Poor Drainage Of Garden Soils

Poor Drainage Of Garden Soils

Proper drainage is so important to the health of landscaping and garden plants. And most usually poor drainage can be attributed to clay, hardpan, or compacted soils.

If your soil is clay, the easiest thing to do would be to limit your planting to plants that thrive in clay. You would, of course, need to know a little bit about plants. Or… you may want to look at a few other methods for improving drainage.

Raised Beds

Raised beds are a great solution while at the same time adding interest to the landscaping. Adding more than one level almost always helps a flat dull looking landscape look more appealing.

If you choose to use raised beds, leave the bottom open so that the roots and water can have access to the natural soil beneath them. So many times I’ve seen clients concrete or brick in the bottoms only to create an even worse drainage problem.


Diverting water away from problem areas can be accomplished in a few different ways.

You can decrease elevation from problem areas to other areas or even outside the landscape or garden. One quarter inch for every four feet will be plenty of drop to channel water. Too much drop and water will channel away without any saturation which can cause just as much problem.

Dry Streams And Fake Riverbeds

Dry streams and artificial riverbeds can add a lot of interest to a landscape while at the same time being a functional diversion. Again, the drop doesn’t have to be dramatic. Just enough to create flow.

Gravel Under Individual Plants

Drainage can be improved somewhat by digging a small hole under individual plants using a spade or posthole diggers and filling the hole with gravel. This will only work to the extent of how much space you give the gravel hole.

Ammending soil with sand or good topsoil

Adding sand or organic ammendments to the soil will help keep clay soils from compacting.

Creating Berms

Berms are small mounds on which plants can be planted that will not only divert water away from plants but will also create visual interest to the landscape. For an explaination and guidelines for creating berms correctly, see Berms .

Keep in mind that when you create raised beds, berms, or any kind of terracing, you should mix new soils with the existing native soil. Otherwise, the plants will be reluctant to venture down into the original native soil. And also, water will have a hard time breaking into the top surface beneath the raised areas. And this can cause just as much problem.