It is amazing how much water snow can produce. When the winter snow and ice finally melts in late winter, it can look like there is water everywhere. Lawns seem to be perpetually soggy and walks and drives are wet with water that sometimes turn back to ice overnight. Here are a few landscaping maintenance tips for short and long term management of spring runoff water for the home landscape.
Clean Your Gutters
Generally speaking, you want to get runoff water away from your house. Though it may not be your favorite late winter chore, get out there and clean your gutters to make sure water is flowing freely into the downspouts. When water comes out of the downspouts, see that it is directed away from the house and, if possible, paved surfaces. Though the ground may seem saturated, it is a better place for water than a walkway or drive where it may become icy and slippery.
Dry Stream Beds and Rain Gardens
If you have enough space in your yard, installing a dry stream bed or a rain garden is an attractive and effective way to manage runoff. Both of these solutions should have surface runoff flowing toward them. A dry stream bed is long and narrow, like a stream. At the surface level, it has ornamental river rock of different sizes. Below the surface, a thick layer of washed gravel will help water to soak into the surrounding soil.
Rain gardens are similar to dry stream beds. Constructed in a low area of your yard, they can be designed to handle large volumes of water, including runoff from downspouts. At ground level, a rain garden has ornamental stone or mulch and water tolerant ornamental plants. Beneath the plants and mulch, anywhere from 6 – 15 inches of washed aggregate works as temporary storage for water, allowing it to seep into the soil.
If the space in your landscape is limited, consider installing a french drain. They are usually built next to patios, walks or drives. A french drain is usually a foot or so wide and about the same depth, though they can be deeper. Ornamental stone serves as the top layer; below is washed gravel around perforated drain pipe. The pipe carries water to a low point in your yard or to a storm drainage system.
All of the above solutions have the benefit of getting at least some runoff water back into the soil. That improves water quality and makes it available for landscape plants, a better solution than sending it straight to municipal storm drains. Managing spring runoff will help to keep your paved surfaces dry while making the rest of your landscape maintenance a little easier. At the same time, it improves the long term appearance and health of your landscape.