Clay Soil – Draining Wet or Saline Soil

Many of you have heavy, clay soil in which to grow your gardens, and some have asked how to drain the soil, so it isn’t too wet to grow in.  Following is a little history of commercial clay soil gardening in the USA and Russia, along with some suggestions.

The Imperial valley of California grows some of the most prolific and healthy vegetable crops anywhere in the world.  The soil is hard, heavy clay, and before it was drained it was so saturated with salt the crops were very poor.  This condition existed because the Colorado River had for centuries deposited salty water on the land, which evaporated leaving the salt residue.  At first the farmers tried applying large amounts of water in attempts to drive the salt down, but the benefits were short-lived.  Fiinally in the 40’s, the farmers put underground tile drainage systems in, consisting of 4″ drainage pipes buried more than 4′ in the ground at intervals of about 100′, which all led to larger drainage ditches and etc.  Today they produce over $1 billion in vegetables per year.

You can also grow great gardens in your clay soil, but if it’s wet or saline you may need to drain it.  In Russia Dr. Mittleider’s students dug drainage ditches 10-12″ wide and 2′ deep to drain a small parcel of “waste” ground loaned to them by the Soviet authorities.  It quickly became so prolific and beautiful the authorities gave them 23 acres!  That ground is now the site for the most famous and productive family-based gardening agriculture school in all of the Russian Commonwealth Countries.  https://www.ipmce.su/~vk/mm/mm_intro.html  And millions of Russian families, themselves growing in clay soil, credit the Mittleider Method for giving them self-sufficiency in their food production.  https://www.ipmce.su/~vk/mm/images/g_i1a.jpg

The Mittleider Grow-Beds consisting of level, raised, ridged soil-beds themselves assist in the drainage process on clay soil.  But if you have very high rain-fall, you may need to leave the ends open during the rainy season.  Beyond that, either open drainage ditches, or buried drain pipes, as described above, will solve your wet-soil problems.