Eight Ways to Improve Your Garden’s Drainage

Frustrated gardeners whose backyards turn to swamps in the rainy months have been offered top tips for improving their garden’s drainage.

Outdoors experts at GardenBuildingsDirect.co.uk have revealed eight key pieces of advice for improving the condition of waterlogged lawns.

If your lawn is squelchy to walk on after heavy rainfall, or a sticky, glue-like layer of puddled soil forms near the surface, these could be symptoms of waterlogging.

This is caused when water sits on the soil surface and drains too slowly, or fails to drain from the garden at all.

Poor preparation of the soil before turfing or seeding new lawns can also lead to poor drainage and waterlogging, and in the long term grass could turn yellow and die out.

A spokesperson for GardenBuildingsDirect.co.uk said: “The British climate is notoriously unpredictable but one thing’s for sure – there’s usually a lot of rain.

“As such, many gardens in the UK suffer from poor drainage, and in the winter months things can be particularly bad.

“Waterlogged, boggy conditions are far from ideal when trying to maintain a lush, green lawn, as good drainage is crucial for growing plants and keeping healthy grass.

“So, we’ve researched the best methods to combat a squelchy lawn.”

1. Pricking, slitting or spiking

Pricking or slitting the lawn surface with shallow, 2-3cm holes can help garden drainage, but deeper spiking is even better, especially with a tool designed to leave deep holes. These holes can be filled with a free-draining material, such as proprietary lawn top dressing or horticultural sand, to allow the water to flow from the surface to deeper, less compacted layers.

2. Grow more plants

One of the best ways to improve drainage in your garden is to simply grow more plants! This can be a relatively inexpensive solution whilst making your garden look nicer too. Plant choice is important though, as you’ll want to choose something that can survive wet conditions – unfortunately, many plants dislike too much water and cannot tolerate waterlogged conditions.

3. Build raised beds

Building raised plant beds means that you can fill them with good quality, free-draining topsoil that gets your plants out of the boggy earth below. These can be constructed out of timber railway sleepers or brickwork, and will also create interesting features within a garden.

4. Improve soil drainage

If your drainage issues aren’t too severe, simply improving the permeability of the soil in your beds may alleviate the problem. To do this, you’ll need to dig in lots of organic matter, as soil with a high organic matter content allows excess water to drain through, while absorbing essential moisture. Creating your own compost and using this to improve the soil is a cheap but effective way of doing this.

On the other hand, if your soil is sticky and clay-like, it’s advisable to add coarse grit sand to aid drainage. 

5. Manage surface water

Managing surface water run-off effectively and efficiently is a great way to improve drainage. This can be simply achieved by incorporating sloping surfaces within your garden, so that the excess water is directed to an area where it can be disposed of – for example, a surface drain or plant bed containing moisture-loving plants. This could be costly though, as you may need to hire a mini excavator to sculpt the contours of your garden. Make sure to seek the advice of a professional before you attempt anything.

6. Use bark chippings

Bark chippings are great for absorbing moisture, and thereby improving drainage. Not only are these chipping great at retaining moisture but they also prevent weed growth, help insulate the beds during cold snaps, and improve the aesthetic of practically any bed they’re added to.

7. Install artificial grass

Artificial grass is capable of handling large amounts of rainfall, but the key to a successful, drainage-improving artificial lawn is to ensure that a permeable sub-base is installed beneath the turf.

8. Install land drains

This is generally only recommended if your lawn is particularly bad, as installing land drains involves digging a trench in your lawn, fixing a perforated land drain, and then re-covering. Water will then drain through your lawn and into the perforated land drain pipe, which will channel it away from that area to whatever other part of the garden you choose.

Local by-laws usually prohibit you from channeling the water into public storm drains or sewer systems, so finding a suitable area to direct the water can be an issue.