How to Improve Drainage in Yard


Drainage issues can ruin a good yard, creating a pond instead of a nice, grassy lawn. Fortunately you have options. You can install drainage solutions that add to your landscape or that remain unseen.

Step 1

Install dry creek beds to route water directly to a drainage point, such as a culvert or creek. Dry creek beds are basically trenches that are lined with gravel or large rocks. Start the trench at a point where water collects and continue it down a slope to get the water to the desired drainage area. Lining the trench with large rocks allows it to function as a rock garden in dry weather and still do its job of directing water in wet weather.

Step 2

Install a French drain. This is the underground version of a dry creek bed, as described in Step 1. French drains work well when a dry creek bed or other drainage mechanism would be unsightly or incongruous with the existing landscape. Dig a trench, line it with landscape fabric, fill it with gravel and then cover it with landscape fabric and sod. Direct the trench the same way you would a dry creek bed.

Step 3

Amend the soil to improve drainage. If you have heavy-clay soil that is simply holding water, dig it up about 6 inches, mix in a 3-inch layer of organic compost, then till it up to 12- or 18-inches deep, cover it with a 3-inch layer of coarse sand, and till in the sand. The compost and sand improve the clay soil's ability to release water and prevent it from caking up into a gluey, sticky mass of clay mud.

Step 4

Create a water garden in low spots that continually collect water. Use these low spots as naturally fertile beds for water-loving plants; till them up and plant shrubs, flowers, and grasses that need continual moisture to thrive. These plants will help absorb the water and put it to good use.


  • Texas A&M University: "Watergarden Plants"
  • Washington State University: "Dry Streem Beds"
Keywords: yard drainage, drainage problems, improve drainage

About this Author

Annie Mueller is a writer, editor, professional blogger, website designer, and tutor. She attended Missouri Baptist College and earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from Mississippi State University, with a Summa Cum Laude standing. She has written extensively on gardening, parenting, education, and personal growth for women.