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.
Dig a hole at least 12” in diameter by 12” deep, with straight
sides. If you’re testing your entire property, dig several holes
scattered around your yard, since drainage can vary.
Fill the hole with water, and let it sit overnight. This saturates
the soil and helps give a more accurate test reading.
Measure the water level by laying a stick, pipe, or other
straight edge across the top of the hole, then use a tape
measure or yardstick to determine the water level.
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.
Why Do A Perk Test?
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