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  3. From Puddles to Paradise: 6 Ways to Solve Garden Drainage Issues

From Puddles to Paradise: 6 Ways to Solve Garden Drainage Issues

Poor drainage can be a real headache for gardeners, especially when trying to protect delicate fruit and vegetable plants. Gardens in the UK suffer from this issue frequently, so it’s inevitable that we’ll all encounter this problem at some stage. So, whether you’re already looking for ways to improve drainage before your plants drown or want to get ahead of the problem, we’re here to help. Just read on to discover the best garden drainage solutions to get your garden up and running again.

What causes drainage issues?

Garden drainage problems are usually caused by heavy clay soils struggling to cope with our rainy UK climate. With prolonged periods of heavy rainfall (even during the summer), it’s no wonder that we’re always searching for ways to improve our drainage systems and limit surface water in our gardens.

A sure way to tell when your garden is waterlogged is when you notice puddles of excess water dotted around. This should serve as a warning to take action immediately. Good drainage is crucial for growing your fruit and veggies successfully. Without it, your plants could come down with root rot, disease, soil erosion, or even pest problems. So, it’s important to improve garden drainage by installing a drainage system. There are many types of garden drainage systems to choose from, and we’re here to help you find just the right one to suit your needs.

How to solve drainage issues in your garden…

Elevate using raised beds

One of the easiest, most obvious ways to prevent a waterlogged garden is to plant your fruit and veggies in raised beds. Crafted from brick, metal, or wood, raised beds sit above the ground in an elevated position that allows them to drain excess water easily and not be affected by standing water on the garden floor.

Raised beds can also be constructed with drainage channels, like pipes allowing water to drain from the bed instead of building up and drowning your plants. Plus, raised beds can be filled with a special mix of well-draining soil that can be specially selected to suit the needs of your garden. For instance, if you know that your garden soil is compact, which makes it difficult for water to drain away, you can create your own blend, incorporating organic matter to improve its structure, thereby improving drainage.

Elevate your veggies to protect them from flooding

Discover the power of bark chippings

When thinking about ways to improve the structure of your soil to make drainage improvements, consider adding bark chippings to the mix. Bark chippings are great for soaking up water and make an excellent mulch, as they can help to suppress the growth of weeds and regulate the temperature of your soil. Plus, they are inexpensive and easy to apply to your garden. Simply spread a layer (approximately 2-4 inches) on the topsoil around your plants, allowing it to work its magic. This is a great step if your drainage issues are mild and may allow you to avoid having to splash out on more expensive options, like installing drainage pipes or getting the advice of a landscape professional.

Allow bark chippings to soak up excess water

Add more water-loving plants

A great way to improve your garden’s appearance, as well as overcome poor drainage areas, is to add some thirsty garden plants into the mix. Not only do many gardens look nicer with added vegetation and ground cover, but plants with a high water demand will also help to soak up excess water. Plus, ground cover intercepts heavy rainfall, reducing the impact on the surface of your soil which helps to prevent waterlogging.

Here are some water-loving plants that you should consider adding to your garden:

  • Creeping thyme
  • Corsican mint
  • Watercress
  • Marsh marigolds (we recommend not planting these directly beside any fruit or veggies)
Spend sometime researching the best moisture-loving plants for your garden

Dig a ditch

You can also ditch the drainage drama by busting out a shovel and start digging. Wave goodbye to garden flooding caused by heavy rain with a ditch. This ditch or trench will serve as a narrow channel allowing water to flow away from your fruit and veggies to prevent drowning. Digging a trench may require time and effort, but it can be done even without the need to hire a professional. Just follow the steps below to get started.

The depth of your ditch depends on your gardens needs

Time to plan

First things first, you’ll need to assess the route where you need to dig. Identify the low areas in your garden where the water tends to accumulate and determine the direction in which you’ll want the water to flow away from this area. You’ll need to choose an area where the water can collect safely without damaging your property or your neighbour’s garden. 

Once you have figured out the route, gather all the supplies you will need. This will include stakes and string to mark your path, a measuring tape, a wheelbarrow and a shovel. Then, mark the route using the stake and string and get ready to dig.

Start digging

Using your shovel, start to dig a deep hole within your marked route. This trench should be around 18 inches in depth, but this can vary according to your needs and the intensity of the drainage issue. As you dig, create a gentle slope along the ditch. This slope should be directed away from your fruit and veggie garden and should go down 1 inch for every 10 feet in length.

Once you’ve finished digging your trench, place all the excess soil in your wheelbarrow for later. You may need it later to help fill any low spots in your garden. Then simply smooth the edges of the trench, making sure they are even, and there are no obstructions that could impede the flow of water.

Don’t forget to test it!

Now that your ditch is complete, it’s time to observe it to ensure it has the desired effect. If you are too impatient to wait until the next rainfall, you can test it by pouring water and watching how it flows down the trench. Make adjustments as you see fit, and then your ditch be ready to go!

Drain the rain by installing pipes

One of the best ways to direct the water away from your garden, besides digging a ditch, is by designing and installing piped drainage. Not all gardens are suitable for ditches, and in some more extreme cases, drainage pipes are a better way to tackle lots of standing water. You can use PVC drainage pipes under the soil to carry water away from your precious plants. And if you’re not confident in doing this yourself, you can always hire a professional. 

If you feel unsure, seek professional help when installing your piping

Create a rain garden

If you are really struggling with the drainage in your garden, you could always create a rain garden. A rain garden is used to describe adding drought-tolerant plants to an area in a garden where water collects. Usually, this is in a shallow area or dipped part of the ground where any surplus garden water ends up. These plants will then work to absorb the extra water, preventing your garden from becoming waterlogged or flooded.

A truly low-maintenance garden, you won’t have to do any watering once the garden is fully established. Plus, it reduces any erosion by slowing down rain, and it can absorb far more water than a regular lawn. If you do decide to create a rain garden, we recommend carrying out your planting in early spring or autumn. Spend some time researching the best drought-tolerant plants to suit your needs and garden conditions. 

A rain garden is a fun, beautiful way to solve drainage issues

What next?

Poor garden drainage can really put a dampener on your plans (literally). Therefore, we hope this post has given you all the information you need to improve drainage in your garden. Once completed, you’ll be ready to start planting all your favourite veggies. Get started by visiting our online shop to discover our incredible range of plants and accessories. If you’re curious to learn more ways to make your garden great, check out our knowledge hub. Plus, don’t hesitate to share your own tips with us on social media (@gardeningexpress). We would love to hear from you!

Updated on January 29, 2024

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