Advice for the Home Gardener from the Help Desk of the
UC Master Gardener Program Contra Costa County
Gardener's Request: I'm a new homeowner with a garden with clay soil apparently and trees that are now dropping leaves. How do I garden with clay soil and what should I do with the dropping tree leaves – use them in the gardening and how or disposing of them in my green bin?
MGCC's Help Desk Response: Thank you for contacting the UC Master Gardeners Program's Help Desk with your questions about gardening in clay soil, and whether to remove leaves from the landscape or incorporate them into the existing soil.
First, about gardening in your clay soil:
Your clay is made up of air, water, organic materials, and minerals. The balance of these ingredients determines your soil type. Clay soils are those that are often rich with nutrients, and renowned for their water retention capabilities, but can become compacted over time, creating a less hospitable environment for plants. This link provides information from UC Davis discussing how to work with your clay soil to get the best results. http://vric.ucdavis.edu/pdf/soil_managingclay.pdf
One of the most essential components to gardening in clay soil is creating good tilth (i.e., ability to grow plants, especially from seed). This is accomplished by carefully adding organic matter such as manure, compost, and/or planting cover crops to your existing soil. This article by a Marin County master gardener discusses the many ways that you can improve the tilth of a clay soil with organic matter. http://www.marinij.com/article/NO/20160304/FEATURES/160309921
Use of fallen tree leaves in the garden:
Thank you for submitting your questions, and I wish you luck in your gardening decisions.
Help Desk of the UC Master Gardeners Program of Contra Costa (JJM)
Note: The UC Master Gardeners Program of Contra Costa's Help Desk is available year-round to answer your gardening questions. Except for a few holidays, we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2d Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523. We can also be reached via telephone: (925) 646-6586, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/ MGCC Blogs can be found at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/HortCoCo/ You can also subscribe to the Blog (http://ucanr.edu/blogs/CCMGBlog/).