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Proper Drainage: A Landscaping Must

by Dawn West, All About Lawns Columnist

The right amount of water will make your plants vibrant and healthy, but it's not just how much you're watering that counts. The way water moves through your soil--its drainage--is every bit as critical for your lawn and garden's success. If water moves too slowly, your landscaping turns into a fungus-prone swamp. Too quickly and your plants are parched even if you're watering and watering and watering. So how do you get drainage conditions in your yard just right? Here are the two most important steps.
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The Right Grade for Your Lawn and Garden

Steep slopes, low spots, or a yard that slopes toward your home rather than away from it are all landscaping mistakes that can cause drainage issues. If possible, distribute soil to minimize steep slopes. If you can't, consider alternatives to lawns on severe grades--retaining walls, rocks, or groundcovers that stabilize the soil are all good options. Fill in low spots with soil. By properly grading your yard--a slope of at least one inch per foot, away from the house--you'll protect not just your landscaping but also your home. For small soil shifting jobs, a wheelbarrow, a shovel, and some determination are all you need. For big soil moving jobs, rent equipment or hire a crew.

Great Soil Consistency for Great Landscaping

Soil that's too sandy acts like a sieve. If it's too clay-heavy, it grabs water and doesn't let go. Loamy dirt is best for your lawn and garden. You may want to bring in soil if yours is truly inappropriate, or you can improve its condition by adding organic material like compost, grass clippings, and even sawdust. Either way, the better your soil consistency, the more effective the drainage for your lawn and garden--and the prettier your landscaping will look.

Solving a drainage problem isn't always easy--you may have to remove big parts of your lawn and garden in order to access the soil--but in the end you will have made your yard healthier and your home safer from water damage.

About the Author
Dawn West B.A. holds a B.A. in English from Harvard University and teaches writing at Oregon State University.

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