How To Landscape Drainage Swales
While it may seem like these utilitarian trenches are completely unusable or impossible to landscape in an attractive way, swales actually provide some great landscaping opportunities, including some that are particularly well suited for drought prone areas.
Here are just some of the options you can consider for attractively landscaping your swales:
How To Improve Heavy Clay Soil
When you wrestle with heavy, compacted clay in your lawn and garden, your body and your plants can show the strain. But don’t despair. Clay soil offers many benefits, but it can need a hand to reach its potential. Healthy, well-maintained clay soil translates to less work for you and less stress on your lawn and garden. With these insights and a little effort, you can fix your heavy clay soil and reap its rewards:
What To Avoid When Landscaping Drainage Swales
Before we dive into some of the many options you have when landscaping swales, we should first address a few things to avoid.
Most importantly and, hopefully, obviously you do not want to introduce anything to the swale that will impede the flow of water.
For example, if you need to put a solid fence across a swale, you need to make accommodations to allow the water to flow either below or through that section of fencing unobstructed.
If you have swales with berms, trees can do quite well when planted on the berms or below the swale, but should not be planted in the swale, since this can also impede water flow.
If you plan to plant inside the swell, you will need to be careful not to significantly change the grading, unless the swale is now obsolete, and your intention is to fill it.
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Why A Lawn Care Company Is Cost
Weve talked in this blog about some pretty labour intensive lawncare jobs. Scarifying with a rake is well unless you have a tiny lawn its just not practical.
It is possible to hire machinery to make those jobs easier. You can hire mechanical hollow-tine aerators and you can hire scarifiers. Last time I looked it cost about £70 per machine per day and then you need to provide fuel, collect it from the hire shop and take it back afterwards.
You will probably find its a lot more cost-effective to ask a lawn care company for help. They have all the right machines and they know how to use them safely.
If youre in East Kilbride, Hamilton or South Glasgow, The Lawn Advocates come highly recommended. Michael is an independent lawn care expert and he really knows his stuff. Hes not greedy with his charges either. Visit
Tips To Improve Drainage Issues In Yard
1. Maintain positive surface drainage away from your foundation. Check to be sure that this isnt an issue by ensuring that any soil, mulch, gravel or plantings arent covering the siding of your house. Any of these materials should always slope away from your foundation
2. Do not obstruct yard drainage routes with berms, planters, raised gardens, raised play areas or anything else. Keep all run-off flowing. Dont forget to keep an eye out for tree roots or any heavy vegetation, which could also impact run-off.
3. Extend downspouts in PVC or corrugated drain tiles beyond planting beds and below grade toward a low area of the yard to minimize erosion. Make sure that any roof water drains away from your foundation. Check gutters and downspouts as often as possible to keep them clean and clear from debris.
4. Discharge your sump pump water into a perforated drainage pipe that is backfilled with drainage gravel or into a drywell. By using a drainage pipe or drywell , some of the water can still be absorbed into the soil without excessive pooling.
5. Correct all back-pitching hard surfaces such as stoops, walks, patios and driveways. If these surfaces are concrete, you may be able to have the surfaces raised by a mud-jack or concrete-raising company. If the surfaces are brick or stone, they can be removed and reinstalled to achieve a positive slope away from your residence.
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Solutions For Yard Drainage Problems
Most minor garden and lawn drainage issues are caused by clay soil. A minor issue will be that you have standing water after a heavy rainfall for less than a day. Clay soil is more dense than sandy or loamy soil, and therefore, is slower to allow rainwater to filter through it. Minor yard drainage problems like this can usually be corrected by taking steps to improve clay soil.
For more serious lawn and garden drainage problems, there are several things you can try to improve soil drainage. A more serious drainage issue means that you have standing water after light to moderate rainfall or if the standing water stays for more than a day. These drainage issues can be caused by high water tables, low grading compared to surrounding properties, layers of hard materials below the soil and extremely compacted soil.
One solution for yard drainage issues is to create an underground drain. The most common underground drain is a French drain, which is essentially a ditch that is filled with gravel and then covered over. Drainage wells are another common underground solution for compacted soil or hard sub-layers that allows the water somewhere to run after rainfall.
Creating a pond or a rain garden has started to become popular as solutions for yard drainage problems. Both of these solutions not only help collect excess rainwater, but also add a lovely feature to your landscape.
Using Lawn Sand On Clay Lawns
Sand is not the best option for topdressing your lawn. It should only be used to fix heavy thatch build-up, cover exposed tree roots or level low areas.
Applying sand can cause your lawn to lose its fertility. Sand particles do not retain any nutrients and minerals, so it is better to use fine compost instead.
Another common mistake that many gardeners make is applying sand too heavily, which leads to the death of grass. Besides, many homeowners also make the mistake of using sand to fix clay soil.
However, you should not do that, as adding sand to such soil often creates a cement-like effect, instead of loosening it up.
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When Your Clay Soil Wont Drain
Cultural management is sometimes all thats needed to solve a problem with clay soil drainage. Growing in raised beds is sometimes the simplest solution. Construct low walls of wooden planks, bricks or stone and fill them with soil mixed with compost, or mound up the soil for your beds so that its several inches higher than the surrounding ground. Dont build beds that are too wide to reach into the middle comfortably.
Adding plenty of organic matter also helps with drainage by improving soil structure and water infiltration. Spread a layer of compost, leaf mold, or aged manure 3 to 4 inches deep over your planting beds in fall or spring, and dig the organic matter in to a depth of 4 to 6 inches. Alternatively, spread a mulch of wood chips, sawdust or bark chippings on the soil surface, and they will eventually disappear into the soil naturally.
Growing cover crops helps to improve drainage in heavy clay. Cover crops are plants that are grown to improve the soil condition by increasing the proportion of decaying plant material. Borage , and timothy hay , hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 8, are two cover crops that can be sown in fall and dug into the soil in spring.
Get Yourself A Rain Barrel
Sure, your house may have a guttering system in place, but does your shed or greenhouse have one? The good news is that installing guttering on outbuildings is a relatively simple task. Once the gutters are affixed, redirect the downpipes to overflow barrels. This way, not only will you avoid flooding your garden, but also have an extra water supply to use during dryer months!
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Construct A Rain Garden
If there is a low spot on your property that collects water, and there isnt enough slope to drain it with a creek bed, you could consider making that soggy patch work for you by turning it into a rain garden. Rain gardens are designed to catch rainfall and are usually filled with water-loving plants like hostas, ferns and ornamental mosses that can dry out saturated areas. They dont necessarily solve the yard drainage issue, but they definitely are more attractive than a muddy hole full of soaking grass.
A completed rain garden will ideally drain water within 24 hours. This metric, as well as the level of porousness of the soil youre building in, can help you determine how deep to dig the garden. Your rain garden can also be the ending point of a downspout or creek bed.
Tools youll need: Level, shovel, wheelbarrow, river rock, decorative stones, gravel, landscape fabric, PVC pipe and water-friendly plants.
Poor Drainage In Yards
Standing water, consistently soggy soil and bad odors are some characteristics typical of poorly drained yards. In very badly drained yards, water may sit on the surface for most of the year. But if water does eventually drain from your yard, the problem may not be as bad as you think. Before going to the major step of installing drainage, assess the extent of the drainage problem.
If water remains in the hole after 12 hours in total, the drainage in your yard is poor. A hole that drains within three hours is an indicator of good drainage, and if the hole drains within 3 to 9 hours, most landscape plants should grow in your yard. On the other hand, you may have been mistaken about which part of your yard is not draining well. Repeat the experiment in other spots if this may be the case.
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What Is A Waterlogged Lawn
Waterlogged lawns occur when clay-like, dense or compacted soil is subjected to periods of heavy rain. The rainwater sits on the surface of the lawn and fails to drain away through the soil, leaving the lawn underwater.
Healthy soil is full of air, which allows grass roots to breathe, but when water saturates the soil, the air in the soil travels to the surface and escapes. This is a problem for grass roots as they need oxygen to live.
Although grass is quite hardy and could survive a few days without oxygen, it would eventually begin to turn yellow and die.
How To Improve Drainage In Your Garden
Well-drained soil has both water and air present. It’s also warmer, increases nutrient availability to plants and contains more soil organisms.
Poor drainage, on the other hand, leads to waterlogged soil, which pushes out air and results in stunted plant growth or even death.
To test your soil drainage, take a spade and dig a hole 30cm deep. Fill it with water and allow the water to drain completely, then fill the hole again.
Check the hole in an hour’s time. If less than 5cm of water has drained away, your soil has poor drainage and needs amending.
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Construct A Creek Bed
A creek bed like this can channel water away from a low spot or direct runoff into a rain garden or dry well. With the right landscaping, the creek bed will look good even when it’s dry. You can solve drainage problems and create an attractive landscape feature at the same time with a dry creek bed. Build a creek bed to direct water away from a low spot in your yard. Or if the slope of the ground permits it, use a creek bed to drain a low spot.
Start by making a swale-essentially a gentle, shallow drainage ditch. Then line it with gravel or stones and add interest with boulders, a bridge or plantings.
Of course, you don’t have to turn your drainage project into a creek bed. A simple swale is an effective and subtle way to control surface water. Obviously, it’s easier to create a swale before you seed or sod your yard, but if necessary, you can cut out the grass with a sod cutter and replace it when you’re done regrading.
How Do You Tell If Your Soil Is Draining Well
On nearly all plant tags and seed packets, instructions say to plant in well-drained soil.
Yet, if youve never seen well-drained soil, then youre unlikely to know what this means.
This blog is all about improving soil drainage, but how do you know if your soil drainage is even a problem in the first place?
Heres a simple test you can use to check the soil drainage.
If youre getting ready to start a garden, then youll want to test different parts of your landscape to see where plants thrive best.
Step 1: Dig a hole
For this test, youll want to dig a hole about 12 inches wide and at least 12 to 18 inches deep.
It doesnt have to be measured precisely for the test to work, but create a hole roughly this size.
Step 2: Fill the hole with water
Next, fill the hole with water and let it drain completely.
Step 3: Repeat
Then, youll repeat step 2 and fill the hole again.
Measure the depth of water that is left in the hole.
Step 4: Measure the depth every 2-3 hours
Measure the depth of water every hour for 2-3 hours.
The water level of well-draining soil will drop at least an inch per hour.
If its not, then youre not working with well-draining soil.
This is valuable information to have, especially if you want to plant on the land.
It means you should either work with the soil to improve the drainage or try to find a different area that has better drainage.
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Common Causes Of Soggy Portland Lawns
There is rarely a single root cause of any landscaping problem. More often, a soggy lawn stems from several problematic conditions. Below we list the main contributors to a drenched lawn:
Topsoil Removal.Shoddy contractors may fail to consider soil amendment before installing turf. They may do little beyond laying sod on hard compacted soil and gravel left when the house was built. It is very common for the site prep excavator to strip the layer of top soil off the building site to get a good base for the house foundation, driveways, and paths. Why is this problematic? Because without further aeration and preparation, lawn roots will have a very hard time extending through clay-heavy hardpan.
Lack of Water Absorption. In addition to restricting drainage, a crusty hardpan makes it difficult for lawn roots to absorb water. The water will tend to pool or quickly run off, resulting in shallow lawn roots that will quickly dry out and die in the summer heat. Without building up the soil in some way, Portland lawns may not be able to absorb enough water for healthy growth.
Natural Springs and High Water Tables. Certain Portland communities have natural springs, where water bubbles up from the earth. The West Linn areaparticularly Hidden Springssuffers from this groundwater issue. If water seeps up into your yard, it may be too wet for lawn growth.
Extend The Downspout: Downspout Drainage Solutions
Landscaping near the house can create a basin for water. Extending the downspout usually solves the problem. Before you start digging a trench or taking some other drastic action to get rid of a wet spot or standing water in your yard, step back and survey the situation to see where the water is coming from. The problem could be as simple as a downspout or sump pump discharge that’s draining into a low area of your yard. Redirecting your downspout or running the discharge pipe from your sump pump drainage outside to a different location might be all you need to do.
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Factors That Can Lead To Poor Drainage
While there are myriad of reasons why your garden isnt draining water properly, here are 10 factors that most likely contributed to your gardens swamp-like appearance: