You don’t like what you see.

You’re watering the plant, but the water is sitting on top of your soil.

That’s not a good sign, you think. What could be the problem here?

Water is sitting on top of the soil because of poor drainage. This happens when the soil has compacted or contains lot of clay. There are no sufficient airways for the water to drain through. You need to till the soil and add compost to improve the texture and aeration.

In this post, I’ll help you figure out what is causing water to sit on top of the soil. I’ll also give you a solution on what you can do to fix the soil to absorb moisture better.

Don’t worry because you can fix this.

Let’s see how.

Why is water sitting on top of my soil?

You may be wondering why water has begun to sit on top of your soil when it seemed to be just fine before.

1. The soil has become very dry

If your soil has become too dry, it will lead to an increase in surface tension. As a result of dehydration, soil particles are drawn close together.

In such cases, the tension between water molecules and surface tension on the soil prevents water droplets from penetrating through. This results in water simply sitting on top of the soil.

Certain environmental factors can lead to drier soil, including too much direct sunlight, high humidity levels, and increased airflow.

Direct sunlight will draw the moisture out of the soil and cause it to become dehydrated. Similarly, both high humidity and increased airflow will increase the evaporation rate of the water in the soil, leading to it becoming drier.

2. The soil has poor drainage

Poor drainage can lead to waterlogging of the soil and cause the water to sit on the surface for a long time.

Waterlogged soil can cause various problems, like root rot, damage to roots, and lower nitrogen intake by the roots.

This can happen if the ground beneath the soil is hard and cannot drain the water from the soil into the earth. If you’re growing in a container, this can happen if the drainage holes are not sufficient or they are blocked.

3. The soil has compacted

If the soil surface gets compacted, the pores on the surface will get blocked. So the water will not drain well and collect on the surface.

The common cause of soil compaction is because of people or animals walking on the garden bed. This can also happen over time as the pressure of the soil and the force of watering compact the soil.

Clay soils or tightly compacted soils will often see irrigation water run off instead of being absorbed.. To re-wet it’s important to increase the soil’s organic matter content through mulching with materials such as straw, leaves or coffee grounds. This mulch will trap water at the surface and allow the surface to gradually become moist without run-off. Gradually moistening the soil will get it to a stage where you can break it up. – Helen Davies, Environmental Scientist, Future Pump

4. The soil has poor quality

If the soil contains a high percentage of clay, it won’t drain water well. This will cause the water to remain on the surface for a long time.

If you are growing plants in pots, the potting soil may contain peat moss. This is a good organic matter that helps absorb moisture and release it slowly for the plants.

But if you don’t water this material regularly, it will dry out and turn hydrophobic. This means it will lose its water-absorption qualities and cause the water to remain on top of the soil.

How do you fix soil that doesn’t absorb water?

1. Improve aeration in the soil

The simplest fix is to improve aeration in the soil by poking holes into it. If you have a small garden or growing in containers you can do this using a pair of chopsticks or a fork.

If you have a large garden, you’ll need to use a rake to make some holes and turn the soil so it can get good aeration.

The problem with this method is that it only improves the top portion of the soil and does not change the inner layer.

2. Improve the texture of the soil

You can improve the soil, so it absorbs water by adding organic matter to it. This will improve the texture of the soil for the long term.

You can add materials like compost and manure that will add organic matter to the soil and improve it over time.

The problem with this method is that it is slow and will take at least a few months before the soil has improved. You need to keep adding the organic material every month till it improves the soil.

I suggest adding 2-4 inches of the organic matter on top of the soil and raking it into the soil.

Sometimes soil–especially potting soil or soil that isn’t nutrient-rich–can dry out. When this happens, it’s hard to reintroduce hydration through normal means. You need to encourage it to retain moisture again via a soil-wetting agent or surfactant. This stimulates the soil on a molecular level and allows it to hold moisture much better. – Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO, Lawn Love

If you’re growing in containers and using potting soil, you can add the same organic matter of compost or manure to it. The other option is to add materials like perlite, vermiculite, and peat moss to improve the texture of the potting soil.

These materials will help the potting soil absorb enough moisture but drain out the excess. This is an ideal type of soil condition for many plants you will grow in containers.

3. Use soil that has good quality

If the soil in your garden has too much clay, it will not absorb water well. You can keep adding organic matter to improve the soil but that takes a lot of time.

A faster solution is to build a raised bed that will contain good quality soil. This ensures that the soil has an excellent texture to absorb the required moisture.

You can use the same method for growing plants in containers. Make sure to use potting soil that contains suitable materials such as perlite, vermiculite, peat moss or coco coir, and compost.

Don’t use garden soil that may contain a lot of clay and not absorb moisture well. It’s OK to use 1/3rd garden soil with the remaining potting mix but don’t use 100% garden soil to grow container plants.

What Is The Best Soil To Absorb Water?

The best soil to absorb water is loamy soil that contains fine clay, sand, and silt particles. This loamy soil can absorb around 1/4 to 1/2 inches of water per hour.

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