There has been no shortage of outdoor projects to keep us busy again this year as we tried to cross off a few more items from our well populated to-do list. The most recent: taking on another surprise from our winter house-hunting experience – the first of two poorly drained valleys in our yard.


After re-routing the sump pump and downspout that drained to the swamp last summer, the problem persisted and the search for a solution continued. Our city sponsors a program that reimburses 50% of the cost for stormwater management solutions, so I got in touch with a city engineer to schedule a site visit and discuss some options. Following the visit, the initial plan was to plant a rain garden to help mitigate the problem. By containing the marshy ground within the garden and using deep rooted native plants to improve water absorption and retention in the ground, I hoped to at least make the excess water more tolerable.



The source of the pooling water was still somewhat of a mystery, so once I began digging around the drain my curiosity got the best of me. With Ashley and Mya out of town for the weekend, there was no one around to discourage me from tearing apart our lawn on a whim. I tracked the path of the no-longer-buried pipe to find that it connected to our retaining wall’s drain system. Though I found it to be partially disconnected, I was relieved to finally know where the water was coming from.


And with that, plan A was no longer (though I may still incorporate a rain garden into the solution for our other problem spot next spring). On to plan B – moving the drain. By running the pipe along the side of our garage wall, I would be able to daylight the drain on the upper end of a slope to allow the water to disperse over a larger area and avoid settling into a valley. As an added bonus, since I dug up all of the old drain pipe (and had a few pieces on hand already), I only needed a few connectors to complete the job for less than $10 (and a teensy bit of manual labor).


Before starting the new trench, I wanted to fill in my previous excavations and replace the sod I had removed before it dried out too much. After pumping away as much water from the marsh as possible, the ground was leveled with our favorite free top soil/compost mixture (compliments of our city yardwaste facility) and the sod was pieced back together.


Don’t worry, Mya’s turtle was relocated to another wetland paradise behind our house. And, yeah, we realized after getting a closer look that we had a baby snapper. If we come across him again we might take him to a stream a little farther away before he gets bigger (for his sake and ours).


Once the sod and turtle were in order, it was time for more digging. Using the old pipe depth as a guide, I dug a trench for the new path to bury the drainage pipe 4 to 8 inches deep (8-12 inch deep trench for 4-inch diameter pipe). I made use of flexible connectors to join the solid pipe to the existing drain source while navigating around a few obstacles (sprinkler lines). As you dig the trench and install the pipe, it is vital to use a level to ensure an appropriate downhill grade. Ideally, I would have preferred to dig the trench a little farther away from the house, but due to the grading of our property and the goal of avoiding more standing water, it made the most sense to run the drain along this path. To keep excess water from around the foundation, I ran the drain about 10 feet beyond the corner of our house before daylighting. Once the drain was in place and properly sloped, dirt was packed back in around the pipe. Finally, sod was replaced around the drainage grate and along the trench to finish the job.


The results were almost instant as we no longer have standing water on this side of our house. The grass is occasionally wet around the new drain location, but the water is dispersing downhill as expected and the ground is no longer saturated. After one month, the sod over the former swamp was filling in nicely.


After two months, you can’t tell where the problem area existed before. The mowing experience is greatly improved (both for me and our great neighbors who helped put the finishing touches on the project) and we don’t have to worry about Mya falling into a mud pit when we play in the yard anymore.

2MoLaterStay tuned as we plan for tackling our other problem areas next spring, and if you have any creative solutions to poor lawn drainage we’d love to hear them.

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