What crops can I grow in poorly draining/waterlogged soil?
February 1, 2008 11:00 AM   Subscribe

what fruit or vegetable crops I can grow in a rather poor draining back garden in the UK?

I have just moved into a house with nice large back garden (compared to the postage stamp sized one we lived in before anyway) which backs onto a large fishing pond.

I have been digging out the plot for my vegetables but the soil looks rather waterlogged. Is there anything I can grow in there that wouldnt mind this type of earth?

I would like to grow potatoes, carrots, peas, beans and onions but also tomatoes, raspberries, blackberries and some fruit trees such as apples and pears.
posted by aqueousdan to Science & Nature (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Could you put in raised beds for better drainage?
posted by robinpME at 11:02 AM on February 1, 2008

When you say waterlogged, what do you mean? Is it clay and as such holding on to water, or is it in a low spot where water will always pool?

What you want, ideally, will look like potting soil.

You can do a couple of things: raised beds, like robinpME said. Build them, get a truckload of screened topsoil/compost mixture dumped somewhere and load it into the new beds.

Alternately, you could build up the plot by tilling in amendments, based on your specific need.

If you're dealing with straight up clay, that's gonna be a tough one. Sand. Compost. Soil. Mix all together with a large tiller.
posted by Stewriffic at 11:21 AM on February 1, 2008

First off, eopnysterical question, dan. Secondly, it being February, and given that where you live has been having news-making flooding problems of late, I'm not at all surprised at waterlogged soil. Or did you move to a different place than is in your profile?

If you're finding it to be awfully wet, I'd wait for the soil to dry out some before continuing. Working wet soil tends not to produce the fluffy results one would want, but rather hard, compacted stuff, once it's dry.
posted by mumkin at 11:43 AM on February 1, 2008

Plant a TON of peas and beans. Peas and beans are not picky but the rabbits will nibble them so be sure to plant enough for everybody.
posted by mamaraks at 12:09 PM on February 1, 2008

Depends on how waterlogged, but watercress grows fairly easily.
posted by mphuie at 12:25 PM on February 1, 2008

I'm not in the UK, so our seasons may differ, but at this time of year in the US midwest you would expect the soil to be heavy and wet. As mumkin said, you might want to leave it alone for a bit, because if you work wet soil you can end up with stubborn rock-like clumps.

If it does turn out that you've got heavy clay or a soggy area, you could try the lasagna method of building a raised bed. It has worked well for friends of mine who have clay soil. It takes awhile, though.
posted by PatoPata at 12:53 PM on February 1, 2008

To grow the plants you want to grow, you're going to have to improve the soil system a lot.

As it stands, you might try celery.
posted by Solomon at 3:16 PM on February 1, 2008

Raised beds are the frustrated gardener's friend. Check out Square Foot Gardening. My vegetables are happy in mine, and my soil isn't so great, either.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 4:10 PM on February 1, 2008

Yes, raised beds are what you want. Much easier to work in, solves drainage problems, and you can fill them with the right soil for your needs- a loose, crumbly, loamy mix. Vegetables and fruit trees hate waterlogged soil.

Also: it's extremely bad for the soil to dig when it is wet and heavy because it compacts it- there is no plant that can survive without oxygen to it's roots, and when you dig or plant in wet soil you're compacting the pores that oxygen and water travel through. Wait until the soil is dryer to mess around with a shovel, or you'll be doing far more harm than good. It's also easier on you, as the soil is much lighter. I would also wait on the fruit trees because they are a huge amount of work and/or mess. Fruit trees (or any trees, for that matter) should be considered carefully before planting. They are the architecture of your garden, and if you're not prepared to do the proper annual pruning and spraying at all the right times, they easily succumb to disease. I mention this because after many years as a professional gardener, I have had to remove neglected and sickly fruit trees from people's yards far too often.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:15 PM on February 1, 2008

The soil is pretty clayey (?) but also the top of the water in the fishing pond is level with the bottom of the deepest parts where i have dug out so it is collecting in there.

Being a bit of a gardening noobie I realise it will probably not be so bad when its warmer in the summer especially since it is particularly wet right now here in UK. I am just fearing a repeat of last year when the floods came which im sure will destroy a crop of root veg.

I am probably just being a bit over cautious with it, I just want to be well prepared for the worst before it happens :0)

I will look into raised beds i think. Thanks for the comments guys!
posted by aqueousdan at 5:41 AM on February 2, 2008

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