Well-Drained Soil: What Does It Mean?

Well-Drained Soil: What Does It Mean?

Handful Of Soil

Picture this, it’s a slightly warm day with a cool breeze that runs through the air making you ache for springtime to come rolling in and save the day. The newly fresh air gathered from a brisk walk has prompted you to set out for new plants come spring. 

Your bookmarked browser to Nature Hills has all the plant goods you have been eyeing over winter, each added to a full shopping cart ready to be shipped directly from nursery to you. How lovely, let’s do it! 

But wait, you catch the bolded words within each plant description..”It really prefers moist, well-drained soil” 

It’s almost as if every plant wants this specific measure! Picky, picky and some gardener’s worst nightmare.

The first part is surely achievable as we water regularly, but what’s the ‘well-drained’ side note? Do I have that type of soil? If not, how do I obtain it? Why does every plant seem to require that? 

Anddddd.. cue the several questions popping into your head before clicking the ‘Submit Order’ button. The perfect day seems to be long gone. 

*Distant superhero music playing* Not to fear, this blog is here to bring back the rays of sunshine!

How To Know If You Have Well-Drained Soil

The question stands. Do I have well-drained soil? The good news is it’s quite simple to see!

A test can show you where your landscape stands in terms of soil - clay, sandy, or loam. Dig a hole about a foot deep and a foot wide. Then, simply fill the hole up with buckets of water and wait. 

Really? We know, the simplicity is astonishing! If the water drains in less than 10 minutes, you, my friend, have a well draining landscape. However, if the water takes over an hour to drain completely, then we are looking at a case of poor drained soil. 

Another way to tell is after a heavy rainfall. If the outdoor soil is still wet, sticky, and latching onto your garden boots then you do not have well draining soil. 

But my plants say they need it, so what happens if I lack this type of soil?

There are actually quite a few drainage solutions to this issue seen by several gardeners, so don’t feel alone. However, these solutions are not complete fixes for a landscape. 

  • Try not to add sand

Trust us, it isn’t a project that you want to take on unless it is in a very small area. For sand to actually do its job well, you would need to add as much sand as there is soil to achieve a 50/50 ratio. For a normal backyard, it simply isn’t feasible or worth the time and effort. 

More importantly, the sand is further filling up the open spaces needed to have drainage. 

  • Raise the soil up

Two words: raised beds. 

When the ground is too stubborn to shift its old habits to the new and improved well-draining habits, then it’s time to think outside the box. 

And by that box, we mean planters and raised beds where you have complete control over the growing environment. They are the secret key to all things drainage problems!

Gone are the days where you have to dig a hole and watch if the water seeps away. Anyone else think that is worse than watching paint dry? 

Now, you can simply create a mix of soil that is well-draining for your flower bed or vegetable garden. Even control the pH levels for those hydrangeas who enjoy changing colors. 

No landscape designer degree required!

If you don’t think raised garden beds are for you, then manually creating small terraces, slopes, or mounds will help change the leveling of the soil making the water move faster from one point to another as well. But where’s the fun and creativity in that? 

  • Add in rich organic matter

This includes compost, which is very coarse and full of spaces to create big channels for water to run through like creek beds. Compost is its very own drainage system! 

The even greater news is that regular additions of organic matter are noted to turn even the worst of soils into prime well-drained soil after a few years. 

Why You Need Well-Drained Soil

Hang on, I was always directed that water is good for plants, why would I want my soil to be well-drained? 

You’re correct. Plants do need water, but they also need oxygen and that’s where this comes to play. Excess water stemming from soil drainage issues can limit the amount of oxygen that reaches plant roots. 

If thought about, plants are just like us! 

The air from above is drawn in by the roots so that it can simply replace the water that gravity is removing. In other words, ideal soil is when water flows down and away, while oxygen from the air is being brought in. 

It also stimulates the release of good nutrients and helps discourage diseases. Happy plants are those who can breathe, drink normal amounts of water, and avoid plant rot!

Like we said, they are just like us...sort of.

4 Quick Tips To Overall Improve Your Soil

  • Keep the ground covered

Like we said before, mulch will be and, more importantly, should be your best friend in all things gardening. It provides a nice cover coat that helps lock in moisture and aids with landscape drainage. 

You can even manually make your own mulch if you’re feeling..ambitious! Chopping up seed-free weeds, recycling grass clippings, and even adding perennial prunings to a soil surface can help boost the grounds.

  • Let it rot

Too much plant food can cause the roots to have what we like to call an ‘upset stomach’. The organic material, water and air need time to compost. 

If you start to notice that there are undecomposed materials building up next to your plant, then you are feeding it faster than it can eat! 

This build up can lead to poor drainage, which is exactly what we want to avoid.

  • Invest in a soil test

It’s the oldest story in the book, you’re told to purchase a soil test kit and then it’s never followed up on. We’ve all been there, but this is us telling you that plants need to visit the doctor too!

Our soil tester kit will help tell if anything important is missing or lacking, which helps when investing in a new garden. 

You’ll get a good base for the pH, texture, and other nutrients. Just a few of the most important factors in soil care 101. 

  • Watch your plants

There’s no poker face when it comes to growing natural specimens. Is their growth seeming to be stunted? Do they have yellow leaves or spots? Are they being watered too much?

Observing and then looking up symptoms of common nutrient deficiencies will help get them back to a vibrant glowing green. 

Now, when checking out that full online shopping cart of plants and you see the words “Requires moist, well-drained soil,” you’ll be more than ready to submit. 

Happy planting!

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