As we enter the rainy season, this is a great time to take a look at your yard after a hard downpour like we had last Saturday. (I say “rainy season” cautiously…you never know around here…) Do you have standing water in areas other than your ditches? Do your ditches stay full for days? Do your flowerbeds stay flooded for a while after a heavy rain?
Drainage issues are common, and they can be pretty bad for the health of your lawn, trees and flowerbeds, not to mention the fact that they’re breeding grounds for mosquitos. Nothing like swamp land in your back yard!
If you have drainage problems in your yard, there are many ways to correct them.
If you don’t see an obvious reason for the standing water (like a low spot, or where your guttering drains, or your neighbor’s yard is higher, etc.) you may simply have compacted soil or drought-hardened ground. If areas in your yard haven’t had enough water lately, you should try watering them, just until the water puddles. Stop and let it soak in, then resume watering. If it doesn’t eventually soak up the water, where you can push a six-inch screwdriver into the soil, you may have a compaction problem.
Compacted soil is usually compacted for a reason. You can mechanically aerate these areas with a core aerator, or use a liquid aeration like GreenAer (our preference, since it treats the entire area, rather than just pulling out little plugs -- read more about GreenAer.) However, if you don’t change the reason for the compaction, aeration remedies will be temporary, or will need to be repeated. Compaction is caused by heavy traffic, like kids playing in the same spot, or dogs repeatedly running up and down a fence line or even just lying in the same place all day.
If you have a low area, or your guttering drains in a certain place that’s ruining whatever’s planted there, or your neighbor’s yard is higher than yours, or you have a slope in your yard where water rushes down causing erosion, you have several options:
French drain – This type of drain is not French at all – it’s named after Henry French, an attorney from Massachusetts, who made French drains popular in the early 1800’s by writing about them in his book, Farm Drainage. Basically, it’s a trench dug from a high point to a lower point and filled with gravel. Modern French drains may include sand or perforated pipe or tiles, regular drainage pipes, or landscape fabric.
If you are considering making your own French drain, bear in mind that the process will involve a lot of digging and takes some careful planning. When you drain excess water, you need some place for the water to go. Never divert water from your property onto someone else’s property, or you may have a lawsuit on your hands. Likewise you cannot just divert it into the street, without considering the effects that may have, such as an icy place on the road in the winter. Also, be sure to call utility companies before you dig.
Dry creek – This type of drain is more aesthetically pleasing as it mimics a dry creek bed. Essentially, it’s a trench dug to divert the water, lined with landscape fabric. Rocks are then placed along the trench and mortared into place, and plants can be placed in-between rocks and along the edges. Constructing a dry creek usually involves the same concerns as the French drain – be prepared to do a lot of digging, and be careful where you divert the water.
Dry Well – this is basically a hole in the ground, backfilled with rocks, where the water gathers and seeps back into the soil. You can also buy a plastic dry well with holes in it at a home & garden center.
Catch basins – A catch basin is a hole in the ground with a box in it to which the excess water is diverted by drain pipes. The pipes may take the water elsewhere, or else just let it percolate into the soil.
We recommend hiring professionals for optimum results on lawn drainage issues. They have done it many times and can survey your situation and recommend the best possible solution. And, they can do all that digging for you!
If you don’t want to handle it yourself, get a free estimate from GreenGrass Lawn Care to resolve your drainage issues.
If you want to try it yourself, here are some great articles:
DIY Step-by-Step How to Achieve Better Yard Drainage from the Family Handyman
How to Build Dry Creek Beds for Landscape Drainage from about.com
How to Install French Drains for Yard Drainage from about.com