Which vegetables tolerate clay soil best?

Hello,
I have an allotment with clay soil. What vegetables can I reasonably grow in it what which vege should I not even try?
So far I have onions, parsnips, beetroot, raspberries and strawberries! The beetroot did well last year (the parsnips not so well) but I didn't give my gardening serious effort. I shall work harder this year, but don't want to waste my time trying hopeless cases.
For instance:
Can I grow sweetcorn, tomatoes, spinach (beet), leek, lettuce in the clay soil?
I also have pumkin, melon, courgette, squash, beans, turnips - but will probably grow them in my back garder which has rich loam in it.
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"Jasbird" wrote

You can grow all of those in clay soil, our old allotment had clay soil such that sometimes I had to cut chunks of soil up to bank our spuds rather like making a dry stone wall, even after 10 years of cultivation.. Clay soil is a rich soil as it does not allow nutrients to be leached out like a sandy loam does. Most veg plants love it, it's the gardeners that don't because it's hard work. Our cucurbits always grew very well and I used to just dig a bucket sized hole, fill it with well rotted compost and plant the plant in the middle of that, never any problems. Check the pH though, some clay can be acid and Lime helps break it up anyway.
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Bob Hobden
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Bob Hobden wrote: [...]

Bob, I see you're in a lowish-rainfall area. Would that planting-pocket method work as well in the west? I'd be afraid that in clay the holes would hold too much water.
--
Mike.


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"Mike Lyle" wrote after...

Yes, it's actually a very low rainfall area in a low rainfall area. We often remain totally dry when all around have a heavy downpour. It's become quite a joke with friends, us praying for rain. (washing the car usually works!) I have often seen it written that you plant your cucurbits on a hump of compost to aid drainage and stop rot due to water laying around the plant, never a problem here, I was taught to plant as I said and using the soil taken out to form a dam around the plant to hold water. In the West where it is considerably wetter you may well need to plant on a hump but I see no reason why you couldn't use the "pocket" method as long as the top of the plant stayed dry. Only answer is to try it with some and see what happens compared to your usual method. I knew an old gardener that used to plant his cucurbits on his oldest compost heap.
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Bob Hobden
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Agreed, The majority of veggies love clay soils, most tolerate it, and of all the ones I grow only watermelons really sulk in clay soils. You may want to try some of the short carrots, use to grow the oxheart type , but the round ball types should also work. The long slim types will grow, but are prone to oddshapes on heavy clay.
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We found the "Long Red Surrey" or "Chertsey" carrot didn't seem to mind the clay. Available from http://www.thomasetty.co.uk /
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Bob Hobden
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I garden in heavy soil where rainfall is limited during the summer and have found that most things, with the exception of root crops, grow well if adequate soil moisture can be maintained. Over time, you can inexpensively improve the tilthe, friability, and fertility of your clay soil by adding decayed organic matter.
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"TQ" wrote after "Jasbird"wrote >

The only root crop we found unable to grow well was Swede, we overcame that by growing the seed in Rootrainers and planting out as young plants down to the first true leaves. Carrots we had a problem with until we found the "Long Red Surrey" or "Chertsey" variety** but I suspect that was another problem. Beetroot, turnips, mooli, all grew well planted direct.
** available from Thos.Etty Esq http://www.thomasetty.co.uk /
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Bob Hobden
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Hi there!
I live in Phx Az USA, which is Zone 10a - desert clay soil. Everything grows here! You can lighten the texture up with compost or mulch, and change the acidity with some vinegar or coffee grounds, but most things seem to grow well anyway. I just chop my stems and other mulchy trash type stuff into the bed when I harvest and weed, which aerates and composts it up a bit - but clay soil has great minerals etc. Just break it up, don't let it get all compacted, and water slowly and deeply. I use tons of mulch to keep the soil moist - you'll find that the clay stays moist and you won't have to water as often as some other soils.
I used to think my clay-ey soil was a problem - now I know it's actually a good place to start. I add a lot of compost so I don't have to spend a lot on fertilizer, and grass clippings from my lawn and my neighbors' lawns for mulch. As it breaks down, I just pile more on. It takes FOREVER and a lot of organic matter added to the soil to get that lovely fluffy texture of storebought soil, if that's important to you, but you don't really need it to grow things. I aim for it just because working in clay can be exasperating when you're trying to aerate and till, and fluffy soil is so fun and easy to plant in.
One consideration is accumulation of salts. Since clay holds water - or at least drains it away slowly, chemicals or minerals in the soil only wash down as far as your watering depth. so if you water down a foot over and over, you might find a layer of calcium, caled caliche, or various salts, beginning a foot down. Out here, if you want to dig a tree or help your drainage, you have to dig until you find that layer of salt/caliche. If it's five feet down, you have to water until the soil is wet six feet down, to start washing those salts away into the earth. As for the caliche, once that calcium layer builds up, only a pickaxe will break it up. It will occlude drainage until it's broken - it forms a solid layer, just like calcium buildup on a water fixture, or a bone spur for that matter.
May I ask where you live?
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"tenacity" wrote

Here. :-)
Can't say what Zone, we don't know about such things over here because they don't work well in our maritime climate.
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Bob Hobden
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