The Q&A Archives: Garden's soil drainage

Question: I found all my plants in front garden growing bad. Did a drainage test and found that some places 1 foot hole filled with water takes many hours to drain. Looks like while constructing house, they dumped all building materials in there..:( What should I do for good drainage here? do I need to dig and remove existing soil? Does any lanscaping company do that?

Answer: It sound to me as though your soil is mostly clay. Clay soils hold water for long periods of time and do not drain well at all. The good news is that you can improve your clay soil with the addition of organic matter. This is something you can do yourself but I'm sure you can hire someone to do the physical labor if you're not up to it. Start by rototilling the garden bed. You can rent a rototiller at most garden centers. The roots of most landscape shrubs and flowers grow only about 18 inches into the soil so your goal is to amend the soil to that depth. Start by digging or rototilling and removing any construction debris that appears. After you've tilled to a depth of 18 inches and removed all the debris, spread a 4-5 inch layer of compost, aged manure, shredded leaves or any other organic matter that is available in your area. Dig it in to a depth of 8-10 inches and then level the area. After planting your shrubs or flowers, spread another 2-3 inches of organic matter over the bare soil. This will help suppress weeds and slow water evaporation. You can replace this mulch material on an annual basis, digging the old mulch into the soil and adding new. Digging the organic matter into the soil on a regular basis will help you build rich garden loam which will drain well. Best wishes with your project!

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