This blog’s name comes from the nature of the land we live on. It is gumbo clay, and more accurately, black gumbo. This stuff has loads of organic material in it, but getting the clay to yield its nutrients is a challenge.
Here’s a good article on dealing with out black gumbo clay. Like the article says, people from other places say “oh we have that gumbo clay here too!” Such statements are often followed by advice about how to quickly and easily a gardener can amend the clay and make it into rich loam in less than a year. That is not real gumbo. You cannot amend a brick without much work and time.
The time element depends upon the slow and gradual building up of organic and coarse sand material into the clay. This material gradually (and I mean decades) works into the clay by virtue of clay’s habit of expanding and contracting over time. Relying on the time element to amend gumbo really isn’t ideal or practical.
The work method, well, you break your back busting up the clay, and you have to do it when the clay is workable, which is a very rare and brief moment between the rock-hard state and the super glue state. Ideally, combining both methods yields decent results. Heavy machinery and horsepower, along with generations of farming, have made some marvelous fields out of terribly hard clay, but for us little guys, that isn’t practical either.
The best quick solution is to garden on top of the clay. Like the article says, it is practical and yields a immediate results. The long-term benefit, if you stay on top of the gardening cycles each year, is that slowly the clay beneath gains a very small bit of tilth. Have a read of the article if you are from the coastal plains here in Texas, and see what your options are.