How To Correct Overly Dry Soil With Compost and Mulch

Soil that won’t hold water most likely has poor structure. One of the keys to creating good soil structure is to add organic matter. Most gardeners prefer to add organic matter by adding lots of compost.

The Role Of Compost

Adding compost to garden soil:

  • makes soil resistant to erosion
  • increases pore space
  • creates negatively charged ions which attract and hold fertilizer

Compost or humus rich soils resist erosion because soil particles bond together and make it harder for them to wash or blow away. The larger soil particles create larger pore space in the soil, thus giving more storage area for water. As well, the microorganisms in compost help create negatively charged particles which attract and hold onto nutrients.

How To Obtain Compost


Compost can be purchased at local garden suppliers. However, compost in plastic bags may of very low quality. Buy a bag and check it first before buying more. It should be dark and crumbly. It should not stink or smell like ammonia. It shouldn’t look like mulch.

Local municipalities often collect sewage and yard waste and produce compost. You can be fairly sure that compost from these suppliers is fresh and biologically active.

Compost, can of course be produced in your own yard, using your own kitchen and yard wastes.

Another form of compost is composted manures from animals such as chickens, horses, goats, and rabbits. Chicken compost is very “hot” or high in nitrogen content as well as salts, and should never be added directly to the garden.

To compost manure, simply mix the manure with straw or shredded leaves and water. The pile will heat up for a few days, and then cool down. Turn and water. It may heat up again. Continue to turn and water until rich, earthy compost is formed.

Composting worms can be added to the garden with a feeding site or worm tower. The worms will feed and create compost right in the garden.

Read more: Topsoil Versus Compost? Garden Hacks

Mulching For Protection

straw mulch

Even soil which has good structure needs to be protected from hot sunlight and wind. A good layer of mulch will hold in moisture and keep soil from blowing away. It also acts as a weed barrier.

Use a locally produced mulch from materials in your area. Most mulches are made from wood or bark such as pine bark or cypress. Your local municipality may have some for sale made from local yard waste. Mulch made from ground up tires is not recommended due to leaching of compounds from the tires.

Be sure to keep the mulch layer thick throughout the growing season, adding more as necessary. As well, a good layer in the fall will help protect soil from drying out over the winter.

The key to moisture holding soil is good structure and a good protective layer of mulch.

How To Correct Dry Soil