Although land drainage systems are probably more well-known on a commercial scale, if you have a soggy and waterlogged garden causing you problems, you may be considering installing a system to take away these issues. Whether you want your children to be able to play out on the lawn after school without having to avoid wet patches and leaving a trail of footsteps through the house or like to get your fingers green with a little bit of horticulture or in a vegetable garden, you’ll need your garden to drain well and not to get saturated after a downpour of rain.
Poor land drainage is a nightmare for the gardener as waterlogged soils make it difficult for plant and flowers to thrive and really develop. It is a fine balance however, as you don’t want to be left with a garden that is too dry as, of course, we all know that plants need moisture to grow. If the soil is saturated it becomes heavy and restricts the plants ability to have access to essential nutrients and oxygen. For farmers this means that they crop yield is vastly reduced, for gardeners it means that they might not get quite the same bloom as they would expect.
There’s more chance of having poor land drainage if your home or garden has been built on low lying land or on clay and compacted soil. When you’re installing any structures, such as a patio you can use these to divert surface water away from your garden and into soak ways but there are other techniques which are often used to really make a big impact to land drainage.
Before installing land drainage systems, try a DIY land drainage test. Dig a hole 24 inches deep and 12 inches square and half fill it with water. Leave it overnight, if you have well-drained soil it should drain away. If it either fills or doesn’t change and it hasn’t rained while you’ve been waiting, you have a land drainage problem.
Ideally, especially if you’re laying turf, you should deal with any land drainage problems before the lawn is put down. Designed to give water space to drain away, these drains are placed underneath the turf. The Herringbone system is the best if your garden is consistently waterlogged throughout. Dig 3 drains, one down the middle from the highest point of the lawn to the lowest and the others on each side, connecting to the main drain in the centre to form a herringbone pattern. Fill these drains with gravel wrapped with landscape fabric so that water can drain freely through the gravel. Place topsoil back over the top and allow for some compacting. At the lowest point of the drain you also need to dig a soak away at least 4ft deep. Fill it with gravel or clean rubble and again place topsoil over the top so you avoid an eye-sore.
This kind of system – a gravel drain trench installed underneath the surface really is the only way to solve most garden drainage. Rather than using gravel you can buy special land drainage pipes which have perforated holes allowing water in but still draining it away from the desired area. Planting trees or shrubs in problematic areas may seem to make sense, but as they need oxygen to breathe and may suffer from the anaerobic conditions caused by the waterlogged soil.
Land drainage in the home, certainly does have a number of benefits and really does help you to be able to create a garden others will have green eyes of envy over. It can also help to raise the value of your home, as obviously a good garden where children can play and you can spend time in is a real plus point when selling your home.
Although land drainage systems can be installed by homeowners, as long as you are confident in your DIY abilities, there are also a number of professional bodies who will be able to do the work for you – if you’re unsure find a local expert to help.
Bio: Katherine Ogilvie writes on behalf of William Morfoot, experts in land drainage, offering services to the commercial market throughout the UK.