7 ways to improve your garden's drainage

garden drainage
7 ways to improve your garden's drainageAlphotographic - Getty Images

What's the best way to improve your garden's drainage? During the rainy months, frustrated gardeners have seen their back gardens turn to swamps, which has a long term knock-on effect because good drainage is essential for growing many garden plants and keeping healthy grass.

With the unpredictable British weather – and the rain that comes with it – many gardens in the UK suffer from poor drainage, and these waterlogged conditions are far from ideal when trying to maintain a lush, green lawn once spring comes round again. Here are some ways to improve your garden's drainage.

1. Pricking, slitting or spiking

'Pricking or slitting the lawn surface with shallow, 2-3cm holes can help garden drainage, but deeper spiking is even better, especially with a tool designed to leave deep holes,' say the experts at Garden Buildings Direct. 'These holes can be filled with a free-draining material, such as proprietary lawn top dressing or horticultural sand, to allow the water to flow from the surface to deeper, less compacted layers.'

2. Grow more plants

One of the best, and easiest, ways to improve drainage in your garden is to simply grow more plants. It's also a relatively inexpensive solution, and in the long run, will make your garden look nicer too.

However, plant choice is important here. Choose varieties that can survive wet conditions, such as hosta, calla lily and Japanese kerria, to name a few. Many plants dislike too much water and cannot tolerate waterlogged conditions.

shady garden corner with hostas
Shady garden corner with hostasPetra Wallner - Getty Images

3. Build raised beds

Building raised plant beds out of timber railway sleepers or brickwork, enables you to fill them with good quality, free-draining topsoil that gets your plants out of the boggy earth below.

raised flowerbeds
Nadanka - Getty Images

4. Improve soil drainage

If drainage issues aren't too severe, improving the permeability of the soil in your beds may alleviate the problem. 'To do this, you’ll need to dig in lots of organic matter, as soil with a high organic matter content allows excess water to drain through, while absorbing essential moisture,' the experts at Garden Buildings Direct advise. 'Creating your own compost and using this to improve the soil is a cheap but effective way of doing this. On the other hand, if your soil is sticky and clay-like, it’s advisable to add coarse grit sand to aid drainage.'

5. Manage surface water

Managing surface water run-off effectively and efficiently is a great way to improve drainage. All you need to do is incorporate sloping surfaces within your garden so that the excess water is directed to an area where it can be disposed of – for example, a surface drain or plant bed containing moisture-loving plants.

Please note, this could be costly as you'd need to hire a mini excavator to sculpt the contours of your garden. Do seek professional advice in any instance.

6. Use bark chippings

Bark chippings are great for absorbing moisture, and thereby improving garden drainage. These chippings are not only great at retaining moisture but they prevent weed growth, help insulate the beds during cold snaps, and improve the aesthetic of practically any bed they’re added to.

7. Install land drains

This option is generally only recommended if your lawn is particularly bad – installing land drains involves digging a trench in your lawn, fixing a perforated land drain, and then re-covering, so it's a big job.

'Water will then drain through your lawn and into the perforated land drain pipe, which will channel it away from that area to whatever other part of the garden you choose,' say Garden Buildings Direct. 'Local by-laws usually prohibit you from channelling the water into public storm drains or sewer systems, so finding a suitable area to direct the water can be an issue.'

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