The soil throughout Southern California is often either clay-based or sandy. These different types of soil both come with their own challenges, so this blog is going to focus on clay-based soil. Landscaping, in general, can be a challenge in arid climates, so when you’re planting in clay soil, it takes a lot of knowledge about how to enrich the soil and which plants work best. Keep reading to learn more about planting in a clay soil type and contact Swink’s Creations for professional landscaping help.

Identifying Clay Soil

Heavy clay soil is when it consists of 50 percent or more of clay particles. Silt and sand particles are slightly larger than clay particles. Clay particles typically stick together, making it very dense.

This soil often has an orange or red color and will easily stick to your shovel or trowel when it’s wet. Similar to the clay that you used in art class, clay soil absorbs water slowly and retains is very well. So when the soil gets wet after a rain, it can cause puddles of run-off.

You can also identify clay soil by rolling a small amount into a ball the size of a ping-pong ball. As you slowly begin to flatten the ball into a strip, take note of when it begins to break. If it’s less than one inch long, the soil is loam or silt. If it’s one to two inches long, it’s clay loam soil. And if it’s longer than two inches before breaking, it’s clay.

Landscaping Simi ValleyAmending Clay Soil

Instead of trying to amend the soil in the small area where you are planting a single plant, amend a larger area of land. This will allow the plant’s roots to continue growing into healthy soil, instead of being stopped at clay soil that hasn’t been amended.

Till around eight inches into the ground and mix in glass clippings or compost. This will take a lot of work, so be prepared for some heavy soil. Work a thin layer of organic matter into the soil once or twice a year. To make sure that the soil is on the right track, test the pH of the bed and use soil amendments to fix any acidity or alkalinity issues. You can use sand, gypsum, manure, compost, or another organic material. These will have microbes to help with drainage problems.

Watering Clay Soil

Most gardeners stick with watering their plants every day, which is a mistake with clay soil. When watering frequently, the plants will grow short roots because that’s where the water is. If you see that the surface of the ground is always wet, water the area less often. Water clay soil gardens one or two times a week, twice a day.


Not only is mulch beneficial for the plants, it can keep clay water from running into your pathways or patios. Mulch can also keep weeds from germinating in the soil.

  • Simi Valley Plants for Clay Soil
  • California Aster
  • Lemonade Berry
  • Coyote Bush
  • Wild Lilac
  • Western Azalea

If you have clay soil in your yard, consider working with a professional landscaping company in the Simi Valley. At Swink’s Creations, we have the knowledge and experience to create a beautiful landscape design for your yard. Get in touch with us today for a consultation.