design solutions for a waterlogged garden

What Creative Solutions Are There For Wet Gardens?

28 January 2021

Weather patterns are becoming more extreme causing overly wet conditions in our gardens. This can restrict garden use, cause mess or be damaging to lawns and plants. So what can be done to save your garden from the floods?

Fortunately there are many solutions for wet gardens, such as garden drainage, selecting plants for wet soil, to creative designs for areas that flood. Here is a brief guide.

First Identify the cause

There may be a single problem or a combination of factors causing the waterlogging of your garden: High rainfall, heavy badly drained soil, compaction, a highwater table, a low-lying site or even blocked or broken drains. Depending on the cause, there are a range of solution available to you.

Improve the soil condition

Bad drainage can be caused by soil compaction either near the surface or at depth. Dig a test pit to see where any compaction may be. This may be caused by foot or other traffic or heavy equipment if on a new build site. Appropriate cultivation can relieve this.

Some soil types drain badly by nature such as those with a high proportion of clay. Addition of organic matter and coarse sand or grit will help drainage and improve both the structure and fertility.

waterlogged garden in need of a drainage solution

A waterlogged garden in need of a drainage solution

Land Drainage

This may involve gravel filled trenches at strategic positions (often known as ‘french drains’), or even a full piped land drain system. To be effective the water must be able to reach the chosen drain so attention must also be given to soil condition, siting, spacing and depth of the drains. Then the water must have somewhere to go. For land drainage an adjacent ditch is ideal or if you have a large garden, a lower lying area which you don’t mind becoming a seasonal pond, may suffice.

Draining Hard Surfaces

Non-porous hard surfaces are always laid to a fall so water runs off. If your garden is free draining this can be allowed to run onto the adjacent lawn or borders but on badly drained soils localised waterlogging can occur. In this case pot gully drains can be set within the area or slot (‘acco’) drains along the low edge. Subject to site specific planning rules it may be possible to then pipe it to your storm drains (but not the main or foul drains). Otherwise it must discharge to a soak-way.

If you are installing a new hard surface there are a number of permeable surfaces available which allow water to soak into the ground where the rain falls rather than concentrating it at the run-off point.


This is a hole in the ground filled with hardcore or better, plastic drainage crates. These are commonly used to collect rain water run-off from hard areas such as drives or patios. To be effective it must be sited in ground that drains reasonably well otherwise it will quickly fill and be of no benefit. Addition of an overflow pipe may help as long as there is somewhere to discharge the excess water to.

raised plant beds

Raised Beds allow plants to thrive that are intolerant of wet soil

Going with the flow

It is sometimes better to go with, rather than to fight nature. Stepping stone slabs laid through a lawn that is wet in winter will provide a firm dry pathway.

For happy plants, adopt the ‘right plant, right place’ principle. Some plants hate wet feet, others will tolerate some winter waterlogging.

If your favourite plants don’t like wet soil, plant them in raised beds or just gently mounded borders to lift roots out of wet ground.

Designs for wet gardens

With an understanding of the causes and appropriate solutions your problem garden can be transformed into something beautiful. The image below shows a designed solution for the waterlogged garden pictured above. Because the garden is situated in an area with no means to effectively drain it we took a ‘go with the flow’ approach and got creative. It now features an elevated boardwalk over a ‘dry’ steam bed which becomes real in winter and has an added pump system backup. You can see the full case study at

design solution for a waterlogged garden

The design solution for the waterlogged garden shown above

If you are struggling with your muddy garden being walked into the house or it is simply a no-go area from Autumn to Spring we have the wellies and the solutions and would be delighted to help. Drop us an email at or call 01227 733447

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