Stuart Price
Last Updated

What if you want to grow your favourite plant on your lawn but cannot do so because of the clay soil drainage problem? Do not worry about the clay soil drainage concern because we will help you deal with it. 

On the other hand, if you have a drainage problem in your lawn, you will struggle to get rid of water after heavy rain. The poor drainage in the yard will not allow the oxygen to reach the plant’s roots. 

Lack of oxygen to the roots can also damage the plant. Not only this, but also it will create such an environment that is suitable for fungus. To overcome these concerns, you will need to take precautions to improve the clay soils drainage. 

By doing so, you can boost the overall health of your garden. However, if you do not know how to improve clay soils drainage, do not grieve because here, we will let you know the steps to follow to improve clay soils drainage.

How to Test the Soil Drainage and Texture?

Before starting to improve the clay soils drainage, you will first need to test it. Examining the soil drainage and texture will help you know more about the problem. For this, you will require tools like a shovel and a water source. Once you have both these tools, you will need to follow the given steps.

Step 1: Squeeze the Soil

The first step you need to do is to squeeze the soil. For this, you will need to put your hands in the soil and squeeze it. If you notice that the soil is slippery and a bit oozy while putting in fingers, it is an indication that the soil is clay. You will also discover that it will return to its original shape while you release it. 

On the other hand, if we talk about the sandy soil, it gives a gritty feel. Also, the sandy soil falls apart quite quickly. If you get a gritty feeling, then the chances are that your soil is sandy. 

The prime concern that gardeners face on having sandy soil is that it does not hold water. You will need to add organic matter to make your soil retain water. 

Organic matters like manure and compost will enhance the ability of the sandy soil to keep water for an extended duration which will be beneficial for the plants as well. 

Besides, you can use shredded leaves on your sandy soil as it also works as organic material. Not only sandy soil, but you can also use organic material to remove clay particles from the soil. Adding organic material will let it drain more quickly.

Step 2: Make a Ribbon of Soil

Another unique approach to test the soil drainage and texture is forming a soil ribbon in hand. While trying to develop a ribbon of soil, it will get rolled within your fingers and thumb. However, if it does not happen, it indicates that your soil has more sand and little clay. 

It will let you know that the soil carries at least around 50 per cent of the sand. On the other hand, if the ribbons break, it shows around 25 per cent of the clay. In such away, you can recognize the amount of sand and clay present in the soil.

Step 3: Dig a Hole

Digging a hole is an essential step that will let you know the correct condition of the soil. By digging a hole and putting water in it, you can see the texture of the soil. You will need to examine how quickly the water drains through it. Below are the steps that you should follow to check how rapidly water drains through it.

  • First, you will have to dig a hole. Make sure that the hole is 1 foot wider and 1 foot deeper.
  • After digging the hole, take some water and add it to the hole.
  • Now, you will need to examine how long the water takes to get drained completely. The suitable time for drainage is around 10 to 30 minutes.
  • If you notice that the drain time is less than 10 minutes, then the chances are that the soil is drought-prone. Such type of soil is ideal for the plantation of such plants that require well-drained soil.
  • Other than this, if the soil takes around 3 to 4 hours, it indicates a drainage issue with the soul. Such soil is poorly drained, and you will need to fix it. This poorly drained issue might be because of various reasons. It could either be because of the high amount of clay in the soil or an impermeable layer of minerals available on the soil, blocking the water movement.

By following the steps, you can know the quality of your soil. In areas with regular irrigation, it’s a good idea to apply water slowly and long enough to soak deeply into the soil, then stop using water until you are sure the soil needs more water. 

On the other hand, if you have sandy soil, make sure to water it for less time. Though you can increase the frequency of water, try watering it for less time to get a better outcome. If, after testing, you find any issue with the soil, you can fix it using the steps given below.

Tools/Materials Needed to Improve Clay Soil Drainage

If you want to improve the clay soil, you will require investing in the right tools and materials. Using the right tool and material will help you fix the clay soil drainage in a short time. Following are some of the tools and materials that you should keep to improve the clay soil drainage concern.

  • Organic materials
  • Oats or Clover
  • Rake
  • Shovel

Apart from these, you can also employ some other tools or materials if you want.

 

Easy Steps to Follow to Improve Clay Soil Drainage

Before starting the process of improving the clay soil drainage, the first thing that you should know is the soil texture and soil structure. After understanding the soil texture and soil structure, it will become easier to improve clay soil drainage. 

Remember that the soil texture is a mixture of sand, silt, and clay, which is difficult to alter. Besides this, the soil structure is based on how soil particles collaborate. 

Unlike soil texture, you can change the soil structure, which will help you shift clay soil drainage. Following is the step-by-step guide on how you can improve the clay soil surface.

Step 1: Add Organic Materials

Adding organic materials is the first thing that you should do to improve drainage. Make sure to choose the finest compost if you want a better outcome. 

On using the finest compost, you will notice the growth of large pores in the soil. These large pores will provide more space for both water and air to reach the roots of the plants. 

We would recommend you add at least 2 to 3 inches of refined compost. Try adding the compost to the beds. After adding them, make sure to mix them deep inside using a shovel or fork.

Step 2: Add Mulching

Another popular solution that many people use to fix the clay soil drainage is by adding mulch. In mulching, you will require adding a protective layer of certain material. 

Make sure to choose the material as a mulch that gives the best result on clay soil. After adding the mulch, you will require spreading mulch on the top of the soil. Besides, there are different materials that you can use as mulch. 

However, most gardeners prefer organic mulch as it gives a much better outcome. Apart from organic mulch, you can also use inorganic mulch as needed. We would suggest you try some organic mulch: bark chips, grass clippings, straw, etc. 

On the other hand, brick chips and stones can be a great source of inorganic mulch. Both these types of mulches have their benefits which are useful for the overall growth of the soil. 

Many experienced gardeners might also be familiar with the use of the coffee ground as a mulch. Using these materials on the soil will provide more room to the soil to improve the aeration. However, to add it, you will need to dig the topsoil slowly. You can also let the worm present in the soil do this task for you. 

Further, it would help if you remembered that the mulch gets easily broken down and quickly mixed up with the soil. Therefore, you will require adding mulch layers repeatedly after a short period. By adding mulch, you can also enhance plant nutrients.

Step 3: Use Cover Crops

Using cover crops is also a useful approach to fix the clay soil drainage concern. By adding the cover crops to the soil, you can enhance the soil enrichment and overcome the drainage problem. 

You can use different types of crops for this task. Some gardeners usually prefer oats and cloves to get the desired results. If you will plant the cover crops, keep in mind that you will need to tilt and dig them once the seeds come out. 

By doing so, you will access much better cover crops on your lawn. The roots of these crops get widely spread, breaking the soil, resulting in improvement in the soil drainage. On the other hand, these cover crops also behave like green manure beneficial for the soil.

Step 4: Lay Down a French Drain

If possible, you should also make a French drain to help you improve the clay soil drainage. Moving the water downhill will make it easier for you to get rid of the drainage concern. 

For this, you will first need to find a downward slope on your lawn. If you do not have a downhill slope, try finding a gradual slope and use pebbles to fill it up. Besides, you can also use raised beds to deal with the clay soil.

Step 5: Drill Hard Clay Layer

In case there is some hard clay layer in your soil, try drilling it. A hard clay layer present on the soil is one of the prime causes of the drainage problem. Check the size of the clay layer before drilling. 

If you notice that the size is around 2 to 3 inches, you will need to dig and drill more. By doing so, you can keep your soil healthy and overcome the drainage concern. However, do not drill it during wet weather.

Step 6: Grow Tolerant Plants

You can also grow tolerant plants in your garden to begin the plantation process. The best thing about tolerant plants is that they can even survive in harsh conditions. There are various herbs available that are considered to be tolerant. 

Some of these plants can even grow well in clay soil. These plants include clivia and daylilies. Apart from these, you can also plant hosta and paeony on your lawn if you want. All of the mentioned herbs can grow in heavy clay soil. 

Other than heavy clay soil, you can also plant them if you have slightly acidic soil. Additionally, these herbs do not require a lot of attention or care during their growth stage. Therefore, if you plan to plant them, you do not need to put a lot of effort into taking care of these plants. 

On the other hand, plants such as viburnum, hydrangea, and roses are also very effective in breaking up the soil. These plants will make the soil ideal for the growth of the next vegetables as well. 

Moreover, experts also recommend the use of gypsum on the clay soil. The reason behind the use of gypsum is that it comes with a vast range of features and can be beneficial for improving the soil. The gypsum will help you enhance the salinity in the soil.

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