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Question DetailsAsked on 3/7/2012

What can I do short of replacing the entire yard to dry out the soil or break down the clay in the soil.

We have a line of Arborvitae along our side fence which is the low side of our lot. They brown out or die very quickly, I assume because they are to wet.
What can we do to improve the drainage in the yard.

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5 Answers


Inteesting - arbs are usually rather water-tolerant. Is it that the trees are STANDING in water for significant periods of time? Even so, amending the soil to lessen the clay properties can be helpful, but not necessarily, a cure.

If you can stand to look at it, you can toprdress that area with a few inches of compost and reseed. It will, eventually, work it's way into the soil below. OR, you could topdress, rototill, then reseed. This would be a faster way to incorporate the compost into the clay. However, after rototilling, raking will be necessary to level out the areas - this is serious handwork and you may not want to tackle it yourself.

Answered 8 years ago by Labour of Love


Arborvitae tend to do well in wet locations but of course they are not swamp plants. Without seeing your site I can't say for sure but i think your problem has more to do with drainage than your clay soil.

If your fence is wood it may also be suffering from the standing water. It terms of correcting the drainage you should contact a reviewed professional on Angie's list.

You can install a surface drain system to collect and move the water away from that area. Some people refer to this as a french drain but it actually is not as it utilizes PVC tubing to Carry the water away. In our business we find that the solid PVC not only works a lot better but last a lot longer than the perforated type of conduit.

Depending on the site you may have to build up the back area but keep in mind that you do not want to pile soil onto your fence as the microorganisms will get to work on breaking it down.

Depending on the location you may be able to tie in your downspouts or other surface drain locations to a main run that will usually go out to the street or alley.

I have a few blog post on my site in regards to drainage if you need more info.

Good Luck - and stay dry.


Answered 8 years ago by Dallas Curb Appeal


The easiest thing to do is to add composted leaves to the soil. Leaves are a great thing to add. I went around the neighborhood and asked people if I could have their bags of leaves. I dig holes in my clay and totally bury the leaves where I wanted to improve soil. You'll need to do this for several years. Compost is a combination of 1 part grass and green leaves and 2 parts of leaves and fine sticks.

Be sure to research which trees and shrubs will grow in clay soil.

Maples and birch are good choices.

Answered 8 years ago by gardengal7


I lived o/s of Louisville, KY, on thick clay over obsidian (blackboard slate), over porous limestone caves. Water would flow, in sheets, downhill in the winter-summer period.

Gypsum (calcium sulphate) will cause the colloidal clay particles to cluster, and then water can permeate. It might take a few years of quarterly applications Calcium sulfate will not change the pH of the soil. Do not use Lime (calcium carbonate) which will make the clay even more slimy and alkaline.

We had the huge green and even larger (25') black arborvitae. Fertilized with DEFATTED cottonseed meal (19% nitrogen), non-burning, and acidic, in March...purchased from a feed store for horses and cattle.

As one of the responders mentioned above, if the bush' roots are sitting in water, they suffocate.

Answered 7 years ago by Oldman2


Good, free soil builder: Used coffee grounds. Starbucks stores will save them for you, a little or bucketloads

Answered 7 years ago by LH

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