6 Ways to Identify & Fix Dry Garden Soil

  • By: SFUAA
  • Date: April 15, 2022
  • Time to read: 5 min.

Few things are worse for a gardener than watering your plants regularly and still seeing them wilt and dry up.

If your garden’s soil is drying out too quickly, or if you are watering your garden regularly and your plants still look parched, the most important thing you can do is add organic matter in the form of compost and manure. Encouraging earthworms to find your garden will help in the long run as well.

Dry garden soil can cause severe damage to your plants if you don’t act fast. To learn more about reviving your garden, keeping your plants healthy, and your soil hydrated, read on.

1. Utilize Organic Matter to Improve Water Retention

When soil looks dry and lifeless, it’s mostly because it lacks organic matter, which is vital for water retention. The rule of thumb here is that the higher the organic content in the soil, the higher its water retention capacity.

Garden soil with enough organic matter naturally retains water much more than soil with less organic matter.

Therefore, adding enough organic matter, such as compost materials, goes a long way to revive your garden. 

Compost is one of the best fixes for dry soil because it acts as a sponge, allowing water to be retained for extended periods. It also improves the structure of the soil, and provides nutrients for healthier plant growth. 


You can easily buy compost or prepare it from decaying food or plant remains at home. For example, peat moss is effective in helping your garden soil retain more moisture due to its highly porous structure.

2. Apply Manure to the Garden Soil

Animal manures are also used to treat soil dryness, in addition to their use as fertilizer. They contain various organic materials that help keep the soil moist enough for healthy growth. Old animal manure, for example, prevents runoff and leaching of nitrates in the soil. It’s also easy to find.

However, it is advisable to allow the manures to dry before use. This enables bacteria to act until it turns dark and odorless. 

3. Cover the Garden Soil with Mulch

Mulch refers to any material used to cover the surface of the soil, in this case, your garden soil, to reduce the rate of moisture evaporation. Mulching your garden helps keep the underneath soil wet because it acts as a cover for it. 

Not only does mulching help with moisture retention, but it also prevents weeds from sprouting in your garden. To fix your dry garden soil, spread a layer of mulch over the whole garden.

4. Water Your Garden Regularly 

Watering your garden is a great way to minimize dry soil and have your garden plants looking fresh and healthy. 

Adding water regularly to dry garden soil is one sure fix for it. However, this alone may not be as effective, especially if the soil’s dryness is due to a lack of organic matter. In such instances, you’d have to treat the soil with organic matter first and then wet it regularly. 

Even with enough organic material in your soil, inconsistent or no watering at all will give you dry, dehydrated land. You should water your garden frequently but not too much that it causes a runoff. 

Also, pay attention to the time of the day that you’re watering. When the sun’s not up, watering your garden to avoid quick evaporation and dry soil is advised. You should also water your garden more frequently when the weather is hot and dry and less frequently during the colder months.

For optimal results, the best time to wet your garden is in the morning and evening hours when the sun is down. This will ensure the water gets a chance to soak thoroughly into the soil.

5. Introduce Worms to Your Garden

Research has shown that worms can help water retention in soil. They do so by moving organic matter from the surface of the soil deep down for further decomposition. Once in the soil, this organic matter helps keep the soil moist. 

Applying animal dungs, fodder crops, and other organic materials to the soil’s surface attracts worms. Simply increasing worm activity in your garden will promote better water retention in the soil.

You can do this naturally by introducing organic matter to the area around your garden.  (Think shredded leaves and stuff for worms to eat, not just the compost I mentioned in the section at the top of the post.)

6. Use Blood Meal

Blood meal (or bone meal) is a mixture of dried blood that serves as a slow-release fertilizer. It also improves water retention in the soil. 

Aside from that, bone meal is an excellent source of nutrients for your garden. It releases nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus into the ground that helps improve the overall health of your soil and vegetation.

How To Tell if Your Garden Soil Is Dry

Garden soil needs to maintain consistent moisture levels in order to keep your plants healthy. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to tell when your soil is dehydrated. Here are some things to look for.

  1. If you begin to notice your plants wilting or changing colors, even though you’re watering them regularly, this could be a sign of dehydration. 
  2. Another sign is if the soil doesn’t rapidly absorb the water when poured. When the water poured sits on the ground’s surface and takes some time before soaking into the dirt’s pores, it’s safe to assume your soil is very dry.
  3. If you pour a small amount of water on the ground, you may notice it beading up and sitting there instead of soaking in. If the ground isn’t level, it may just run off.
  4. Depending on the type of soil you have, you may see the soil beginning to crack or compact into a hard layer.
  5. After watering, you can get a small spade and dig a shovel full of dirt. If the dirt just below the surface isn’t moist, you may have a problem.

The danger of dry soil is that only the top layer of soil absorbs moisture, and the rest of the water will find the path of least resistance down through the earth – leading to large pockets of soil that remain bone dry even after being watered.

This means that less water reaches the deeper part of the soil, where the plant roots should absorb it. Therefore, your plants are deprived of much-needed moisture to grow and develop. Instead, they end up withered or dead. 

In addition, dry soil can also end up hydrophobic, meaning that it repels water without absorbing it. This can be detrimental to your plants, especially in the hot and dry seasons. 

Once you notice that your garden soil is dry, it’s imperative to take quick action to get it back into a healthy condition and create the ideal environment for your plants again. 


Dry garden soil can negatively affect your plants and cause them to die out or stunt their growth. It’s important to take steps to keep your soil hydrated, such as watering frequently, adding mulch to the soil, or introducing worms to move more organic matter. These steps can improve your soil’s moisture levels and water retention, and ensure that your plants have the perfect environment to continue growing.

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