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April Showers Bring... Swampy Yards

Three ways to stop poor drainage from turning your landscape into a swampy pit.

As long as there’s rain in spring, there is the potential for a swampy pit to form in yards with poor natural drainage. Muddy soil isn’t just a nuisance — it can be very damaging to your landscape. Whether you live on a high water table or there’s not enough pitch to flow water away from your property, finding a solution to poor drainage can make the difference between a backyard retreat and a disruptive eyesore.

Addressing standing water in your yard shouldn’t mean sacrificing the aesthetics. In fact, great drainage systems and solutions can actually enhance the landscape by becoming integrated into the design.

There are several ways to accomplish this. First, basic grading to prevent pooling could be a simple fix if you have an area that the water can be channeled to without creating a new drainage issue. Alternately, a French drain with catch basins is a functional solution that can be installed with minimal disruption to your current landscape design.

If you like the look of a mini hardscape among your plants, you can add a dry stream or river bed for a natural-looking enhancement. Or, you can embrace the extra water by creating a rain garden with plants that thrive in wet spaces.

Let’s take a look at how each of these can solve drainage issues.

Drainage System

French drains are the most common way to address standing water while remaining largely invisible. If you love your landscape as-is but water tends to accumulate, you can have a French drain installed underground and re-landscape over top.

Basically, French drains are trenches that are lined with a fabric barrier, with a perforated pipe placed in the bottom and surrounded by gravel. The fabric barrier keeps soil from infiltrating the gravel and pipe within the system and is folded and closed off over the gravel. A thin layer of soil and sod is then placed over top. A French drain has the same function as a gutter, but below the ground level.

If you’re interested in spicing up your landscape at the same time, you can top the French drain gravel or decorative river rock to create a dry stream for heavy rain, or you can use it as a bed edge or to line a garden as a landscape feature.

Dry Stream

Another way to route water away from an area is by designing a dry stream, also known as a dry creek bed. With this method, the land is graded so that water will flow downhill. River rocks are placed strategically to look like a creek bed, leading the water away from the problem area.

It works like this: water accumulates when it rains, and then the rocks act as an accelerator to quickly move the water out of the swampy area and downhill. Water moves faster over rocks than it does over grass or through plants (so it drains away from the problem area faster), and there is no washout of mulch beds and no erosion of soil within turf.

There are a lot of ways to play with the design of a dry stream so that it integrates beautifully into your yard. Native grasses, perennial shrubs, and rock patterns can create stunning enhancements to the landscape that look natural and inviting, while functioning to drain excess water. Think of it like your own (sometimes) babbling brook that doubles as an investment protector.

Rain Garden

Sometimes, it’s healthy to just go with the flow. With a rain garden, rain water collects water in a very large underground gravel pit, which slowly disperses the water into the ground. Rain gardens use water-loving plants to beautify an area of your yard and thrive without damage or formation of a swampy pit even after heavy rainfall. Designed into the landscape, the rain garden complements the situation instead of fighting a losing battle. Using shade- and moisture-loving foliage like tall grasses, flowering perennials, and native shrubs, rain gardens have deep roots that help water rapidly seep into the soil.

The gardens are typically planted in a small depression, either dug out or in a naturally occurring slope. Opposite from where the water will enter the rain garden, soil is built up into a berm to allow water to sit in the garden and absorb into the soil. Typically, they are designed to drain within 24-48 hours, so they will not become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. The downspouts from your house can also drain into a rain garden.

If you currently have standing water problems after rainfall, it’s important to address the situation quickly to protect your investments — including your lawn, your gardens, and your home — from water damage. Poor drainage is a major factor in property loss from foundational and structural damage, erosion, pest infestation, mold growth and wood rot, and freeze damage to concrete and asphalt.

To find the right drainage solution, consider the overall look you’d like to go for. Do you want something hidden? Or would you prefer to enhance your landscape with a new garden or feature?

The first step will be to hire a professional to survey the site and assess the land, noting the slope and layout. Rossen Landscape is highly skilled and experienced in understanding and addressing drainage issues within the landscape, and we can work closely with you to design the right system for your needs so that you have a beautiful, functional landscape no matter how much rain hits this spring or beyond.

Ready to get rid of the muddy mess? Contact us today to find out how we can help.