure the tree doesn’t dry out and isn’t able to form the pods. Peas will thrive in your garden if you provide them with the essentials for a high-yielding harvest.

12. Potatoes

freshly picked potato plant with tubers

Growing potatoes in clay soil with a raised bed garden may produce more results. Modifying the soil before planting it across a large or small garden space before planting is a good idea.

However, if you have no compost, you can test this experience with the soil as is, but ensure it is planted in an area that gets sunshine for most hours of the day.

You may not receive the highest yield for that particular season, due to the potatoes having trouble spreading. If planted in soil that has more loosened particles, potatoes will flourish.

13. Pumpkin

ripe pumpkins on plants in field

Pumpkins are not fussy regarding soil texture but they are a little more complex to grow. They prefer to be sown directly into their growth environment instead of sprinkling seeds on top of the soil.

The place must be well-lit with beams of sunshine, plenty of space for the plants to spread their vines, and the soil must be hydrated yet drained well.

Adding cardboard to the base of the plants can help to reduce moisture so the roots are preserved from rotting problems.

14. Squash

bunch of squashes growing on plant

Both the summer and winter squash grow very well in clay soil. However, adding  plenty of compost to the soil will aid in structuring a proper drainage system.

One of the best features of growing squash is that you can only plant one or two squashes, and in a short time be fully prepared to harvest in large amounts.

Neither of these plants enjoys frost so plant them after the cold season has passed. Properly educating yourself on the different pests and diseases that could affect squash will help you to care for them.

To get better results try using a raised bed garden for your vegetables. For more information, have a look at my post to learn more about the reasons why a raised bed garden is better.

Thanks for visiting this post and stay tuned for future updates.

Other gardening articles:

  1. How to Start Organic Farming
  2. Benefits of Gardening
  3. How To Keep Basil Alive
  4. How To Grow Green Onion
  5. Easy Fruits And Vegetables To Grow
  6. How To Grow Lettuce
  7. How To Grow Kale

If you enjoyed this post about Vegetables to Grow in Clay Soil and would love to see more, join me on YoutubeInstagramFacebook & Twitter!

Get discounted copies of my cookbook here.

Fortunately, because of the ads on our website, readers and subscribers of Healthier Steps are sponsoring many underprivileged families.