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Free Landscaping Ideas for Shade and Drainage Problem Areas

By April Fidler
Free rocks found in streams can become implements for drainage in your wet yard.

Typically, yards with a lot of shade also have drainage problems in those shady areas. The sun, which would normally dry up any excess water, does not reach these spots, so the water is left to linger. If money is tight, and you need a landscaping solution for your shady, wet land, there are a few things you can try.

Wild Shade- and Moisture-Loving Plants

Take walks around your neighborhood wooded area or park. Notice the types of wild flowers that are growing in these sun-dappled or heavily-shaded areas. Many plants can be grown from cuttings; all you need is a rooting hormone and patience. Take cuttings of flowers that you see on your hike, then place them in water, sand or soil with a little bit of rooting hormone (which can be purchased at your local nursery or super store). In a few weeks, these shade-loving plants will have grown roots. Place them in the shady area of your yard.

Next, explore the wetter areas of these parks, forests or nature preserves; pay close attention to plants growing in water and shade. Take cuttings from these plants as well. Cat tails provide a beautiful background and thrive in wet regions. Place them in rooting hormone and, once rooted, plant them in the poor drainage area of your home. Not only will moisture-loving plants look better than a soggy yard, they will soak up a lot of the excess water, keeping it away from your home.

Rock or Shell Garden

Explore your area's rivers, lakes and streams to hunt for rocks that you can use to build up your poor drainage areas. Often, smooth rounded stones are available.

If you live near the ocean, go scavenging for sea shells to place in those wet spots. Sea shells provide nutrients to your grass and plants (when crushed), and they will help with drainage issues by providing another layer to whisk away moisture.

Once you have established rock or shell drainage, place shade-loving plants in these areas. Columbine, bleeding hearts, primrose, astilbe and blue bells do well in shade.

Many homeowners design "dry river beds" that only fill up and move the water away from the house during storms. Not only are these river beds more attractive than a muddy patch of lawn, they help to move water away from the house.

Railroad-Tie Raised Garden Bed

Railroad ties make great frames for raised garden beds. Sometimes, you can find old ties lying along the sides of railroad tracks. Contact a neighborhood rail yard to see if they have any old ties. Rail yards will often give these away for free, as long as you haul them. These raised beds will help to rid your yard of its drainage problem by providing extra layers of soil. Also, once the shade-loving plants you have placed in your beds have been established, they will soak up more water through their roots, thus protecting your home from excess moisture.

Be sure to check the laws in your state for railroad-tie usage, as some states, such as California, will not let you use railroad ties in landscaping because of the creosote---a hazardous chemical that the ties are coated with to keep them from rotting. However, if the railroad ties that you use are old, your plants will not be harmed by what little creosote is left on them.