Well draining soil means that water does not sit, pool, or linger in the soil. Water has a natural place to flow through into the subsoil. Drainage is affected by factors including the type of soil (sand vs. clay) and whether the soil is on a slope or in a depression.
To test your soil, dig a hole in your garden about 1 foot in diameter and 1 foot deep on a dry day. Fill the soil up with water and time how long it takes to drain out completely. Very well drained soil will flow through immediately or within a few minutes, while poorly drained soil may take over an hour. If your soil is very sandy, that is usually an indication of good drainage, though usually with lower than average organic matter in the soil. If your soil has lots of clay, that is usually an indication of poor drainage, though clay usually has better nutrient and organic matter retention than sand.
Whether your soil is too well draining or too slow draining, the remedy is the same – add as much organic matter to the soil as you can. This can include compost, worm castings, well-rotted animal manure, coffee grounds, egg shells, peat moss, coconut coir, or leaf mold. Very heavy clay soil should be amended with coarse sand to increase air flow and drainage.
Well draining soil ensures the roots of your plants do not sit waterlogged and allows air and oxygen to reach the roots. This is essential for strong root growth and nutrient uptake, which in turns produces stronger and healthier plants.
Cover Image by Liz Henry, used under its Creative Commons license.