If you see that parts of your lawn are rutting and eroding, that your patio or walkways have spots of standing water, or that small streams emerge in your yard every time it rains, you’ve got drainage problems.
Besides standing water and damp spots, you may also observe that parts of your garden start to look lackluster compared to their former selves. Most garden plants don’t like “wet feet ” and if the soil around their roots isn’t draining quickly enough, they will fail to thrive or fail altogether. If trees are dropping their leaves early or bedding plants don’t look as vibrant and lush as usual, these could all be signs of drainage issues. This situation, if left unattended, could lead to a spike in insect or disease activity because stressed plants and trees are vulnerable.
How to Get Rid of Wet Spots and Standing Water in theYard
There was a time when stormwater management was “someone else’s problem,” meaning house plans did not require elaborate, or perhaps any, drainage plan. You probably did not need to think much about drainage until all these problems started cropping up. And chances are, they started cropping up when something changed in the topography of your yard or a neighbor’s yard. Now the problem has landed at your feet, and you’ve got to figure out what to do about it.
When these challenges persist, you need solutions. The first and most important step towards a solution is to evaluate the whole site, and from there develop a custom drainage plan. But what drainage solutions are available to you? Let’s take a look.
Three Popular and Effective Landscape Drainage Solutions
- Fill. The most low-tech technique is to do simple “spot treatments” to deal with small damp areas. If there is a low spot in your yard, you can fill it with soil to absorb the moisture into the ground and keep it from puddling on the surface. This might serve as a sort of test to see how severe the drainage problems are before investing in more comprehensive drainage plans.
- Rain gardens have become most popular in the mid–Atlantic region. These are shallow depressions, the precise dimensions depending again on the square footage of permeable surface to be drained. The rain garden is surrounded by water-loving plants. Stormwater is collected in the rain garden and gradually released back into the soil while the moisture-loving plants absorb any excess.
- Custom hardscaping. Drainage features can be designed and discreetly built into new hardscaping work. One example would be a slight gap in stone that lets water drop through into a drain box below that is hidden by stonework. This is a high design feature that you can expect to pay a premium for.
Comprehensive Landscape Drainage Solutions for Large Properties
- Dry wells hold water below ground level and allow it to slowly filter back into the soil. These underground reservoirs are connected to a system of drain pipes buried throughout the property and are sized proportionately to the square footage of permeable surface/lawn to be drained. That is, the size and depth of dry wells correspond to the anticipated volume of runoff generated during a very heavy storm.
- Step pools work like dry creek beds with areas that catch the overflow water during high precipitation months and give it time to absorb naturally back into the earth. The steps are constructed as a series of pools set at different elevations. So as one step-pool reaches its fill level it overflows into the next one in line. In this way, the step pools reduce the speed of flow and give precipitation time to reabsorb.
- French Drains. This drainage method requires a gravel-filled trench lined with filter fabric to keep soil and silt out of the gravel. The trench starts at a depth of about 8 inches and goes deeper as it proceeds to create the effect of a downhill grade that draws the water to the exit or collection point. Sometimes the system includes a perforated drain pipe buried in the gravel.
- Multi-flow Pipe consists of bundles of one-inch pipes stacked four across and wrapped together with filtration fabric to keep silt from clogging them. The pipes are perforated to allow water to seep in through the sides so it can be then carried away from the area you want to keep dry. It’s buried about two inches below ground in a granular, sandy soil mix to attract water into the pipe. It is effectively used on large lawn areas and sports fields because it works well under turf grass. The multi-flow product works very much the way French drains do, with a lower cost for materials, and less invasive installation.
Depending on the extent of your landscape drainage problems, there are many tools available from complex to simple that can be employed by an experienced landscape architect to balance out the drainage in different parts of a landscape. But that’s just part of the equation. Landscape drainage systems are a part of the landscape that you will never see because well… they are underground. Above ground, you have creative opportunities to enhance the visible parts of the landscape. For example, finding new varieties of plants that turn your rain garden or dry well sink into a true landscape feature.
When you have chronic drainage problems, whether they impact the health of your garden plants or interfere with the enjoyment of your hardscapes, it is critically important to work with a landscape architect to complete comprehensive site analysis and evaluation so the sources of problems can be identified correctly. From there, it is possible to develop an appropriate and effective drainage solution and fill in with appropriate landscaping–which could take the form of adding enhancements to the existing landscaping or substantial replacements.
Are you thinking about investing in a landscape design project? Our eBook: Expert Guide to Planning the Landscape Design of Your Dreams, is full of valuable information to help you get started.