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Drainage problems in the Garden

April 18,1998 Penny wrote: First let me tell you that I think it is so very nice of you to offer such a great service to people. It is rare to come across a person who will offer great advise at no cost :o) I think it is a wonderful thing to share knowledge with others, in hopes that they too may become better at whatever it is they seek. THANX. Ok now on to my question. I have an area in my backyard just to the right of my back porch. The area is about 8x8 and there are 2 problems with it, one, it floods, and two it gets no sun..none...zilch. My question is this, how can I develop this area to where it doesn't retain water, and two what type of wild flower or plants can go there that will live in full shade. This area is from my porch to the corner of my house. I live in southeastern lower Michigan(if that helps). The soil is like a black clay. I look forward to hearing from you. And I thank you for this wonderful service.

This is one of those situations where it would be helpful for me to see the overall contour of the land, and exactly how much water is involved. Not being able to do that, I'll just have to use my imagination. I'll give you the first three options that popped into my mind... The easiest method would be to raise the ground level in that area by importing a truckload of topsoil, so that it is no longer the low spot. Of course, then, the concern would be where the water run off would end up. Another option would be to create a French ditch to funnel the water into another spot where it can return to the environment. The ditch could lead away from the flooded area, or preferably divert the water before it even reaches the flooded area. This idea is only feasible if there is an area somewhere else which is accessible and lower to send the water to. You would have to dig a ditch leading to the lower area, line it with plastic, and then cover the plastic with gravel or river rock. While this may not sound very pretty on paper, I have seen it become a very effective part of the landscape. The third choice might meet with a resounding 'NO WAY!', but you might consider utilizing the water by creating a backyard goldfish pond, or a simple fountain. I personally find the sound of running water very peaceful. There are several good books which can instruct you on how to create backyard ponds and fountains. As far as shade tolerant plants, the options are limited by your Michigan location but my #1 choice would have to be ferns. Just about any type of hardy fern will do very well in your situation. They not only do well in shade, but they love moisture, and will utilize much of the water in this area. There are other plants which do well in the shade, but their hardiness can vary according to the particular variety. Your local nursery will be able to tell you which varieties will survive your climate. Forget me not (Brunerra macrophylla), although not glamorous, will survive almost anywhere. Plantain lilies (Hosta) are for the most part hardy, and will survive without sun. You can find a wide range of colors, flowers and foliage with Hostas. You can add a bit of fragrance and small white flowers to the area with Sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum). Solomon seal (polygonatum odoratum) and the Monkey flower (Mimulus hybridus) would also do well in your 'shade garden'.

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