Shift Your Soil, Change Your Drainage

Gutter systems
Much of a tree is beneath the soil. Most of an iceberg lies underneath the ocean’s surface. The same is true for your garden drainage: when you want to change the way water flows in your garden, you need to look under your trees, shrubs, and grass and into your garden soil. Examine the soil types in your garden to reduce unintentional ponds and flooding.

How Soil is Connected to Drainage

Imagine that you’re in the garden, and your children are industriously building a sand castle in the sandbox. They make a moat, and they pour water into it. What happens to the water? It disappears into the ground. That’s because sand and sandy soils drain quickly. Water moves easily into and out of sand. The opposite is true for clay soil. If you imagine pouring water into a clay pot, you’ll note that pot is quite good at holding water. If your garden contains a lot of clay, it will hold water well, possibly too well. Clay soil can lead to many puddles in your garden. While puddles happen because water lands on the ground, they stay around due to poor landscape design and poor drainage.

Types of Soil to Watch

Most soil is not pure clay or pure sand. It’s a combination or many different elements, including clay, sand, and organic matter like decomposed leaves, bark mulch, and compost. When you’re looking at trouble spots in your garden, look for the following:

  • Loose soil that’s eroding, causing miniature rivers to form in your garden. This could be a sign that your soil doesn’t have enough plants to hold it together or that it’s naturally very sandy and loose. It could need more organic matter, which will encourage plants to grow on it and stabilize the slope.
  • Clay soil with a lot of puddles. Even out the soil so that the water doesn’t pool. Add more organic matter such as compost, leaves, or other mulch. This will break down and gradually integrate into your soil. Consider growing a cover crop such as clover, vetch, or borage. This will break into tough clay soil, allowing organic material to integrate into the clay below.
  • Compacted soil from informal paths. No matter what your soil type, compacted soil does not retain water as well, since it is hard and there are fewer air pockets where the water can run in. Either turn this into a pathway or decommission it, adding mulch. While it might seem like it’s a good idea to till this soil, tilling it damages the air pockets that worms create. Instead, encourage the worms to do their job by placing lots of organic matter on the soil.
Gutter systems
Design your home and landscape structures to complement your soil work.

Use Landscape Design to Complement Your Soil Work

While changing the soil can change the drainage conditions in your garden, it’s best to use this in tandem with smart landscape design. For instance, you should make sure that your home isn’t causing a serious runoff problem. Look for clogged gutter systems that cause water to cascade off the roof onto the ground. In the garden, you can change areas that are very wet by improving the drainage, but your can also use landscape design to direct that water into a French drain or create a rain garden that uses plants to soak up some of that water. Building soil is important, but it’s one tool in your home drainage toolkit.

Whether you’re renovating your roofing or installing new gutter systems, Harry Helmet can help. Contact us today to learn more about Gutter Helmet and see how our gutters can improve your home’s drainage.

Written by Del Thebaud

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