29 Jul 2011

Why Landscapers Need to be Drainers!

Posted by bcsands

Underneath every great landscape there is often a little secret. A little secret that apparently has nothing to do with beautiful plants, lush lawn or perfect pavers. But a little secret without which none of those beautiful features would exist.

That little secret is: good drainage.

Without good drainage, your beautiful plants would be waterlogged, your lush lawn a standing pond and your perfect tiles constantly wet and stained. It might even result in structural damage to features like retaining walls, pergolas or even buildings. Well-designed drainage is the key to keeping your landscape looking good.

Get it right from the start

Adding drainage after a landscape is completed isn’t easy. Who wants to dig their work back up again – or have it washed away?! So it’s something that needs to be taken into account right at the start of the project. Drainage is something that every professional landscaper needs to be an expert in and that every home landscaper should take a crash course in!

To assess the likely drainage needs of your landscaping project, first take a look at your soil. A coarse soil, such as one that includes a lot of sand, will drain more easily than a dense clay soil.

Like us, water must obey the demands of gravity. It will move downwards from the surface to the sub surface of the soil, and ultimately down to the water table. This can take time. If the soil drains well, water will usually drain away from the surface quickly. If you have a denser soil, it will drain more slowly. However, even a coarse, fast-draining soil may struggle to cope with a deluge of rain, and there may be other complicating factors that you are not immediately aware of, such as a high water table or a layer of rock under the soil.

So your second step to avoid a waterlogged landscape should be to take a close look at the layout of the area you will be landscaping. Are there any obvious dips or hollows where water might gather? Is it on a slope? Or at the bottom of a slope? If you can live with a landscape for while before making changes, you can take the time to observe rainfall, flooding and the behaviour of your land before you start your project. Otherwise, you will have to depend on common sense and instinct! (And remember, run-off from neighbours is sometimes your problem rather than theirs!).

Types of drainage

Surface drains can convey large amounts of water very quickly to reduce the potential for flooding. As the name implies, these drains are often visible on the surface, in the form of storm drains and pits and grates. They are ideal for hard surfaces such as driveways, paths and around pools where the water runs off quickly into the drain and then out of sight – usually down to street or stormwater drains.

Subsurface drains are not visible and are designed to catch water as gravity draws it down from the surface, through the soil. Systems such as aggregate piping (usually known as ag piping) with slots are laid under the surface for water to filter into. Unslotted pipes then draw the water away and discharge it, usually into the stormwater system. Single pipes can be laid in areas where there is a specific problem, such as where water may gather behind a retaining wall, or multiple pipes can be laid across a wide area, such as a soccer field, in a grid pattern, to absorb water across the whole area. Because the pipes do not intrude visually, sub surface drainage is ideal for plant-based landscaping, sports fields and parks.

More specialised drains are also available for specific applications, such as drainage cells for planter boxes and roof gardens and versidrains for vertical applications.

Drainage is a real science – and an important one for every landscaper, professional or amateur!

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One Response to “Why Landscapers Need to be Drainers!”

  1. Hi, do you provide any service for assessing & advising homeowners about drainage problems? (or could you recommend someone?)
    We need someone to have a look & determine whether damage to a neighbour’s property is being caused by water from our side.



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