Waterlogged garden

How to Improve Garden Drainage

Guide on How to Improve Your Garden’s Drainage

Struggling for ideas on how to improve your garden’s drainage? During the colder, wetter months, garden drainage can be a source of frustration for many homeowners and landlords. The low temperatures can cause mud to harden, and constant rain only exacerbates the situation – something the Great British weather serves us every year!

But weather isn’t the sole culprit behind poor garden drainage. In some cases, a clogged downpipe can discharge rainwater directly onto the ground, making the situation even worse and potentially leading to waterlogging.

In this landscaping guide, we outline different ways to improve your garden’s drainage so that you can enjoy your pride and joy and not needing to worry about squelching mud!


  1. Reasons why you may have poor drainage
  2. Methods to improve garden drainage
  3. Drainage solutions for gardens

Reasons Why You May Have Poor Drainage

From flooded flower beds to waterlogged lawns, poor drainage plagues many gardens. Knowing these causes and factors is the first step in restoring your garden’s drainage problems.

Poorly draining soil

Some soil types, like clay soil or compacted soil, don’t drain water effectively, causing it to pool on your garden’s surface. This can lead to waterlogged plants and even structural damage to your garden.

Surface runoff

When rainwater flows quickly over the ground’s surface rather than soaking in, it can erode the topsoil and cause localised flooding in certain areas of the garden.

Standing water

Puddles or standing water in your garden are often the result of poor grading or low-lying areas that collect excess water. This can lead to root rot in plants and make it difficult to use the space.

Clogged drainage systems

Over time, drainage systems like French drains or gutters can become clogged with debris, preventing water from being carried away from your garden properly.

Inadequate sloping

A garden without proper sloping to direct water away from structures can result in water seeping into basements or foundations, causing structural damage and moisture-related problems.

8 Methods to Improve Garden Drainage

1. Mix in compost

If a relatively small area in your garden is suffering from poor drainage and the issue isn’t too severe, you can improve the situation by enriching the soil with organic matter – compost, brimming with oxygen-friendly pore spaces, is a great choice (mixing it with turf and lawn topsoil helps create essential air pockets). By incorporating 3 – 4 inches of compost each year, you can improve your garden’s drainage each year.

2. Grow plants that love water

In cases where the soggy area is too extensive to change through compost or remains unchangeable, such as a riverbank, various alternatives are available. The simplest option in these scenarios is to choose water-loving plants like marsh marigold, cardinal flower, and turtlehead.

3. Create a bog garden or pond

To address poor drainage in a more complex way, you can explore the idea of constructing a pond, bog, or water garden – this project may require professional intervention to shape the land for optimal water retention. As well as improving drainage in your garden, an added advantage of having a small pond on your property is its inherent ability to attract wildlife for drinking and bathing. Look forward to welcoming a variety of bird species like grackles, mockingbirds, catbirds, cardinals, and nuthatches to your wet garden!

4. Build raised garden beds

Raised beds can dramatically help improve the drainage in your garden. Lifting your plants, flowers and vegetables off of the ground, allows for better water saturation and having a raised bed in your garden has a plethora of extra benefits – from helping those with bad backs to providing a solid base for your flowers or vegetables to grow!

5. Pricking, slitting or spiking

One of the simplest ways to address garden drainage issues is by pricking your lawn. If you’re dealing with only a small amount of excess water, this method is highly effective. Create multiple 2 – 3 cm holes and fill them with sand or a similar absorbent material. This approach ensures better drainage, and making the holes deeper improves its effectiveness even further

6. Use bark chippings and mulch

By using bark chippings as mulch, you can enhance soil quality, curb weed growth, and minimise moisture loss. This mulch will slowly break down, releasing vital nutrients to nourish your plants as well as creating a well structured soil base.

7. Manage surface water

An effective and efficient way to improve garden drainage is by managing surface water run-off. Simply introduce sloping surfaces within your garden to direct excess water to a designated disposal area, such as a surface drain or a plant bed with moisture-loving plants. It’s worth mentioning that this approach could involve some costs, such as hiring a mini excavator to reshape your garden’s contours.

8. Install a lawn drain tile

For those seeking a more labour-intensive approach to rectify poor garden drainage, consider excavating the soil and installing underground drainage tiles. Attention to detail and preparation is key to success when installing drain tile. Carefully analyse the slope, tile depth, and where the water will outlet (a rain garden or bog garden might be necessary near the drain tile outlet).

Providing Drainage Solutions for Gardens

Here at Alsoils, we provide a range of landscaping products and services that will help improve the drainage of your garden. Whether it’s a bulk bag of turf and lawn topsoil, mushroom compost or soil conditioner or perhaps you need to get the experts in to provide a quote, we have the capabilities to deal with your garden drainage once and for all!

Helpful links and resources

About the Author

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The Alsoils Team

For more than three decades, Alsoils has been a trusted name in delivering superior soil, compost products and offering landscaping services. Based in Hampshire, Alsoils caters to a diverse clientele, including both homeowners and businesses. Our team are experts in all things gardening, so you can be sure you get the very best advice for topsoil, compost, manure and so much more!

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