Not Wild About Wet Yards

Once the snow melts and spring rains shower our area, frustrated property owners begin flooding the office with concerns about wet and soggy yards.

Wet and soggy yards are not uncommon during the wet weather months. While the soil can absorb some of the snow melt and rain, even the best soils have a limited capacity to absorb large quantities of water. Water also tends to collect in low spots, which may remain wet for some time.

According to the Web Soil Survey, wet soils are not uncommon in Cuyahoga County. If the water table is close to the surface there will not be enough space in the soil to sop up the water. In addition, about 6% of the soils in the county are hydric soils—meaning they are seriously wet soils (think wetlands). And since at least 50% of Cuyahoga County soils have been mapped as “urban soils”, their ability to absorb water is greatly diminished during all seasons, which unfortunately also contributes to pollution issues in local streams and Lake Erie.

So what is homeowner to do?

Assess your yard to determine how the water flows. Investigate what type of soil you have (the Web Soil Survey is a great resource). Consider installing rain barrels or a cistern to collect the rainwater for later use. Rain gardens capture and allow rainwater to infiltrate slowly into the ground, thanks in part to the soil mix that is used in the garden. You can also create a rain garden in a low, wet area, but be sure to use water-tolerant plants. Moving downspouts and surface drainage away from the foundations and structures with swales or French drains can help channel the water into a rain garden or drier area on your property--just avoid directing water to another person’s property. When planting in wetter areas, choose native plants that can handle having wet feet because they will thrive in those conditions. Thirsty trees, such as willows thrive in wetter soils. Replace lawns with moisture loving ground covers or create a moss garden in shady wet areas.

Water and gravity have great potential to accelerate erosion, especially along slopes and in areas with slippage- prone soils. Too much water in the wrong place will add weight to the shoulder of the slope, so direct the water away from the edge of the slope.

Many properties have limitations that can be overcome as long as you are armed with good information. Utilize the Web Soil Survey to garner a better understanding about the soil on your property. Investigate landscaping and rain water management through the library, internet and local landscaping companies. Take a look at the Cuyahoga SWCD website (http://www.cuyahogaswcd.org/resources) for other resources, such as the Rain Garden Manual and Drainage Around Your Home that can aid your planning process. Hopefully you will find a solution that will make you wild about your yard.

~by Janine Rybka

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