The Q&A Archives: Lawn/Path

Question: The north side of my house is below the south side of my neighbor's house. It is always wet, and even mildewy. I planted vinca vines and cleome to hide the area because it is unsightly. What is the best way to manage that area? It is used frequently as that is the side of the house that the back yard gate is located. Stone path?

Answer: A stone path will keep your feet from getting wet, but I think a long term solution is installing a French drain. French drains are quite simple: in essence they are just trenches filled with gravel, with sand on top of that. Often, you'll see French drains defined to include a drain pipe as well, though the traditional design is simply the gravel-filled trench. The advantages of French drains are low cost and easy installation. In addition, they can be covered over with turf or ground cover after installation, making them less conspicuous. A French drain starts with digging a trench. The depth and width of the trench can vary, but 5 to 6 inches wide and 8 to 12 inches deep are common sizes and usually satisfy most needs. Grading is a critical consideration ? you must ensure that enough slope exists for the water to actually flow, and flow in the right direction. Add gravel to the trench to within a few inches of the surface. Gravel for this use is typically 0.5 to 1 inch in size. On top of the gravel, lay at least 3 or 4 inches of coarse sand. This provides a medium in which turf or groundcovers can grow so that the trench will not be visible. But remember that the sand must be coarse or it won't allow water to properly drain through. Turf may be seeded into the sand or simply allowed to grow in from the adjacent stand, if the turf is a spreading type. Best wishes with your landscape.

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