Everyone knows that a healthy lawn or garden first begins with the soil that you have to work with. If you have bad soil, you have to improve it before anything more than weeds will grow.
I always pictured this being more about the nutrient content, but then I moved to a new area where waterlogging was a problem. I had to learn quickly how to drain a waterlogged lawn, and what I found out quickly was that it can only be done with time and persistence.
A waterlogged lawn is not a healthy lawn. It means that you have little oxygen and nutrients in your soil. You need to increase the oxygen if you hope to end the waterlogging. Spiking or aerating is the easiest solution, but there are other options. You can even change your soils mixture.
Check out my article on fun solar lawn decorations.
Which Type of Soil Waterlogs Most?
Before I can explain which soil type can become waterlogged most, I feel that I must talk about different soil types.
As a blanket statement, you can narrow it down to sand, silt, clay, or loamy soil types. However, there are other types of soil that may not fit into any one of these “categories”. The best way to know what type of soil you have is to get your hands a little dirty.
Start by going to where you feel you have the biggest problem and grab a handful. Take note of how it feels to you. By feel, the soil will generally fall into one of the six “categories”. They are:
- Clay: When wet, clay will feel sticky and lumpy. When dry, it will feel very hard.
- Sand: Think of a beach. Sandy soil is going to feel grainy or gritty, like tiny rocks.
- Silt: If your soil feels soft, maybe foamy (like soap) then you have silty soil.
- Peat Soil: This type of soil is found mostly in waterlogged areas. It is made up of decomposed plant material such as moss, which will give it a damp, spongy feel.
- Chalky: If you have larger grained dirt with a lot of rocks or stones in it, then you may be dealing with something like limestone.
- Loamy: This type of soil is the best. It is a combination of clay, sand, and silt. By feel it will have a fine texture and may feel slightly damp. Chances are good, if you have loamy soil, you are not concerned about waterlogged garden areas or how to fix them.
Clay soil is going to be the most prone to waterlogging. Sand will be least likely to ever hold water. In fact, most people who have sandy yards tend to wish they could get water to stick around.
If you want to learn more about your soil, there are simple tests you can perform to learn more about whether you can have success with your garden spot.
Check out my full article on whether aerating will help with drainage issues.
Lawn Testing: Waterlogged Or Other Issues?
Personally, I never noticed standing water unless it had just rained. How could I be sure that my garden wasn’t growing because of waterlogging?
Maybe it was something else?
If you can only see water standing or sticky mud on your boots after a heavy rain, is it really a problem? I decided to test the water, pun intended.
I waited for several days after the last rain and went out to dig a small hole. Eventually, I made it 24 x 12-inches square and filled it half full of water.
What I did next was to go inside to wait for about four hours. I did this in random spots around my lawn where I’d consider planting my garden. The theory of it is simple.
The more water that stays in the hole, the bigger the problems you have in your yard.
What I discovered was that most of my lawn, even areas that I didn’t suspect had a problem, were still holding water. I needed to find a solution, and so began my search for how to handle it.
You can also test your lawn to find out how much oxygenation it has by digging a hole that is at least six inches deep and watching for bugs, sticking a wire into the soil to see how deep you have to go before it bends, or dig up a weed so that you can look at the roots.
Healthy roots will be white in color. Roots that are brown or mushy looking indicate too much water is being held in your soil.
Check out my article on how dry your lawn should be before you mow it.
How to Fix Waterlogged Property?
Unfortunately, this is where things get tricky. I knew I had a problem but was clueless about how to actually fix it. One of the biggest issues with waterlogged land is that it does not have a lot of oxygen in it.
This means you should avoid walking on it after heavy rain or you risk causing more damage. You have to wait until the ground is dried up before even considering how to fix it.
I opted to speed up the process by draining the water and created a space that would keep water away from my “garden spot”. Digging a trench is often the last resort, but for me, it seemed to make the most sense to do it first. I dug it in an out of the way place where I didn’t mind excess water pooling up.
If you have a lot of excess water and need a place for it to go, you can opt to build a pond for your yard. This is a great way to turn a problem into something great and should be considered if you want to create a water feature.
A pond with tropical plants could be the key to turning your lawn into an oasis, but it depends on what you personally want for your lawn. I simply wanted to be able to plant my garden without drowning it, but may consider adding a pond later.
Then, I laid out boards in areas that I could now see were prone to waterlogging. We were just coming into our rainy season and I wanted to avoid compacting the problems that my lawn already had. From there, I tried several other “home remedies”. They included:
- Brushing off excess water: After a heavy rain, I would take an old broom that I had outside and sweep the ground. This would push water out of low spots toward the trench I had created.
- Aerating Problem Spots: While walking on the boards I had laid out; I used a garden fork to puncture the ground around them. It helps water to drain and puts oxygen back into the ground in that area. I also got a core aerator which would allow me to go beyond the boards to other areas that could also benefit from having more oxygenation.
- Add Organic Matter: Not only can compost or organic matter help to dry up soggy areas, it can also help you long term. You can use mulch, lawn clippings, shredded leaves, and more. It increases soil structure, which adds nutrients, and allows microorganisms or earthworms to feed beneath the ground. As they dig tunnels, they give water a place to go naturally, which ensures your soil stays healthier.
- Top Dressing: Just because your lawn has a lot of clay in it right now, doesn’t mean you cannot change it. You can buy sand, loam, or peat to spread out over your lawn. This is best done after aeration so that the new soil can get into your lawn. Spread it out evenly so that it is only 1/2-inch over the existing soil. From there, you may consider watering the ground and allowing it to settle a few days, but this is not required. You can then plant grass or garden plants.
One of the best things about dealing with a waterlogged lawn is that you can adjust or change the “solution” to meet your needs. If you don’t want to aerate with a spike, you can rent or buy an aerator.
If you prefer to not add organic matter by buying soil, then you can mow over your leaves and put them into low-lying areas of your yard.
Some options will be faster, some slower, but most can be effective in helping you have a healthier lawn.
Check out my article on how often you should aerate regardless of any waterlogging.
How Often Should You Aerate Soil To Prevent Waterlogging?
We say aerate your lawn to prevent waterlogging, but this does leave open the question of how often you should aerate to prevent problems from recurring.
The truth is, it is kind of a never-ending problem for some people, me included.
Determining whether aeration is beneficial or not depends on several factors, including:
- How much traffic does your lawn handle? Kids playing outdoors, pets running around, and having vehicles drive over your lawn can all compact soil, squeezing the oxygen out of it. The more traffic you have, the more often you need to aerate.
- Did you add sod layers? Layers of sod may be great for the top later, but it can compact the soil underneath. If you have multiple layers of soil, aeration or spiking should be done more often to ensure that grass or plant roots can grow properly.
- What type of soil do you have? Sandy or loam soil needs less frequent aeration while clay should be done at least every other year.
In short, if you walk across your lawn and it feels solid, you may want to aerate it.
Healthy soil will have animals living beneath the surface, so it should feel fluffy or spongy as you walk across it and means that you can hold off on aeration until next spring.
By simply paying attention to your lawn, you can and will have a lawn that you love and not one that simply stains your shoes with mud.
Check out my full article on aerating your lawn with a garden fork.
Create a Drainage Ditch
If you have tried every other option and your lawn still gets waterlogged then it’s time to install a drainage ditch for your lawn. Installing a drainage ditch doesn’t mean you will have a big ditch visible on your lawn but you will have a drainage ditch under your lawn.
It can take quite a lot of work to make this happen but it will be a permanent solution to your drainage problems.
The idea is that you make a ditch that you fill with pebbles or some sort of material that will let the water slowly drain through it and then you put the soil and grass back on top of it so no one will ever be able to tell you have a drainage ditch underneath.
Soakaway Drainage Ditch
To make a soakaway drainage ditch you basically dig a big hole that is a minimum of 2 feet wide and 3 feet deep and fill it with some sort of material like pebbles or rocks that will allow the water to drain through.
When you have made it you put soil and grass back over the top of it and no one will even know it is there.
To use this system for a lawn I would put it in the center of the lawn then make drainage ditches that run towards it and that way your whole lawn will drain into the soakaway drainage ditch. If you want to know more about soakaway drains you should check out this video on youtube.
Single French Drain
To make a french drain on your lawn what you need to do is get yourself some piping and punch some holes along the bottom of it. Dig a ditch along your lawn that is big enough for the pipe to fit in.
when the pipe is in the ground fill around it with stones or gravel and then put the turf back on top so no-one will know you have a drain underneath.
The holes do have to be on the bottom of the pipe otherwise the water will have to be deep enough to get to the top of it where the holes are so it will drain better with the holes on the bottom.
To learn more about DIY french drains you should watch this youtube video.
A herringbone drain is a drainage system that includes a network of french drains.
In a herringbone drainage system, you would have a large drain that goes down the middle on your lawn to drain the water away but you would also have drains going into the center drain so that the whole lawn gets drained.
This is an excellent drainage system as it can drain your whole lawn then the center drain is designed to take the water away from your lawn. If you are interested in this type of drainage system you should check out this video on youtube.
I hope you have found some useful information in this how to drain a waterlogged lawn article. I always find that when it comes to waterlogging it is best to find a permanent solution otherwise you will probably be fighting a losing battle. Please have a browse of some other articles.