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How To Drain Rainwater from Your Yard

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While a gentle, steady rain can be a boon for your backyard plants, a sudden hard downpour can be just the opposite. If your backyard is pooling water during and after storms, your yard and its plants are at risk. Pooled water can kill grass and plants that are flooded. It can also create muddy conditions. Once mud has been disturbed and spread around, it is hard for grass to grow back over the dried mud. Water that collects in plant beds close to your house can also cause severe damage. If the pooled water leaks into your basement or foundation, you could be facing water damage, mold, and expensive repairs. Luckily, there are some simple ways to avoid pooling. If you learn how to drain rainwater from your yard, your yard can stay puddle free even in a heavy downpour.

How To Drain Rainwater from Your Yard [infographic]

Start With the Easy Solutions

Dealing with pooling water doesn’t have to be complicated. If you find that you have problems with water collecting in your yard, try some simple solutions first.

The first place to look for answers is at your gutters. While rain may be the culprit in your flooding issues, the gutters can make it much worse. It’s bad enough to have a solid downpour dumping water on your lawn. But if your gutters aren’t doing their job, your lawn could be taking a double hit. Water collected from the entire surface of your roof could be spilling out onto your grass and plants. So before you try anything drastic, make sure your gutters are doing their job.

First, check to make sure your gutters are clear. Clogged gutters can send water pouring out onto the ground instead of directing it to a downspout. It’s a good idea to clean your gutters two or three times a year, or any time you notice a problem. It’s especially important to check them toward the end of autumn, as winter begins since falling autumn leaves can quickly clog your gutters.

If your gutters are clear and you are still having problems, the next place to check is your downspout. Your downspout concentrates all of the water from the entire surface of your roof into one gushing stream. But if that stream is being dumped into a puddle near the base of your house, you could be doing more harm than good. A puddle along the walls of your home is just a leak waiting to happen. A simple fix is to get an extender from the base of your downspout. An extension sends water several feet away from your home. From there it can disperse safely without pooling against your home.

Create a Swale

It may sound obvious, but water always flows to the lowest point. So if you find water pooling in an area of your lawn, it’s because you have a low point that the water can’t escape. The solution is to create a swale. In the simplest sense, a swale is any low area, either naturally or artificially made, that redirects drainage. To create a swale in your yard, you will need to excavate a gently sloping shallow drainage ditch. It should be the lowest point in your yard and graded so that water flows down it and out your yard. A swale is mostly to redirect water, not drain it. So make sure it ends at a creek or storm drain where it can drain properly.

To maximize the effectiveness of your swale, line it with rocks and deep-rooting plants. These serve to slow the flow of water and help it drain. You can also turn your swale into a landscaping feature by creating a small artificial creekbed. Line the swale with rocks of different sizes and plan some native plants around it. When properly landscaped, your creekbed can be attractive even when it is dry.

Plant a Rain Garden

A rain garden is, in some sense, the opposite of a swale. A swale acts to collect water and redirect it. A rain garden collects it and lets it drain right where it is. If you have a problem spot in your garden that always seems to collect water, a rain garden in a handy solution.

To create a rain garden, identify the area that regularly floods and fill it with water-loving plants. If you can, use native plants with long, fibrous roots. They will require the least care in between floods and are beneficial to the environment. Another benefit of a rain garden is that it protects the environment from harmful runoff. One of the most significant sources of water pollution is runoff. Runoff from your garden can carry gardening chemicals, pesticides, pet waste, and other harmful pollutants. By draining the water in place, you keep those pollutants out of local water sources.

A rain garden doesn’t need to drain all of the water it collects right in place. It can be combined with other forms of drainage that might be overwhelmed by a torrential downpour. In this case, the rain garden is a great place to contain water so that it can drain more slowly. For instance, a rain garden can be connected to a dry well that can drain the water and return it to the earth.

Dry Wells

A dry well is an effective way to return water into the soil without it pooling on the surface. A dry well is simply a hole in the ground that is filled with gravel or another porous material that can hold water while it soaks into the ground. If you want to increase the capacity of your dry well, you can use special dry well barrels. A dry well barrel is a large plastic bucket that is buried underground and has holes in the bottom and sides for drainage. The barrel must be buried surrounded by gravel or another porous material. As water drains from your garden, it collected in the barrel, which holds the water as it slowly disperses into the ground.

A dry well can be connected to another type of drainage. As we mentioned above, a dry well can help drain a rain garden. In this cases, two methods of slow drainage combine to hold rainwater and give it time to soak into the earth instead of flooding your yard.

A dry well can also be combined with a french drain. In all of these setups, the goal is to avoid flooding, which occurs when rain accumulates faster than it can be absorbed by the ground. A french drain, dry well, or rain garden collects water and gives it a chance to slowly return to the earth.

French Drains

A french drain is a type of drain that has an inlet but doesn’t require an outlet. Instead, the french drain consists of a perforated pipe surrounded by gravel. The perforated pipe allows water to exit along its length and soak into the ground. The inlet can be a single opening, such as the bottom of a gutter downspout. However, a french drain is not limited to a single inlet. A french drain can also be constructed with long, narrow grates along its length to accept water over a larger area.

Add a Drain Pipe

If all else fails and you can’t seem to get water to drain from your garden or lawn, you can install a traditional drainpipe. At its inlet, a drainpipe will have a flat grate that is even with the ground to allow for easy mowing. A pipe in then buried underground to direct the water away from the problem spot and toward a storm drain. To effectively drain, the pipe should be angled so that it drops at least ⅛ inch per linear foot. At that grade, a pipe will need to drop about 1 foot for every 100 feet of length.

There are some advantages to this kind of drain. Since the pipe is not perforated and does not drain water into the soil, the water can be drained quickly. Also, if the drain becomes clogged, you can use a simple snake to clear the clog. The drain will need to be adequately large to handle the amount of rainwater you need to drain. Of course, this kind of drain only works if the area you will be draining to is lower than the low point of your yard that is flooding.

When to Get Professional Help

If you’re not sure what type of drain will work best for your yard, a landscaping professional can help. Even if you have a good idea of what solution you need, installing a swale, dry well, or other solution can be daunting. In that case, we suggest that you enlist the help of professional landscapers. If you want the best landscapers, we recommend TrustDALE certified landscapers Outdoor Makeover & Construction and Oasis Landscape and Irrigation. Both of these companies have gone through Dale's intensive 7-point investigative review process and agreed to Dales Make-it-Right Guarantee™.