Botanica Atlanta | Landscape Design, Construction & Maintenance


Atlanta Garden Design

How to Change Drainage Patterns

Posted by Stuart DiNenno on July 25, 2008 at 11:23 AM

Drainage patterns in your garden can negatively effect the optimal use of water. 


Most modern homes have a system that is geared to carrying water away from the whole area, reducing ponding and preventing dampness around basement areas. That is a fine model for flood prone areas and areas that do not suffer from regular droughts, but not so good for Atlanta which is facing a second year of watering restrictions. Learning how to change the drainage patterns can ensure that more water stays on your lot, and less is diverted to the storm sewers.


The drainage on your property can be adjusted such that it can help conserve the water that we do get, and in many cases this water, particularly from spring and summer storms, can be stored for later, drier periods. Knowing how to capture the water and effectively distribute it may need a professional, but there are some things that a homeowner can do to adjust the flow patterns such that they are more beneficial to the landscape as a whole.


Identifying Low Points


When heavy rains occur, even if they only last a few minutes, it becomes obvious where your low points are.  Look for standing water just after the storm.  You can also see grass lying down in the direction of flow when fast moving water passes over it.  This will indicate the direction of drainage.


Generally you will find the low spot and drainage areas are at the corner of the property, or a group of properties.  Placing a collection system at this point will stop the water leaving your property.  Underground cisterns are a convenient way to store this excess water. With a pump installed, the stored water can be distributed as needed.


Altering the Flow Pattern


Water that leaves the property by running along the back lot line can be retained on the property if the flow pattern is adjusted.  Just as ancient irrigation systems were made to channel water in a specific direction, modern landscape design can also be designed to retain water and drain it to a designated place. 


Altering the overall flow of the lot, by creating swales and hills, will divert the storm water effectively, but it is wise to get professional advice prior to major reworking.  Draining too much storm water towards your home can cause major structural problems.


Small scale trenches and channels through a vegetable bed are quite within the scope of a homeowner. Instead of using boards to retain soil in a raised bed, trench around the bed and heap the soil to the middle, thus giving a channel around the edge of the area to retain, and distribute, storm water when it occurs.


Knowing how to change the drainage pattern will make the best use of rainwater and help ensure that your garden gets the maximum amount of water available.

Categories: Water Management