How to Improve Dry Soil for Gardening


Whether you're growing vegetables, flowers or herbs, your garden soil must be fertile, crumbly and moist. Dry soil makes it difficult for plants to spread their roots and absorb nutrients. Extremely dry conditions will also affect the soil's ability to absorb moisture during heavy rains and may deteriorate topsoil as the water runs off. The addition of organic materials over several seasons will slowly improve dry soil, making it suitable for any plant.

Step 1

Take some soil into your hand and attempt to crumble it to determine the texture of the soil. Excessively gritty soil is composed of sand. Small sand granules drain too quickly and require the addition of moisture-holding organic material. Clay soil, which clumps in the hand and does not easily break apart, requires the addition of sand.

Step 2

Test the soil's nutrient levels using a soil pH test. Tests are available from gardening centers, with instructions included. Soil that is 7.0 or above is considered alkaline, while 6.0 and below is considered acidic. Alkaline soil requires the addition of sulfur to balance the pH, while acidic soil requires lime to raise the pH. Apply lime or sulfur at 1 lb. per 1000 square feet.

Step 3

Add peat moss to the soil to improve its water-holding capabilities. Apply 2 to 3 inches of peat moss per 6 to 8 inches depth using a rototiller. Run the rototiller both horizontally and vertically across the gardening area to work the peat in.

Tips and Warnings

  • For heavy, dry soils, application of peat will need to be done annually for 2 to 3 years before improvement is made.

Things You'll Need

  • pH test
  • Rototiller
  • Lime or sulfur
  • Peat moss


  • Utah State University Extension: Preparing Garden Soil
  • Virginia Cooperative Extension: Building Healthy Soil
  • Ohio State University: Improving Soils for Vegetable Gardening

Who Can Help

  • Colorado State University: Choosing a Soil Amendment
Keywords: dry soil, gardening soil, soil amendments

About this Author

Cleveland Van Cecil is a freelancer writer specializing in technology. He has been a freelance writer for three years and has published extensively on, writing articles on subjects as diverse as boat motors and hydroponic gardening. Van Cecil has a Bachelor of Arts in liberal arts from Baldwin-Wallace College.