How to Fix Overwatered Clay Soil


Standing water is a frequent problem in clay soil. This is because clay does not drain easily. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for overwatered clay soil. The only way to fix waterlogged clay is to change the character of clay slowly over time. This is accomplished by working amendments such as aggregates, sand and organic material into clay soil. By working both organic fertilizers, such as compost, and aggregates, such as sand and gypsum, into your soil, you change the soil's tilth and increase drainage.

Step 1

Take soil samples in three or more areas of your garden by first digging a teaspoon-full of soil from the surface of your sampling site. Then dig down 3 inches and dig another teaspoon-full. Place both of these samples into a plastic food storage container.

Step 2

Label the top of this container with a marker to show which location your sample was dug up in. Repeat this process for each sample location.

Step 3

Take your soil sample to the local extension office of your nearest land grant college's community and continuing education program to have it analyzed. The soil analysis will include suggestions on what are the best amendments to use, and what quantities to use.

Step 4

Select amendments for your clay soil based on the suggestions listed in the soil analysis. In general, clay soil will require organic amendments such as peat moss and compost, as well as aggregates such as gypsum and sand. The correct amounts to add to soil will be somewhere between 25 to 50 percent weight by volume.

Step 5

Break up the soil to a depth of 8 inches using a garden spade.

Step 6

Spread the amendments over the soil to a depth of 2 inches.

Step 7

Work the amendments into the soil by turning the soil over with a garden rake.

Step 8

Repeat steps 6 and 7 a second time.

Step 9

Water well to distribute amendments throughout soil.

Tips and Warnings

  • Never amend clay soil with sand only. The sand can bond to the soil, leaving it tough as cement.

Things You'll Need

  • Plastic food storage containers
  • Marker
  • Masking tape
  • Garden trowel
  • Garden spade
  • Garden shovel
  • Garden fork
  • Compost
  • Gypsum
  • Sand
  • Peat moss
  • Garden hose


  • Bachmans: Working With Clay Soil
  • Fine Gardening: Improving Clay Soil

Who Can Help

  • North Carolina State University: Amending Clay Soils
Keywords: soil improvement, amending garden dirt, organic gardening

About this Author

After 10 years experience in writing, Tracy S. Morris has countless articles and two novels to her credit. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets" and "CatFancy," as well as the "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World," and several websites.