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How to get rid of water in clay soil

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Budding Contributor

How to get rid of water in clay soil

Planted a few trees in the backyard. A week into it the plants were dying. Uprooted all of them and realized that the soil and roots were soaked with water. Clearly there was too much water. Now I can see the holes getting filled up with water during the rain and its not draining at all. The soil is clay too. Any ideas to get the water to drain? 

I was thinking of installing some Agi pipes right next to them and drain it towards the other side. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

Thank youIMG_6954.jpgIMG_6953.jpg

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Community Manager
Community Manager

Re: How to get rid of water in clay soil

Oh dear @Kevin92, too much clay in the garden can be a challenge. Let me tag the dynamic duo of @Adam_W and @Noelle to see if they might have some tips for you, but I imagine their advice might include lots of gypsum and new drainage, requiring the removal of that new turf...

 

You might also be interested in this previous discussion - Suggestions for rock hard clay soil 

 

Good luck, 

 

Jason

 

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Valued Contributor

Re: How to get rid of water in clay soil

Hi @Kevin92 clay is a challenge...
When it gets dry it gets really rock-solid dry. When it's wet it stays that way for a long time especially in the cooler months.

So what sort of clay are we dealing with? Is it just lumps through the soil or a solid sheet of clay? How much slope is there on the area?
Rule number one for planting in areas with clay is do not dig a hole into the clay as you are basically creating a pit for water to collect in.

The issue can be however that water moving below ground can run above the clay so even if you haven't actually dug into the clay the soil can be very, very wet. I've had that problem here, quite unexpectedly, and lost a row of evergreen magnolias...
If there is a lot of clay, especially if there's a clay layer or pan, then typical approaches like gypsum or digging in coarse sand just will not work. Water will just still fill the area. And where do you stop improving the soil?... You can't go outside your fence and keep going down the street if you get my drift.
Adding ag' drainage pipe ***might*** work but again, if it's solid clay it's still going to get wet and stay wet regardless of how much water you move away.
In such situations I'd actually normally be looking at going up. Creating a planting mound or a raised bed but being right up against the fence that may not be an option.
Can you let us know answers to those couple of questions so we can mull it over a little more?

and a p.s... I'd be worried about your fence posts prematurely rotting out too...

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Budding Contributor

Re: How to get rid of water in clay soil

Hi @Adam_W, Thank you for that explanation. It was clearer than 15+ articles I read from all around. From what I can gather its a solid sheet of clay and its also pretty flat land. I broke rule #1 and planted right in a hole. I also did use gypsum, so you are right that it wouldn't help. I guess I dont have an option but to go with like a garden bed or a pots. 

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Valued Contributor

Re: How to get rid of water in clay soil

No worries @Kevin92 
Having been there & done that myself I know where you're at with this problem.
Unfortunately plants that tolerate the sort of conditions you end up with are few & far between and many of them are big, like gum tree big, so won't work in a typical home garden.
Some sort of raised planters could be the way to go & there are loads of suggestion for different bed & planter box projects across Workshop so I reckon you'll find one that works. Let us know how you go & there's always someone around on these forums for advice if you need it.

Don't know if there's anything useful in this but it's a little video I made on this whole clay thing which may explain a bit more.

https://youtu.be/wXJY5XItxbA

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Super Contributor

Re: How to get rid of water in clay soil

Hi @Kevin92 , @Adam_W and @Jason 

 

Adam's given you all the right info, Kevin!  You could also consider planting on mounds rather than creating a whole raised bed. Trees like citrus that hate wet feet will often do well when a planting mound is built on top of the existing soil and the tree planted into the mound. This works when you want to keep your grassed area but still have trees - you don't need to convert the entire area into raised garden beds.

 

A valuable lesson has been learned - don't dig into heavy clay soils to make planting holes because you are effectively creating a drainage sump or pit.

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Budding Contributor

Re: How to get rid of water in clay soil

Ended up doing the same for the front too :smile:IMG_7202.jpgIMG_7201.jpg

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Bunnings Team Member
Bunnings Team Member

Re: How to get rid of water in clay soil

Hi @Kevin92.

 

Many thanks for updating us on your solution! It's great to see you have come to some great middle ground so to speak.

 

What did you use to create the planter boxes as they certainly look the part and fit right in?

 

Mitchell

 

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Budding Contributor

Re: How to get rid of water in clay soil

Thanks @MitchellMc. I am happy with the results and my plants aren't dying anymore! For the ones at the back I used standard treated pine palings, and of the front I used treated pine decking timber.  

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