Do you have one or more areas in your yard that hold water
after a rainfall? This is a common problem, and sometimes
difficult to solve. Over the years I've talked with dozens of
people trying to battle this problem, and on several occasions
I have been hired to solve the problem. So what can be done?
Too often people come to me asking what kind of a tree, or what
kind of shrubs can be planted in a wet area to dry it up. This
is the wrong approach. Most plants, and I mean almost all
plants are not going to survive in an area where the soil is
soggy for extended periods of time. The roots need to breath,
and planting a tree or shrub in a water area will kill it.
Another common approach is to try and fill the area with
topsoil. Depending on a variety of variables, this can work,
but many times adding additional soil to a wet area will only
shift the water to another area just a few feet away.
If you are lucky enough to have some natural fall to your
property, or a drainage ditch near by, this problem is easy
enough to solve. If you happen to live in an area that was
developed over the past few years, there might even be system
to remove storm water near by. In many new home developments
I've seen storm water catch basins already installed in
backyards. Trust me, this is a good thing. There is nothing
worse than having a soggy yard all the time.
If you are fortunate to have some fall to your yard, or a storm
water system that you can drain water into, this problem is
easy to solve. Make sure you check with your local officials
before you do anything at all with a storm drain.
All you have to do is go to your local building supply center
and buy some 4" perforated plastic drain pipe. The best kind
for this purpose is the flexible kind that comes in 100'
rolls. This type of drain pipe has small slits all around the
pipe. These slits allow water to enter the pipe so it can be
Just dig a trench from the center of the low area you are
trying to drain, to the point that you intend to drain it to.
Using a simple line level you can set up a string over top of
the trench to make sure that your pipe runs down hill all the
way. A line level is a very small level that is designed to
attach to a string. Any hardware stores sells them for just a
couple of dollars. Set the string up so it is level, then
measure from the string to the bottom of your trench to make
sure you have constant fall. You should have 6" fall for every
100' of pipe.
The highest point is going to be the area that you are trying
to drain, so you only want your pipe deep enough at this point
so it can be covered with soil. Once the trench is dug just
lay the pipe in. At the highest end of the pipe you'll need to
insert a strainer into the end of the pipe to keep soil from
entering the pipe.
Cover the pipe with some washed stone, and then backfill the
trench with soil. The washed stone creates a void around the
pipe so that the water can find it's way into the pipe. Washed
stone is usually inexpensive stone that has been washed so it
is clean and free of mud. The only part of the pipe that needs
to be exposed is the low end, where the water exits the pipe.
Do not put a strainer in that end.
If you do not have anywhere that you can drain the water to,
you still might be able to do something. But first consider
what is happening, and why the water is standing where it is.
Even if you have well drained soil, water can not soak in fast
enough during periods of heavy rain, and it runs across the top
of the ground and eventually finds the lowest point, and either
leaves the property, or gets trapped. If you have well drained
soil, the trapped water usually soaks in.
If you have heavy clay soil, the water lays there, and the soil
underneath becomes very compacted, and the problem compounds
it's self. The more water that stands, the worse the drainage
gets. What I have done in areas like this, where there is
standing water, but nowhere to drain it to, is to install a
French drain system that actually carries the water away from
the low area, and allows it to seep into the ground over a
larger distance, where the soil is not quite so compacted.
To install this French drain system you do everything exactly
as explained above, except instead of draining the water to a
lower area, you can send it in any direction you like. Even in
the direction from which it came, which is uphill. When
installing this type of system, it's a good idea to dig a
number of shorter trenches, all heading away from the area
where the water stands. Using the line level, make sure your
trenches fall away from their point of origin so once the water
enters the pipes it will flow away from the wet spot.
What is going to happen is that during times of heavy rain the
low area is still going to trap water, but much of that water
is going to seep into the drain pipes and eventually leach into
the soil under each trench. Because this soil has not been
compacted by the standing water and the baking sun, it will
accept the water. It won't happen near as fast as if you could
just drain the water to a ditch, but at least you will have a
mechanism in place that will eventually disperse the water back
into the soil.
It's a lot easier to leach 200 gallons of water into a series
of trenches that total 100 lineal feet, than it is to expect
that water to leach into a 10' by 10' area that is hard and
About The Author
If you have questions for Mike McGroarty visit his website,
http://www.freeplants.com and post them on the message board
where you can learn lots of gardening tips and communicate with
other gardeners. While at his website you can learn how to
start your own profitable backyard nursery. If you would like
a copy of Mike's booklet, "The Secret of Growing Landscape
Plants from Scratch", send .00 to: Garden Secrets, P.O. Box
338, Perry, Ohio 44081
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