The Q&A Archives: Lawn Drainage in Alaska

Question: We get 100+ inches of rain a year. I have topped my lawn with three to six inches of "top soil." Top soil here would be hauled to the dump in most areas. I have about 1,000 sq. ft. of lawn covered. The lawn is like pasture mud. A foot print will hold water for more than a day. What can I do that is reasonable? I have to shovel the muck with a pitch fork.

Answer: Boy, that sounds rough. Is there any way you can change the grade of the land, sloping it to a drainage ditch or swale? That way, you could at least drain away some of the surface water. Just be sure the water is draining away from your foundation. Or you could install curtain drains. These are underground perforated pipes surrounded by gravel that collect the excess water and drain it away--often to a dry well, which is a big hole filled with stone and gravel. These are both expensive propositions, since they involve bringing in heavy equipment.

I can't think of any easy, inexpensive solution to your dilemma. If you can get a lawn established, it will help absorb the excess water. You could try covering a section with jute landscape netting--the kind they use to help control erosion until the cover crop gets established.

I found reference to a pasture seed mix called "high rainfall mix." This is intended for animal pastures, but it might be a clue as to what types of lawn-type plants will grow in your situation. The mix is in the Peaceful Valley Farm Supply catalog ( I have no idea if it would be hardy in your area; you might contact their horticulturists and see if they can recommend this or another type of seed. I hope this helps.

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