DIY Guide To Fixing Drainage Issues In Your Garden

October 7, 2022

There is no denying it, Metro Vancouver is known for its long and wet rainy seasons. Although our city is designed to funnel water through proper systems, there is still the chance that water build up can happen during the heaviest rains. Without a proper drainage system, water has the potential to cause extensive property damage, drowning out plants and lawns, shifting slabs and pavers, and flooding out your outdoor living space rendering it effectively useless. The very thought of it can keep homeowners up at night.

Milli Vanilli would say we should ‘blame it on the rain’ but that’s not entirely true. There are many underlying factors that can cause drainage issues in your landscape.


Identify Trouble Areas In Your Garden

Walk your landscape and be on the lookout for these key indicators:

  • Pooling water or puddles
  • Soggy areas in your lawn and/or patches of lush lawn growth
  • Water staining on the sides of building structures or hardscapes
  • Lifting or shifting of hardscape features like pavers, slabs, and retaining walls

What Is Causing Water Damage In Your Yard?

The most common issues homeowners have include:

  • Broken or clogged gutters and downspouts
  • Grading and sloping of the landscape that is directing water in the wrong direction
  • Compaction over time, especially with sand and clay based soils


How To Fix Your Drainage Problems

Now that you know what the root cause is, you’ll need to determine if it’s a DIY project you can handle on your own or if you need to hire a landscape professional.

Depending on your skillset and/or budget, here are some solutions you can try.


Organic Soil Topdressing – Low Budget, Low Skill, Moderate Labour

An easy way to address soil compaction is to apply a minimum layer of 3 inches of organic matter to lawns and a mulching product to planted beds. Read more about the types of mulch available depending on your landscape needs.

Step 1: Prepare your lawns and beds by taking a hard metal rake and loosening some of the compaction. Note, it is advisable to first aerate your lawn for best results.

Step 2: Shovel a few scoops of soil at a time to the affected area, being systematic to not miss any sections. For lawns, use about ½ inch of soil depth. For planted beds, spread about 1-2 inches of mulch depth.

Step 3: With the flat side of the metal rake, spread the soil or mulch evenly using a sweeping-type motion

Step 4: Scan the overall area and top-up any low spots with more soil or mulch

Step 5: Water the entire area and let it seep in over 24 hours. Reassess the area the following day and top-up any other spots that visibly need it and loosen any clumping that may have occurred with a rake.

Step 6: For lawns, apply grass seed to promote new growth in patchy areas.


Perforated Drainage Pipe – Moderate Budget, Moderate Skill, Labour Intensive

This piping system collects water that seeps through small holes in the tubing. It allows water to percolate back into the ground, but when there is excess water flow, the pipe will be able to divert the water to another location on the property. You can buy coils of this drainage piping at your local hardware store.

Step 1: Dig a trench that is approximately 2 feet deep and slightly wider than the pipe.

Step 2: Make sure the trench has a slight slope as it goes from the issue point to the chosen destination point.

Step 3: Lay landscape fabric in the trench and fill with a small layer of gravel that will not clog the holes in the pipe.

Step 4: Place your piping along the trench line and top it off with more gravel until it is fully covered but leaving enough space at the top for a layer of soil.

Step 5: Cover the gravel with another layer of landscape fabric and then infill the remainder with the soil that was initially dug up.

Step 6: Depending on your landscape layout, you can spread grass seed down or install hardy plants to hide the trench line.


Photo by Chicago Foundation Repair Pros

Photo by Chicago Foundation Repair Pros

Landscape Re-Design – High Budget, Skilled Landscape Professional

There are some impactful and aesthetic options to eliminate drainage problems that a professional landscape designer can help you with. Some common and trending solutions include:

  • Rain Gardens – These are a relatively recent innovation that have seen a sharp rise in popularity amongst British Columbian homeowners, stratas, and even municipalities. Read more about the benefits of rain gardens in our climate zone.
  • Pathways and In-Ground Patios – Create a functional outdoor living space and eliminate drainage problems at the same time. A professional designer will suggest numerous options including slabs or pavers as part of the re-design plan.


Need A Hand?

Para Space’s award winning Landscape Installation Division brings expertise and creative vision to landscape projects of any size. We complete small scale plant replacements to comprehensive design/build projects. Take a look at our body of work that stretches across hundreds of homes throughout the Lower Mainland.

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