An alternative method is to create french drains. The next day, fill the hole with water again. Clay soil is particularly susceptible to compaction. Compaction will lead to poor drainage and the dreaded clods that gum up tillers and make working clay soil such a pain. This is where raised bed gardens are useful. Spread gypsum on your lawn twice per year, using one standard bag per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Aerating the lawn will help to improve drainage and will add air into the soil which will improve the conditions for the grass roots to live in. Aerate your lawn using a punch-core aerator. Best For These Soil Types: Clay soil (to improve drainage) Sandy soil (to improve water retention) Clay soil applications: Can be used to improve both bare soil and existing lawns. Lay piping in each trench and interconnect them. Note exactly … Raised bed gardens allow you isolate your plants from the ground soil. I have not actually heard of a connection between eucalyptus trees and veggies? I can always mix some of the clay soil in to move things along as no-one will ever walk on the raised beds and so there will no problems with soil compaction. If the water drains out more than four inches per hour, the soil is extremely sandy. Boggy lawns are a pretty common problem for homeowners in Auckland, where many areas have clay soils. How to Test Soil Drainage Before Planting. However, if the problem persists, consider installing land drainage pipes to remove excess water permanently. While it is possible to adjust the pH of your soil to grow certain plants, the process can be time-consuming and very expensive. Use special drainage piping with drainage holes across the top to collect the water. I've found that garden compost is best, but soil conditioners such as seaweed, farmyard manure, or bagged manure products like Scott's Organic Dehydrated Manure can also improve the soil quality. However. Terry has written articles and publications for a wide range of markets and subject matters, including Medicine & Health, Eli Financial, Dartnell Publications and Eli Journals. Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic compost or sphagnum peat moss on top of your lawn. Topdressing the soil Then, if I start a new garden, or go to plant something in unimproved soil, I get the surprise of feeling like I am trying to dig in cement. Drainage wells are another common underground solution for compacted soil or hard sub-layers that allows the water somewhere to run after rainfall. Then just plant the usual Spanish desert plants in the garden like oleander, and palm trees and stuff. forking organic material into clay soil to improve it. Herringbone drainage system. The clay soil causes most of the drainage problems in lawns and gardens. Peat moss is an extremely stable organic material, and the effects of one application can impact your soil for over two years. All Rights Reserved. Writer Fox from the wadi near the little river on December 08, 2011: This is an excellent article! With French drains, you have to accurately measure the slope of the land to 1:100 because that is the correct level to allow water to drain away. I think I am going to go for raised beds gardening to grow my vegetables now that the trees I planted for increased shade have begun to mature. It was a LOT of work, but it worked. Make sure you don't put ordinary garden soil in your raised bed, else you're just raising the level of your garden. Clay soil needs regular aeration to allow water and oxygen to move freely through it. Angle the pipes so that water will flow into the main pipe. The main drainage pipe (middle) drains downward, away from the house, toward the soakaway (SA). The idea stems from the fact that if clay is the smallest soil particle leading to poor drainage, and sand is the largest soil particle causing fast drainage, mixing the two will equal out to well-drained soil. If the soil in your lawn clumps together and your grass is brown and patchy, you likely have clay soil. When we moved in I had dig deep then put some nature soil in the bottom and around the plants before closing them up. These are very useful tips - I really could have used these tips 15 years ago when I started planting gardens and had no clue what was doing :) Over time, I've worked more organic matter in so it's not as bad anymore - it definitely takes time and hard work! This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional. Adding organic compost is a great way to improve both drainage and your soil’s nutrient levels. Injecting air pockets into clay soil is essential for improving drainage, breaking up … Test the soil. Don't add sand to clay soil. Fill it with water. The soakaway should be at least 6 feet deep and filled with rubble to collect the water. Clay soils tend to become waterlogged in wet weather; the grains tend to stick together, preventing water from escaping. Dig a hole 12 inches deep and 12 inches in diameter. Soil that drains too slowly likely has too much clay in it. You will have to uproot your lawn and start on fresh soil for this method to work. Wet soils and dead patches allow mosses to thrive in the lawn over winter. Plant on a mound Raising up an area of soil when planting trees and shrubs, before you plant, improves drainage. If your plants look the same size as when you planted them 4 years ago, then it might well be worth working some organic matter around their roots. However, with the addition of more organic material (and I imported earthworms for the compost heap) they will one day thrive. Aerate after the ground thaws, when soil is moist (not soaking) and during the growing season. We would love to show how it’s done. Kris Heeter from Indiana on December 08, 2011: We have lots of clay here in Indiana too. Aerators remove plugs of dirt from the lawn and break up the soil, allowing grass roots to spread. Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on December 10, 2011: That picture of the garden looks just like mine did. Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic compost or sphagnum peat moss on top of your lawn. Aerate Clay Soil. I am slowly filling the new raised beds with grass cuttings and kitchen waste, but am thinking of asking the neighbours for their left-overs too because it will take forever. Start by digging the main drainage trench—two to three feet deep in a straight line across your garden. It also adds liquefied Seaweed and Humic Acids (Carbon) to help generate and feed beneficial soil microbes of all types (including mycorrhizae). The soakaway should be at least 6 feet deep and filled with rubble to collect the water. Clay soil can be a nuisance, but the addition of organic matter, and where flooding is a serious problem, the addition of land drainage can make your clay soil garden easy to maintain and enjoyable to use. Adding compost and other organic materials tend to neutralize the soil, so you'll have trouble growing plants that love either acidic soil or alkaline soil. Consider installing a French drain system or a drywell if your lawn has severe drainage problems or if your lawn still isn't draining well enough. I want to try the French drain system you suggested as I am sick of our Spring swamp. Plus, we have the drainage problem in the grassy part of the yard. Break up the bottom of the hole with a fork to improve drainage. If your lawn is growing in a poor clay soil, it will always be prone to the problems that come with clay - compaction, poor drainage, fungus, moss, weeds, poor nutrient availability and color, root-stress and a host of other undesirable conditions. It's many better for you to hire the machinery and employ someone with a bit of muscle to help you. A quick fix is to make drainage holes with a garden fork or similar tool. The holes help to accelerate the natural conditioning of the clay when appropriate organic matter is added as well as allowing water to drain through to better soil below. Else do like I am doing, and make your own. Do not use sand to blend into clay soil as an amendment. If using dried seaweed meal, apply 100-200 grams per square meter. PS: earthworms and kitchen scraps can help clay soil, too. It entails spreading up to 8 inches of organic compost on the soil and mixing it up by tilling. IzzyM (author) from UK on December 10, 2011: It's horrible stuff to work with, isn't it? Digging deep and adding compost or whatever needs to be done often, as the soil and weather takes leaches the goodness you added. Thank you for these useful tips Lizzy. Perlite is a volcanic rock that is puffed like popcorn to be very lightweight, and takes up a … Sarah Terry brings over 10 years of experience writing novels, business-to-business newsletters and a plethora of how-to articles. Adding sand will likely make your clay soil harder and clump even more. Clay soils tend to be acidic, but not always. Now I know that information on this topic is controversial. Annual aeration is a vital part of lawn care, especially if you have clay soil. My current garden soil is clay but alkaline. If you can afford to buy either topsoil or the cheap compost your local garden centre sells, fill it with that instead. It helps improve drainage in your lawn clay, provides trace elements, encourages deeper rooting, frees up nutrients and water in the root zone and helps move organic matter deeper into the soil. Remove these with a proprietary moss killer to allow the lawn to thrive; Drainage. Improve the soil mix. Another way to improve soil drainage is to install a drainage system. Amending your soil is an easy process, but isn’t going to happen overnight, or even with a single act. Pinpointing the Problem Identify where water collects. Whether you choose to buy a ready built raised bed garden, or have one constructed from wood or brick, you can choose to fill it with a compost of your choice, and grow your plants of choice. It’s going to take time, and the time that it takes to improve clay soil will vary among all lawns and gardens—but, there is a specific soil treatment path that works very well when followed. It's a continuous process, there is no end, but all the time the soil will improve and more plants will flourish. If done correctly, drilling holes in clay soil can be an important step to improving the drainage of your lawn. Instead, the trenches are filled with rubble and gravel and replace the topsoil. It may take many years to truly improve the composition of clay soils. Cover your soakaway with thick plastic sheeting. You can aerate the lawn by either spiking the lawn with a garden fork or aerator shoes, or by using a hollow tine aerator. You may also find that it's hard to walk on the waterlogged soil. Dig down about 6 to 12 inches into the clay soil, turning and breaking up the soil. Spread gypsum on your lawn twice per year, using one standard bag per 1,000 square feet of lawn. There are certain plants that can grow in clay soils. Install a Drainage System. Adding materials such as organic compost, pine bark, composted leaves and gypsum to heavy clay can improve its structure and help eliminate drainage and compaction problems. Really that is the work of it, getting the trenches dug - pipes, gravel etc are cheap and easy to install, then you just replace the top soil and/or turf and you are finished. When it is finally ready, it should more or less pH neutral which will be great for growing just about anything. Spread gypsum on your lawn twice per year, using one standard bag per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Well Sue you are just down the road from me, and I built raised beds this summer - it finally got to me!! Build a soakaway—a deep circular hole with sloping sides—at the end of the main pipe. Space side drains at 10 ft intervals for clay soil and 25 ft intervals for loamy soil Dig out the trenches, saving about 6" off the best topsoil to backfill. When sand mixes with clay, it creates a soil structure akin to concrete. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Keep poking holes, every 4 inches if poss and then brush in some sharp sand to aid drainage. Line the trench with landscape fabric to keep earth out of the gravel to allow water to percolate through easily. Angle the pipes so that water will flow into the main pipe. I got lucky, only two stay looking health but the look same size as I planted them and that was 4 years ago. Therefore, the water takes more time to seep in the clay soil than other types of soils. Aeration is a significant factor in preventing waterlogging and keeping your lawn healthy. Be mindful of the slopes of your garden when positioning the trench. If you have more clay soil in your lawn, the water will stand for around a day after heavy rainfall. Clay is denser than loamy or sandy soil. Ask us about it. Dig trenches that will feed into the main trench in a herringbone fashion. Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on December 09, 2011: When I dig around in my garden, sometimes I forget how awful it was when we moved in. It helps with water retention in sandy soils as well. The first precaution you will need to take is to baby your clay soil. What do you think? Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map! I know clay soil is considered one of the worst soils to have but there are ways to fix and correct a clay soil. Gypsum will help to separate the clay granules, allowing water to drain through the clay soil better. Having worked with clay soils for years, I've learned a few simple ways to improve the structure of the soil. A simple way to find the pH of your soil is with a pH kit. Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →, Easy Digging: Improving Your Soil to Avoid Poor Drainage in Yard or Lawn, LawnCare.net: The Importance of Good Lawn Drainage. If you dig a hole the same size as the plant’s rootball you will create a sump which will fill with water. Alpine species that are usually grown in rockeries. The ones listed below flower at different times of the year, so you will have a splash of color in your garden year round! Watch your yard during rainfall. Where there is somewhere for water to go (a ditch, drain or soakaway, for example), drainage systems can be installed. And like you say, your garden is either brick hard so you can't work with it, or it's swimming in water and mud that clings to your shoes or boots when you walk on it. Top-dressing your lawn with organic materials will gradually enrich your lawn with nutrients and improve drainage at the same time. A soil test determines the fertility of the soil by measuring the amount of nitrogen, … If you employ a company to do it for, beware of workmen trying to charge a fortune - they'll bring in a machine and have it dug out in half a day or something and want to charge you big bucks. They are very easy to use, and you can find out whether your garden soil is acid or alkaline in just a couple of minutes. Irises, especially the smaller ones. You can purchase or rent lawn aerators at most home-improvement, garden or hardware stores. This will take time and effort but will slowly improve drainage. We have clay soil here in Nevada. Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic compost or sphagnum peat moss on top of your lawn. You want to have the trench at a downward slope. Clay soil tends to clump up rather than crumble. Hard clay soil can cause serious drainage issues in your lawn, especially if your yard is flat without any slope. The … However, it may take from several months to a few years to completely change the structure of heavily impacted soil. It'll be fine in a raised bed garden even if there are eucalyptus nearby because they won't share the same soil. Adding sand will likely make your clay soil harder and clump even more. Poor drainage can lead to waterlogged ground—not ideal for plant growth. We have clay soil here in Texas and with the severe drought we're under, the yard has turned into giant bricks. I'm hoping to raise some Ayrshires, in the winter, in a raised bed garden. Clay soils are sticky in winter, but brick-hard in summer, but with the following tips, you can improve the soil rapidly. Spread the soil conditioner across the surface, and use a garden fork to mix it in. Openings made by aerator allow nutrients, air, and water into the soil, enhancing the grass growth. Then, mix sphagnum peat moss or organic compost into the top 6-inch layer of the soil. Grading may also be necessary if your lawn is soggy and does not have an adequate slope for water runoff in addition to the clay soil. Heavy, ill-drained soils that are rich in clay do not allow water to drain away. In order to … Also with raised beds you can water what needs watering and know it is not going to waste. Bulbs: Avoid the smaller, delicate ones that need light, warm soils. It … My clay soil in southern Spain has been driving me barmy. Since one of the biggest … If you can roll a handful of your garden soil into a sticky ball, it is clay. After a year or two of repeated applications, the soil will become more friable and easier to work with. Most plants, except bog plants, do not like having their feet wet because they can quickly rot. If using proprietary compost mixtures, follow the instructions on the package carefully. Improper use can do more harm than good. Aerate your lawn when the soil is moist. As such, they tend to get waterlogged easily in a flash rain, resulting in a soggy lawn. More often there is no easy way to shed excess water. IzzyM (author) from UK on December 07, 2011: Apart from the whole clay soil aspect, I like the idea of isolating and growing plants that would normally struggle in this climate, like potatoes. High-density soils such as clay soil and compacted soil have low percolation, which means they drain water slowly. You can improve your clay soil and eliminate your lawn-drainage problems by aerating your lawn and incorporating some organic materials. Five steps to improving clay soils: Make raised beds to assist drainage and to reduce trampling of the soil Consider adopting a ‘no-dig’ regime, especially in raised beds, as these suit clay soils well Some, but not all, clay soils respond to extra calcium, which causes the soil particles to flocculate (clump together). I hope. Use special drainage piping with drainage holes across the top to collect the water. French drains are like herringbone drains without the pipes. Perlite. Clay soil is also nutrient-poor and compacted, preventing your grass from getting the necessary food and oxygen it needs. The 5 year old eucalyptus trees are now 20 meters high. Improve the texture of your heavy clay garden soil, but make a point of growing flowers and vegetables best suited to the natural pH of your soil. For extreme cases where the soil takes two hours or more to drain 1 to 2 inches, mix the full amount of organic compost. When we were having the 100 year floods a few years back it was just a clay soup farm. Make a pass in one direction over your lawn with the aerator, and then make a second pass in a direction perpendicular to the first. It has also been shown to help in nutrient uptake, but varies with different plants. Copyright Leaf Group Ltd. // Leaf Group Lifestyle. Build a soakaway—a deep circular hole with sloping sides—at the end of the main pipe. In areas of poor rainfall, you may want to build a concrete soakaway to store water for gardening during drier times. Aerating Clay Soil Wait to aerate your soil until it’s completely wet or dry. Cover the surface of the trenches with gravel or small stones. Improve the clay and you will improve the lawn. @kris, well done I am glad to hear your soil is improving! While adding in compost and organic material is always beneficial, and does tend to help neutralise the soil, you are still going to have trouble growing acid loving plants in alkaline soil, or alkaline loving plants in acid soil, and this is where raised bed gardens come in useful. Till your clay soil with a rototiller or pitchfork to loosen up the hard clumps when planting a garden or flower bed in your lawn. If using manure, spread to an 8 cm (3") thickness. This is a discussion on our five-step strategy for improving clay soil. I think it should be Hub of the Day! If the soil in your lawn clumps together and your grass is brown and patchy, you likely have clay soil. Quick soil drainage (percolation) test. Of course they say don't grow veg near eucalyptus but if they are in a separate raised bed it might work. Don’t add sand to clay soil. Aerate To Improve Drainage. All of the water should drain out within eight hours. This involves digging series of deep trenches across your garden, in areas where you might walk. Alternatively, spread a mulch of wood chips, sawdust or bark chippings on the soil surface, and they will eventually disappear into the soil naturally. When planting trees and shrubs in heavy clay soil, plant them a few inches above the ground surface by creating a mound of nutrient-rich, well-draining commercial topsoil on top of the ground. The best way to handle improvement of clay soil is to begin amending soil by actually digging organic matter into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil, thus breaking up the heavy clay layers and providing air space in the soil to allow plants to breathe and water to drain. IzzyM (author) from UK on December 08, 2011: Earthworms can't live in heavy clay soil that is mostly dry like here. Amending your soil properly can overcome heavy, compacted clay and get it back on track for healthy lawn and garden growth. Those plants just don't seem to care about clay soils. I have had no success with them here, and the shop-bought ones are horrible. Another way to improve soil drainage is to build up the soil where you are having the drainage issue or create a berm to redirect the water flow. I’m going give you ways how to improve drainage clay soil and ways to improve your clay soil period. This is easiest to do during spring and autumn, after the rains. IzzyM (author) from UK on December 09, 2011: I installed my own land drainage system years ago when I was young and fit, and that included digging out the trenches. (3-6 oz per square yard). Right, I planted lots of oleander and fruit trees. How to Improve Lawn Drainage With Clay Soil. Aerate the soil. In lawns, humic acid works by breaking up clay and allowing better water penetration. Juliette Kando FI Chor from Andalusia on December 07, 2011: Joyce Haragsim from Southern Nevada on December 07, 2011: Thanks, maybe I will get outside and do what you've suggested. Use gritty sand to top-dress clay soil or ground that waterlogs badly, as this improves surface drainage, but use bags of bought topsoil or ready … Drain system you suggested as I planted lots of clay here in Texas and with the addition of more material. Flow into the main drainage trench—two to three feet deep and adding compost or peat... A bit of muscle to help you material, and the effects of one application can impact soil. Compost on the package carefully out of the slopes of your lawn twice per year, using one bag. And effort but will slowly improve drainage clay soil can be time-consuming and very expensive the..., where many areas have clay soil as an amendment water drains out more than four inches per,... To be done often, as the plant’s rootball you will create a sump will... 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