Stumbling upon a waterlogged garden might as well be every gardener’s worst nightmare. A boggy lawn is often the consequence of constant heavy rainfall and usually occurs over winter. It can be extremely unpleasant to look at and walk on, delivering a full package of discontent. And although it might look futile to deal with a soggy lawn on your own, it is not, as long as you have the right amount of patience and drive. Detailed below, in this blog post, are some effective remedies for a waterlogged garden that you can try for yourself in your backyard. Chances are that you’ll be enjoying a garden, devoid of floods before you even know it.

Table of Contents:

If you fall into any of these categories, then this blog post’s for you:

  • People whose lawns have become waterlogged;
  • Gardening enthusiasts who want to know how to prevent a soggy lawn;
  • People who have dense clay soil in their back garden.

What is soil waterlogging?

Waterlogging is an occurrence, where water sits on the surface of the soil, failing to drain or doing so very slowly. However, all soils are not made equal and some are more susceptible to waterlogging than others. For example, dense clay soil and badly compacted ground tend to retain rainwater for much longer, which causes sogginess and even temporary flooding.

When plants are submerged in water for a prolonged period of time, it can prove fatal. As the ground becomes waterlogged and the air spaces in the soil get flooded with water, the plants begin to drown. This is the aftermath of the roots not being able to access oxygen. They slowly start to rot, consequently devoiding the leaves and stems of nutrients.  

Now, before we jump onto the solutions, it’s good to examine what exactly are the causes for a waterlogged lawn and how to identify one. For one needs to know and understand the enemy in order to defeat them. The same holds true, especially when choosing the appropriate boggy lawn solution to match your situation.

Appearance of soggy lawns

То differentiate a waterlogged lawn from just a moist one, look out for the following occurrences:

  • The soil has become squelchy to walk on.
  • The surface of the lawn may have become covered by a layer of sticky and muddy puddled soil.
  • After some time, in a waterlogged garden, plants begin to turn yellow and die out.
  • If left long unattended, a soggy lawn begins to develop a swampy look
  • The presence of moss can also be an indicator of damp conditions, especially if your garden sits in the shade most of the time.
  • The appearance of weeds, such as toad rush, Cotula, Rumex and Yorkshire fog, suggests overly wet lawn, as well.

Causes of waterlogged soil

There is more than one cause that can lead to waterlogging in the garden. So let’s go over them one by one.

  • Soil that hasn’t been properly prepared before turfing or seeding can lead to poor drainage and waterlogging.
  • Waterlogging is an occurrence often connected with clay and heavily compacted soils (as the soil is denser, the flow of air and water gets obstructed).
  • A poorly constructed root system can also lead to waterlogging. For, a thick and well-developed root system is needed to absorb water that comes into contact with the lawn. 

How to improve and fix waterlogged soil

Before you try out any soggy lawn solutions, be sure to avoid walking on the soaked grass. As this will squeeze out all of the remaining oxygen from the soil, accelerating the death of your greenery and making matters much worse. Therefore, wait for the water to go down a bit before you get down to work. Once the sod looks to be on the dry side, go over the following tips to improve your garden’s drainage.

Test the Soil

Start off by buying a soil testing kit to ascertain the fertility of the soil and find out what nutrients are in the soil. Once you have a soil sample, take it to your local garden centre to have it analysed. When the results are in, study them over and amend the soil accordingly.

Aerate the lawn

Aeration helps you improve the drainage of your waterlogged lawn by allowing for more air to get into the soil, in turn aiding plant roots live. Aerating your lawn is quite simple and won’t require more than a garden fork. You can also use aerator shoes or a hollow tine aerator. Now it’s good to note that the severity of the waterlogging will help indicate which tool is appropriate for the job.

For example, if your lawn is seriously boggy, a hollow tine aerator is the way to go. It’s a very useful tool for removing cylinders of soil and making holes, around 15 cm deep. These can later be filled with horticultural sharp sand to help draw out the moisture while keeping the soil nice and loose. This process speeds up the lawn’s recovery. 

Cultivate the lawn

Soil cultivation is essential when dealing with heavily compacted soil. Compost and other organic matter are good for improving the structure of the soil and bettering the lawn’s foundation. The amount of compost you should use will depend on the composition of the soil. The worse the soil, the more compost you’ll need.

Use moss killer 

Moist soil is ideal for moss to thrive. Therefore, it’s important to use moss killer to prevent the moss from taking over your garden. Overseeding your turf once or twice a year can also help keep the moss at bay.

Utilise fertiliser

Fertilise your lawn during spring to help the grass regain its green and lush colour after the wet winter season. Using a fertiliser stimulates the development of the root system, thus helping the roots withstand waterlogging the following winter.

Create a bog garden

An interesting way of creating proper waterlogged garden drainage is through sowing plants that thrive in soggy areas. А bog garden can help soak up water and also has a certain pleasing-to-the-eye, tropical look. Such water-thriving plants are Amsonia, Persicaria, Astrantia, Lysimachia and Cardamine, just to name a few.

Dig a Ditch

As a last resort, you can always try digging a deep ditch at the lowest point of your garden. This will allow the water to drain in the ditch without doing any damage to the lawn. This method is quite effective, however, it works only for certain gardens, which are at a slope.

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How to improve drainage in clay soil lawn

Clay soil becomes heavy and compact when soggy, reducing the levels of oxygen and nutrients in the soil significantly, resulting in a boggy lawn with deficient drainage. However, with the right care and know-how, the soil’s condition can be improved in no time. Aside from the previously mentioned methods for fixing a waterlogged lawn, there are also some specific ones that apply just to clay soils.

Top-dress the lawn 

Top-dressing is a combination of sand, peat and loam that can be used to improve clay soil. Just spread the sandy mix thinly over the lawn, making sure that it penetrates the clay soil. If done right, the grass should still be standing upright above the top-dressing layer. When dealing with holes and bumps in your lawn, adjust the quantity of the top-dressing mixture accordingly, to smooth them out. Top-dress your lawn ideally in the autumn, around September after aeration.

Install a drainage system

Since clay soil tends to drain slowly and saturates quickly during the wet season, installing a drainage system might be the way to go. Lawn drainage systems are used to transfer water through pipes, from one area to another (like a ditch or waterway).

Mulching

A waterlogged lawn should be mulched regularly. When spread on top of the lawn, mulch starts to decompose, providing the soil with nutrients and inviting beneficial lawn friendly earthworms, which will act as natural aerators. These worms consume the mulch, helping to fertilise the soil. This process allows water, air and nutrients to reach the grassroots.

Watering

Watering turf that has been established on clay soil can be a bit tricky. Try to water the lawn less frequently, say, once per week, deeply (around an inch of water). This will prevent roots from reaching upward and making issues even worse.

How to prevent waterlogging

A great way to beat a waterlogged garden is to make your move before it becomes soggy. So, here are a few waterlogged garden remedies for stopping boggy lawns in their tracks.

Plant Cover Crops

Planting cover crops is a fantastic way of dealing with excess water. They also help aid the soil’s health and prevent your garden from turning into a huge mud puddle. If you’re looking to avoid waterlogging in the autumn and winter seasons, plant winter cover crops during late spring. The water they absorb will stimulate them to release organic materials into the soil, helping with improving the lawn’s drainage. Annual ryegrass and winter rye are popular cover crop grasses.

Avoid Tilling

Going no-till is a long term soggy lawn preventing strategy, but one that is totally worth it in the end. This especially applies if you have heavy clay soil in your backyard. Instead of trying to till the clayey soil, be it wet or dry, which will only compact it further, let the insects and fungi do their job and create air spaces in the soil. As mentioned earlier, using mulch will also improve the soil’s structure and help with drainage.

Subsoiling

Now, this may sound a bit contradictory to what we’ve said about no-tilling, but it’s not. Subsoiling is done by only lifting the soil, without mixing it or turning it over. This doesn’t mess with the structure of the soil and actually creates air spaces in the soil, helping improve drainage. When dealing with smaller gardens you can easily utilise this method with the help of a broad fork.

Add Organic Matter

Organic matter is ideal for breaking up tough and dense soils. When mixed with soil particles it allows for air spaces to form which in turn improves drainage. Another benefit of using organic matter is that it helps dry soil hold moisture for longer periods of time. Naturally, this advice is helpful before you establish your lawn.

It can feel devastating to wake up one morning after the cold seasons have just passed, to find out that your lawn has become a waterlogged hellhole. An area where most of your plants won’t thrive and will die within weeks. Although it might seem futile to deal with all this at first, as long as you follow our waterlogged lawn advice,  your turf will be just fine.

Takeaways

  • Waterlogging usually occurs in back gardens whose soil consists of clay or is heavily compacted.
  • You can avoid having to deal with a boggy lawn, by applying preventative methods such as planting cover crops or subsoiling.
  • Recognizing a waterlogged lawn is quite easy – just check whether the soil has become squelchy to walk on.

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Image source: shutterstock / RJ22

  • Last update: September 11, 2019

Posted in All About the Lawn, Uncategorized

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