How to Deal with Standing Water in Your Garden

Spring is just around the corner and in many places, this means a time of copious natural moisture. The thawing winter and spring rains soak the ground, and rivers flood into the lowlands. Gardeners are familiar with the heavy dampness of early spring. Low-slung corners in the garden can become muddy or even flooded, sometimes unworkable until late in the growing season.

Working wet ground is likely to damage soil structure and lead to compaction problems. Any seeds you sow would probably rot.  

Gardeners are familiar with the heavy dampness of early spring.
Gardeners are familiar with the heavy dampness of early spring.

Standing Water in the Garden

Although soil is largely made up of solid particles, there are pores in between the particles that contain oxygen and water. Plants draw almost all of their oxygen needs from those tiny spaces. Soils that have been wet for long periods of time – or worked when wet – lose that stored air.

Waterlogged soil also invites fungal disease while discouraging beneficial bacteria and organisms.

Do you have standing water in your garden? Below are a few strategies you can use to deal with the problem.

Check your downspouts.

Before you start digging a trench or taking other drastic action to get rid of standing water in your garden, step back and examine the situation. Try to discover where the water is coming from. The problem could be as simple as a downspout that’s expelling rainwater into a low area of your yard. If that is the case, redirecting the discharge might be all you need to do.

The problem could be as simple as an errant downspout.
The problem could be as simple as a downspout that’s expelling rainwater into a low area of your yard.

Build a berm.

If you can’t find a simple fix for your muddy predicament, you’ll need another tactic. One easy way to improve drainage is to build a berm directly on top of the wet soil. Berms are raised mounds of earth, usually forming a long ridge. These attractive landscaping features provide more soil depth for planting. They can also act as small dams to alter the flow of water in your garden.

One easy way to improve drainage is to build a berm directly on top of the wet soil.
One easy way to improve drainage is to build a berm directly on top of the wet soil.
(Photo: Mara/Flickr)

Create a dry creek bed.

You can solve drainage problems and create an attractive landscape feature in your with a dry creek bed. Building a little creek in your backyard will allow you to channel water away from a low spot or direct the runoff into a rain garden or a well. You can start by digging a gentle, shallow drainage ditch. To create a more organized, attractive look, line the ditch with gravel, boulders, a bridge, or plantings.

Building a little creek in your backyard will allow you to channel water away from a low spot or direct the runoff into a rain garden or a well.
Building a little creek in your backyard will allow you to channel water away from a low spot or direct the runoff into
a rain garden or a well.

Grow a rain garden.

You can also consider growing a rain garden. A rain garden is an area of your yard that catches water and is filled with water-loving native plants. Rain gardens slow down rainwater, allowing it to soak into the ground rather than collect in a low area in your yard. Native plants with deep, fibrous roots form a key part of rain garden design. These plants require little maintenance, attract pollinators, and offer a small sanctuary for local wildlife.

Rain gardens collect excess water
Native plants with deep, fibrous roots form a key part of rain garden design

If all else fails …

While standing water in the yard can be exasperating, gardeners can make adjustments. But if all else fails, you can simply drain the water away through an underground drainage pipe. This will only work if you have an area to discharge the water that’s lower than the inlet. Once you’ve found that area, dig a slowly sloping trench from the source to the outlet. You can then lay a plastic catch basin at the source and attach it to the discharge with a length of PVC drain pipe.

If all else fails, you can simply drain the water away through an underground drainage pipe.
If all else fails, you can simply drain the water away through an underground drainage pipe.

This system has a few advantages over a French drain. Since the pipe is not perforated, there’s no need to provide gravel for drainage, according to the Family Handyman.   

Before doing this, you should make sure that the excess water you’ll be draining contains no traces of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. Nobody wants those chemicals polluting groundwater reserves.

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