Do you have puddles of water sitting around for long periods after a rain? If so, you probably have a drainage problem. In well-drained soils, most of the water should be gone within a few hours. Now, if you experience a major deluge that the Weather Channel makes a big deal about, it may take longer even on well-drained soils. But, normally, rainwater should disappear into the soil shortly after a shower or storm.

There are a several ways to determine if you have poor drainage. One is to figure out what kind of soil you have on your site. As mentioned previously, soils with a large amount of clay tend to be poorly drained. To do a simple test, just take a hand full of moist soil and squeeze it tightly in your hand. When you open your fist, the soil should crumble and fall apart on its own. If it stays together in a solid clump, you have a lot of clay.

Another, more elaborate way to measure your drainage is to do a seepage or percolation test.

1. Dig a hole 18 inches deep and about 6 inches wide. A post hole digger is an excellent tool for this purpose.

2. Fill the hole with water to the top in late afternoon or evening.  Overnight, all or part of this water will move into the surrounding soil and cause it to "swell".

3. In the morning, refill the hole with water to the top.

4. Insert a yardstick into the hole and measure the depth of the water.

5. 12 hours later, mark and record the depth of the water.

6. Divide the number of inches difference in depth by 12 which will give you the average inches of water lost per hour.

If the water levels drops:

               - less than 1/2 inch per hour your soil drains poorly

               - 1/2 to 1 inch per hour, your soil is moderately drained

               - more than 1 inch per hour, you have well-drained soil

Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.


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