How to improve clay soil for fruit trees FAST! | Top 8 things to add

Improve clay soil ready to grow fruit trees fast by adding gypsum and organic matter like worm castings, compost and aged manures. Mix these through, water the soil regularly and add mulch. Improving clay soil using these 8 steps will help the soil to drain well and provide fruit trees with the nutrients they need.

This article will explore the top 8 things to add to your clay soil to improve it ready to grow healthy, fast growing fruit trees.

Here are the top 8 things to add to clay soil to improve it ready to grow fruit trees.

  1. Gypsum
  2. Worm castings
  3. Compost
  4. Aged manures
  5. Mix organic matter through
  6. Mulch (on top of the soil)
  7. Water regularly
  8. Time (about 2 weeks)

Top 8 things to add to clay soil to prepare it for fruit trees

Here are the things you can add to your soil to improve it ready to grow large, healthy fruit trees.

1. Gypsum

Gypsum is a natural rock mineral, calcium sulfate which can help to break up clay soil. It can be bought in bags and sprinkled over the top of your clay soil. Add about a handful per square foot over the where area you will plant your fruit tree.

This is a cheap addition to add to quickly break down clay soil. It will cause the particles to beak up and improve water drainage. This combined with organic matter will help to create a healthy soil structure.

Check out gypsum on Amazon here.

2. Worm castings

Worm castings are a fantastic addition to clay soil to quickly get it ready for fruit trees. Worm castings are the bits left over after the worms consume soil bacteria and plant material. This concentrated organic material contains nutrients and can be worked through the soil to feed the fruit tree.

If you have worms at home, dig out small amounts from your worm farm with a small trowel. Put it in a bucket and move it over to where you are planting your fruit tree. This is the best way to remove a small amount of worm castings without disturbing the worms.

You only need around ¼ of a bucket full or a few small shovel fulls. If you don’t have your own worm farm you can buy worm castings in bags. Look for them in your general hardware store or nurseries.

Worm castings are fantastic for improving clay soil.

3. Compost

Compost is like garden gold and one of the best things you can add to your clay soil to quickly improve for fruit trees. Compost will break up the clay, allow water to drain through and help to encourage a good bacterial balance which will break down the nutrients and release them ready to be absorbed by the plant.

Add a bag of compost or wheelbarrow full if you have your own at home. For a small fruit tree. You can also improve clay soil for a fruit tree that is already in the ground by top dressing the tree with compost. Just layer 3 inches of compost in the area on the root zone under the leaf canopy.

Compost will also attract worms from the deeper soil who will come up, digest the compost material and soil bacteria and mix it through the clay.

Make compost out of leaves in fall in a compost bag. For more on this, check out my previous article: How to use compost bags | Easy guide

4. Aged manures

I always like to add aged manure to clay soil before planting citrus, stoned fruit, apples or pears. On the property we had that had enough room to plant an orchard also had hard, clay soil that had been compacted by alpacas for around 10 years.

To improve this soil I mixed through some aged cow manure along with compost, gypsum and worm castings and this loosened the soil enough to grow thriving fruit trees.

I used aged cow manure and pelleted chicken manure to prepare the soil ready for my mango tree.

5. Mix it through

After adding all of the ingredients to improve the clay soil you should mix it through with a garden fork. Take some time to thoroughly mix the ingredients through. You do not need to dig too deep but dig a wider area that the root zone of the fruit tree.

I like to dig the organic matter in across a 6 foot area but will only dig it 1.5 foot down. I like to let the worms do the deeper work. Digging it too deep can also form almost like a well where water can sit. Think about digging the organic matter in like the shape of a dish. This will encourage the fruit tree to grow wide roots to stabilize it.

6. Mulch

After you have added the organic matter to the soil you can cover the soil with bark mulch. This will help to protect the soil, keep it moist and keep any worms that travel over protected.

You can add mulch before you plant the fruit tree or wait until after. If you are waiting for 2 weeks you can leave the soi uncovered, but if you are leaving it for longer then I would add the mulch to protect the soil. When you are ready to plant the fruit tree, rake back the mulch to avoid mixing it through the soil.

Bark mulch around my lemon tree.

7. Water regularly

Watering the soil regularly and keeping it moist is important to stop clay soil from drying out and going hard. After you have mixed through the organic matter, water the soil to help the soil bacteria develop, attract worms and help the ingredients to mix together.

8. Time (about 2 weeks)

Before planting your fruit tree it is idea to leave the soil to rest for around 2 weeks before planting. This will allow the organic matter to start to break down, become well hydrated and ready for your new plant. While this is not essential it will give you the best results.

These are my top 8 favorite things to add to clay soil to get it ready to grow fruit trees. This preparation will loosen the soil and make it perfect for planting any fruit from tropical mangoes, lemons, oranges or even apples and pears.

How to improve clay soil for fruit trees FAST! | Summary

Improve clay soil ready for fruit trees by mixing through organic matter, keeping it moist and adding gypsum to help to break it up. Mulch is important for the long term health of the soil and will naturally attract worms which will mix through organic matter and make nutrients available for your tree.

Happy growing.