Standing water cannot stand—at least, not in your garden. Most plants out there need well-drained soil not just in order to thrive, but to survive, too. Without proper drainage, your garden is subject to a whole lot of issues, thanks to waterlogged soil. Thankfully, when it comes to improving drainage, you’ve got a ton of options, and some of them are as simple as mixing some compost into your soil.
We’ll cover why drainage is important and beneficial to your garden, different methods to improve drainage, and how to avoid one common mistake that leads to waterlogged soil: overwatering.
All your water-logging issues are about to go right down the drain.
Why is Drainage Important and Beneficial to Your Garden?
Drainage is important and beneficial to your garden for the overall health of your plants, your soil, and even your home itself. Here’s the breakdown.
Keep Your Plants Healthy!
Without proper drainage, there’s no way most plants will survive. That’s because when the water has nowhere to go, it makes soil waterlogged, which leads to root rot, which in turn leads to plant death.
Proper drainage, on the other hands, allows for air to circulate around the roots, which is essential for plant respiration, the process in which plants take in oxygen from the air and produce carbon dioxide. Although this is the opposite of the process of photosynthesis, it’s equally as important for plant health, as it helps plants grow and reproduce. Well-drained soil also prevents the build-up of salts, which can be super harmful to plants.
Happy roots, happy plants. Having proper drainage in your garden is essential for their survival.
More Drainage, Less Erosion
Waterlogged soil is much more likely to erode your soil, which is a major problem if you want a healthy garden. Here’s the bottom line: if soil stays too wet for too long, its particles are able to erode by washing away. Waterlogged soil can even lead to the loss of the super-fertile topsoil, the existence of which is essential for plant growth. Considering that soil is a finite resource and takes thousands of years to form, this is a pretty big deal.
Support Your Soil’s Microorganisms
Healthy soil is actually living soil because it houses a ton of microorganisms—approximately 10,000 species in a single gram. These microorganisms help feed and grow your plants, from decomposing organic matter and turning it into nutrients to fixing nitrogen levels, to preventing disease. When the soil is flooded, these microorganisms are unable to do their many jobs. When the soil is flooded for too long, these microorganisms can actually die, which allows pathogens to take over. Yikes.
See You Later, Standing Water
Standing water acts as a food source and breeding ground for a variety of pests, including mosquitos and wasps. Plus, standing water can be the ideal environment for funguses like water mold, root and stem rot fungi, and other pathogens to grow stronger under your garden’s dirt. If your plants are experiencing waterlogged soil, they’re weaker against these nasty attackers.
Protect That Foundation!
If your garden is close to the foundation of your house and lacks proper drainage, that excess water can actually seep into your basement, which causes significant damage to your foundation and creates an opportunity for festering and harmful mold. But even if your garden isn’t close to your home’s foundation, poor drainage can cause soil instability, which can in turn cause your foundation to shift and resettle improperly. Even just the mold growing in your oversaturated garden can come into contact with the foundation of your house and cause structural damage. All of this is totally destructive and totally avoidable.
Top Up Your Property Value
Because having proper drainage in your garden reduces the risk of damage to your landscape and home’s foundation, having good drainage can actually help increase the property value of your house. That means healthier plants and less damage for you, plus more value to your name. Cha-ching!
How to Improve Drainage in Your Garden
Ready to avoid root rot, plant death, soil erosion, the death of soil microorganisms, the growth of pathogenic bacteria and fungi, the breeding of annoying and harmful pests, and a damaged foundation in your home? We’re right there with you. Here are some tips and tricks for improving drainage in your garden, from the least to the most intensive.
Not Too Much Water? Mix In Compost.
If your garden is just a little too moist, one highly beneficial way to dry it out a bit is to mix in organic compost. This material can soak up excess water and fertilize your soil, all in one go. To best mix in compost to your soil, simply put down a layer of compost on top of the soil, work it into the upper layer of the ground using a garden fork, and push the fork into the surface about ten inches deep, twisting as you lift it out. Easy, right?
Add Some Water-Guzzling Plants
Is your soil too large for the compost trick, or simply just too wet? For consistently waterlogged gardens, adding plants that love watery conditions is good. These plants include ferns, swamp milkweed, marsh marigold, cardinal flowers, turtle heads, and many more. Here’s a tip: if it has the word “swamp” or “marsh” in its name, chances are it loves drenched soil!
Install Raised Garden Beds
This is a good middle-of-the-road solution if simply adding compost or adding water-loving plants just isn’t doing it for your garden, but you’re not ready to re-landscape or install your own drain system.
Build a Rain Garden, Bog Garden, or Pond
If your environment is naturally waterlogged, why not embrace it? Try making your garden a rain garden, designed to absorb water runoff from roofs, driveways, walkways, and more, and which features plants that are capable of thriving in both wet and dry conditions.
Or try a bog garden, which is located in a shallow, waterlogged area (sound familiar?) and designed for plants that grow in wet, marshy areas, such as irises, ferns, sedges, and rushes. Since the plants in a bog garden prefer super-wet soil, you don’t have to worry about them getting root rot or other water-related diseases.
Feeling ambitious? Try creating your very own pond. Design it beautifully, and you’ll have a great focal point in your garden that also houses aquatic plants and wildlife, and helps reduce water runoff and soil erosion. With the right pond, you can even go fishing. That’s right—in your own backyard.
Still Seriously Wet? Time to Install a Drain System.
Water Your Plants Perfectly—Without Going Overboard
One sure way of a waterlogged lawn is overwatering. One sure way to prevent it is to employ a smart irrigation system. The OtO device analyzes local weather, windspeed, humidity, temperature data, and the specific measurements of your lawn and garden. Using that data, it adjusts its watering schedule and delivers the perfectly right amount of water to your garden.
And irrigation is just one of its features. It also fertilizes your plants using a natural solution in low, gradual doses, which improves the health of your soil and strengthens it against erosion. It also deodorizes after pets, keeps away ticks and mosquitos, and so much more.
With improved drainage and the help of this genius device, you’ll enjoy a beautiful, healthy, and non-soggy garden for years to come. Nothing draining about that!