Adding landscape drainage to your property is easier when building a home, but the same techniques are also used for serious drainage problems when the landscaping is already completed. When working with existing landscape, you might have to replace sod, so be sure to figure that into the cost of the landscape drainage you choose for your yard.
Install French drains if you have a yard that tends to pool excessive water from rain or from regular watering. Most plants require well-drained soil, and if the water pools on top of the ground, it drowns plants. Dig a trench that is about 2 feet deep, starting at the problem area and leading to an area that could use the extra water. Fill the trench with layers of gravel and sand, leaving the top 4 inches free for topsoil and sod. If the French drain runs along the edge of the property, instead of sod, you could layer 12 inches of topsoil on top of the gravel and sand, then plant small shrubs over the top of the French drain. Some French drains have a pipe under the layers of gravel and sand, to help direct more of the water.
A berm directs the flow of excess water away from an area of landscape or from a building. A berm is a mound of gravel and earth that has sloping sides. Ideally, the majority of the berm should be fill, such as gravel, with about 2 inches of clay over the gravel, then 4 to 6 inches of topsoil over the clay. Not only does a berm redirect the flow of water, it adds a dimension to the landscape, directs foot traffic and provides wind protection. If the berm is in an area that is to be mowed, the slope should not be steeper than 4 feet of vertical drop for every 4 horizontal feet.
A subsurface drain is an alternative to a French drain. Dig a hole 4 to 6 inches wide and 2 to 3 feet deep. Fill the hole with layers of sand and gravel to within 12 inches of the top of the hole. Add topsoil and sod to top off the drain. If the subsurface drain is strategically located, you could plant small shrubs or other foliage over the top of the drain, instead of sod. Restrict foot traffic around poor drainage areas, even with the use of subsurface drains. Enough foot traffic packs the soil, making it less likely to drain properly.