How to Deal with Waterlogged Soil

What you can do to fix the waterlogging of your soil.

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 life-span.

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 the heavy type of soils

We got you covered.

Why is my soil waterlogged?

Waterlogged soil may sound self-explanatory, but it’s important to know the various factors behind the problem. Here are the most common reasons that cause the issue:

  • One of the main culprits for waterlogging soil is too much clay in the soil.
  • Excess rainfall. Rain has the ability to drain the earth from surplus water.
  • Your surface drainage system just doesn’t work properly.
  • Due to their location, some types of soil just don’t always drain very well (ex: in shady spots).

What problems can waterlogging cause?

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 nother story. You see, if the soil in your garden has more oxygen in it, the draining process becomes more rapid. 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.

How to fix waterlogged soil

Here are a few methods that answer your question on how to improve soil drainage:

Try pricking, slitting or spiking the soil surface

If you are wondering how to fix waterlogged soil yourself, pricking or slitting the surface is a good way to go. Try shallow pricking or slitting, about 2-3 cm in depth. This solution is most efficient when you’ve drained the excess water away. Make sure to remove every single drop of moisture by swiping it off the lawn. Overall, this method is quite effective in improving soil drainage, but not as effective as spiking. Deep spiking with a proper tool can create holes that are around 10-15 cm deep. Why is this technique better? Well, when you make the holes, you can fill them up with a free-draining material like horticultural sand, for example. This way you make sure 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 the task with just an ordinary garden fork. If you have a bigger garden, you can purchase а 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.

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 in such situations. It may sound a bit radical, but the only thing that you can do is to replace the whole lawn with a new one. You can achieve a better draining lawn situation by adding 5 cm of sharp sand, then some topsoil and finally – a new layer of turf. Don’t forget to mix plenty of manure to enrich the soil and enjoy a thriving new lawn.

Plants that will do well in waterlogged soil

If you don’t feel like pricking, sittling, 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.

Posted in Gardening Tips

Last update: March 12, 2019

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