Does water pool and puddle in your garden and is the soil is slow to drain? Soil drainage is one of a gardener’s biggest challenges.

Soil Drainage

A term used in both home gardening and landscape as well as in commercial agriculture and farming, soil drainage refers to the soil’s ability to process either water from irrigation or rainfall. Ideally, soil should absorb normal amounts of rainfall rather quickly with no standing water remaining nor leaving an excessive amount of water to run off.

If your soil meets this general description, it could be said to have good drainage. Compacted soil that exhibits problems absorbing and ingesting normal rainfall is said to have poor drainage.

Improving Soil Drainage

The reasons for poor soil drainage are varied and many. Poor drainage can be an indication of organic matter in the soil such as humus, which absorbs a large amount of water. One of the best things to do to improve your soil is to add well-aged manure on a regular basis until the organic matter content has been significantly enhanced.

Have you noticed areas in your garden that never produce significant growth? It may be an indication of poor drainage. When drainage is inadequate, rain water runs off and soil become powder dry during periods of drought. In areas like this, plants cannot survive unless provided with supplemental moisture.

Causes Of Poor Soil Drainage

In cases of poor drainage, an investigation will typically reveal a layer or layers of rock or shale a foot of more below the soil surface. Obviously, in this case, the water absorbing ability of the topsoil is limited, and plant root growth is confined to these few inches of soil. If it isn’t possible to break up the rock and remove the impediment, the only solution is to move the location of the garden.

One of the primary reasons for poor soil drainage is caused by a build-up of hardpan created by excessive applications of chemical fertilizer over an extended period. Water-soluble salts are taken into the soil by rainwater and leached into other elements such as iron, forming a compacted, impermeable layer that separates topsoil from the subsoil.

This type of layer under the topsoil is a major cause of frost heaving during the winter or of plant death in the summer when plants fail to thrive, drowning with their roots in standing water. Soil layering is another reason to avoid the application of chemical fertilizers. You will not have this problem if you establish the garden is a fresh location of the landscape that has not been treated with chemical fertilizers, and you use only organic gardening methods.

If you are stuck having to work with garden soil with hardpan layering, the only solution is to try to bust it up mechanically and incorporate age-manure into the soil to provide missing nutrients and texture.

Planting rotating cover crops of plants with deep tap roots can help to break up a hardpan layer. Known as pioneering herbaceous plants, horseradish, fennel, alfalfa, root parsley, false indigo, and Angelica produces taproots that create channels in the soil that allows moisture to penetrate.

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UnknownAmerican Elder – A Cheerful Landscape Addition

Every single part of the American Elder shrub is useful: flowers, berries, leaves, bark, and roots.

American Elder, also known as common elder, is a large, deciduous shrub that grows to 12 feet at maturity. Presenting deep green foliage complimented by clusters of creamy ivory white, umbel-like flowers in June and July, American Elder is a welcome addition to the home landscape. The flower clusters are up to ten inches across and emit a sweet, delightful fragrance. When the deep purple berries appear, birds gravitate to the garden.

Most effective planted in groupings, American Elder can be used to disguise an unsightly landscape element such as a shed or utility post. Fast growing elder is useful for screening off a pet area or dog run or striking when planted alongside a fence, foundation or wall.

American Elder is especially hardy, not dependent on soil conditions. The sturdy shrub does, however, do best in nutrient rich, well-drained soil in a sunny location. While elder does not like to have standing water around it’s roots, it flourishes with plenty of water, requiring about one inch a week during the warm summer months.

American Elder can be propagated from cuttings of bare shoots pruned in late autumn. To encourage dense, deep green leaves and to achieve a desired shape, elder should be pruned in early spring before new growth begins and again late in the fall.

A Very Useful Plant

For centuries, American Indians have used elder in a diverse array of ways. The sweet and succulent berries are prized for their tart and tangy flavor for jellies, jams, pies, and wine. Elderflower fritters, made from either fresh or dried elder flowers, are a delightful treat. Extracts, teas and tinctures crafted from elder have a wide range of medicinal purpose including treating chronic coughs, lung congestion, asthma, and bronchitis. A brew of elder leaves seeped in boiling water and then strained is useful in treating a host of skin diseases and is useful in relieving the itch of insect bites and other skin irritations. The same brew, placed in a spray bottle, is an effective bug repellent and will keep caterpillars from munching on plants on which it is sprayed.

In traditional American Indian medicinal practices, elder bark was simmered water and then applied as a poultice to relieve inflammation and the pain of muscle and bone injuries. A tea made from either fresh or dried flowers is a mild stimulant.

Known as “the tree of music”, Native Americans crafted flutes from the woody stems of the elder tree. Branches cut for musical instruments were dried with the leaves attached. Strong and straight shoots of the elder tree were fashioned into arrows and lances. Young branches, flexible and durable were woven into baskets and fish traps. Crush or bruise the leaves and rub on skin to keep pesky mosquitos and flies away.

Guardian Of The Orchard

If you have fruit trees in your home landscape, plant a few elderberry trees around the perimeter of the orchard to lure the birds away from other fruit with their berries.

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