How To Stop Your Garden From Flooding - Backyard Boss
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How To Stop Your Garden From Flooding

Ponds and water features are excellent additions to any garden. As long as you planned to have a pond there in the first place. If your garden is flooding during heavy rainfall, you’re probably not so thrilled about the impromptu pond in your garden.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways for you to stop your garden from flooding. The most effective ways would be before installing the garden. But there are plenty of solutions for gardens that are already in place. Even better news is that you can turn this excess water into an attraction in your garden. Take a page out of the permaculture book and turn your problem into a solution with 7 different ways to stop your garden from flooding.

1. Reduce Surface Runoff

Culvert collecting surface runoff
Image credits: uod_hydro via Creative Commons

In modern times, humans seem to be determined to get rainwater to disappear in one large stream as quickly as possible. You can see evidence of this in all the drains and various ‘hardscaping’ elements in our built environment.

The problem with this is that a large volume of water is concentrated in one area. If there’s blockage or obstruction, that water will pool up and eventually cause a flood. This can be prevented by thoughtful design.

Observe any hardscaped areas in your yard. Things like driveways, pathways, concrete patios, etc. Instead of directing any water from these areas into a central drain, consider directing it to an area where you can slow the flow down, spread it out, and allow it to soak into the ground.

Defining a swale is beyond the scope of this article. In short, it’s a shallow trench (often used as a pathway) that follows the contour of the land. When water collects here, it slows down, spreads out, and soaks back into the water table over time.

Directing runoff into a swale above your garden, for example, would be a good use for this water. An added benefit is that this water will then recharge the groundwater in the water table below, which is an essential event in the water cycle.

2. Slope Your Yard Appropriately

Red barn on sloped land
Image credits: Falkenpost via Pixabay

You don’t have to grade your yard into a massive incline. But if you have the means, it’s a good idea to have a gentle slope away from your garden. This is something you’ll have to do before the garden is installed, since some earth works may be necessary.

Water is going to run downhill. If there’s no hill to run down, it’s going to pool up in the low spots. You don’t want your garden to turn into a marsh whenever it rains, so consider adding a gentle slope to your yard so that you have control over where the water goes.

3. Lean Into Natural Low Spots

Garden pond surrounded by plants
Image credits: Katherine Volkovski via Unsplash

Low spots in your garden are where the water will pool. If you eliminate a low spot in your garden, you’re not eliminating the water that would pool there. It still has to go somewhere.

An alternative would be to lean into the low spot and turn that area into a garden pond. Adding water to your garden is excellent for attracting wildlife to your garden, which adds biodiversity to the landscape.

If there’s already a pool of water that appears during rain events, you may as well make it official and turn it into a pond.

4. Collect/Divert Rainwater

Rain gutter in a rainstorm
Image credits: sandid via Pixabay

The roof of your house is a huge surface that sheds a lot of water when it’s raining. For an idea of how much, for every 1 inch of rainfall, your roof will collect 6 gallons of water per square foot. That’s a lot of water.

Consider collecting this rain water in water tanks for use as irrigation. Alternatively, at the very least, make sure this water is being collected in a gutter and diverted to an area that drains away from your house.

5. Increase Rainwater Infiltration

Many lawns are planted over compacted earth. This compacted earth is not very good at allowing rainwater to infiltrate, which adds to surface runoff.

To prevent this, it’s a good idea to aerate your lawn. The standard aeration of using a garden fork will work, but may not be that effective. For best results, use a plug aerator which will break down into the soil over time.

6. Always Install Drainage In The Beginning

Whenever you’re making adjustments to your garden, consider drainage from the beginning.

In the permaculture world, the very first elements to consider in the planning stage are access, buildings, and water.

So when you’re designing a new area, think about where the water will go in a 100 year rain event. We’re likely to experience increasingly extreme weather events moving forward, so even if you live in a desert, prepare for a very large rain event from the beginning.

7. Plant Rain Gardens

Rain gardens start with a shallow trench in the ground. This trench can be naturally occurring or you could install it. This trench is then planted with all sorts of water-loving plants. These plants are thirsty and will soak up large amounts of water and release it back into the atmosphere through transpiration.

The next step is to then guide all the excess water and water runoff towards this rain garden using more trenches, culverts, or gutters.

The Last Word

Planning for water accumulation is one of the more important steps when it comes to designing a garden. Even if you live in a dry climate, it’s better to be safe than sorry. This is because you only realize you have inadequate drainage when it’s too late and you’re up to your knees in flood water.

The good news is that your garden is already established, or if you don’t have access to doing earth works, there are some retrofit solutions that can stop your garden from flooding in the future.