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How to improve Drainage in your lawn

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Good drainage is one of the most important parts of having a great piece of grass. Especially if you want it to look great after a long, cold, dark, wet Winter.

That said, getting good drainage isn’t always easy. That’s why I’ve written this post.

Initially to help you flesh out exactly how to find out if your drainage is poor. Also what the problem might be.

Then, I’ll give you some ideas to help you find the right solution.

If you implement them, I guarantee you’ll have a banging lawn the following Spring.

Like most things, there are two ways you can go with drainage in your lawn.

  1. Solve the issues quickly every year but not sort out the root cause of the problem
  2. Hit the root cause of the problem so that you don’t have to repeat your hard work every Spring.

How can you tell poor drainage (symptoms)

So, you move into a new home and you’re unsure what the grass is actually like. There are things you can check before you get to the end of Winter to find out. Of course, you could also just wait and see. Here’ what you should look out for:

  1. Checking for Puddles of Water in the grass
  2. Checking for Moss creeping in over Winter (or under the sward in Summer)
  3. Checking the soil density

Puddles of water

If you’re getting puddles of water, this is an instant warning. It doesn’t have to be puddles, your soil might be mulchy after a long wet period and this can also be the result of poor drainage.

Grass can’t survive when it’s sitting in water so if you have puddles, then you’re all but guaranteed to have a bare soil patch after the Winter ends and we move into Spring

Quick Fix every Spring: Apply Pre Seed Fertiliser at 30g per m2 and Grass Seed at 40g per m2 with a bit of top dressing

Moss creeps in over Winter

Moss is the best!

It’s the best at taking over wet ground during the Winter.

Some people love it.

I don’t!

Anyway, if you have poor drainage then you’ll head back outside around Feb/March and be sure to find that moss has taken over your grass. The grass is no more.

That said, if you want to detect it early i.e. before the end of the Winter.

Here’s what to do:

In the Summer, just pull a bit of grass out of the ground and check the soil.

For this you’ll likely need a tool. It’s called a soil sampling tool and it’s like a long metal tube which when dug in, it will bring back up a long slither of soil.

The other option of course is to try it with a bulb planter. However, sometimes it’s difficult to get through the sward. Especially on a warm, dry day.

Why does your lawn have poor drainage?

There are multiple reasons as to why you might have poor drainage. Here in the UK

You’ve got dense clay soil

So, after checking the soil, you may find that the soil is really dense. This is common in most clay-type soil beds, which often need improving. In the summer it’s rock hard and almost looks like there’s stones in it. They’re not stones though, they’re hard balls of clumped up soil.

What’s more if you pout the wrong sand down, such as fine sand, it’s likely to turn it into a cement-like texture.

The land dips in the middle

This is a common issue. Instead of the grass being sloped towards the edge, where the water can drip off naturally it has a dip.

If you have a combination of a dip and dense soil (and it’s in the shade) you’ve got a bit of a nightmare. It can still be solved though, so don’t worry too much.

Ideally, the grass needs to be sloped towards somewhere that the water can run to, so it’s not just sitting there.

Trees or overhanging shrubs with dense roots

Overhanging shrubs and trees are a prime issue when it comes to airflow across the grass. Grass, like all plants needs air to breathe and stay strong. This isn’t necessarily causing poor drainage.

However, roots and undergrowth from these shrubs or even trees will make the soil much more dense.

How to fix poor drainage issues in your lawn

Now for the fun bit. Fixing it all.

Fixing your drainage problem once and for all. Of course there are quick fixes that can be done every year. But that’s the problem, you’ll need to do them every year.

If you want piece of mind that your grass will stay strong year-after-year, then it’s best to sort out eh drainage issues for the long term.

Note though, it might be more work and cost up front but a massive time and cost save in the future.

I have 4 recommendations for fixing drainage, well one could arguably be classed as ‘giving up’ but nonetheless, it’s still a potential solution.

They are:

  1. Apply Base Sand
  2. Aerate the soil bed
  3. Install a French Drain
  4. Make a flower bed instead

I’ll explain each one in more detail.

Apply Base sand

Base sand is by far the number one product to use on lawns with moss and poor drainage. Sure, it can be costly to get the professional stuff delivered because you need a minimum of 1-4kg per m2 for it to make any sort of difference.

That said, it’s most likely going to be a one-off task and save you hours of work and money on moss killer.

In any areas that have poor drainage, are prone to moss or even water-logging, you’ll be pleasantly surprised the following Winter after applying it.

Some do say on social media that they’ve used sharp sand. However, it’s not something I’d personally recommend.

Why shouldn’t you use sharp sand on lawns?

Basically, sharp sand is super fine granules and this means they will become apart of the soil instead of changing the composition of it. You might have read that if you apply sand on a clay-type soil bed that it becomes almost cement like.

This is usually because the wrong type of sand has been used.

Real base sand for lawns is actually quite coarse and been washed to make sure there are no contaminatns in them.

And that, ultimately is why I don’t use or suggest others use sharp sand on your lawn.

Aerate the soil bed

This is a task that can take a long time if you don’t have a machine to do it. What’s more there are literally no machines on the domestic market that you can buy for a good price. Not like the electric scarifiers, which can be picked up for under £100.

I’ve written a full article

So, the choices are

  1. Manually do it yourself (tools cost around
  2. Hire a Aerating machine (costs around £120)
  3. Hire a professional to do it (probably over £100)

install a French Drainage

Adjust the topography – whaat? The Sloping and dips

Basically, the topography means the variations in ground level across the lawn. If you have dips or hollows, then it may be time to sort those out.

Don’t get me wrong, this can require a lot of natural materials, such as soil or sand. It will also require a lot of manual labour in shifting the land.

And It’s one of those jobs where you never feel quite like you have enough.

That said, it could be worth it to get your drainage sorted so it looks great year after year.

I’m not saying you’ll never need to treat your grass again if you do this but you should be in a way better position with your grass.

Make a flower bed instead

This could be a good option when you’ve exhausted all other options and none of them work. Your grass just won’t live for long enough no matter what.

Or you’d just prefer some plants in this location. You could edge off your lawn and put some fresh soil to make a nice neat bed instead.

Even if it’s in the middle of the grass. You can still add a flower bed. Just put some edging in and keep the area neat so it looks like it’s meant to be part of the garden

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