2016 / Solving problems


In Spring, there is often more water around than there is at other times of year. But if you have places in your garden that are always wet, no matter what the season, with standing water that either drains slowly or does not drain at all, then you know how hard it can be to get plants to grow. There are a number of solutions, however, so don’t rule out gardening in a wet area just yet. Here is how you can do it:

Build raised beds.  If you raise the soil above the level of waterlogged ground, the water will continue to drain to the lowest point, leaving the raised soil quickly. You can build up a wall with stones, or wood, and can make an attractive border this way. And the benefits are numerous: apart from better drainage, the raised aspect of the beds will help grass from growing where it is not wanted, the plants will be closer to enjoy, and since the plants’ roots won’t need to be adapted to wet soil, you will have a greater selection of plants to choose from.

Create a berm to help deflect water. A berm is a raised area of land that forms a barrier. it can be big or small, and you can plant it with shrubs and perennials to integrate it into the landscape. It also has all the benefits of the raised bed described above.

The area behind the wall in the picture below is actually a berm that was built before the wall. In this case, it was made for privacy, but had there been too much water in that area, it would have worked a treat.


Install drainage. In areas where water is extreme, or where the flow of water is likely to cause structural problems behind a wall or foundation, special drainage will help keep problems at bay. This could include french drains  or soakaways, both of which deal with water and send it on its way in a controlled fashion.


Build a raised walkway if getting from here to there always involves muddy feet. You will create an interesting feature in your garden and  make the journey more memorable!


Add compost to heavy clay soil to make it drain better. Clay soil has very little air space between the soil particles, and so it tends to trap water. By adding organic matter, the soil gets more “fluffed up” and is able to drain better.

Plant water tolerant plants where the water is. Right plant, right place, again! Some plants are adapted to living near water and are quite happy with wet feet. Examples include many Iris, Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) and Bee Balm (Monarda spp). For a list of more plants  that like soggy conditions, click here.


Plant a rain garden in the way of the water. A rain garden is a garden built into a shallow depression in the ground which has been prepared to allow for maximum drainage. It gets placed not where the water pools, but in the way of the runoff. In this way, the water collects in the rain garden and drains away at a manageable rate, so that the part of the garden that used to be under water remains dry. For more information on rain gardens, click here.


Embrace it! Maybe that low area in your garden is just the spot for a pond! Add a liner and a few rocks and you will end up with a feature that will calm the mind and be the perfect home for hundreds of species of wildlife.


Too much water is a problem that many people wish they had. In the garden, however, it can pose something of a challenge. But challenging sites can often result in some of the most creative solutions, so break out your wellies and have fun creating something special!




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