Conduct a “perk” test in your yard before planting to test soil drainage.
Almost every garden instruction guide refers to the importance of “well-draining soil.” If water drains (percolates) away from plant roots too quickly, the plants will parch even if they’re getting regular water. And if water doesn’t drain, many plants will drown and rot from the roots up. A percolation test – or perk test – is a great way to measure drainage in your lawn or garden soil.
Here’s how to conduct an easy, DIY soil perk test in your yard.
Soil Percolation Test
Ideal Soil Drainage
The ideal soil drainage is around 2” per hour, with readings between 1”- 3” generally OK for garden plants that have average drainage needs. If the rate is less than 1” per hour, your drainage is too slow, and you’ll need to improve drainage or choose plants tolerant of wet soil. If drainage is more than 4” per hour, it’s too fast. Drainage problems can be addressed by:
- Incorporate plenty of compost and organic matter into the soil. Organic matter helps heavy clay soil to drain and helps coarse sandy soil to hold moisture, so it’s a win-win no matter what your soil type!
- Choose plants suited to your soil drainage.
- Build raised beds for better control over the soil texture.
- Soil Drainage (Bartlett Tree Resource Laboratories)
- Drainage Solutions (video)
- Organic Gardening 101 (article)
- How to Make Compost for Your Garden (video)
- Raised Vegetable Bed (video)