Soil image

Improving soil drainage, texture, and pH

Good quality soil is crucial for maintaining a full, healthy garden.

However, the natural properties of soil can cause issues with planting. Here, we’ve outlined the most common problems and how you can solve them.


Waterlogged soil

Soil becomes waterlogged when water can’t drain away properly. The water floods the soil and pushes out any pockets of air – essentially drowning any plants.

Clay soil is a common cause of waterlogging – carry out the squeeze test to check the soil in your garden.

Clay-based soil contains microscopic air pockets that are quickly saturated with water. That means it becomes waterlogged easily. You can improve the drainage by incorporating sand or horticultural grit into the soil – use a garden fork or a rotavator for this.

Single and double digging can also improve soil drainage. It involves digging out and loosening the upper layers of soil. You could add organic matter to help fertilise the area, too. The technique is simple but it can be a big task, especially if you have a large plot of soil. We’d always recommend digging the soil if you’re laying a new lawn.

Drainage systems can be the most effective method of preventing waterlogging. French drains are easy and cheap to install – get in touch to find out more.


Dry soil

Sand-based soils can have the opposite effect. Sand soil struggles to retain moisture, meaning it dries out easily.

Incorporate clay soil to help balance out the texture and improve moisture retention. You could also add compost or manure to introduce any missing nutrients.


Soil pH imbalance

pH shows how acidic or alkaline your soil is. A pH of 6-7 is ideal in a typical garden – this would be a neutral soil with plenty of nutrients, but neither too acidic nor too alkaline.

Certain plants thrive in more acidic or alkaline soil conditions. Some gardeners stick exclusively to plants most suited to their soil. But you can balance out pH if you’d like a more varied planting scheme.

Common garden plants like rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, and magnolias prefer slightly acidic soil. You can lower the pH of your soil by planting in ericaceous compost or adding bone meal. Needles dropping from conifers can also lower soil pH. If you have typically alkaline soil, consider including conifers in your planting scheme.

Varieties of honeysuckle, lilies, crocus, and geraniums prefer alkaline soil. Increasing the pH of your soil is pretty simple. Spreading ash from a fireplace over the area is the easiest and cheapest way of adding alkaline properties to your soil.

Scattering garden lime also increases pH. Calcified seaweed or ground chalk can work well, too. The quantity of product you’ll need depends heavily on your soil’s natural pH level – so it’s crucial to follow instructions carefully.

Read here for information and advice on successful planting. It’s crucial to prepare and aerate your soil, too!

We’d generally recommend choosing plants and materials suited to the soil in your garden. But there are ways to improve the soil properties and conditions, should you want a more varied planting scheme.
Markel Gardens

Looking for garden help and inspiration?

Get in touch today to arrange your personalised consultation.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *