Drainage and Soil Improvement Tips

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How important is the grading of a property?

proper grading

Proper grading of the property is very important to landscaping projects. If you want to a avoid wet basement and puddles in the lawn, all hard surfaces like patios, driveways and walkways should slope at least one per cent away from the building. Lawn areas and garden beds should slope two per cent away, and remember not to block or change any existing municipal drainage plans.

Should land around a house be “sloped”?

slope of land

The land should have a general slope away from the house. Land not properly sloped should be graded so water drains away from the house and doesn't stand around the foundation. If the slope of the land is steep, it may have to be graded into a series of terraces. In some cases a retaining wall must be built to make the land more attractive, usable and to prevent erosion.

What is hardpan?

Subsoil may affect drainage

In the subsoil you will find washed oxides of iron and other minerals washed down from the topsoil often giving the subsoil a reddish or orange colour.
These minerals may collect into a layer called “hardpan”, which is compacted soil that often blocks the penetration of roots and interferes with the drainage of your soil.

How can I test drainage?

Simple test for determining poor drainage in soil

You can tell if your soil has poor drainage by this test: Dig a hole about 2 feet deep, and fill it with water. If after 24 hours water still remains, drainage is poor.

Can my property be too wet for a good lawn?

Problems growing in wet soil

If your property is too wet, the high water table and occasional flooding may make it impossible to grow a good lawn eternally. It certainly will reduce the choices of plant material if the condition verges on “swampland”. A great many plants cannot adjust to having waterlogged soil constantly around their roots and will sicken and die.

How deep is the water table?

Ideal depth of water table

Ideally, the water table should be about 4 feet beneath the soil surface, where it can provide a reservoir for the deep roots of trees and shrubs. A water table can be only inches deep, as in a bog or marsh, or hundreds of feet deep.

How should I water my lawn?

Soaker Hoses

If you can't use sprinklers (for whatever reason), use a soaker hose. A soaker hose is a section of specially constructed hose with small holes throughout the length. The end of the hose is closed off, forcing all of the water through the holes. The amount of water that these things can put out in a short period of time is amazing. They're great for small lawns and lawns planted in sandy soils where the water percolates in rapidly.

Why isn´t my grass growing?

A Soil Analysis

Nothing works better than having a soil analysis. Not only do you gain tremendous insight about what's in your soil, you also get recommendations for correcting problems. Have a soil analysis performed by a qualified lab at least every three years. The small fee is a small price to pay for such a wealth of information.

What are some common lawn problems?

Over Watering

Over watering is as bad as under watering. Over watering causes nutrients to be flushed away from fast draining, sandy soils. In clay soils, standing water can displace oxygen, suffocating soil-dwelling microbes and leading to poor soil tilth. Water only deeply enough to moisten the desired root zone of the grass, and don't water again until the grass begins showing signs of stress.

What is “Wet Feet”?

Wet feet

Poor drainage in soils is one of the most common causes for failure to grow vigorous, attractive lawns, trees and shrubs--plants can suffer from a list of diseases or problems, known as “wet feet”. This can occur if your landscape consists of clay soils which tend to hold moisture well, often causing the roots of a plant to rot.
In heavy clay soils, it is preferable to plant trees and shrubs a couple of inches above the grade of the surrounding soil.

Do I need a soil analysis?

Do I Need A Soil Analysis?

You might not need to have a soil analysis done, if you've had it done recently or if you haven't noticed any significant turf performance problems. If initial signs of nutrient deficiency begin to appear, then you might consider having it done. If you've had a soil analysis performed in the last two years, you probably already know what factors might limit turfgrass performance, and you can take the appropriate steps.

How should I water my lawn?

Water Deeply, Not Often

Don't water your lawn on a regular basis, unless you are certain that you can also mow, fertilize and monitor pests on a regular basis as well. If your sprinkler goes off every other day precisely at 7:00 am, then you must commit yourself to mowing, fertilizing and scouting for pests on a schedule that is no less precise.

How should I water my lawn?

A Watering Primer

Watering your lawn is something that, if not done properly, can do more damage than good. There are three basic concepts that you need to understand in order to irrigate properly.

First is timing. If you water your lawn on a regular, clock-work basis, be prepared to mow just as robotically and scout for pests that much more frequently as well. Watering when your grass needs it encourages drought resistance.

Second is the depth of moisture penetration. You need to moisten (not drench!) the soil to the bottom of the root zone. Between 4 and 6 inches, depending on grass type. In typical soils, one inch of water applied to the lawn will result in moistening the soil down 4-5 inches. Heavier soils will require more water, with some time with the water off to allow percolation. Sandier soils will require less water, but will need it more frequently.

What are the consequences of planting in wet soil?

planting in wet soil-consequences

Planting in wet soil can cause root rot. If the crown or major roots are affected by root rots, the entire plant can wilt and die rapidly. If only the small "feeder" roots are affected, the plant may decline slowly and just look sickly and unproductive. Sick or damaged roots may be present only on part of a plant's root system, resulting in a one-sided appearance of yellow, stunted leaves.

How should I water my lawn?

Water In The Morning

Water your lawn in the morning, especially if night time temperatures are cool. Watering early in the morning, between 6:00 and 9:00 increases the likelihood that water percolates into the soil rather than evaporating.

Did You Know This?

Lawn Watering Needs

A 1,000 square foot, intensively managed stand of hybrid Bermuda needs 60 inches of combined rainfall and irrigation per year. That is the equivalent of nearly 37,000 gallons of water.

How is internal drainage of soil observed?

check for internal drainage

While surface drainage is easy to observe, internal drainage of soil is often not known. Internal drainage can be checked quite easily. Dig planting holes in advance, and fill them with water. If all the water drains out in the first 18 to 24 hours, drainage is satisfactory. If the water stays for two days or longer, select water-tolerant plants -- In extreme cases, bermed plantings that permit root development above existing compacted soil may be preferable .

Can I analyze the soil with a kit?

DIY Soil Analysis Kits

You may have seen the inexpensive soil analysis kits sold at home and garden centers. These are useful if you are interested in determining what might be causing a performance problem. However, they are not suited for pin-pointing the exact problem.

What should be considered when “grading” a lot?

final lot grade important

The final lot grade or slope of your property is important when building --Whenever possible, provide good surface drainage without creating steep slopes, depressed areas or large level areas. The average lot should be raised at least 6 inches at the center or around the buildings. Soil types that tend to hold water need more slope than those that dry quickly after rains. Soil improvement should be made after grading is completed.

How should I water my lawn?

Poor Man's Sprinkler System

You can build your own sprinkler system for a fraction of the cost of expensive, commercially installed systems.

Equipment list:

3 or 4 impact sprinkler heads and the aluminum spikes they attach to.
Enough garden hoses to go between them.
One additional hose for the loop. This one needs to be as long or longer than the other hose lengths added together.
A T-connector with all three outside diameters (OD) matching the inside diameter (ID) of your hoses.
3 screw down hose clamps to fit the hose OD.


Remove the screw-on caps from each spike. Attach a sprinkler head to each spike top and tighten securely.

Screw the male hose end into the female connector on one side of the first spike. Screw the female end of a second hose to the male side of the first spike. Screw the male end of the second hose into the female end of the second spike. Continue until you have connected all of the spikes together.

Connect the female end of the last hose (the "loopback") to the male connector on the last spike. Cut the first hose in half, and cut off the male connector from the loopback hose. Insert the top two ends of the T-connector to each half of the first hose and insert the cut-off end of the loopback hose to the last end of the T.

Set your sprinkler heads where you want'em in the lawn, connect the hose to the water faucet, and let'er rip. The loopback hose helps equalize the water pressure between the sprinkler heads. If you only use two heads, you may not need it. If you use 3, 4 or more and the last head barely trickles, the loopback insures even distribution.

Should top soil be conserved during construction?

conserve topsoil during construction

When building a new home, the desirable topsoil should be stockpiled during construction and replaced after construction is completed. When topsoil is eroded away or lost during construction, it becomes more difficult to grow plants in the remaining soil. How well you conserve and improve the soil is important to the survival of the trees or shrubs, etc that you will plant.

How should I water my lawn?

Under Watering

If the grass receives too little water, the plant functions begin to shut down. Chlorophyll production stops, photosynthesis slows to a crawl and growth diminishes. Parts of the plant begin to die, leading the plant to be susceptible to damage from traffic or pests. Water deeply enough to moisten the root zone, and water again as soon as you see signs of stress.

How should I water my lawn?

Impact Sprinklers

Use impact sprinklers if you don't have an irrigation system. Impact sprinklers are designed to throw a uniform stream of water in a circular pattern. Overlapping these patterns slightly insures even watering. Other sprinkler types water unevenly or do not throw water fast enough for the water to percolate before it evaporates. A surface with more water on it does not dry as fast as a surface with less water on it. Running an impact sprinkler for one hour usually gets the job done.

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