How to Improve Your Soil's Drainage

Note: This is a work in progress, please check back again for more detailed information

When thinking about soil it is best to see it as medium in which your plant roots sit. Also sitting in that medium are all the essential ingredients that a plant needs to grow: water, air and nutrients. This is all the soils do; they hold all the ingredients in place for plants to grow. When improving your soils you need to ensure that all these ingredients are readily available in your soil.

First of all it is important to say that all and every soil can be improved and made to work better. Whether your problem is poor drainage, low fertility or shallow soil there is always a solution. But to determine your soils condition there are a number of factors to consider. The question is; can your soil hold a sufficient amount of air, water, nutrients and plant roots?

  • Factors to consider include the following:
  • The type of soil you have
  • Your soil structure and drainage
  • The depth of your soil
  • The Fertility of your soil
  • The pH of your soil
  • Organic content and Bio logical activity
  • And finally, soil temperature

All these factors combine to create the ideal growing conditions for your garden plants, trees and vegetables.

How can you improve your soil?

Sandy soils
Drains to fast, low fertility and poor water retention, therefore can suffer from drought.
To improve sandy soils add a plentiful supply of Farm yard manure to the surface of your soil and work it into the top foot using a garden fork or rotavator. To make an effective difference to your soil you will need to add at least 4 inches of farm yard manure to the soil. This works out as approx.  1 tonne of farm yard manure for every 10 square metres of sandy soil.

Clay soils
Soils that are heavy, sticky when wet causing it to stick to boots and shovels. Clays soils can be a real pain, especially in our damp climate. Clay soils are also less suitable to growing root crops which require light, airy soils to develop their long roots.

To improve clay soils you’ll need to improve your soil’s ability to drain; the way to do this is simply to add sand. The amount and type are essential to getting the job done right. Ordering sand can prove difficult, because of the range and various names that sands are given. To improve your soil’s drainage you’ll need a grit sand, and a lot of grit sand. As stated clays soils can be well over 50% clay, and would therefore require a significant amount of sand to return it to a loam soil. Therefore this method is generally unfeasible.

The best option is to manage your soil well, fork to improve aeration and remove compaction and again add 4 inches of farm yard manure to your soil. Farm yard manure has a high level of partially decomposed material which acts as bulky material in the soil which will improve air flow and drainage.