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12 Best Vegetables That Can Be Grown In Clay Soil

by Idris Ya'u
This article was fact checked.
Helpful: 100%

Gardening in clay soil is very challenging especially if you do not pick and grow vegetables that can thrive well in this type of soil.

If you are planning to grow vegetables in clay soil, do not grow root vegetables such as carrots, onions, garlic, and potatoes. Though, with some little soil amendment, you can grow potatoes. These root vegetables require loosely and well-aerated soil that drains water so easily. Leafy vegetables such as cabbage, lettuce, cauliflower, kale, squash, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts usually grow well in clay soil.

There are different ways in which you can improve the quality of clay soil and grow any vegetable or plant of your choice.

Read on for a detailed step by step guide.

Are you a beginner at gardening? Read our step by step guide to starting a new garden

What vegetables grow in clay soil?

In the first place, what is clay soil, and what makes clay soil a poor soil for gardening?

Basically, clay soil can be described as a type of soil that is made up of tiny fine minerals particles. The soil is too compacted and there are not too much or abundant organic matter and useful soil microflora.

Clay soil is considered poor soil in gardening because the soil does not support the growth of wide varieties of plant species. Most plants require a high amount of nutrients to grow optimally. And these nutrients are not obtainable in clay soil.

Additionally, clay soil is sometimes very alkaline and can hold water more than necessary. And these high pH and poor drainage of clay soil make some plants rot or die up when grown in clay soil.

Some vegetables or plants with taproots systems such as carrots, garlic, and onions do require soil with loose space in order to grow maximally. And so when you planted these types of plants in clay soil, they could not thrive well until you invest in some garden maintenance.

However, that does not mean there is not any vegetable you can grow in clay soil without improving the clay soil. There are many good vegetables, which you can grow in clay soil but improving the clay soil can provide you with the option to grow or plant any vegetable of your choice.

Below is a list of 12 good vegetables that you can grow in clay soil:

1. Swiss chard

Swiss chard is another leafy green vegetable that can be grown in wet clay soil. The leaves need water to avoid drying out by the sun and so the vegetable when planted in clay soil can benefit from the water retained by clay soil.

Read also: 20 Best And Easy Vegetables To Grow In Sandy Soil

2. Daikon radish

Daikon radish is a good option for those vegetable garden enthusiasts that have clay soil. This vegetable requires water and so when planted in clay soil, the vegetable can benefit from the water that is retained by the clay soil. Moreover, the roots of daikon radish want to be firmly anchored to the ground. The vegetable can be cultivated in water and can take like 79 days to fully mature.

Read also: 15 Best Vegetables To Grow In Wet Soil

3. Lettuce

Lettuce is a good leafy green vegetable with abundant dietary nutrients, which can be cultivated in clay soil. The leaves are quite delicious and are eaten mostly as salad greens.

Lettuce can thrive well in clay soil because the plant has shallow roots. These types of roots are not submerged into the clay soil and this helps protect the lettuce roots from becoming rot. The roots also benefit from the little organic nutrients that are above the surface of the clay soil.

Read also: 21 Best Vegetables That Can Be Grown In Full Shade

4. Cabbage

Cabbage is another great leafy vegetable that can thrive in clay soil. Cabbage is a common biennial vegetable, which is cultivated for its edible dense-heads. Cabbage is also one of the members of Brassica. The leaves can be enjoyed as salad greens or in cooking. Tip: Learn how to grow cabbage from scraps here.

Read also: 12 Easy Vegetables To Grow In Full Sun

5. Kale

Kale is another good option, which you can grow in clay soil. It is one of the cultivars of a group of vegetables that are known as Brassica. Kale is grown mainly for its edible green to purple leaves, which are enjoyed as salad greens and in cooking.

Read also:  14 Vegetables That Can Be Grown Well In Arizona Full Sun

6. Cauliflower

Cauliflower is another member of Brassica in the family Brassicaceae. Cauliflower is a leafy vegetable and is grown as an annual vegetable. Cauliflower can also thrive well in clay soil with low maintenance. If you want to lunch a new garden in clay soil, give cauliflower a try. Learn How To Grow Cauliflower From Scraps

Read also: How To Grow Vegetables From Scraps

7. Peas

Peas are common fruit vegetables that also thrive well in clay and wet soil. It is usually grown as an annual fruit vegetable from winter through early summer.

Read also: What Kind Of Soil Should I use For Container Vegetables Garden?

8. Pumpkin

Pumpkin is another great option that you can consider when you want to select a vegetable for growing in clay soil. The plant possesses a well-developed root system and fruits that are produced in a well-protective layer of skin, which protects the pumpkin’s fruits from rot and poor aeration.

Additionally, pumpkin can thrive well in low-nutrient soil. It is also low maintenance vegetable that does not require much nutrients supplementation.

9. Snap beans

This is another great vegetable that can be grown in clay soil. Snap bean can be grown in almost all soil conditions. Additionally, snap bean needs warm ground or area. And clay soil can retain heat for a long when heated by the sun. And so this makes clay soil an ideal environment for growing snap beans.

10. Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts are also a member of Brassica cultivated for their edible buds. Just like other members of Brassica (such as cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower), Brussels sprouts can also grow in clay soil.

11. Broccoli

This is another cultivar of Brassica, which is cultivated as a vegetable for its edible stalk, head, and leaves. Broccoli is another low-maintenance vegetable that can easily be grown in clay soil.

12. Potatoes

Despite, potatoes prefer loosely and well-aerated soil for optimal growth, potatoes can also be grown in clay soil when you amend the soil with nutrients.

The plant is perennial but be cultivated as an annual vegetable for its edible tubers. Potatoes do not like much sunlight and can grow well in wet and low-nutrient soil like clay soil.

What to add to clay soil to grow vegetables

If you want to unlock the clay soil and grow any vegetable, you need to correct the clay soil. Clay soil can be corrected by adding different types of organic matter and inorganic minerals such as sandy soil, compost, chopped straw and hay, shredded tree branches, dried leaves, cow manure, weathered sawdust, and other kitchen and garden waste.

All these materials can improve the quality of clay soil when added to the clay soil. The sandy soil can help enhance clay soil drainage and so water optimally retained and drained. Additionally, organic matters such as compost, manure, and dried leaves will enhance the quality of clay soil by increasing the number of nutrients and aeration in the clay soil.

Learn more from here and here

Frequently asked questions

What grows in heavy clay soil?

The following plants can be grown in heavy clay soil: castor bean, iris, miscanthus, heuchera, baptisia, platycodon, hosts, and aster.

Can tomatoes grow in clay soil?

Clay soil has two main characteristics that can hinder the growth of healthy tomatoes. These features are water retention and compaction. However, with good garden maintenance and some soil amendment you can grow tomatoes in clay soil.

Will cucumber grow in clay soil?

Cucumber can grow in all types of soil with regular gardening maintenance. Cucumber can produce more yields in clay soil but it usually matures early when planted in sandy soil. The key thing here is to know the ideal growing pH, temperature, nutrients, and water of cucumber so that you know how to amend your soil.

Can carrots grow in clay soil?

Clay soil does prefer sandy soil to clay soil. The taproots of carrots need space to penetrate and grow optimally. Additionally, carrots do not like constant moisture or water. Consistent water or moisture can rot the carrots’ roots and this can make the healthy growth of carrots. However, if you can correct the clay soil (by increasing aeration, nutrients, and drainage), you can grow carrots successfully in clay soil.


Clay soil is one of the types of soil with low nutrients and poor water drainage. These make gardening in clay soil very challenging. This is because plants need good aeration, nutrients, space, and drainage. And these features are not obtainable in clay soil.

However, that does not mean there are not good vegetables that can be grown in clay soil. There are quite a number of easy to grow vegetables that can be cultivated in clay soil. In this article, I looked at the 12 best easy vegetables that can be grown in clay soil. I hope you will find this article helpful. Let me know if you have any questions.

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