How To Drain Your Lawn And Improve Your Drainage

Kenneth Wilson

They say that too much of anything is bad, and that’s true, especially if it’s too much water for your lawn.

One of the worst nightmares lawn owners can have is waking up to see their yard filled with puddles. After working so hard on maintaining and manicuring the lawn, it’s such a waste to see standing water all over your backyard or have muddy soil.

Not only does it make your yard look unsightly and make the ground squelchy, but it can also damage other parts of your lawn and home, ruin the landscape, become a health hazard, or be a sign for a bigger problem. 

Of course, it’s not a problem if it only occurs after heavy rain showers, but if it happens often, then it’s an issue you need to properly deal with. It is also essential to fix this problem so that you can improve the overall health of your yard.

To help you fix your swampy lawn, you should know what it looks like, the common reasons why yards get standing water, its effects on your yard and home, how to get rid of the puddles, improving the drainage, and ways to prevent it from happening regularly.

When should puddles be an issue?

Before you go into a panic after seeing a puddle or several areas with standing water in your lawn, you first need to determine if it’s just a normal after-heavy-rain puddle or a drainage problem.

It’s also not just puddles. If your lawn has muddy areas, similar to this one, then it can be an issue.

To clarify, if you still have puddles for more than a day after a heavy rain, then it’s probably a drainage problem. But that’s not the worse it can get. There are times that standing water has been there for 3 months or longer that it somewhat became a landscaping feature of a lawn - and no one wants that!

What are the common reasons why lawns get standing water?

Now that you’ve realized how long those puddles have been in your lawn for way too long, it’s time to know why it happens. There are several reasons why water stands in a yard:

Heavy rain

The most common reason water stands in your lawn is after a heavy downpour, especially if it occurs over a long time. Fortunately, it doesn’t always end in a permanent pond as sometimes the after puddles are only temporary. But if it happens often, you or a professional should look into it because this may eventually saturate the ground and affect your lawn’s drainage.                                    

Type of soil

A lawn’s soil is a huge factor that can affect drainage capabilities. Depending on your location and climate, your lawn may have a poorly draining soil. For example, yards with clay soil may be more prone to puddles. This is because the soil is denser, which makes it difficult for water and air to flow through. Eventually, this may absorb the moisture, but you’ll have to suffer looking at an unsightly yard, waiting for it to evaporate.

Low areas

Similar to how we can sled down slopes due to gravity, water also works the same way in a lawn with sloping terrain. After heavy rain, the water usually drains downwards, and usually, it ends in low areas in your yard. This will then become a puddle of water, which makes our lawn look like an eyesore.                                    


Even if you don’t have a dense type of soil, if it’s compacted, then your lawn will be more prone to standing water. When soil is compacted, it will be tightly packed, preventing water from draining through it. Soil tends to be compacted in areas where there’s high foot traffic, usually the pathways or areas where people gather.

Poor root system

Aside from soil, your plants', turf', and other vegetation’s root system also play a huge role in your lawn’s drainage. If it’s underdeveloped and thin, then it wouldn’t be able to absorb the water.

Landscaping features

It doesn’t happen often, but an embedded fence, nearby concrete area, or a newly paved road may contribute to the development of puddles in lawns.                                            

Effects of standing water on a lawn

Aside from making your lawn look like an eyesore, there are other problems that may arise if standing water is not dealt with. Here are some of the negative effects that may happen to your lawn and home:

Unsightly and 'unmowable' lawn

When the lawn becomes muddy, not only will it be squelchy, but it would look terrible and eventually ruin the curb appeal. And if there’s standing water, you won’t be able to freely mow your lawn, which will make it look worse.

Attract mosquitoes

The yard may become a breeding ground for insects such as mosquitoes, which would be harmful to humans’ and animals’ health, as well as plants and grass.

Ruining grass and plants

When there are puddles, these may prevent water or oxygen from reaching the grass’ and plants’ root systems. If this happens, they will not grow properly. Things can turn for the worse as it may also damage or kill plants, grass, and other vegetation in your yard.

Making it difficult to grow

Several bald spots or areas may start popping all over your yard. The grass and other plants may have a hard time growing in your lawn.

Different growth and more infestations

On the other hand, puddles will help other things grow such as weeds and moss. There is also a higher chance for lawn diseases or fungal infestations. A swampy lawn is a perfect environment for root rot and other fungi to develop and damage plants.


Your yard will become inaccessible when there’s standing water everywhere. You won’t be able to use the yard for relaxing, playing, exercising, partying, and other activities you want to do with family and friends.

Injury-prone area

If ever you do plan to use your lawn, then you should be careful. The turf will become slippery, which could lead to slips and other injuries.

Bringing it indoors

After being able to bare using your yard with the puddles, your next problem will be your shoes. You can bring muddy prints indoors, which will make someone mad - it could be you, a wife, a husband, a pet, the cleaner, or maybe someone wearing socks or who's barefoot accidentally stepping on the mud when they least expect it happening inside their home.

Damages outside the lawn

Not only will your yard be ruined, but standing water can also affect your home’s foundation, nearby paved areas, and other structures. It may also cause a basement leak if you have one.

How to drain your yard

There are two ways you can remove puddles, you can either let it drain through the soil or siphon the water.

Brush, poke and aerate

Before you touch the lawn, make sure that the ground is moist and not wet. After waiting for most of the water to evaporate, you can get rid of the leftover ones by gently pushing it to the edge of your lawn with a brush or broom. 

After, poke large holes in the lawn using a garden fork. Follow it up by aerating it with a hollow tine aerator to remove the plugs. This will help drain some of the water through the soil.

Siphoning with a garden hose

If you don’t want to wait for evaporation to do its thing, here’s how you can get rid of standing water:

To drain the water away and quicken the drying process, so the yard will become less muddy as well, you can try the siphon method using a garden hose. The great thing about this method is you won’t be needing a pump, generation, or any kind of power source.

If you’re worried you don’t have a significant elevation drop - don’t! Just make sure to have a few inches of drop after more than 50 or 100 feet for the siphoning to work.

In the video, they were able to get rid of 1.3 gallons or 5 liters per minute using a garden hose. This means you can get rid of 78 gallons per hour or 1,900 gallons per day.

For those who want to drain their lawn faster, you can use a hose with a larger diameter or more hoses. Some people make use of 6-inch PVC pipes as siphons, but it would be harder to get the process started.

Preventing puddles and improving your lawn drainage

Before doing anything to your lawn for prevention methods and drainage improvements, make sure that no one steps on any area because it can damage the grass and make the issue much worse. Once the soil is drying and has turned from wet to moist, you can try these ways on how to prevent standing water and improve the drainage.

Determine the cause

The first thing you should do is observe your lawn and find the areas where water stands. If the lawn is uneven, level the area out. If the soil is compacted, you need to aerate it. When the water has nowhere to run off, you will need a drainage system.

French drain

A long-term solution for standing water is installing a french drain. First, you dig a trench and place washed gravel at the bottom and a 6-inch or more perforated drainage pipe. After, cover the trench with washed stone, especially in the area where you want to redirect the water. For the rest of the trench, backfill it with the soil that was originally in place of the trench.

For the length of the pipe, using 20 to 50 feet or longer will allow more room for the water to spread underground, which will also leach and seep into the ground. But aside from the diameter and length, it’s important for the pipe to be sloped downwards, even at a small angle. For a 6-inch pipe, it should fall after 100 lineal feet, just to make sure that the water gets to the end of the pipe.

Aerate often

You can improve your lawn drainage by regularly aerating your lawn. This will also help air reach the deeper parts of the soil. Try using a hollow tine aerator as it creates better airflow and improves drainage to the lower levels of the soil. 

Better root system

After creating, you can also fix poor root systems by re-seeding. These seeds will germinate and may produce well-developed, thick, and complex root systems that will help absorb the water falling on the lawn.

Using sand

You can help your soil absorb moisture by topping it with compost or sand. Sand is lighter and coarser, which makes it easier for water to flow through. By sand, these are small particles of stones that have a size of 1/16 to 2 millimeters. Sand can be further classified based on its size. You can use fine-grain sand (⅛ tp ¼ millimeter), medium sand (¼ to ½ millimeter), or coarse sand (1 to 2 millimeters) depending on your lawn drainage needs. But if you want the water to drain faster, then coarse sand is the best option. 

If you have clay soil, you can add soil to fix the drainage. But for it to be effective, you need to find the proper mix since with the wrong amount, your soil can turn cement-like. It’s best to use a ratio of 1 part of sand to 2 parts of clay. So if you need to top 2 inches of clay soil, the sand should be 1-inch thick on top. You can then use a rototiller to work in the sand into the soil.

Use sand and gravel

For those with pipes and a drain, you can improve drainage using gravel and sand. This is for those who plan to have an underground drain at the lowest point of the lawn and pipes that bring the water to the drain. Fill the trench the pipe will be in with sand and gravel before covering it with soil or turf, preventing blockage and reducing standing water.

Kenneth Wilson
March 9, 2020
Yard & Garden

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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