When we lay out preferred soil conditions for growing plants, it usually describe moist and well-drained soil. Except for a few plant species, majority of the cultivars cannot tolerate drainage problems. If planted in the same condition, the probable outcomes are root rotting, yellowing of leaves, wilting, increased disease infestations and finally, death of the plants. Thus, understanding and performing the soil drainage test are prerequisites before cultivating crop in a particular area.

Drainage of Soil in Agriculture

In soil science, drainage of soil is studied as the rate at which water passes through soil particles. The quality and fertility of soil matters a lot in getting good crop yield or production of healthy blooms. Soil is not only a supporting medium that allows root growth for the plant, but it serves as a natural habitat for the soil microbes. The microbial population of soil, which encompasses bacteria, actinomycetes, fungi, virus, etc., is solely responsible for providing nutrients to the plants. They help in converting complex organic matter into simpler, usable forms for the plant. Thus, maintaining the microbes in active state is crucial for growing luxuriant plants.

Proper soil drainage is an important factor in keeping the microbes active, especially for the aerobic microorganisms. The point is to promote aeration amongst the soil particles. In case of waterlogged soil, water draining does not occur as it should. As a consequence, water fills up the spaces between soil particles and there is no air circulation. The result is obvious, reduced population of aerobic bacteria that helps in supplying plant nutrients. Another issue related to soil drainage problems is soil pH. Soil that drains very quickly is generally alkaline soil, while soil having drainage problems is usually acidic in nature.

Types of Soil Drainage

According to Soil Conservation Service of USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), drainage is broadly classified into two types. This assortment is truly based on the ability of soil to retain moisture. The two of the soil drainage classes are excessively drained and very poorly drained. The former refers to porous soil type that allows rapid passing of water though the particles. An example for this is coarse textured, shallow, rocky or sandy soil, which has poor water retention property. As soon as you water this soil type, it drains off immediately.

In contrary to excessively drained type, poorly drained soil retains maximum water in between its particles, and takes a lot of time in removing water. Such type of soil is made up of gray-colored, mottled materials. Prone to waterlogging, artificial drainage system is essential for planting crops in very poorly drained soil. Precisely speaking, both the soil drainage types are not preferred for gardening. The best alternative is well-drained soil, in which water drains easily, but not in a rapid manner. The soil texture is medium, and contains fine sand along with other soil components.

How to Improve Drainage of Soil?

Before you busy yourself with cost-effective ways of improving soil drainage, identify the problem first. For this, you need to walk in your garden (preferably after rain), checking for downspouts and water pools. If you spot accumulated water, then you can conclude that your garden soil has poor drainage problems. In short, the amount of water supplied is more than that of water absorbed by plants. The simple solutions that are left to improve this problem is to improve soil texture to increase water absorption capacity, or divert the incoming water to avoid accumulation.

The practical options for poor soil drainage are supplement garden soil with gypsum, growing plants in raised beds, building trenches to divert water and lastly, installing plastic pipes to collect downspouts. So, follow correct garden soil preparation tips and necessary measures to solve the existing soil drainage problems, so that the resulting soil becomes favorable for growing healthy plants.