Gardening Advice

How to Deal with Waterlogged Soil

Zoia Kostina /

Every self-respecting gardener understands the importance of soil quality. Many Australians face the challenge of waterlogged earth, especially in the autumn months. You see, some plants don’t have a problem with a bit more water around their roots, while others… let’s just say that they have a far shorter lifespan.

So, if you are…

  • wondering why this gardening problem happens in the first place
  • looking for a solution for the waterlogged soil in your backyard
  • on the search for plants that do well in soil with poor drainage

We got you covered.

Table of contents:

What is waterlogged soil?

Waterlogging may sound self-explanatory, but in order to understand it best, it’s important to know the various factors behind the problem and the main traits to help you recognise it. So let’s start with the main characteristics of the waterlogged soil:

  • Poor drainage
  • Reduced oxygen
  • Loss of precious nutrients
  • Change in soil colour (they usually become darker)

Now that you know which soil is waterlogged, it’s time to look into what’s causing this common lawn and garden problem. Here are the most common reasons behind the issue:

  • One of the main culprits for waterlogging soil is too much clay in the soil
  • Excess rainfall, as rain has the ability to drain the earth from surplus water
  • Lack of properly working surface drainage system
  • Infavourable location, as some types of soil just don’t always drain very well (ex: in shady spots)
You may also like:
Gardening Advice
Spring Bulbs: What & When to Plant

What problems can waterlogging cause?

So, basically, soil that is slow-draining will store excess water. You may think that this shouldn’t be an issue for your precious roses, but plants also need oxygen to survive. When flowers sit in soil with higher moisture levels, they don’t receive enough of the O element and get very sick. Their roots start to rot and eventually perish. Of course, the coin has two sides.

Free-draining soil is one thing, but earth with way too much air circulation is a whole other story. You see, if the soil in your garden has more oxygen in it, the draining process becomes more rapid. Sandy soil, for instance, is known to have such a problem. In translation: Your roses won’t have enough time to soak up all the H2O from the earth. Similar to the waterlogging issue, your flowers will get weak and die.

You may also like:
Gardening Advice
How to Improve Sandy Soil

How do you fix a waterlogged soil?

So, obviously, the solution lies in finding a way to improve the soil’s drainage. Here are a few methods that can help fix your lawn’s or garden’s drainage.

Try pricking, slitting or spiking the soil

Also known as aeration, pricking, slitting and spiking can work pretty well. However, we have to admit that spiking is most effective for improving soil water drainage, especially for heavily waterlogged soils. Here is how you can do it:

  • Make sure to remove every single drop of moisture by swiping it off the lawn. Pricking and slitting is most efficient when you’ve drained the excess water away.
  • Try shallow pricking or slitting, about 2-3 cm in depth.
  • If that’s not enough, move on to deep spiking with a tool that can create holes around 10-15 cm deep.
  • When you make the holes, you can fill them up with a free-draining material like horticultural sand, for example. This gurarantees that when you water the soil, the moisture runs deeper into the ground, reaching the less compacted layers.

In terms of tools, you can find a wide range of hand spiking tools available on the market. Still, you can complete these gardening tasks with just an ordinary garden fork.

If you have a bigger garden, you can purchase a powered tool that will make the job easier and cut some of the time, as well. A good option is a hollow tiner. You can create free-draining soil with it by making holes into the ground, while at the same time removing parts of the soil. If you want to purchase a hollow tiner, you can choose from a powered model or a manual one – it’s all up to you.

If you happen to own a lawn that likes to get waterlogged on a regular basis, use the spiking method once every few years and in the autumn months. Consulting with a lawn maintenance expert about more permanent solutions is also something to consider.

Build a backyard drain

Another solution for waterlogged soil worth considering is adding a backyard drain. Its main purpose is to transfer rainwater away from your lawn and garden. In case you still don’t have that type of drainage system installed in your backyard, perhaps it’s time to consider it.

French drains are actually among the easiest to install and the good news is that this is a project that you can even do yourself. Given you have the time and the patience, of course. You will have to dig up at least 1m deep trench, then cover it with landscaping fabric and add some gravel on top. A pipe is also added, so the water can easily travel away from the soil in higher quantities.

You can check here the detailed step-by-step guide with visuals on How to Install a French Drain in your backyard!

Two of the most important factors for a proper French drain installation are the location, as the water needs to run downhill, and checking what the laws and regulations in your areas are before taking up such a project.

You may also like:
Gardening Advice
How to Maintain Your Backyard Drain

Replace the lawn

In some cases, ill-drained soils just contain too much clay and there’s nothing that you can do about it. No amount of pricking, slitting or spiking can create a free-draining soil type or these techniques can bring only temporary improvement.

While It may sound a bit radical, in certain cases it is best to avoid wasting time and just replace the whole lawn with a new one. You can create a better draining lawn system by:

  • Adding 5 cm of sharp sand
  • Follow with some topsoil
  • Finally add the new layer of turf
  • (Optional) We recommand mixing plenty of manure to enrich the soil and enjoy a thriving new lawn.
You may also like:
Gardening Advice
How to Lay an Artificial Lawn – Explained!

Plants that will do well in waterlogged soil

If you don’t feel like pricking, slittling, spiking or replacing your whole soil, but still, want a pretty garden, here are 6 types of plants for waterlogged soil that you can grow:

  • Amsonia
    This sort of flower really does need more recognition in the gardening world. It has beautiful small star-shaped petals and it blooms in the early summer months.
  • Astrantia
    The Astrania is a plant for the more shady and boggy areas of your backyard. It has red flowers and needs to be deadheaded for inferior seedlings prevention.
  • Cardamine
    An early-flowering Lady’s smock, which has short purple petals and is a plant for clay soil with poor drainage.
  • Hardy geraniums
    These sort of plants are perfect for a soil type that is prone to waterlogging. You can choose from the Geranium maculatum, North American woodlander, or the spring-flowering European woodlander.
  • Lysimachia
    The moisture lovers vary from the refined white shepherd’s crooks of Lysimachia clethroides to the yellow, rather invasive Lysimachia punctata, which is only suitable for a wild type of meadow garden.
  • Persicaria
    The knotweeds have tiny tapering candles in August but again make very large plants.

Consult with a specialist about your waterlogged soil & find the best solution!

5 1 Vote
Article Rating
Notify of

Inline feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x