Expert Advice

Dealing with Drainage

Posted on April 19, 2019

Ken Muellers, CNLP
Senior Landscape Designer

You may need a drainage detective to solve your case.

April showers may bring May flowers, but they also bring puddles and sometimes worse! It seems one of the effects of climate change is a shift bringing more severe storms and heavier rainfalls to our region. Our landscapes also have more and more impervious surfaces such as patios and driveways that concentrate runoff. Dealing with this increased volume of water can be a challenge. There are several different ways of handling water issues in the landscape, depending on your particular situation.

Keep ’em where I can see ‘em!

The simplest method of dealing with water is on the surface when you can. Water will always seek the lowest spot. By regrading the ground to direct water away from the house and other structures, you can prevent potential water damage. For this solution to work, you need to have enough slope (pitch) to make the water move, and an area to direct it to that does not create problems downstream. (i.e. the neighbor’s basement!) The advantage of this method is that you can easily see when it is working and when it is not, and it is often the least expensive solution.

Drop ‘em!

Getting the water below the surface is the second option. Long Island has varied soil types left behind when the glaciers receded that range from pure sand that drains very well, to solid clay that retains water. If you have sandy soils like most of the south shore, rain water will often percolate into the ground on its own, but with heavy clay soils it may need a lot of help. Installing drains and catchbasins that catch the water, and drain pipes that direct the water to drywells below ground may be the answer in some situations. For this to work you need a large enough drywell to hold the volume of water being captured (which can be quite big!) and to dig deep enough to reach sandy soil that will allow the water to dissipate over time. When an underground drainage system is done right, you will never notice it. (Only the money missing in your bank account to install it.)

Fill ‘em full of holes

Some towns require limiting the amount of impervious pavement on your property by code. They may also require accommodating specified amounts of rainfall (anywhere for 2” to 6” of rain) in drywells below ground. To counter this and increase percolation, manufacturers now offer permeable pavers that have spaces between the pavers to let water enter the ground. These pavers are becoming more popular as building codes become more restrictive.

Soak ‘em if you got ’em

If you know you have an area of your garden that is constantly wet you can embrace the situation and plant perennials, shrubs and even trees that tolerate, if not thrive in wet conditions. Trees such as willows (Salix), swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor) and swamp maple (Acer rubrum) are all native to low lying areas. Shrubs such as summersweet (Clethra alnifolia), inkberry (Ilex glabra), and red twig dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) all tolerate wet feet. Many perennials including Siberian iris, ligularia, and astilbe can also handle moist conditions. These rain gardens, as they are called, can help absorb the water back into the landscape.

Help is on the way Ma’am

Hicks can help you with a variety of solutions to your water problems. Whether it is grading, drainage systems or picking the right plants, we are here to help.

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