Why Proper Drainage is Critical for Landscaping


Posted by Julien Stern | Posted in landscaping | Posted on 05-01-2013

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yard-drainageHave you ever noticed how in some areas of your yard water pools up after watering while other parts seem to magically make the water disappear?

Or perhaps you have some grass and it’s got a nasty fungal issue with mushrooms popping up every now and then.

When it comes to all the different aspects of your garden and landscaping, there is one that is perhaps the most ignored–and that is draining. In this context draining is how you plan for water, whether from sprinkling or rain, is supposed to flow through your yard.

If your landscaping is not planned out with proper drainage in mind, it can result in a host of problems ranging from small puddles of water in the middle of your yard to damaging water flow toward the foundation of your home.

Problems from Poor Drainage

There are many different problems which can be caused from an improperly planned drainage system in your yard. Some of them are minor issues, and others can be costly and devastating. The following are just some of the more common issues people with poor drainage find.

  • Root Rot – If you have an area of the yard that is not properly drained it will often retain the water there for quite a long time. It could be a visible eyesore where there are small puddles of water, or it could all be occurring under the surface of your yard.

    When you have plants growing in soil that is overly drenched for days at a time, it can cause significant problems. This is especially true for larger plants and trees due to the long term damage that can result.

  • Pooling – Most yards naturally have some areas which are slightly higher than others. If you don’t intentionally manipulate the yard to have extra water flow off into a desired area then you’ll likely have small pools or puddles all throughout your yard. In minor cases these pools will be absorbed fairly quickly causing only small problems, but for more serious cases it can cause large pooling of water that can last for days after a heavy rain.
  • Home Flooding – The foundation of a home is not designed to be constantly wet, and if you don’t have a drainage design which pulls the water away from your home you will eventually have flooding problems. As the water remains near your foundation tiny cracks or holes will develop letting the water through. During heavy rains this could cause significant damage.
  • Unhealthy grass, plants and Trees – When the water is not properly drained it will cause some areas to get insufficient water absorption during a rain, and some will be drenched.

Benefits of Proper Drainage in Your Garden

One of the biggest benefits of a well planned out drainage system is that you can use the natural rain water to help keep all your plants and trees healthy.

In many parts of the country you can greatly reduce or even eliminate the need to water your plants if you have a well designed drainage plan. A good drainage plan will design the slope of the yard to bring water from one area to another. This can be done not only by building some areas up and lowering other areas, but also by adding in items like decorative rocks or retaining walls.

Once you have a good plan of how the water will flow in your yard, you can add in plants which will best take advantage of the water. Adding plants which require very little water to an area that you have designed to keep dryer, and those that can tolerate very moist soil to the area near the bottom of your hard is an excellent way to take advantage of as much of the water as possible.

Whether you live in a climate which is naturally very rainy like the North East, or a dryer area like the Texas climate, it is important to plan out your drainage properly. Also keep in mind that you will need to plan for all seasons since in many parts of the country you could have very dry conditions for some months and very wet for others.

How to Plan Your Drainage

If you’ve never made a drainage plan for your yard before it might be best to contact a professional. There are many little things to consider during the planning phase that can have drastic affects on the success or failure of your landscape.

Keep in mind that you can use not only changes in the elevation of your yard and the use of plants, rocks and other above ground things, but also you can add in underground drainage options. This can be done by burying a pipe with holes in it with medium sized rocks. The pipe can lead water away from one area and to another or even off into an existing sewer system to remove excess water.

It is important to have the pipe at the right depth and installed correctly or it could actually cause more harm than good though so if you aren’t sure, don’t hesitate to ask an expert.

Image credit: Brian Tobin