5 Simple Ingredients to Fix Poor Draining Soil

7 comments by Halley -Author at MIGardener

Ways to Increase drainage in heavy and poor draining soil
Soil needs to drain; when soil doesn’t drain there can be big problems in your garden, and can negatively impact the health of your plants. Some problems include runoff, which is when soil becomes compacted and water cannot penetrate the soil causing nutrients and precious topsoil to be washed away. The next problem that can occur is root suffocation. Roots need oxygen just like you and I do. When soil becomes compacted it removes the air from the soil. This eliminates the amount of life living in yous soil (remember bacteria, fungi, and beneficial insects also need to breathe), and will choke roots. Lastly, the soil can become baked. This happens when soil is compacted and dries out in the sun. It can heat up extremely hot since there is no moisture or air in the soil to act as an insulator to keep the soil at appropriate temperatures. The soil in your garden should be well draining, loose, fluffy, and not clumpy. However we cannot all have the perfect soil right away. So in this post I am going to give you 5 simple things you can add to your soil to increase drainage.perlite

1. Perlite
Perlite is a volcanic rock that is puffed like popcorn to be very lightweight, and takes up a lot of space. It helps to loosen soil, and prevent soil from clumping. It also has the added benefit of being able to hold onto water which can help soil from baking, cracking, and helping with general soil fertility.

2. Sandsand
Sand is one of the cheapest things you can add to your garden soil that will help to break up the soil. The small particle     size of the sand will get in between soil clods and break them up, increase drainage, and help to aerate the soil for good root development.
3. Compost

Compost is an obvious, but often overlooked thing to fix soil. The problem with many hard, heavy, and compacted soils is that there is a lack of organic matter. When organic matter is found in soil, it acts as a sponge. It is one of the most effective at breaking up clumps and preventing compaction, it provides nutrients to the soil and to your plants, and it also holds onto water like a sponge much like perlite does to assist in keeping the soil conditions hospitable for life. Here is a video we did on how to make compost: How to make compost


4. Mulchmulch
Mulching can do miracles for your soil. This method does take time to work, but it can be very effective if done right. Mulch holds onto water very well, breaks down and decomposes slowly, protects the soil from baking which is one of the reasons it gets hard in the first place, and it allows worms and other garden insects to feed on the slowly breaking down material. This softens soil, and in between two and four years you should have perfectly loose soil.

5. VermiculiteVERMICulite
Vermiculite is again another volcanic rock might like perlite. This glassy flat looking material is extremely absorbent, and when used with any combination of compost, perlite, or all three, it will break up even the hardest of soil and turn it into a usable soil that can grow plants better than you could have imagined.


  • Robert H.

    Thanks! That has been very helpful. I was about to go get some garden soil for large planters of poppies. I had been under the impression that just ordinary soil was good enough. I will mix up something better than that now. Last time fungus gnats infested the soil and ruined the roots of the poppies. I will add “Mosquito Bits” to all the water I use this time. Looks like PH meters for soil are pretty cheap.

  • Nigel

    Sand should not be added to soil it has no mineral content and as soil improves naturally the sand will make it a nutrient poor soil and it won’t hold water.

    Compost, leaves, wood bark, cardboard, green kitchen scraps etc all these things can over time improve your soil the best and quickest fix is a shedload of compost and digging it in if your working a large area a tiller can help with the work. Mulching is also very important use wood chips

  • Lucy

    Adding sand to clay soil will not turn it to concrete, but will lighten its structure. I added sand to my garden soil last year and didn’t mix it. Came this year to be pleasantly surprised how easy it was to till my clay soil. Also, from engineering and building materials course, sand is a filler in concrete, but it is cement cells that would bind sand in the mixture.

  • Ahman

    @Atef I have read online that to change the soil structure(texture) effectively with sand you would need to add great amounts of sand to the soil. Basically you would have to measure how much existing soil there is and add half (or whatever percentage would be effective) that amount in sand. Additionally adding sand to clay soil can cause the soil to become even more compacted because the sand would bind to the sticky clay and create a concrete like soil. So basically it is not worth the hassle to properly change the soil texture with sand.

  • noone

    Your pop ups are irritating. Your website is now on my banned list.

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