The Q&A Archives: Well Drained Soil

Question: I hear the term "well drained soil" all the time, but I'm not exactly sure what it means. What exactly is well drained soil?

Answer: Well drained soil means soil that allows water to percolate through it within a reasonable length of time. For example, a large particled sandy soil will drain very quickly (fast enough to be called free draining in some cases) but a small particled clay-based soil will hold water for a long time and maybe even be waterlogged. If your soil sticks to the shovel in gooey gobs when it is wet then you probably have a clay based soil and it will need some work to become "well drained". A swampy area or an area with standing water after a rain would be soggy or poorly drained.

In most cases adding organic matter can help create a well drained soil. Adding organic matter helps a sandy soil hold moisture a bit longer and adding organic matter (and a little bit of sand) to clay helps open it up with air spaces so it drains better. If you have heavy soil, making even slightly raised beds or planting areas may also help to improve the drainage.

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