When communities are planned out, they include a system of swales (low tracts of land)
and drain boxes. These are important as they move the water from between the houses into
central areas that channel the water away from the homes. When this is done effectively, water
progresses appropriately between houses and quickly dries.
Once we start customizing our yards with hedges, fences, sheds, etc. the flow of the water gets
disrupted. These landscape modifications cause the water to channel in different directions
and eventually causes a hassle in a yard or garden that once was dry and perfect. So, how do
drainage problems affect our gardens?
First, let’s clarify that a drainage problem is characterized by standing or pooling water which
does not disperse after 24 hours or more. It is common to see some standing water for a few
hours after a sudden, heavy downpour, but if standing water is a regular thing after every rain or
lawn watering, then you certainly have a drainage problem. Sometimes the problem is caused
by the type of soil you have; clay is more compacted than regular soil and does not absorb
water very well. Other times, the problem is due to water being inefficiently routed from yard
additions as stated above.
The effects of drainage issues:
● Standing water will drown your plants that you work so hard to maintain.
● Poor drainage can cause and exacerbate plant diseases.
● Stagnant water will attract mosquitoes to breed – ugh!
● The dampness can create mold, which in turn creates a health hazard – no fun!
● Depending on how the water flows through your garden/yard it can cause erosion and
So, how can we fix or avoid drainage problems?
● A well-placed, raised plant bed can effectively divert and reroute the water to the swales.
● Adding a strategically placed retaining wall can be just as helpful.
● Install a rain garden in the problem area
● Divert or bury your downspouts so that water from your gutter system is not spewed out
toward your garden or flower bed.
● Sometimes simply adding topsoil to the problem area can solve the issue, but more
commonly just causes problems in another part of your yard or garden.
● Install a French Drain – very simply put: you dig a trench, lay down perforated
polystyrene pipe, cover with gravel and soil, and beautify as you wish! (be sure to verify
whether or not you need a permit in order to install one!)
Whether you have just moved in to a brand new, unmodified community or you have spent the
past 20 years in an established neighborhood drainage problems are likely to arise at some
point or another. Hopefully, you will not have to deal with drainage problems, but if so, hope
these tips can help you, and keep your garden on track. Now that you’re armed with your best
gardening tool – knowledge – fresh in your mind, get outside and back to growing!
About the author:
Written by Jennifer Murphree on behalf of Carroll Landscaping, Inc. –
Maryland’s award-winning landscape design, build, and maintain company.