Soil, Drainage, and Water

Having a beautiful and thriving yard isn’t an act of chance. Before you go shopping for trees, flowers, plants and shrubs, you should understand that half of them are meant to be underground. The root systems of your future plants and trees will decide if they live or die, and their future health is determined by the environment you will be planting them in. So, before you bring home a truck load of things to plant, you should take a good look at the soil and drainage conditions on your property to see if there is any room for improvement.

Soil is the foundation of plant life. Soil serves multiple purposes. It holds the structure upright, and it is also the source of food, water and air that roots need to live. To determine if your soil is healthy, and to learn what type of soil you have, you should squeeze it between your hands. If the soil forms a tight lump and keeps its shape, it is mainly composed of clay. If the soil does not create any shape, the soil is mostly sand. You are wanting soil to take a shape, then fall apart when the pressure is released. This is loam soil. Loam soil is a mixture of organic matter, plus large and small soil particles.

Clay soil will hold water very well. Clay soil holds water so well that it can kill. Clay soil is very dense. Air does not circulate properly in clay for plants and trees to grow well. Alternatively, sandy soil has an abundance of air circulation, however it will not hold water very well. Even if your soil experiment points to loam soil, you should take a sample to a lab to be tested. This soil sample will give you much insight on what you can do to enrich the growing soil in your flower beds and yard.

Soil testing will tell you about the pH, nutrient and organic levels in your soil. Most problems are easily rectified by adding an additive to the soil. Your soil may also benefit by having a conditioner such as manure, peat moss or sand added in to give it a better consistency. While this may seem time consuming, it is well worth it and the benefits of the labor can last for years.

Once you have your soil in proper condition, you will need to think about water. Most plants prefer soil that is evenly moist. This means that while the surface may be dry, it is generally moist underground. If you live in an area that is subject to droughts, you should only purchase trees, shrubs and other plant life that thrive in these growing conditions. However, even these plants should not be forgotten, and they will not appreciate being left to bake in the sun without a drink. You should consider installing an irrigation system for them.

Irrigation systems work well for most all growing regions. Irrigation systems help newly planted trees and shrubs get water while they still have immature root systems. Irrigation systems assure that your plants and trees are being watered at the roots, where it is most beneficial. Irrigation systems are also a great way to conserve water, as it is not wasted.

Next, do you have an area on your property that is prone to stand in water after a heavy rain? If so, your property may have poor drainage. Areas that stand in water generally tend to have soil which has a high clay content, as well. You can improve this matter by adding sand, or other organic matter, to the soil.

Standing water could be a result of a dip in the area, or shallow soil. If soil is shallow, roots are not allowed to properly extend downward and anchor. This would keep water from draining properly. The best thing you can do for dips or shallow soil is to install drainage tiles for a mature yard, and to plant new trees, bushes and plants in raised beds in these areas.

Now that you have learned about your soil, thought about a watering system and inspected your property for shallow soil or dips, you are ready to go to the plant nursery. Remember that all plants and trees have their own niche that they prefer to live in. Don’t buy plants which like shade if your yard does not provide any. Likewise, if you have an abundantly shady yard, don’t choose plants which need full sun. By being choosy about which plants and trees you purchase–and being mindful of their particular needs, you will most assuredly have a thriving and bountiful yard for years to come.