From My Garden to Yours
Cottonwood Grove
November 10, 2017

Test for Soil Drainage

Featured above: My cottonwood and oak-tree-volunteer grove.

If you’re not sure how well your soil drains, it’s easy to do a test. This will really help you to identify what plants and trees will do best in your yard. Keep in mind that drainage can vary in your yard depending on slopes and other factors.

To get started, you’ll need:

  • Shovel
  • Measuring tape or ruler
  • Water
  • Watch or phone

Step 1: Dig a hole that is about 12″ wide and 12″ deep with straight sides.

Step 2: Fill with water and let it completely drain.

Step 3: Fill again with water and start timer on your phone.

Evaluating the Results

The amount of time will give you the answer.

0-4 minutes: Fast-draining soil. This is common with sandy soil and/or slopes.

5-15 minutes: Good-draining soil. Lucky you.

16-60 minutes: Poorly-draining soil. This is common with clay soil.

More than 6 hours: While problematic for many plants and trees, it can be perfect for trees that grow near streams (like Cottonwood or Sycamore trees) or plants that like high moisture and boggy soil.

What can you do to change the drainage?

Drains too quickly: Add more organic material to the soil.

Drains too slow: Consider creating elevations for increased drainage.

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