Planting on a Hillside in Heavy Clay Soils



Dax. Job well done!


Dax, that’s dern-near potting clay!

Nice and tidy work, as always.


"fer sure


mines like that but add about 40% fist sized rocks! mine kills every tree I’ve planted directly in it except currants/ elderberries. once i planted in bagged soil on mounds they grow awesome. guess the roots get more air that way. nice job!


I get kind of ridiculous but figure that overdoing planting isn’t ever goig to be a bad idea. I planted a Korean pine right off my house in some similar stuff. It had come as a 5-8 gallong tree, a cultivar named ‘Avocadra’ from very generous friends, the owners of Rich’s Foxwillow Pines & I dug that hole 5-6 feet wide and shallow (about 24" deep. I remember an image in my mind vividly of a yardstick I measure off ground level and it being 11 or 11.5 in. Today, it’s about 8" up off the ground still.

That was sticky more of an burnt orange and chalky-limestone yellow colored clay blend.

I have many different soil types here due to slopes running north to south as well as east to west. It’s really funky. At the bottom is pure wetland clay that’s either sink a rubber boot in and lose the boot going into the next footstep or it’s concrete when it dries up.


Near 20 years ago I was hired to plant 19 Braford pears. He wanted a guarantee…said every tree he’d planted on the property had died.

With that piece of knowledge I added about 25% to the price for my work.
(And, I had to replace nothing.)

Finding a way to keep the roots from standing in water is the trick.


Do you have any chlorosis issues in your clay?


I feel like you need some dandelions


And I thought I had heavy soils.

Dax, if you ever get tired of the nursery business, I predict your next business venture will be a brickyard.:slightly_smiling_face:


Nice work!


nasty stuff u got there, how deep does clay go? if anything i don’t put enough effort into planting. i put a bunch of 6 to 8ft bare root apples this fall into 8 inch augered holes. hope they live… i didn’t water them in either but ground was very moist and i tried to work the dirt into the roots well and pack it firmly. they were planted right before ground froze and i figured getting locked into an ice block for winter might not b good…


In defense of Barkslip’s clay. Not all clays are born equal. I suspect that what he has is a Loess soil. Loess is a windborn deposited clay, and is among the most fertile of soils. While it is a clay, it is a very productive clay and plant life tends to thrive in it.


Yeah, this is all tillable/farmable ground so it’s sort of premium land to purchase, but, all land in IL is. This is the worst soil I ever saw.

On the top, flat and long/large area of my property it’s black loam 18" down before a beautifully-structured clay is found. This is clay when moist & rubbed between your fingers falls apart like sand. I actually have a lot of that type of clay. The poor clay like I showed is on hillsides directly sloping from the bottom wetland. Otherwise it improves greatly the farther its gone away from the wetland… however, I still dig holes that contain sticky-clay on occasion that I didn’t expect to find.

There are no chlorosis issues @snowflake. And @BlueBerry is exactly right that root rot is the problem. If I plant a tree too close to the bottom flatland that isn’t tolerant to poor drainage, it’ll die.

@RichardRoundTree I got billions of dandelions. :wink: Just not within these Fall planting photos : )

@TheDerek I’ve dug 7’ down I guess with my hand shovel to plant a pecan with that long of a tap-root. It was yellow, gooey, clay. I was standing in the hole throwing it over my shoulder.



7ft hand dug hole is a crazy level of commitment!


i darn near kill myself digging 2ft-3ft… down here! 7ft is backhoe work . i guess my clay is pretty fertile because the plants that do survive growing directly in it have had almost no need for fertilizer for many years.


For me the orange clay is usually healthy and the grey clay is usually too compact and anaerobic! I have never gone down passed 3’ though. I love looking at the lines in the soil you can see where the earthworms and nightcrawlers hang out and where they overwinter and then you can see all the dandelion roots and holes from said roots. Not much penetrates the clay!


In Virginia we have orange/red clay. It often is hard as a brick and at best is clumpy unless worked with a tiller which I used on the hole in the pic below. Not the best pic nor the finished product but I recently was working on a spot in my yard for a future peach tree next year that shows the clay. Previously there was an apple tree planted directly in the soil that stunted. There was almost zero root growth after three years.


you have the same issue i do here. every tree has to be planted in a raised bed or its dead in 2-3yrs. i hate clay. ours looks more like barkslips but also a lot of rocks.


That is some crazy stuff Spud. I was watching (years ago) Home and Garden TV channel and a “pro” landscaper dug a hole (this was Georgia I remember) to put a fragrant vine in where a trellis was and then grabbed bags of black topsoil and filled it in and mulched it! LOL

Talk about bathtub effect and root rot.