If you perpetually fight with soggy spots in your lawn, there are basically two choices in how to handle them: try to dry them up or embrace the sogginess. While most homeowners spend time and money fighting swampy areas, it can be better and less expensive to work with the yard instead. Here are three ways to manage a wet yard.
A bog garden needs to be perpetually wet to support plants that thrive in swampy soil, so it is perfect for a natural depression or next to existing water sources. Carve out a randomly-curved section of the wet soil and dig down about two feet. Place a pond liner in the hole and pull it tight. Perforate the liner with a garden fork or similar tool so that some water is allowed to drain normally.
If you feel your bog might need some help staying wet during the summer, you can use a perforated hose sunk just under the ground to drip additional water. Refill the hole with the discarded dirt.
Now it's time to plant some moisture-loving plants. This can include things like palm grass, Louisiana iris, or papyrus.
A rain garden is a good way to filter water runoff and prevent erosion. If you get runoff every time it rains—from gutters, outbuildings or downspouts, for example—this is a good place to create a rain garden to help clean and contain the water. Dig out the soil in your rain garden's location, then mix it with good quality compost and replace the soil. Leave a mild depression in the center of the garden to help corral rainwater, or use some leftover soil to create a berm around the garden as a barrier.
Because a rain garden is more dependent on natural rains than a bog garden, you should choose plants that thrive in both wet and dry conditions. Plants that love water the most—such as lady fern—should be placed near the low center of the garden. Drier plants, such as Western bleeding heart, can be placed farther out.
A faux stream is a good way to handle natural changes in elevation that lead to water runoff and erosion. Start by marking the natural runoff locations with twine or spray paint. Dig this section out and line it with a pond liner. Gravel can form a good base for your stream as it meanders down the slope. At the bottom of the slope, dig a larger hole (usually about twice the width and depth of the stream) with a perforated liner. The perforations will help drain the stream before it overflows.
Line the stream and its pond base with rocks of varying sizes to create a natural setting. Between and around the rocks, you can add greenery such as ivy, hostas, or daylilies. Depending on the size of your stream, you may want to add some shrubs or small trees to complete the natural look.
If you're unsure how to create any of these systems to manage the water in your yard, it may be best to work with a landscape architect, such as Robert Schweitzer, who can work with the overall terrain and its challenges. But whether it's on your own or with professional help, ceasing to fight against the water invading your backyard means you can instead create a beautiful and functional landscape that everyone can enjoy.
As a child and teenager, I watched my mother garden, although I wasn't interested in it at the time. I later learned that I had missed out on learning the craft because before I planted my first garden, I thought it would be so easy! Once I finally had a yard of my own, I was eager to plant some beautiful flowers in the yard and do other landscaping work. Unfortunately, I learned a hard lesson and none of things I planted survived more than a few weeks, even though I watered them daily. I gave my mother a call and asked her what could have gone wrong, and I learned that plants have to be chosen carefully. Check out this blog to learn more landscaping plant tips.