Ask a Question forum: Water / erosion issues

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jtd
Jul 19, 2014 6:56 AM CST
Hi- I live accross the street form a community that has a hillside down to the road and my property is on a slope. The hillside has been mowed/weedwacked to look more like a lawn - it WAS wild with random bushes, greenery, trees. It went from wild woodland to lawn like. It has been maintained to stay lawn-like with weed whackers. Since the change my lower lawn is wetter and pretty much stays soggy. And after rainfalls the water run off erodes my beds and lawn. Would this change in landscape cause the water issue on my property? If I could get the town to plant bushes (willow family) on the right of way land on the hillside would it help the issue? Any suggestions/ info would be appreciated. Thank you
jtd
Name: Anne
Summerville, SC (Zone 8a)
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Xeramtheum
Jul 19, 2014 9:58 AM CST
It sounds your problem is probably due to the change in character of of the hill side. I think Willow probably would help a bit but not enough to fix the problem. Some towns are reluctant to plant Salix/Willow plants because the roots can be very aggressive do a lot of damage to plumbing if it's not getting enough water.

If the bed does continue to stay soggy you might want to plant more bog type or water loving plants to take advantage of this. Not knowing where you live or your zone, I can't really suggest what types of plants would do well there.
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Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
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porkpal
Jul 19, 2014 10:23 AM CST
In most communities it is illegal to drain one property onto another. If the run-off is actually from the street, the city/county ought to correct the problem when you bring it to their attention. How they do it would be their choice.
Porkpal
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Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Jul 21, 2014 8:43 AM CST
Not that you shouldn't have an interest in addressing a possible run-off issue, but in addition...

It's possible and not even difficult to greatly, drastically improve the drainage in any beds by adding organic matter (anything that will decompose) to the surface periodically. Doing such adds fertility and humus to the soil, improves the tilth, and helps to both increase drainage in spots that aren't draining well, and hold moisture in spots that dry too quickly, and makes weeds less numerous (assuming they aren't coming from neglect,) easier to pull, no downside to doing it. The details of how and why are well explained in this 15-minute video:
http://permaculturenews.org/2013/09/20/soil-not-dirt-dr-elai...

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Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
Jul 21, 2014 8:50 AM CST
I agree with @porkpal
Here is my experience:
When I first moved to a small town in Georgia I had a problem with runoff from the school and its parking lot across the street. Water seeking lower ground used my entire yard, sometimes up to my knees, to reach the nearest storm water ditch on the block behind my.

I tried complaining to deaf ears, being nice and being nasty, nothing worked until I said the magic word - 'easement' - I told the city man that he did not have an easement to use my property. Within minutes, yes that fast, there was a crew at the school - they dug their own ditch and made an embankment like an asphalt speed bump in the school's driveway to steer the water to an actual storm drain, Problem solved.

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South Sarasota, Florida (Zone 9b)
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dyzzypyxxy
Jul 21, 2014 12:18 PM CST
A picture sure would help us to visualize your problem, jtd. Am I right in thinking the cleared area that used to be wild is across the road and uphill from your property? How steep is the slope? Is the cleared area draining muddy water i.e. eroding the soil away?

If you can document (with pictures) the runoff during a wet time flowing across the road and onto your property, and take the pictures to your town council meeting, they might actually require the community across the street to re-plant the area.

If not, how about building a small berm on your side of the road to again 'deflect' the runoff, or at least slow it down so more of it soaks in before it gets to your back lawn area. Even a berm with a rise of a few inches will deflect or slow down a lot of water.
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OldGardener
Jul 21, 2014 12:30 PM CST
dyzzypyxxy said:
If not, how about building a small berm on your side of the road to again 'deflect' the runoff

Please make sure that you don't deflect the water onto someone else's property, though, as it could possibly cause you some liability issues depending on your local ordinances.

dyzzypyxxy said:... or at least slow it down so more of it soaks in before it gets to your back lawn area.

Great idea Thumbs up

As dyzzypyxxy said, though, the town council may be your best bet. If you cannot get any satisfaction from them, then slowing the water down (you can also use a creative planting scheme to slow water) may be your best option.

Could a french drain at the top of your hill be of help, perhaps?
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Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Jul 21, 2014 4:02 PM CST
Nobody's dogged me out for my suggestion, which I appreciate, and I wanted to reinforce that I didn't offer it with any hope that it would, by itself, solve this problem. And it's probably worth adding, if you tried to lay organic matter there now, it would likely wash away, a fish to fry after you the bigger issue is addressed.

This situation is a perfect though unfortunate example of how it's also easy to ruin the drainage in a particular area.
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OldGardener
Jul 21, 2014 4:10 PM CST
I think Elaine's suggestions are good. I probably should have said that if they choose to deflect the water, deflect it to a city drain, approved run-off course, etc. I know of someone who ran into legal issues when they deflected the runoff back onto the person's property that caused the runoff in the first place. Unbelievable but true! They eventually prevailed in court but it was an ugly situation for a while (and stressful for the individual involved).
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OldGardener
Jul 21, 2014 5:21 PM CST
Jtd, if you are experiencing a lot of erosion, you may want to look into straw wattles (I believe that was what they were called). If you are not familiar with them, they are sort of like very skinny, burlap-wrapped, straw-type (maybe with a polymer?) bales or sausages that are about 8-12" in diameter and I think that the ones that we purchased were 50 feet long. You run them perpendicular to the runoff and they prevent the soil from slipping or cutting. They also help absorb a lot of the runoff and slow down the rest. They decompose over several years so you have protection long enough to get some type of binder planted if needed. The downside is that they do need to be staked in and, if I recall correctly, they are heavy. We used them on our hillside while waiting for the landscape to fill in and they worked well - effectively stopping the erosion until the ground cover, shrubs, tress, etc. could take hold. Because the hill is quite steep in areas and our area prohibits run-off onto community-owned trails, we also had a french drain installed at the very bottom of the hill that absorbed all of the remaining runoff. I believe that there are now mats that can be purchased which do much of the same thing.
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RickCorey
Jul 21, 2014 6:32 PM CST
>> a small berm on your side of the road to again 'deflect' the runoff,

I agree with this, if it's possible, and also with "don't divert it onto a neighbor's yard".
Can you diver flow towards a storm drain in the street?

>> Could a french drain at the top of your hill be of help, perhaps?

There's two places a French drain or slit trench could help. One is near the top of your property, catching water as it flows onto your land, and encouraging it to find a slanting path down towards some better place.

That's really the key thing: to find a place where the wtaer can GO without anyone suing anyone.

Is there a slope anywhere down from your soggy spot? Or even a slightly lower spot with good drainage? If you dig tranches or drains from your lower yard to this lower spot, you can keep it moving and rapidly lower the standing water in your soggy spot.

You can also build your low spot up. A raised bed with 12-118" walls might sit well above your water table even right after a rain. Just don't make your bed in the shape of a dike that will hold water back from flowing downhill!

One way to make a raised bed is to first drag aside and save the existing good topsoil from the site of the bed, and surrounding few feet. Also recover some topsoil from the slope below the bed, in slanting diagonals.

Then excavate poor soil and sub soil from those downslope diagonals and any other spots where you want a deep drainage ditch. If you have a clay layer over some porous substratum, one deep hole might drain water down faster than it runs off.

Use all this subsoil to build a deep foundation for the raised beds. Then replace all the good soil that you dragged aside, on top of your new raised beds. If you amend all the good soil and some of the subsoil, you will increase the volume of soil, giving you an even taller bed.

The diagonals where you excavated now form "low spots" that will turn into puddles after a rain, but prevent the roots in your raised bed from drowning. I dug a hole just 24-30" deep "below" a small raised bed, and it was big enough to let that bed drain out after light rain. It takes several days for water to perk down out of that hole, but it is enough to keep the bed's root zone above water in any but the wettest weeks.

I see that is called a "soak away".
http://www.hintsandthings.co.uk/garden/lawndrainage.htm

If the diagonals lead down to some better-draining spot, water won't even puddle. But if they lead to a neighbor's yard and water runs off instead of sinking down into the subsoil, you may have trouble.
[Last edited by RickCorey - Jul 21, 2014 6:37 PM (+)]
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