How to Improve Drainage in Clay Soil


Soils that contain a large amount of clay particles present a problem for the gardener. Clay soils are dense, and don't allow water to drain, or air to get to the plant's roots. Adding organic matter to a clay soil is the best way to improve its texture and provide nutrients at the same time. For clay soil, you will need 2 cubic yards of amendment for a 100-square-foot garden. Amendment materials can be purchased in bulk and delivered to your home. Plan to amend your soil in the fall.

Step 1

Dig up the top 12 inches of soil in the garden, turning it and crushing any large clods of dirt. Remove any rocks or other debris.

Step 2

Spread a 6-inch layer of builder's sand and a 1-inch layer of compost over the existing soil. Mix together well, using the garden fork.

Step 3

Level the planting area with a rake.

Step 4

Add a 6-inch layer of wood chips over the top of the amended soil and water deeply. By spring, your soil should be ready for plants.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never work clay soil when it is wet.

Things You'll Need

  • Clay soil
  • Shovel
  • Builder's sand
  • Compost
  • Garden fork
  • Rake
  • Wood chips
  • Water


  • University of California at Davis
  • Ohio State University
  • Washington State University

Who Can Help

  • Oregon State University
Keywords: amending clay soil, adding amendments to improve soil, preparing the garden

About this Author

Victoria Hunter, a former broadcaster and real estate agent, has provided audio and written services to both small businesses and large corporations. Hunter is a freelance writer specializing in the real estate industry. She devotes her spare time to her other passions: gardening and cooking. Hunter holds a Bachelor of Arts in English/creative writing.