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Topic: Advice for a swampy backyard  (Read 5642 times)
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Mel B.
« on: February 22, 2006 07:48:56 AM »

Hi all,
The backyard to our new house becomes flooded during rain, and it doesn't drain away easily. We brought in $400 worth of dirty to level it off with our neighbours, but alas there is still water/ice during Winter.

Let's assume that it'll stay swampy and muddy through the spring until the summer heat in Canada can dry up the backyard.

In terms of creating a garden, we intend to bring in still more dirt to keep neighbours' rain out of our yard. Has anybody combatted moist soil conditions with retaining walls or raised beds? Can I make beds out of bricks or stones piled into a mini fence? Any other creative raised bed ideas, aside from what's already on this site?

The idea of only planting "bog-friendly" or moisture-loving plants does work well with my vegetable and flower aspirations, but it might be the only option. Creative advice needed, please!
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auntiem
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2006 01:50:21 PM »

You could always plant a bog garden with carnivorous pitcher plants (they are really pretty) and corkscrew rush - also really cool looking.
If there is a farm supply store nearby, you could buy some of those large galvenized troughs and use those as raised beds.
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caffeinemonster
« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2006 12:27:31 PM »

Hi all,
The backyard to our new house becomes flooded during rain, and it doesn't drain away easily. We brought in $400 worth of dirty to level it off with our neighbours, but alas there is still water/ice during Winter.

Let's assume that it'll stay swampy and muddy through the spring until the summer heat in Canada can dry up the backyard.

In terms of creating a garden, we intend to bring in still more dirt to keep neighbours' rain out of our yard. Has anybody combatted moist soil conditions with retaining walls or raised beds? Can I make beds out of bricks or stones piled into a mini fence? Any other creative raised bed ideas, aside from what's already on this site?

The idea of only planting "bog-friendly" or moisture-loving plants does work well with my vegetable and flower aspirations, but it might be the only option. Creative advice needed, please!

I had this same problem.  Eventually, what solved it was not to keep bringing more dirt, but to actually take away some dirt--digging a trench that ran from our neighbor's yard out to the front, and on to the side street.  It helped that our neighbors' backyard is a little hilly, so there was already a low area from which  all the water was draining to from our yard.  The contractor we hired brought in some kind of backhoe like thing and dug the drain from the fence near their low point, through the already-lowest parts of our back, and out to the side.  We lined it with gravel and planted along the sides to stem erosion.

It's worked like a charm.  Our house is not only lower than our neighbors on the side, but also than the neighbors in back of us.  When there was the least bit of rain, our patio (which is ground level) would be covered in several inches of water.  I think the fact that the house was like this for 50+ years before we fixed the drainage has contributed to some settling problems that could have been serious (the whole west side of our house has settled, the part that is over a crawlspace and wooden frame--the east half, which is supported on concrete, did not--you can see how our house was in danger of cracking in two, and, honestly, I'm not sure it hasn't).  You definitely don't want to fool around with this kind of problem if the dirt right around your house is being affected.  We are not in a flood zone and our house inspector said that because of this the house was safe from flooding--it was only after we moved in that we realized the extent of the subsidence-related problems and figured out that not being in a flood zone proper doesn't protect your foundation from serious water damage.  I think with retaining walls, you might want to get an expert to do it, especially if you will be going on the property line and will need to negotiate with your neighbors.

You might want to google "french drains" to get an idea of what to do.  Although we hired someone to help us (I've got some muscle weakness issues and couldn't have done the digging myself), you and your SO/spouse/whomever might be able to create one yourselves.  I'm obviously not an expert, but from my own experience I would really want to fix that drainage problem before I tried to grow anything.  If there is any "movement" to the water, even with the hydrophile plants, it will be hard for things to keep root if the soil is washing away under them!
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Mel B.
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2006 05:51:43 AM »

Wow, thank you both for the interesting comments.

I will DEFINITELY search for this "french drain" term and find out more about it. It sounds like directing the water in this way could solve some of our problems. I've seen pictures in garden problem-solving books about building essentially a trench at the lowest point, filling it with gravel to capture the water and funnel it down into the earth. It's good to know that this has helped someone else, so thank you Caffeine Monster!

Also, thank you Auntie M for the idea of using farm animal troughs! For all the creative thinking I've done on the topic of planters and gardens, I'd NEVER thought of this idea! Maybe I'll visit some local salvage yards and used farm equipment places to see if I can find some...I bet I could paint them or give them aged-look finished too. Or go 'laissez-faire'. I've never looked into carnivorous plants, but I will note the species you have mentioned and look into their potential benefits and climate zones. Thank you so much!
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« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2006 05:27:18 PM »

My neighboors had a similar problem, and they also went with the "dig a ditch to siphon off the water" idea. They love it. They cut a winding trench through the backyard following the natural curves of the yarn, lined it with pebbles and actually even built a cute wooden footbridge over it. The trench eventually dumps into the street, where the city drains take the water away. They planted water-loving plants along the edges and everyone who visits the yard says "what a cute idea!"  they don't realize it was a necessity! The best part is they even posted a little sign along the edge naming the "river" after a family member. Ha!
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tomico
« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2006 09:48:10 AM »

If none of these thing work you could take avantage of the space and grow things specific for wet regions. Bog myrtle, marsh rosemary (two ingredients for gruit ale), cattails, water cress, willows are all types of plants that prefer to stay wet. You could even consider making a pond for the water to drain into. My in-laws  have a similar problem with a spring and have just tried to force the flow of water away from the seating area and into the gutter.

Tomico
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