Clay Soil – Ground Zero Allotment

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This topic contains 8 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Ken Adams 2 years, 9 months ago.

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    Hi Guys

    I’m looking for some tips. I have had an allotment for three years about 4 miles away, but recently my village has offered land to start an allotment so thinking of taking one, at the moment it’s literally a patch of grassy weedy earth.

    The soil is clay and I was wondering if you guys had any tips in terms of creating beds on clay soil!?

    Thanks in advance




    Yes, just go for it. I did exactly that on a really heavy clay weed infested paddock last year, basically following the methods expounded in this website with 6inches manure/compost on the beds and 2 inches over cardboard for the paths (using beds without wooden sides) and everything worked out just fine. Never had such good crops. In fact the biggest problem I have had all year was getting the pasnips out without breaking them off too high up!

    Best of luck!




    Thanks Derek.

    How long was it before you planted into the beds?

    What did you do about perrenials?





    Hi Nodiggitty,
    I’m just entering the 4TH year on London Clay, having built up beds on a grass pasture. Make sure the ground drains away,and is not a ‘sump’ for the surrounding district.If needs be, create soakaways/french drains off the paths, which tend to be lower than the beds.
    Clays are fertile and retain moisture in drought years. They respond well to no_dig methods, especially if you can keep traffic to a minimum. The old problem when digging, was to be able to break down clods, especially if spring worked but it doesn’t arise much now, the soil is not compacted therefore no mechanical intervention.
    In extreme wet conditions, utilise ‘duckboards’to spread your weight, if planting out just cannot wait.



    Morning Mike,

    I started in summer 2017. When finished my plot will be just under 4000 sq ft, I am doing it in phases over 3 years. I didn’t have any “woody weeds” (brambles,etc) but had a wonderful crop of couch, dandelion, buttercup, thistle and bindweed. I started off by mowing it all down. In June/July I created the first beds using horse manure 6 inches deep which had been stacked between 3 and 6 months. Too fresh really but impatience got the better of me! Immediately covered with black polythene.
    In October I started to roll back the polythene and planted spring cabbage, garlic and overwintering onions. Thereafter spring planting as normal.
    I had some couch and bindweed come through and just kept pulling it out as it will eventually disappear (I hope!). Certainly seemed to be getting less as the year progressed.
    This is now the first winter where I am applying the top-up layer of compost to the first beds.
    I am basically following the same pattern with the rest of the patch as time and resources allow.
    I have attached a couple of pictures to show last summer, you can see the next beds under polythene at the back, and one of the new beds re composted.

    All I can say is, it works for me.

    You must be logged in to view attached files.


    Wow impressive, good quality crops going there. 4000 sft huge.

    So no direct fence around veg patch, no problems with rabbits?

    Did you use one of Charles books or find out info on the forum?





    Great thanks for your advice, i’ll be able to get hold of lots of manure in the village so hoping that will do the trick over the years in loosening the clay.

    I don’t think its compacted just clay so would probs aerate with a fork first to loosen slightly.



    Eventually I will fence it, at the moment I just use a lot of netting to keep the rabbits out of the vulnerable areas.
    I sort of fell into this method when I met a man from the next village who was using the system. I had never heard of it before. He told me about the books and I bought the “Organic Gardening” one and got a lot off the internet as well. Have a look around the website, on the old website there were some good articles though where they are on this one I haven’t looked, presumably still here somewhere. I also bought Jeff Lowenfels books which I found fascinating.

    On the subject of compacted clay. My patch was previously a horse paddock but along one side sometime over 20 years ago lots of rubble had been added to allow tractors to pass through. So for 20 years this area had been driven over by tractors with heavy trailers and trodden on by horses. I have been erecting a greenhouse here (cold work at this time of year!) and as it is on a slight slope have had to dig out so make flat foundations. It is at least 50% rubble yet the worm life I found there was unbelievable. I no longer worry about compacted soil and hapily walk on my beds if necessary.


    Ken Adams

    The allotment which my partner and I took on three years ago is clay and I am struggling to persuade my partner (who is a life-long gardener and regards me as a troublesome retiree with too much time on his hands) to consider some of the newer ideas which I keep reading about.

    I managed to persuade her to use some permeable membrane to protect what would otherwise have been bare soil over winter and I planted two small areas with green manure. I’m working very hard to create lots of compost and I’m hopeful that my partner is coming round to the idea of protecting the soil as lovingly as she tends the plants.

    There is a neglected half-sized plot close to ours and I have applied to take it on so that I can use it purely to create green manure to use on the main plot and in the compost bins. If it works out, I would plan to set up a four- or three-yearly rotation whereby one third of our total square meterage would always be used for growing manure.

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