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How to improve drainage in your yard

Updated: Mar 18, 2022

Water drainage problems in yards are a typical problem for many homeowners, particularly as storms get heavier and more intense. Most yard drainage solutions start with the soil. Oftentimes, the soil is too hard and compact so it can’t absorb water. This leads to common drainage problems in yards from erosion to creating pools of stagnant water. In some cases, it can cause dampness or flooding in basements or crawl spaces.

We recommend using -- or asking your landscaper to use -- natural hydrology work to fix water drainage problems. Rather than building a huge retaining wall, natural hydrology is to work with nature instead. Of course, sometimes you just need a French drain, and that’s okay too. Generally, the less foot traffic an area gets, the more you can work with natural solutions. Here are a couple that we recommend.

Diversion swales

Let’s start with erosion. First, try to divert the water through one channel by creating a lane for it to go through. These are known as diversion swales. This will at least prevent the majority of your landscape from eroding, and you can begin the process of healing the soil so it begins to retain more water.

Use mulch

The next step is adding organic material to start holding water now that the erosion is minimized. An easy way to do this is spreading wood chips as mulch. Using a service like ChipDrop, you may be able to get wood chips for free. Other kinds of mulch could include leaves or even grass clippings; this works in the less visible spaces in your yard. After that, you’ll work on your natural ground cover/ grass alternative. We like to use something like clover or mesic seed mix, this is seed mix with varieties that can handle both wet and dry conditions.

Create a pool

If you have pooling, it’s a similar process. Add organic material to start holding water. But instead of planting something like clover, you can plant a rain garden with perennial plants that love lots of water. There are several species of shrubs, bushes, and trees that can thrive in various levels of water pooling. If you have questions about rain gardens, check out this presentation from UGA Extension which has everything you could imagine about rain gardens.


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