Garden Drainage – How To Correct Yard Drainage Problems

By: Heather Rhoades

Yard drainage problems can wreak havoc on a garden or lawn, especially after a heavy rain. Poor garden or lawn drainage will prevent oxygen from getting to the roots of plants, which kills the roots and also creates an environment perfect for fungus such as root rot to take hold and further damage a plant. When you take steps to improve soil drainage, you can improve the overall health of your lawn and garden.

Solutions for Yard Drainage Problems

Most minor garden and lawn drainage issues are caused by clay soil. A minor issue will be that you have standing water after a heavy rainfall for less than a day. Clay soil is more dense than sandy or loamy soil, and therefore, is slower to allow rainwater to filter through it. Minor yard drainage problems like this can usually be corrected by taking steps to improve clay soil.

For more serious lawn and garden drainage problems, there are several things you can try to improve soil drainage. A more serious drainage issue means that you have standing water after light to moderate rainfall or if the standing water stays for more than a day. These drainage issues can be caused by high water tables, low grading compared to surrounding properties, layers of hard materials (like stone) below the soil and extremely compacted soil.

One solution for yard drainage issues is to create an underground drain. The most common underground drain is a French drain, which is essentially a ditch that is filled with gravel and then covered over. Drainage wells are another common underground solution for compacted soil or hard sub-layers that allows the water somewhere to run after rainfall.

Another way to improve soil drainage is to build up the soil where you are having the drainage issue or create a berm to redirect the water flow. This works best for garden drainage where specific beds may be getting flooded. Be aware, though, that when you build up a bed, the water will run somewhere else, which may create drainage issues elsewhere.

Creating a pond or a rain garden has started to become popular as solutions for yard drainage problems. Both of these solutions not only help collect excess rainwater, but also add a lovely feature to your landscape.

Rain barrels are another thing that can be added to help with drainage. Oftentimes, yards that have drainage problems not only have to deal with the rainwater that falls into the yard, but rainwater from nearby buildings as well. Rain barrels can be attached to downspouts and will collect rainwater that would normally run into the yard. This collected rainwater can then be used later when rainfall is low to water your yard.

Yard drainage problems do not need to ruin your lawn or garden. When you improve soil drainage or use other solutions for yard drainage, you make it easier for your lawn and garden to grow beautiful.

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How to Make Soil Drain Better (5 Ways To Fix Soggy Soil)

Well-draining soil is recommended for most plants, since wet soil can cause root rot and other diseases. However, well-draining soil can be elusive, especially if you live in an area that gets lots of rainfall.

So, how do you make your drain better? You can make your soil drain better by adding organic material such as compost. You can also make soil drain better with hilling, containers, or raised beds.

Of course, there are other ways to make soil drain better. You might be able to use one of more of these methods to fix soggy soil.

In this article, we’ll talk about why you need well-draining soil and how to tell if your soil drains well. Then we’ll talk about how to fix soggy soil.

The Nature of Heavy Soils

Soils are composed of three major types of matter. Sand, the first of these, has large particles, usually rough shaped, which do not absorb water well.

Silt, the second type of soil matter, has medium sized particles which absorb water, but do not retain it for long periods of time.

Heavy clay soils are made up of very fine particles which are so densely packed that they will form tight, impenetrable layers that may not allow adequate drainage.

These heavy clay soils may become so waterlogged that they will not retain adequate air supply for plants. Heavy clay soils will hold on to water for a very long time, therefore, these soils are the most prone to leaving your garden plagued with standing water.

When these same soils dry out, they can create such a hard, dense surface that it is nearly impossible to break them up without extreme, sustained effort. This makes it hard for water to actually penetrate into the soil, thus leaving your plants vulnerable to not receiving water easily! Clay can create a crust which can starve plants for water. With enough water, this crust layer will break down, but that much water can also starve your plants for air!

Create a Water Feature

Brooks and creeks are natural water features that are created by nature to drain water from one place to another. By creating one in your yard, you can redirect water as you see fit while adding a nice landscape feature. Dig a shallow ditch and make a creek bed following the natural path of the water. Add rocks for additional drainage. If it’s not possible to drain water away from a flat spot, consider adding a shallow pond in that spot. Installing a pump to keep water circulating can prevent stagnancy. Adding a water feature can add value to your property by being both functional and effective in increasing the curb appeal.

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Diverting Water From The Foundation Of Your House

Typically, when people contact a home services company about drainage issues, they’re worried about specific pools of standing water out in the yard. However, there’s another issue that can end up causing far bigger problems–worse, it may be largely invisible in many cases.

What are we talking about? Water encroaching on your home’s foundation. This scenario can be a problem for a number of reasons.

First of all, water near your home’s foundation can cause cracks and remove soil supporting the slab and the footings, which can lead to wall problems. If you have a basement, water can actually seep through the walls and into your home.

Repairing these issues can be quite expensive, and really isn’t something you want to have to deal with.

Fortunately, you have several options to keep water away from your foundation, all of which we already mentioned which can help with other drainage issues you may be experiencing.

Extending Your Downspouts

Gutters can direct most of the water several feet away from the house, thereby alleviating a lot of potential issues.

Adding A French Drain

Many homeowners wrap a French drain all the way around their house so any water that gets close will be channeled away.

Fixing Your Grade

Get a yardstick and some measuring tape. Have someone hold the tape at the level of the ground right next to the bottom edge of where the foundation meets the soil, then spool it out until you’re 10 feet away from the house. Doing your best to keep the measuring tape level with the soil next to the house, stand the yardstick up at the 10-foot mark. Ideally, the yard at this point should be about six inches lower than it is next to the house. If not, you should correct your grade.

Making things even more complicated is the fact that in some areas of Texas, watering your foundation is actually recommended! Bottom line? If you’re concerned, the smartest thing you can do is talk to a professional.

Managing Soils for Good Health

Feed Soil Microbes

The rhizosphere is the place where plant roots grow. Huge and diverse populations of soil microbes (fungi and bacteria) live on and near plant roots. They feed on sugars and other compounds leaking from the plant roots. These beneficial microbes can antagonize and out-compete root pathogens, increase the organic matter content, serve as a food source for soil animals, and store carbon when they die.

1. Increase the diversity of plants aboveground to increase the diversity of microbial populations below ground. The result is a more complex and resilient soil ecosystem.

2. Keep it green and growing! Soil microbes need living plant roots during warm and cool seasons. The roots of dormant perennials, grasses, and cover crops support soil microbes which remain active through much of the winter.

Protect soil aggregates (crumbs)

3. Keep the soil food web working by disturbing the soil as little as possible. This helps to ensure that earthworm burrows, pore spaces, and soil aggregates remain intact and functioning. Frequent tilling can degrade soil structure.

4. Keep soil covered at all times to prevent/reduce soil erosion and nutrient run-off and protect soil aggregates and organic matter. Options include mulches, cover crops, and groundcovers.

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