What causes a waterlogged lawn?
A lawn that stays extremely wet for an excessive amount of time after a rain is probably waterlogged. It could be squishy to walk on, or there may even be extensive puddling that refuses to go away. This condition is a symptom of poor drainage caused by a combination of factors, including heavy clay soil, flat terrain, low spots on the lawn, or heavy foot traffic. These problems are preventable and reparable. Follow along as we discuss nine ways to cure your waterlogged lawn.
Dry It Out
It’s impossible to work with mud, so before a water-damaged lawn can be repaired, the excess water needs to evaporate. If dry, sunny weather is in the forecast but puddles persist on the lawn, use a broom to sweep them away. When the soil finally dries to the point of being only moist instead of squishy and saturated, you can get to work. In the meantime, keep people and pets off the affected area as much as possible.
Aerate the Lawn
Soil compaction is the most common reason that lawns become waterlogged. Lack of space between soil particles means air and water cannot pass through, so water remains on the surface, saturating the ground and often killing the grass. Rent or purchase a hollow-tined core aerator to improve aeration.
The best machines to repair this kind of damage feature long, hollow tines, spaced six or fewer inches apart, and a heavy body that pushes the tines deep into the soil. The soil must be moist but not soggy for the aerator tines to sink at least 1 inch into it. As the machine rolls across the lawn, it leaves the plugs on the surface. Leave them there, and let the rain dissolve them back into the lawn.
Top-Dress With Compost and Sand
Poor soil structure goes hand in hand with low organic content and a dearth of biological activity. After aerating, apply compost either alone or mixed in a 1-to-1 ratio with horticultural sand. Both compost and sand work their way into the voids created by aeration to help maintain an open soil structure. Beneficial microbes in the compost, and the earthworms they attract, continue to loosen the soil particles, improving drainage and promoting healthy plant growth.
Grow Deeper Roots
As soil becomes compacted, plant roots die off in the compacted zone. As roots are excluded, the compaction issue becomes worse and soil is more likely to become waterlogged. To eliminate the problem, make deep root development a priority. After aeration and top-dressing with high-quality compost, overseed to address dead zones that have no grass coverage. Keep the area evenly moist during germination. Afterward, develop a routine of deep, infrequent irrigation, rather than daily light watering.
Install a French Drain
Not every wet zone is caused by soil compaction. Low-lying or flat areas of a lawn may be subject to pooling or groundwater seepage because of the lack of slope. In these instances, an underground drainage system may help dry out the area. The fix may be as simple as installing a lightweight prefabricated French drain, available at The Home Depot, to move the water away from the problem area. This project requires a nearby sloped area that is lower than the problem site, so the water has a place to flow.
Create a Rain Garden
If the waterlogging is the result of excessive runoff onto a relatively flat area, installing a rain garden could help alleviate the issue. A rain garden is essentially a small, boggy plot. Create a depression with a berm on the low side to intentionally collect rainwater. Plant the garden with an assortment of attractive water-loving plants, such as sedges, cardinal flower, bluestar, swamp hibiscus, and many others. A rain garden in the right location reduces flooding, filters pollutants from the water, and provides habitat for birds and pollinators.
Poorly designed or directed gutter downspouts can lead to a waterlogged lawn. If your house or garage sends excessive amounts of runoff to the yard, use 4-inch PVC pipe, available at The Home Depot, to move the water elsewhere. Dig a shallow trench from the outflow of the downspout to the location where the water needs to go. Be sure to slope the trench away from the house.
Install a Dry Creek Bed
Sometimes a simple ditch is all you need to redirect the water, but for greater curb appeal and lower maintenance, you can turn that ditch into a “dry creek bed.” Start by creating a channel that will carry the water downhill and away from the affected area. Then, use landscape fabric and rock of assorted sizes to armor the sides of the channel. Finish it off by planting an assortment of perennials and shrubs to soften the edges and give it a natural look.
Regrade the Lawn
Hiring a professional with expensive equipment to reshape the yard sounds like a drastic measure, and it is. But if water consistently pools beside the house or across pavement, or if other treatments just haven’t worked, regrading may be the best option. The contractor surveys the property to uncover the source of the problem and calculate the grade line. Then he uses specialized equipment to raise the low spots, lower the high spots, and ensure a positive flow in the right direction.
Related: 7 Lawn Care Myths Debunked
For More Information
Water quality issues have been at the forefront of conservation efforts for decades. With ongoing development, stormwater management is a major concern for the health of our rivers and streams. If you would like more information about solving water problems on your property, check out local initiatives in your community. Also, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and other federal and state agencies offer a wealth of advice and resources.
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