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Gardening Reference » Gardening in 2004
by JamesQB on January 29, 2004 06:27 PM
Hi everyone,

I'm new to this site. I thought it would be a good resource for learning what to do with the huge garden that my partner and I now have.

We have four children and were stuck in a flat with no garden. Almost a year ago now, we finally moved to a house with a large garden but it's unusable for us all.

The main problem is drainage. We would like to set the garden out into something that is low maintencance but looks nice and is functional, but we can't start anything until the main problem has been seen to.

The entire garden is grass covered soil, it's uneven and messy but like the whole area around here is prone to terrible flooding. A day's rainfall will create large pools of water all over the place that takes 2 days or so of clear weather to drain away. It seems the soil has a high clay content.

Is there any way of stopping this flooding? Could this boggy garden ever be made usable and nice?

I'd really appreciate any advice or ideas from people on here to make this garden usable for the whole family.

Thanks you,

by Jiffymouse on January 29, 2004 07:06 PM
[wayey] hi james [wayey] you have come to the right place for help. we have lots of folks who will have ideas for how to fix your drainage problem. But... I am going to move your post to the landscape trials & triumphs page, so that it will get the proper attention. enjoy your time here and ask away. we do have a few gardeners from the UK. so enjoy.
by floweraddict on January 29, 2004 07:31 PM
Hi James,welcome! We are glad u joined!
Sorry to hear about your water problem.

There are a couple ways to deal with a water problem that i can think of...
One way might be to raise the finish grade where your garden is ,so that it is above the level of the flooded area. I don't know if this a feasible solution for u because i don't know how large an area we are talking about...
Create a square perimeter using landscaping timbers, cement ,block, rock, or what ever will hold the dirt in! The dirt will need to be raised to a level so that it will not be influenced by the water below.I'm thinking 12 inches, but i guess it depends how much water there is..The higher, the better.

Another solution might be to divert the water somehow. Is there any slope at all? Maybe trenches could be dug to divert it...

Another solution might be to grow vegetables out of containers... I've seen people grow some awesome tomatoes plants in 5 gallon buckets!Maybe other experts in here might be able to give u more valuable information on container gardening.

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by weezie13 on January 29, 2004 11:52 PM
[wayey] Hello JamesQB [wayey]

Glad to have you here!

I am very glad you found us, and I'd like to Welcome you to The Garden Helpers' Forum,
just to let you know we have everything here from Master Gardeners to new beginners and everything in between.
We have a grand group of gardeners here,
all helpful, and fun and have the true love of gardening here...
We've also added alot of new sections we've added, like recipes, and crafts, and hobbies,
and banter hall for chatting, and games to keep us gardening addicts busy with something to do in the winter months, *Is it winter where you are??* Anyways, join in the fun, post away, answer a question or two or ask a question or two or three.

"It only takes one gardener to know the answer and that one gardener may be YOU"

Be a bit patient as it takes a bit of time for some of our gardeners to come through.

Welcome again!!!


For my mom we did raised raised, she had an area that wouldn't drain during a rain....
Just did 5 raised beds, 2 are 4ft X 20ft and 3 are 4ft X 10ft... (2 more hopefully in the spring)

Would that be a possible answer for you??

We used rough cut lumber, just planed the seats so you wouldn't get splinters in your b*tt.....

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Don't forget to be kind to strangers. For some who have
done this have entertained angels without realizing it.
- Bible - Hebrews 13:2

by heuchera on January 30, 2004 01:00 AM
Hi Jame,s can,t offer you much help i,m afraid,just wanted to welcome a fellow brit.
There are peeps in here a lot more experienced than me,enjoy this site and your new garden one day.

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The grass may be greener on the other side,but you still have to mow it.
by papito on January 30, 2004 05:14 PM
Hi James, Welcome to the TGH Forum.

The soil structure has something to do with poor drainage or ponding problems. It usually indicate that the soil structure may have a lot of clay in it; the other reason could be that the soil is compacted. Either one will cause the water not to drain into tile line. See soil types below.

Bob made excellent suggestions on solving your drainage problem. As Bob said, you may want to consider "Container Gardening" as an option.

Except for roses, gardenias and a few tress (bananas, persimmons, apples, pears) I do my gardening in containers.

Info on container gardening:

Info on soil types (English gardening):

Scroll (down) to "improving the soil".

Bob & Weezie also mentioned raised beds. Info on raised beds:

This is about growing vegetables in raised beds. A picture of raised bed after the rain can be found at the end of the article.

The raised beds could also be used to plant flowering plants.

Again, welcome to The Garden Helper Forum with the friendliest, knowledgeable, and helpful gardeners in cyberspace.

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Amor est vitae essentia.
Love is the essence of life.
by Flower on January 30, 2004 05:52 PM
I had the same problem in my yard. The water would pool...along the house and up to the middle of the yard. Raised beds....and building up the surounding area did the trick. It is a lot of work...but it sure beats the flooding. I too have clay soil, and have to add compost or peat moss each year to improve it and make it workable.

Good luck

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by JamesQB on February 23, 2004 07:18 PM
Thanks to everyone for all the ideas. We currently have no flower beds, just grass on the entire area. We really want to keep it all grass and have a nice even dry lawn that is usable. Currently two-thirds of the garden is constantly boggy all year round so the kids have a huge garden that they've had to be banned from using.

Unfortunately adding compost and other additives to the soil is difficult as it's a large garden (14 x 20 metres = 280m2) and covered in grass, so the entire grass layer would need to be removed, huge amounts of compost, sawdust, etc added to the area and then a cultivator or such used over it all. We just can't afford to do this nor do we have the ability or disposal means necessary for removing the grass down to soil level.

The only solution that seems viable is one involving pipes that have holes in them laid in the garden in strips about 1-2 feet apart and the same depth down that lead to a lower area where water can drain to. Unfortunately there is no lower area and I can't help but wonder if the soil is so much clay that water wouldn't get down to the pipes, unless we used compost to fill in on top of the pipes after laying them, and then what of the areas next to the pipes that are still thick clay soil, would water ever drain through to the pipes? The soil can be made in to shapes like with pure clay and I'm sure if I put some in the oven for 20 minutes I'd have clay figurines - it's that bad.

One idea to overcome the lack of a lower area even if the pipes were adequate and filled on top with composty material is to dig a huge valley at the bottom of the garden that the pipe ends lead in to and then build a 'lid' for this to make it safe. Again, lots of work and money involved especially with a 'lid' over the container and also a container that would eventually fill with water which probably wouldn't ever drain away significantly...

We're just about ready to give up ever finding a solution which is practical, it's such a shame as we'd really all like to use this garden...

Again, thanks to everyone.
by Bestofour on February 23, 2004 09:20 PM
You said there is no lower area. So, the yard is flat and when it rains the water just puddles, kind of like filling up a swimming pool? If this is the case, you may have to re-think the "grass only" idea and do digging, amending, and planting of plants in a few areas. This will at least change the way the water just sits until soaked in. It won't cost a whole lot to just do a few areas. You could add some compost and maybe raise one or two areas also. One thing we ended up doing in our yard for running drainage was to place large rocks around to change the flow, but we do have a lower area. Sounds like your yard isn't usable the way it is. Just start on one small section, doing the work yourself, amending and planting whatever you like. Making small changes, a few at a time, shouldn't be costly and can a big difference. Good luck.

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by Danaus29 on March 08, 2004 08:01 PM
You don't have to remove the grass to make a garden. This method will take time but will help with the drainage problem and kill the grass both. Essentially this creates a raised bed in the area you want to plant. Start small and enlarge the beds as you get the time and materials. You could do container gardening the first year or so until your beds are built.

Lay out the area for your first bed. You can edge however you like but keep in mind we will be working upwards, not down. The bed should be narrow enough for you to reach the center comfortably. First, cover the grass with newspaper, cardboard, anything that will smother the grass but still biodegrade. Then cover that with cut grass, spoiled hay, straw, leaves, whatever organic material you can get hold of. Add potting or top soil and the spent potting soil from your containers. Chicken, cow, or horse manure will help too. After filling this bed in, construct the next bed, the same size, at least 3 feet away. The space between beds is your work area. Never walk in your beds and you won't have to dig or till them. It does take time but sounds like the best way to solve all your gardening problems.
by write2rellie on March 09, 2004 01:40 AM
JamesQB, hi and welcome!
i think we have a bit of a semantics problem; If I understood your post, you are wanting to keep as much of a grassy area as possible, not talking about planting flowers and veggies, right? Here in the states, we refer to that as our "yard". We tend to use the word "garden" when flowers/plants/trees/and/or vegetables are involved.
that being said, I'm sorry I don't have any real helpful ideas for you. If i run across anything, i'll let you know. [dunno]

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by Jiffymouse on March 09, 2004 02:26 AM
ya know james, i think rellie is right. now that i re-read your post and the others, i think there is a mis-understanding. that said, what i would do (and am in the process of doing in areas) is the following:

1 - you do need to decide what grassy area you can "give up" this will be your "bog" area and you will need to plant plants that like "wet feet". more on that later

2 - decide what area you want to "raise" to get some drainage on so the kids have a garden play area. with a 14x20 m area, you have some options. i would look at putting the "bogs" along the edges.

3 - now, i would get some rocks, maybe 1/4 m or so, irregular shaped and outline the area that will be the garden for the kids. (the rocks can have plants put in front of them to make a buffer, but they will let the water drain past - that is the reason not to use landscaping timbers or plastic edging, no gaps to let the water through.) the rest of the area will be the garden for you. that area, you will fill (slowly) will soil. spread it thin, a little at a time, so that the grass will grow up through it. start in the middle and work outward to make the water drain to the sides. you also want it to be higher toward the house so as not to flood the house.

4 - in the outside areas - on the other side of the rocks, dig some of the soil/sod up to start beds. the soil/sod you dig can be spread over the area you want to raise. in these "beds" you will plant some water loving plants. not really sure what will grow in your area, but i will do some checking and get back to you on that.

this will be a slow project, but will be relative cheap, and you can spend what little money you do spend a little at a time. good luck and hope this helps!
by Mr.I.G.Oliver on March 13, 2004 01:01 PM
Hello, I'm new here too, but I have seen some wonderful ideas for low maintainence and water drainage.
Often a good plan is for a gravel or decorative chipping soakaway. This involves digging a trech a foot to two foot deep and filling it with gravel. The line of the trench ideally should pass through the worst draining part of the garden. The gaps between the chippings allows the water to flow into them slowly, giving the soil below a chance to cope with the extra moisture.
If you dont fancy the idea of having gey gravel trenches all over your garden, and who wouldn't, but just in case, use them as a path, weaving them accross your lawn, (this also reduces the mowing area) and use decorative stones/chippings instead of cheapy gravel.
Large flower boarders can los be a nice way of breaking up a dull landscape, oddly shapped with log-roll edging and chipped bark between the plants reduces soil spillage, weeding and watering. The bark acts like mini sponges, realising the water slowly onto your boarders.
Hope this has given you some food for thought.

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Mr I.G.Oliver
Great Britain
(Maths tutition available on request:) )
by papito on March 15, 2004 06:28 PM
Rellie, thanks for clearing up the terms lawn and garden.

JamesQB, I gather from your recent post (23 Feb. 04) that standing water is the only problem because of the drainage or lack of it.

Have you had the soil in the garden (lawn) tested to determine what the soil structure/texture is?

See Soil Structure Here

See Soil Texture Here

Do you see any "thatch"?. Thatch is a layer of slowly decomposing grass stems, dead roots and debris that accumulate above the soil but below the grass. A thick layer of thatch can prevent the water from going into the soil line.

If there is thatch, a thatch hand rake may work for you, but considering the size of your garden (lawn), you may need to use a vertical cutter, also called dethatcher or lawn combs. Dethatch warm season grass in late spring; cool season grass in fall.

Another way to drain water is by aerating. Aeration is punching holes into the ground using hollow metal tubes of 1/4" to 3/4" diameter into the soil at a depth of 2" to 3". It is done by foot or machine.

See Aerating Here

See also Mr. Oliver's post dated 13 Mar 04 and his suggestion on trenching and soakaway. He said to dig through the soil until you pass through the hardpan or compacted soil. Sometimes the depth of the hardpan is 18" to 24" below soil surface.

See French Drain Here

If trenching is too much work (and money), maybe an alternative is to dig several holes at random in your garden(lawn)using an Auger or mechanical posthole digger of 4" to 6" diameter at a depth of plus or minus 24". First remove (pry loose) the grass with the soil intact where you intend to dig holes, set the grass aside. Then dig the holes and fill them with as much gravels as needed up to and just below the surface, then cover the gravels with the same grass that was taken out before.

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Amor est vitae essentia.
Love is the essence of life.
by JamesQB on April 02, 2004 11:32 AM
Hello again, thank you for the recent replies. I'm sorry I haven't got back before, I've been busy getting married then going on holiday (vacation) with my new wife and then getting a virus on my computer that meant lots of time formatting and re-installing... at least life's not dull. [Smile]

Indeed we did have a misunderstanding, I am talking about a lawn and didn't realise the differences in terminology between countries. I'll reply later when I have more time to go over the interesting ideas raised but for now I just wanted to say that the soil the lawn grows on seems to have a high clay content, it can be made into shapes exactly like clay and feels the same, sticky and gloopy when damp and completely solid.

The land here used to be marshland. I've dug down about a foot and still not found soil that's different. It's so wet out there that the ground is squishy and lumpy from where it's moved around, similar to how clay bulges and moves when you press on it in places.

I've been digging a circle of grass up so I can put gravel in the circle to make a feature of a tree and it's hard work as the ground is so sticky the spade sticks and makes a slurping sound when I pull it out. There's nothing under the grass as someone said about, to stop drainage, in fact in some places the ground is so squishy and wet that walking on it leaves bare soil showing where the grass has just pushed into the clay-like soil and been consumed.

I apologise for not mentioning all the great ideas put forward but I'm pushed for time and my brain is still half-asleep so not digesting information readily!

Thanks again,

by creepin' jenni on April 02, 2004 10:49 PM
I'm relatively new to gardening so let me know if this isn't a workable idea [gabby]
Have you ever thought about a water garden? The boggy areas that you describe seem perfect for a bog garden. [thumb]

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