Tennessee Red Clay

  • Tennessee Red Clay

    Posted by LilTommy818 on May 3, 2023 at 7:00 pm

    Hey Everybody!

    I recently moved to a somewhat rural area of north Tennessee (about an hour north of Nashville). I’m trying to prepare a garden area on the property, but it was heavily covered in honeysuckle, blackberries, sumac, etc, at about 4-5′ tall. My neighbor was kind enough to brush-hog it for me, and I’ve been cutting it regularly with the riding mower since then. The soil is a heavy red clay, and I’m trying to figure out the best way to get a garden started in it.

    Does anyone have any recommendations?

    Thanks in advance!

    MUGSY1 replied 11 months, 2 weeks ago 14 Members · 14 Replies
  • 14 Replies
  • LiveOak

    May 3, 2023 at 7:58 pm

    You could start by getting your soil tested by the local Extension Office or send it to Auburn in Alabama. We have the same problem here in north Alabama. We are currently trying to build soil with the “chicken tractor on steroids”. This creates compost soil as you move the tractor across the property. They also eat down the weeds, grass and bugs. The clay soil probably needs calcium. I have also found planting clover helps. They say planting fetch can help the soil as well (have not done that yet). Good luck, it can be a challenge. We found blueberries and figs and peaches grow pretty good in the red clay. Another option to look into is the hügelkultur method of adding piled logs and soil and planting on top of the mound. Another option they used in the desert is pits dug and put all you yard trimmings in the pit. Eventually with enough water/rain the pits will become soil to plant in.

  • NonaLee

    May 3, 2023 at 8:15 pm

    Also this fall plant lots of clodbuster veggies like daikon radishes

    • Myst

      May 5, 2023 at 2:07 pm

      I’m honestly curious.. will dailon radishes also help soil that’s a mix of clay and shake? The ground here, in eastern TN, is barely decent, and we have a lot of shale with clay below that…

      I’m wanting to create pastures as well as garden…

  • The-Jesus-People-Homestead

    May 3, 2023 at 9:00 pm

    I’m in west Tennessee an hour and a half from Nashville … i moved to my small homestead a little over 7 years ago and i too had red clay soil …. when we first moved here we added lime and calcium … but yes i agree have your soil tested for sure … we planted that first year with not adding anything else to our soil and had a great garden … we just fed the plants … than ever year since we have added our own compost of leaves , coffee grounds , worm castings , wood chips , clippings from trees , veggie scraps ..etc. we made a pallet bin to make our compost in .. (note plant you a cover crop this fall daikon radishes or clover work well here in Tennessee

    • packrat

      May 5, 2023 at 4:36 am

      Especially to you, but to NonaLee as well: Do you know of a place where Daikon Radish Seed is sold bulk, by the scoop, sort of thing? There has to be some middle ground between buying burlap sacks of the stuff and getting eight seeds in a four dollar packet from a big box store.

      Our farm is a little to the East of you, I’m sensing.

  • Powells39477

    May 3, 2023 at 9:32 pm

    All great suggestions. If you are eager to get something growing. and don’t mind spending a few bucks, the lasagna method worked great for us when we moved onto our new property last March. Lay down cardboard and “rows” of raised bed soil. Plant right into it and keep well-watered. It’ll smother the grass and weeds underneath and the roots will grow through the wet cardboard as it deteriorates. By winter, you can till the bed right into your soil, or just keep using the same arra. You maybe able to save some money by finding the “soil” in bulk from a nursery supply or compost operation. Just do a little diligence and ask about sourcing, so you avoid herbicide residue. You have lots of options….good luck!

  • PetraTilling

    May 3, 2023 at 9:40 pm

    I too have dense hard clay and am working in remediating a patch of trees, vines, scrub brush, etc. What I did with half so far was to clear and chip most of the trees then spread the wood chips out, then my lawn guy brought his leaves from all of his fall jobs and dumped then spread them over the whole area. I now have an area 2-4 feet deep of organic material.

    This should break down in a few years. In the meantime, I’m pulling up vines and weeds as they poke through (if I don’t want them) and am “hole planting” things like berries. Next year I may move to big/easy things like squash, etc.

    In other areas, I’m running my chickens through, tossing in organics for them to break down, then seeding with a mix of clover, grass and some grains.

    All I do know is that uncovered clay will bake into terracotta in the sun so keep it covered with anything you can.

    Mostly though, For now, I’m building boxes, buying planting mix by the yard and planting in those.

    I’m learning as I go.

    Good luck.

  • BiggKidd

    May 4, 2023 at 1:03 am

    After 15 years of dealing with heavy red clay here in VA in know a few things that work well. First does it drain water or does it run off like most clay bases? If it doesn’t drain then Daikon radishes will help a lot they break the clay up and drill down deep (20+ feet) making holes the water can drain through. I also like buckwheat because it grows quick and also helps break up the top foot or so. If you mix in some clover that will help build the nitrogen. Those are things that will grow and help the clay turn to soil. But the biggest help will be mixing in all the organic matter you can get your hands on. I have found several years old composted woodchips and any and all manure is a huge help.

    If you really want good results go watch Gabe Brown’s videos on you tube. A mixture is always better than a single crop for repairing land or build good soil.

    • Christine1162

      May 4, 2023 at 6:30 pm

      That is awesome advice! I love this community!!

  • Eagleinter61

    May 4, 2023 at 1:04 am

    I would reach out to the Extension Office and get the soil tested. Did you get rid of the blackberries and honeysuckle completely? The blackberries and honeysuckles are great food sources. It depends on which species of Honeysuckle some are poisonous but edible honeysuckle you can make jam, tea, and sore throat glycerite.

  • MartHale7

    May 4, 2023 at 11:23 am

    Back to Eden Gardening does seem to help with clay, but that takes about 3 – 4 years for the wood chips to break down… But the soil it makes is great.

  • MUGSY1

    May 6, 2023 at 11:17 pm

    For now I suggest you grow in bags and buy soil or go in to a wooded area and dig under leaves the good natural soil is under there.Also watch Garden like a viking on youtube to show you how to grow in bags and not worry about weeds.He has many videos on making natural fertilizer. Remember in the fall if you can chop/grind up leaves and throw them where you want to garden directly on top of the soil and grass clippings too. Enjoy your new home!

Log in to reply.