Waterlogged clay soil just won't drain

One of the pleasures of writing this column is the feedback that I receive from you, the readers. Sometimes that feedback is a question about a problem with a tree or shrub. Sometimes, it's a suggestion I can pass along to help another reader who has a garden issue. And sometimes, it's a follow-up to something I'd written in an earlier column.
Today, I'll pass on a reader's idea to keep lawns free of doggy- related brown spots. But first, let's talk about the importance of good soil drainage.
QUESTION: "I have just moved to a new subdivision and to dig the pond we had to rent a jack hammer. That's how bad the clay is. We have also made a spot for a vegetable plot and a flower bed but the clay is a problem. My local nursery suggested raised beds but this would be difficult for the veg plot. They also said I could try gypsum and peat moss but didn't mention how much. The flower bed is 8 feet round and the vegetable plot is about 30ft by 15ft. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated." - Aubrey Frost.
ANSWER: To drain correctly, soil needs something known as "large pore space." Soil with a clay content of 20% or more is said to be dominated by "small pore space." This means water is slow to move or perhaps won't move at all, causing the soil to become waterlogged.
Amending the soil with organic matter will certainly help, but as you've discovered, the biggest thing you will need to be concerned about is good drainage. Plants will grow in amended soil but have a tough time establishing in soil that remains compacted with no drainage.
I would remove some of the soil down to about 10 or 12 inches and put in drain tiles. It's not as difficult as you may imagine if you do what they do when laying a drain field for a septic tank. Basically, it's a series of drains feeding into one long one that takes the waters away from the planting beds, or at least down to where the soil percs.
If you plan to do this yourself, it's a good idea to read up on it first. You could start by looking at this online article on soil drainage published by the Colorado State University Extension: http://cmg.colostate.edu/gardennotes/217.pdf There's a direct link to that site from this column archived at my Web site. You can find drain tile supplies at many home improvement stores.
There are some plants that can tolerate poorly drained soil. These include Arborvitae, Crape Myrtle, Butterfly Bush and some hollies such as Inkberry, Yaupon and Winterberry. However, amending the soil organically and improving the drainage will be the best long-term solution.
HI STEVE: "I am really proud of our creative solution to this (dog- damaged lawn) problem! We have a Lab and six, soon to be seven, kiddos. We did not want the lawn to be a hazard zone, so when our puppy came home, we trained her by taking her out to a designated "potty spot" every time she had to go, out in the back of our yard. So the end result is that she always heads out to her "potty spot" and the lawn looks great and the kids stay out of her poo." -- The Droke Family
ANSWER: Designating a specific area for a canine bathroom (and rewarding the dog after he or she uses it) is a great way to keep the rest of landscape free of urine-browned spots and nasty messes.
The Droke family trained their new puppy right from the start, but maybe some other readers found a way to teach an old dog new tricks! Send me an e-mail if you had any success in that area. If you want to read the original column, go to www.landsteward.org and find the one titled "Dog-damaged lawns need creative landscape solutions."
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org
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Liar.
You'll find the prevaricator not answering the question regarding gypsum and peat moss in the subsequent.

If it rained so much, and so long...

Maybe I missed something. The person did not indicate any area with good percolation.
Water goes downhill. Not, rocket science.

Now, dump off to a website as the original question could not be answered.

What happened to the raised garden (water does downhill?)?

So, you want to bring in a bulldozer to dig down a foot or so into jack hammer required clay. Replace that soil removed. Dig up the outlying areas laying pipes into one pipe to a nonexistent percolating area.
If that fails, I'm sure you can figure some more financially unlucrative and labor intensive way to fix it. Consider dominoes with your dog instead.

Good place to pickup some high nitrogen soil. If you didn't dump all those oil sourced fertilizers on the lawn, it wouldn't burn it so badly, if at all. The brown lumps are for richocheting the crouquet ball, British twit. Scarab beetles will get 'em if you keep the lumps moist. Get a grip. Your dog will probably win the dominoes game.
Dave
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There are quite a few. For example, http://www.prairienursery.com / has their catalog sorted by soil type, with sections for "clay", "sand", etc, and there are similar native plant catalogs/lists in other areas. For the flower garden I'd give this a try (unless you really have your heart set on flowers you already know or have picked out).
The vegetable garden is another matter (well, unless you really want to expand your horizons by eating things you haven't tried eating before). I'm not sure why the questioner wrote off raised beds so fast.
Amending the soil is an option, but you need to add a lot of material (as much as you'd put into a raised bed, if you want a rule of thumb). So see what kind of organic matter you can buy/acquire locally and cheaply by the truckload (for example, straw, compost, manure, maybe some processing "waste" like seed hulls of some kind). And/or think in terms of small areas. Setting up fancy drainage systems (tiles, French drains, etc) can be done but is only peripherally related to whether the soil itself is retaining moisture.
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