#13
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How do you tell if your soil is "well drained"? Many plants say "does well in well drained soil" Is there a simple test to do to check your soil? If it isn't well drained what is recommended way to adjust - new gardener
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#14
  well drained soil mdgarden How do you tell if y...
The recommended testing method is to dig a 12" hole, fill it with water & see how long it takes for the water to drain out completely. If the water is still there the next day, you have slow drainage and 2 options: 1) grow plants that like wet conditions there, or 2) amend the soil with sand and/or lots of compost to improve drainage. I suppose there's also 3) build a raised bed with lots of good topsoil (probably not stuff just dug from another part of the yard) and, yes, more compost.

If the area is flat you may be able to use the more imprecise, but lazier method of eyeballing the area after a heavy rainstorm: no puddles=very fast drainage (amend with peat & compost, or use arid-loving plants); puddles that are readily absorbed=good drainage; puddles that stick around forever=very slow drainage. Of course, this only tells you what drainage is like at the soil surface, not so much what it's like down deep in the plant's root zone... Good luck!
The great thing about gardening is that you always get a chance to start over!
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#15
  Re: well drained soil IntrepidMeredith The recommended test...
That hole should be 12 inches, or 1 foot square, and 12 inches deep and then you fill it with water and allow that to drain and then refill the hole and time how long it takes to drain. Anything less than 2 hours means the soil is too well drained and needs lots of organic matter to slow that drainage down. Anything over 6 hours means that soil drains too slowly and it needs lots of organic matter to speed up the flow of water.
West Central Michigan along the lake shore.
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#16
  Re: well drained soil KimmSr That hole should be ...
I wan't going to reply, but could not resist. Also live in east central Wi and have primarily a clay soil. The first thing we learned in master gardener class about establishing well drained soil is to ammend with a good compost. Also to NEVER add sand ad thei is the perfect receipe for concrete sand+clay =concrete
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#17
  Re: well drained soil captainbartelt I wan't going to rep...
Whether your clay plus sand would equal concrete will depend on which type of clay you have and the amount of sand added to that clay, but mostly to make any difference in your clay by adding sand you would need at least 45 percent by volume. So for a 4 x 4 planting bed you would need at least 29 cubic feet of sand to amend that soil and it should be amended to a depth of 4 feet so water will not be held in by that sense clay beneath it called the bathtub affect. Any organic matter is what to use to ammend any soil. OM in clay soils opens up the soil structure so mosture and nutrients will move around and plant roots can also. OM in sand will fill in the pore spaces so moisture and nutrients are held in place for the plants roots to find and utilize.
West Central Michigan along the lake shore.
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#18
  Re: well drained soil KimmSr Whether your clay pl...
Well, I feel blessed!! I don't worry about drained soil. We have deep top soil here and if we have a wet sring the water does percolate down and most plants aren't affected. I'm relieved I don't have to dig 4 ft down to amend the soil.
I really admire your work at gardening if you have to dig all your beds that deeply.
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