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golfer2b 02-27-2008 09:14 AM

Drainage issue and need suggestion on type of grass
I have just moved into a 20 year old house, which has a backyard with very poor drainage. I live in Viriginia Beach, VA so I'm guessing our soil is mostly made up of clay. After I moved in I took down an above ground pool, two sheds and a playset. Now that I have removed all of the debris I have found that whenever it rains, my whole backyard turns into a puddle. I know very little about gardening, landscaping, etc...but I am a first time homeowner that has very little extra money to spend on professional help. I have access to a tiller and plan on ripping the whole backyard up and planting new grass, but I'm afraid if I do that, nothing will survive due to poor drainage. I have seen it done at golf courses where they dig a ditch and then just fill that in with rocks and cover it with dirt, but I don't know if that will help my yard. Should I bring in a bunch of dirt and put it in the back and spread that around and simply plant new grass seed over that? What should I do?

Also I would like a suggestion on a grass that is very durable as I spend a lot of time outside with friends playing bags, so I need something that can be trampled without dying. Also, if there is one that sucks up more water than another as I'm sure I will still have a bit of a drainage problem.

Any suggestions are appreciated.

Thank You

terri_and_jj 02-27-2008 01:47 PM

i had a similiar problem, and did the drainage ditch route, which worked great. my problem was somewhat worse than your because in addition to the clay and normal after the rain standing water, i had a sump pump that discharged about three feet above grade, through the foundation wall. Picture if you will, mowing the lawn along the back of your house and being unexpectedly blasted waist high with a shower of sump pump discharge!! I also have a water filtration system that backwashes every other night through the sump pump, so my backyard was constantly soaked in that area.

what i ended up doing was digging a trench that was a couple feet wide and about 3 feet deep all the way along the "finished" part of my backyard, ending in a low laying area on my property. at the far end i dug out about a 5' x 5' "catch basin" and filled this up with large chunks of river rock.

i then lined my trench with 6 mil poly and filled the bottom with a few inches of 3/4" crushed limestone. i was mainly concerned about the discharge from the sump, so i drilled a hole through the foundation, below grade and ran a pvc discharge that went into the trench and all the way to the catch basin. I then added a few more inches of crushed limestone, and filled the rest to grade with dirt. this system has worked great. the sump now empties into a wooded part of my property instead of just being shot into the air off the back of my house and rain water seeps down into the trench and is funneled out of the yard as well

i also brought in a lot of topsoil and spread this across my whole back yard, then reseeded everything. it has really transformed the space. depending on the size of your yard and the amount of dirt you are bringing in, you'll probably need more than a tiller ( i brought in a Bobcat for my job, plus a Jeep to help pull the bobcat out after getting it stuck in the wet clay several times )

For backyard grass i use Rebel or Rebel 2 grass seed. It grows fast, looks good, and is very hardy. We spend a lot of time in our backyard and this stuff always looks great, even if the kids are been running and riding all over it. very low maintence

Also, a lot of my neighbors planted Yews in their yards as these are supposed to help with moisture as well

terri_and_jj 02-27-2008 02:00 PM

another thing that will help, but is not an overnight fix is gysum. you can get this at home centers in a 50lb bag. don't hold me to it, but i think it's around $6 for a 40 or 50lb bag. i put it down pretty heavy in the spring and fall as it's supposed to help break up clay

do some research on the internet as i seem to remember reading something that suggested NOT to simply rototill everything up. You then end up with clay as your top surface and all you've done is make a bad problem even worse

Leah Frances 02-27-2008 07:33 PM

Future Golfer. Do you know where your water table is? It is possible in VA Beach that it might reside awfully close to the surface (that's what all those pumping stations are around town). Are you in a development? If so, contact your homeowners about rainwater management.

I like Terri and JJ's idea. At the least it is dramatic.

golfer2b 02-27-2008 09:31 PM

terri and JJ, thanks for the ideas. Did you dig your trenches along the perimeter of the yard or did you do it right through the middle? My yard is pretty flat, so I'm guessing I should grade it one way or the other. My yard is fairly small. Probably 30 foot x 60 foot rectangle. I'm thinking a trench going the full 60 feet. Then I will add soil everywhere and plant some of that rebel grass seed. Let me know if this is a decent idea.

Leah Frances, I live in a neighborhood without an association, should I call the city instead?

Thank You both for the help

terri_and_jj 02-28-2008 12:28 AM

put trench in lowest part of yard. my yard sloped steadily back from house so it was easy enough. my ran about 150 feet straight back

Leah Frances 02-28-2008 03:48 PM

A quick search showed seasonal water table 18 - 30 inches (Dec - Apr). Have you been there long. You might find that in the summer you're dry as a bone.

My family is from Norfolk (I lived there 1998-2002). We loved going to McDonald Garden Center on Independance Blvd. Nice staff, could be a good place to get some info or recommendations.

nacko 02-28-2008 03:55 PM

You could try this: put just enough dirt in the yard so that when it rains you will have a nice mud pit. invite local college kids over for a keg party and charge them a cover fee. after a couple of years of keg parties you should have enough to hire a landscaper.

Allison1888 03-16-2008 12:13 PM

Drainage solutions
I also have done the ditch route for drainage and agree with the other posters -- you really have to look at the overall layout of the lot. Next time it rains, draw a map of where the water settles. I found an interesting article on how drainage works that might be of help. It's from the Dept. of Housing and is pretty long, but you can pull out what you need. Good luck.

Robert131 03-24-2008 07:38 PM

I had a house in Washington where I had drainage issues like yours. I simply rented a trencher, and created a herringbone type pattern drain system that brought the water out to the front of the house. Took about 3 days, 200 feet of corregated drain pipe, and a couple cubic yards of 3/4" minus pea gravel. You can move water anywhere you want if you put your pipe in with a 1 percent slope toward the end point.

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