Most plants require nutritious, well-drained soil in order to grow well. If a plant is forced to sit in a puddle of soggy mud, it can die. One improvement you can make in your yard is to build raised garden beds: these are easy to amend with nutrients, sand or other ingredients, such as perlite, that help soil aeration. Another method of improving bad drainage is to dig in sand, cinder, perlite or vermiculite into existing garden areas. You can also build planter boxes that allow a plant to live one or more feet above the poorly drained ground beneath it. It's easy to control the composition of soil elements in a planter box.
Making a Raised Bed
Spread flattened cardboard or several layers of newspaper over the soil in the area you want to build your bed.
Build layers of growing materials such as compost, peat moss, fallen leaves, sand and any other materials you have on hand, such as wood ashes or old plant parts that you have chopped up a bit. Larger plants need a deeper bed and smaller plants need less growing depth.
Rake the top surface of your raised bed to make it flat and then water it well.
Plant in your raised bed immediately.
Improving Drainage in an Existing Area
Spread sand, cinder, perlite or vermiculite on the soil surface.
Dig in the materials you have spread with a hoe or spade.
Avoid disturbing the root systems of existing plants when you dig into the soil.
Building a Planter Box
Cut 1-by-8 or 1-by-12 inch boards to the size you need. A 4-foot-square planter box with no bottom that is about 2 or 3 feet tall will help a plant as large as most citrus trees, which are notorious for requiring good drainage.
Nail or screw your cut boards together and then place it in the area where you want your plant to grow.
Fill your planter box with a balance of soil, compost, cinder or sand, perlite or vermiculite. You might also want to add a time-release fertilizer, available in pellet form. Water it well.
Plant your plant in the planter box according to its needs. Water it well about once each week, taking care not to allow the soil to remain wet: allow it to dry out between waterings.
About this Author
Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.