Materials to Improve Drainage in Soil

Water Conservation for Lawn and Landscape June 11, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF
  Poorly drained clay soil 
Photo credit:London Permaculture Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Mixing manure into clay soil
Photo credit: Kathleen Farley Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Materials to improve drainage in soil include organic or inorganic amendments. Organic amendments have the added capability of providing additional organic matter and nutrients.

Amendments can include bark and wood chips, compost,and pea gravel, depending on soil type. Note that mixing wood products into soil can tie up nitrogen availability. Additional nitrogen fertilizer may be necessary.

As a result of their high water retention capacity, clay soils often drain inadequately. Materials to improve clay soils differ from those needed for sandy or silty soils.

Cultural practices can also aid in improving drainage.

  • Minimize traffic on soil, especially when soil is wet.
  • Avoid digging/tilling when soil is wet.
  • Installing drainage tiles can be expensive. However, they can be effective in large areas.
  • Avoid mixing sand into clay soil.

Adhering to these cultural practices in addition to adding soil amendments can be an effective way to improving drainage.

Additional Resources by Region:

Practices to Improve Soil Drainage


Colorado:  Choosing a Soil Amendment
Nevada: Nevada Soil Amendment Myths
Oregon: Improving Garden Soils with Organic Matter


Louisiana: Poorly Drained Soil? What to Do
North Carolina: Improving Your Soil




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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.