How To Create Effective Drainage In Your Yard

While water is an absolutely critical resource for your garden, too much water is just as bad as not enough. If your garden looks more like a rice paddy after a heavy rain, there are a few solutions to prevent your precious plants from drowning.

Add More Soil

Most often, if you have drainage issues, water will pool at the edges or center of the garden, but it can occur anywhere there is a low spot. The easiest solution to this is adding more soil.

  • In early spring, before planting, buy plenty of large bags of garden soil, gypsum, peat moss, compost (or make your own), and top soil.
  • This is also a good time to add your first fertilizer of the year to replenish your garden.
  • Dump your garden soil, peat moss, and compost and mix and spread it across your garden using a garden rake and hoe. Try to get it as smooth and level as possible.
  • Next, add your top soil.
  • To ensure a flat and level surface, drag a long 2×4 piece of lumber over your garden several times.

If you don’t want to wait for a good rain, use a sprinkler to thoroughly saturate your garden for a few hours. Look for pooling water and add more soil to those areas.


Dig a Simple Dry Well (Soakwell)

If adding more soil doesn’t seem to help your water problem, the next solution would be to install a simple dry well. Dry wells take surface water and distribute it to the deep subsoil. First, you need to perform a percolation test to see if a dry well will actually work:

  • Dig a 8 inch wide, 4 – 5 feet deep hole in the area that pools water.
  • Pour 5 or more gallons of water into the hole and watch to see how long it takes for the water to drain from the hole.
  • A one-inch drop in water level in three minutes is considered good.
  • If the water drains very quickly, add another 5 gallons of water to make sure the ground wasn’t just very dry.
  • If the water drains very slowly or remains in the hole with no drop in level by the next morning, a dry well won’t work here.

If the percolation test works and you decide to do a full-fledged dry well, here are the next steps:

  • Assuming you already have the hole dug, line the hole with landscape fabric.
  • Fill the hole to the top with rocks and gravel.

You can put a simple dry well anywhere you see the need. Some people put plastic containers with holes drilled into it, like a trash can, inside the dry well to hold even more water.



Build a French Drain

If a dry well won’t work in your garden, you can move the water somewhere else in your yard using a French drain. A French drain is simply a trench with a pipe in it that carries water away. Some people run a French drain into a dry well for very effective water removal.

  • Dig a 6 – 12 inch wide and 18 inch deep trench, stretching from the poor draining spot in your garden to wherever you want the water to drain.
  • Line the trench with landscape fabric, leaving enough room on the sides to wrap around the pipe.
  • Lay 3 to 4 inches of gravel on top of the fabric.
  • Lay perforated corrugated pipe the length of the trench. Some people use PVC pipe with lots of holes drilled into it.
  • Place the holes down towards the ground.
  • Wrap the pipe in the left over landscape fabric, but still keeping the holes down.
  • Fill the rest of the trench to the top with gravel, covering the pipe.

French Drain

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