Lawn Drainage

Kathleen Roberts
First Robin

While it is important for a lawn to be watered regularly, adequate lawn drainage is essential for a healthy lawn. If your yard has some swampy looking areas after every rain, here are a few suggestions to assist you with your lawn drainage problems.

Cause of Drainage Problems

Lawn drainage problems, in most cases, are caused by compacted soil. This is a problem that can be fixed with a little time and patience, as well as following these few simple steps:

  1. Start a program of yearly lawn aeration to help your soil absorb water as it should.
  2. Build up healthy soil by top dressing it with compost, preferably after aerating, incorporating organic matter into the soil.
  3. Leave the grass clippings on your lawn instead of bagging them. As they decompose they will add additional nutrients to your soil.

The Right Plants

When planning your landscape design, consider plantings that appreciate soggy ground in areas that are naturally swampy. Usually the best choices for these are native plants. Here is a list of a few plants that not only enjoy wet conditions, but will beautify your landscape as well:

Install a Lawn Drainage System

There are also different types of lawn drainage systems, some more complicated than others. If you feel ambitious you can install them yourself. Or you may prefer to consult a landscape professional to have the system installed for you. Either way, you will likely only choose this option if your lawn drainage problem is severe.

Dry Creek Bed

A dry creek bed alleviates your lawn drainage problems and adds a beautiful feature to your landscape as well. Here is how to create one:

  • Mark a natural looking, meandering course that you will follow as you build your dry creek bed. Ideally make it look like a natural creek, so include bends and curves. The "flow" of your creek bed will go from the highest point to the lowest point on your property so the water can drain away.
  • Dig a trench that is two to three times deeper than it is wide. Allow it to vary in width in different areas to create a more natural appearance. As you dig, mound the dirt along the edges to form a "river bank".
  • Line your trench with landscape fabric.
  • Fill your trench with river rock. You will want smaller rock toward the center of your creek and bigger rocks along the sides. This will not only look more realistic, but it will also guide the water flow. Consider adding a few large rocks here and there to sit on and to add visual appeal.
  • Decorate your creek bed with plants that enjoy moist soil (listed above) to finish your dry creek bed.

A Drainage System

If your lawn drainage problems are very severe and engulf your entire lawn, you may need to install a more complicated drainage system. First, install a drainage area for the water to flow into. At the lowest point of your property, dig a trench three feet by two and a half feet by two and a half feet - following these steps:

  • Carefully remove the sod in one foot squares about two inches thick.
  • Dig your trench approximately three feet deep.
  • Fill the trench two feet deep with large stones or broken brick.
  • Now add six inches of gravel or sand.
  • Replace the topsoil that you removed when digging your trench.
  • Carefully replace the sod. Be sure to water if the sod has dried out.

This drainage area may be all you need to solve your drainage problems. If it isn't, there is still more options! Add a single pipe or herringbone system by following these steps:

  • Mark a course to lay a drain pipe from the highest point to the lowest point in your yard.
  • Remove the sod as you did to install your drainage area above.
  • Now dig a trench one foot wide by two to three feet deep.
  • Add a layer of pea gravel to the bottom of your trench.
  • Lay perforated pipe in your trench. Perforated pipe has holes to allow water in. When placing it in the trench, lay it with the holes facing down to prevent debris from clogging the holes. You can add additional lengths of pipe with couplings or saw the pipe smaller to fit the entire length of your trench, ending near the center of your drainage area.
  • Cover the pipe with pea gravel.
  • Now fill in your trench the same as above.

If you need to use a herringbone system you will add side pipes at ten foot intervals for clay soil, or at 25 foot intervals for loamy soil. The side pipes should be at a 45 degree angle.

This approach involves a great deal of hard labor, so be sure it is your only solution before embarking on such a project. Consider asking an extension service agent or landscape professional about the best options for your lawn drainage problems, before taking out that shovel.

Lawn Drainage