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How to Test Your Soil for Proper Drainage

Updated on August 10, 2013

Soil Drainage

Knowing your soil will give you better results in the garden. This includes finding out about how the soil you have drains. This is easy test to find out how your soil drains. Beforehand, assemble these tools: hose for pouring in water, or a large bucket; yardstick for measuring depth, timer. Do this test on a day without rain or excessive heat.

Testing for Proper Soil Drainage

  1. Look for a place in the garden where you'll likely do planting. Dig a hole about 1 to 2 feet across and 1 to 2 feet deep.
  2. Fill the hole with water from a garden hose or a bucket filled with water. Stick a ruler or yardstick in the hole and allow it touch the bottom. Write down the where the water reaches, which will be important for gauging the drainage.
  3. Using a timer, set it for 15 minute intervals and write down the number on the ruler where the water reaches at the end of each 15 minute time period.
  4. At the end of 4 timer settings, or 1 hour, look at the numbers and the water levels. If the water is completely drained, the ground is too loose and drainage is fast. If the water has not dropped an inch yet, the drainage is poor.

To fix a loose drainage soil, add in organic soil amendments like manure and compost.

To fix a poor drainage soil, work in some peat moss in the soil along with compost.


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  • Deborah-Diane profile image

    Deborah-Diane 6 years ago from Orange County, California

    Great suggestion for how to test your soil for proper drainage!