The Q&A Archives: Bare and marshy, wet back yard

Question: The outside was not maintained by the previous owners. I plan to do major landscaping to fix the bare, muddy areas in the flat backyard. I already extended the downspouts underground to help resolve some of the excessive moisture, but it is still a big marshy mud pit. Is it best to try to start a bare lawn from sod or seed using a Fescue mix? Receives Partial sun and I am in the Metro DC area.

Answer: You will want to wait until the ground dries up before doing anything in your back yard. If you work soggy soil it will become even more compacted and nasty. Wait until the water subsides and then rototill the area. Add organic matter or aged manure and rototill it again. Then level the area and either lay sod or broadcast your seed. Fescues are the most shade tolerant of all grasses. Diverting water from the downspouts is a good idea - you may also end up installing curtain drains or even digging out a shallow area and directing the excess water there to keep your lawn high and dry. This shallow depression is called a rain garden and you can plant lots of moisture loving plants around the perimeter to help hide the area when it is filled with water. Best wishes with your landscape!

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