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Lawn Drainage: Finding the Perfect Medium

by Kate McIntyre, All About Lawns Columnist

Relatively few lawns are completely free of drainage woes. Some drainage problems occur because of the consistency of the soil. Others are the result of poor lawn grading. If you notice puddles in your lawn after a rainstorm, or if you find that your lawn is bone-dry shortly after a rain, it might be time to take a hard look at your current drainage system. Adequate drainage is an essential component for creating a consistently lush, green lawn.

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Drainage Problems in Lawns Caused by Soil Conditions

The ideal growing medium for lawns is a well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. If your lawn has very sandy soil, you will probably find that rain and water from sprinklers does not keep the soil damp for long. Your lawn is likely to dry out and turn brown. At the opposite end of the spectrum, thick, clayey soils pose a different set of problems. The thick soil prevents rainwater from draining. Overly damp conditions can open your lawn up to attack from diseases and parasites such as fungi. No matter the condition of your lawn's soil, it can be improved by the addition of organic material, such as compost, manure, or peat. The organic matter adds valuable nutrients to sandy soil. If you have clay soil, you should choose organic matter with a coarse texture, such as compost.

Drainage Problems for Lawns Due to Faulty Grading

Bad grading not only has the potential to damage your lawn, but your home's foundation as well. The ideal grading for lawns should lead water down from the highest point around the foundation of your house, to the lowest point at the outer edges of your lawn. If your grading is leading water to your house's foundation, you should look into having the lawn regraded. It will look unattractive for a while, but the benefits of having a healthy lawn and stable foundation for your house far outweigh this inconvenience.

If you have a few low places that tend to collect water further out in the middle of your lawn, it might be time to look into putting in some French drains. French drains are pipes with holes on their bottom side that are buried in the soil. They take in water from the soil and lead it away to other parts of your lawn. French drains are pretty simple to install yourself, though quite labor-intensive due to all of the digging.

If you are serious about maximizing your lawn's health, lawn drainage cannot be overlooked. Good drainage guarantees that your lawn will be growing under optimal conditions and that your home's foundation will be protected.

About the Author
Kate McIntyre is a writer in Portland, Oregon. She holds a B.A. from Harvard University and an M.F.A. in fiction writing from Oregon State University.

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