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illustration Hardpan



Part of speech: noun

Origin: American English, 19th century


A hardened impervious layer, typically of clay, occurring in or below the soil and impairing drainage and plant growth.

Examples of Hardpan in a sentence

"We hoped to put in a garden behind our house, but the ground was mostly hardpan and inhospitable to gardening."

"The first residents in the area opted not to build basements due to the difficulty of digging through hardpan."

About Hardpan

“Hardpan” was formed in English by combining “hard” as a prefix to the geological term “pan,” which describes land located in a depression, often where there has been (or still is) a body of water.

Did you Know?

Hardpan isn’t always the top layer of soil, but it often lurks immediately below. Because it has been compacted through weight — often the product of land that water used to sit upon — hardpan is dense and sometimes similar to clay. This means hardpan can be an unpleasant surprise for home gardeners, especially those looking to dig deeply enough to plant new trees. Hardpan soil can also make it hard for tree roots to grow, stifling above-ground growth. For gardeners who persevere in digging through dense hardpan and plant new seeds, hardpan remains tough to irrigate, as it tends to repel water. Because of this, hardpan tends to encourage the erosion of the soil level above it while lowering water conservation.

illustration Hardpan

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