Addressing standing water in landscape beds

Updated Sep 1, 2021
landscaping planting
Properly draining plant beds, like these from Rock Water Farm, add curb appeal without the problems.
Rock Water Farm Landscapes & Hardscapes

Excess rainfall or drainage issues can lead to standing water in your client’s landscape beds. Unfortunately, this can cause a number of problems including water-logged plants, disease conditions, and even creating a breeding ground for mosquitoes. To prevent these issues, addressing standing water is important. It will lead to happier clients.

Todd Thomasson, owner of Rock Water Farm Landscapes & Hardscapes in Aldie, Virginia, says that the first step is to figure out what’s causing the water to pool. Oftentimes, it could be an issue with the soil, grading, gutter drainage, or a combination of issues. Thomasson walks through each scenario and what to do about it.

Fixing a soil problem

In many parts of the country, clay-like soil can become easily compacted and make it difficult for water to penetrate down to the subsurface layer. If your clients are dealing with a soil issue in their plant beds, you may need to mix in a high-quality topsoil or compost to add some microbial life.

“If the soil is really draining poorly and there are already plants installed, it could be worth removing the plants, tilling, and adding some high-quality health soil and new plants,” Thomasson says 

Correcting a grading issue

Rock Water Farm Landscapes & HardscapesAny potential drainage issues are always best addressed at the time of plant bed installation.Rock Water Farm Landscapes & Hardscapes

Sometimes water pooling around plant beds has to do with one or more low spots in the bed. According to Thomasson, if it’s just a few small spots, they can typically be filled in with soil and leveled out. But if there are major grading problems with the bed, you might have to encourage the client that their best course of action is starting over with brand-new plant beds that are properly graded.

“This is why it’s so important that grading is addressed at the time of plant bed installation,” Thomasson says.

Gutter overflow problems

If clients are dealing with landscape bed drainage, it’s also worth looking at where the gutters empty out and whether that’s contributing to the problem. Thomasson says that if the gutters are emptying directly into the plant bed, simply extending them out further could be a simple fix.

“You really don’t want gutters emptying out right by the home’s foundation anyhow,” he says. “That can create issues much larger than standing water in plant beds. It could lead to water seeping into the home.”

In the best-case scenario, extending gutter drainage to empty out in an unused part of the yard will prevent additional water woes. While your clients don’t want water pooling in their plant beds or around their home’s foundation, they likely also don’t want water pooling in the middle of their yard.

“If there is no good location to send the water, your client might consider adding subsurface drainage or a rain garden to address handling the excess water,” Thomasson suggests.

When the issue is complex

Of course, Thomasson points out that drainage issues can often be multi-faceted and encompass multiple problems at the same time.

If it’s a particularly complex drainage issue, starting over really might be the best course of action. This will not only allow the opportunity to correct grading and soil but also install plant material that is better-suited to the area. Some plants are always going to perform better in specific areas of the property than others.

Starting over can be difficult for clients to accept, but if they’ve moved into a home with poorly installed plant beds, it might be the best solution. In the end, helping them see the value of getting rid of their hassles and headaches is key.

The Attachments Idea Book
Landscapers use a variety of attachments for doing everything from snow removal to jobsite cleanup, and regardless of how often they are used, every landscaper has a favorite attachment.
Download
Attachments Idea Book Cover