Materials to Improve Drainage in Soil

Materials to improve drainage in soil include organic or inorganic amendments. Organic amendments have the added capability of providing additional organic matter and nutrients.

Amendments can include bark and wood chips, compost,and pea gravel, depending on soil type. Note that mixing wood products into soil can tie up nitrogen availability. Additional nitrogen fertilizer may be necessary.

As a result of their high water retention capacity, clay soils often drain inadequately. Materials to improve clay soils differ from those needed for sandy or silty soils.

Cultural practices can also aid in improving drainage.

  • Minimize traffic on soil, especially when soil is wet.
  • Avoid digging/tilling when soil is wet.
  • Installing drainage tiles can be expensive. However, they can be effective in large areas.
  • Avoid mixing sand into clay soil.

Adhering to these cultural practices in addition to adding soil amendments can be an effective way to improving drainage.

Poorly drained clay soil
Poorly drained clay soil Photo credit:London Permaculture Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Mixing manure into clay soil in flower bed
Mixing manure into clay soil Photo credit: Kathleen Farley Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Additional Resources by Region:

Practices to Improve Soil Drainage


Nevada: Nevada Soil Amendment Myths
Oregon: Improving Garden Soils with Organic Matter


Louisiana: Poorly Drained Soil? What to Do
North Carolina: Improving Your Soil