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How to Improve Soil Drainage

By Kathryn Hatter ; Updated September 21, 2017
Amend your soil to enhance its drainage.

If gardening soil is too heavy, it presents several challenges as you try to grow plants in it. Not only is the soil difficult to work, it retains moisture due to poor drainage, creating a compacted soil that is a nearly impenetrable growing environment for plant roots. You can correct a heavy clay soil by improving its soil drainage with organic material. By mixing organic material into the soil, it becomes lighter and rich with nutrients for your plants.

Work the soil with a garden spade or fork to loosen it to a depth of about 6 inches.

Add at least 4 inches of aged compost or peat moss to the soil, spreading the compost in an even layer.

Spread 2 inches of coarse sand over the compost in an even layer.

Work the amendments into the soil with a garden spade or fork, working the soil until the ingredients are completely incorporated.

Rake the soil surface smooth to finish amending the soil.


Things You Will Need

  • Garden spade
  • Garden fork
  • Compost or peat moss
  • Coarse sand
  • Rake
  • Complete fertilizer granules (8-8-8, 5-10-5 or 12-12-12)


  • Instead of amending the soil with compost or peat moss, add the same amount of sawdust, or shredded wood chips to the soil. Work these ingredients in well, along with the granular fertilizer.
  • Add 2 lbs. of fertilizer for every 100 square feet of soil area to improve the nitrogen level of the soil while the wood materials decompose.
  • Amend the soil in the spring of the year for several growing seasons to achieve a permanently improved soil.

About the Author


Kathryn Hatter is a veteran home-school educator, as well as an accomplished gardener, quilter, crocheter, cook, decorator and digital graphics creator. As a regular contributor to Natural News, many of Hatter's Internet publications focus on natural health and parenting. Hatter has also had publication on home improvement websites such as Redbeacon.