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I have attached some picture of my yard after a good (1"-2") rain. The grass does not even grow in these low spots. I am planning on just bringing in some topsoil planting grass and raising my grade. Will this solve my standing water problems?
Maybe, maybe not. What you need to do is dig out one of the dead spots and find out what the soil is like under it. If it is mostly clay, adding a top layer will only delay waterlogging (though it may aid in runoff - in which case you might need to install drainage pipes to move the water elsewhere).
If the soil is high in clay content, you might want to consider amending it with sand/topsoil. But note that that can take a LOT of soil to amend to a decent depth, so could get expensive.
I agree with Talonts, and would add.. you need to look at the grade of your lawn too. Mine had a similar problem, and the contractors regraded the yard so the water flows away from the house so it cannot collect in your yard. It's not just a case of making one area higher; you have to create a slope that channels the water away and down to an area that will allow it to run off to the street. If you don't do that, it will just collect in a different area and you'll have the problem all over again.
We had the same problem and completely fixed it by installing a dry creek that winds through our yard. All down spouts are directed to the creek and it is quite fun to watch when there are torrential rains that create running water in the creek.
If none of these solutions are available (you also should check with your local zoning and storm drainage authorities - some of those solutions might not be allowed in your area) another option is a rain garden. There are a variety of web sites - your local university extension service, for starters - with information about these gardens that use plants that actually like waterlogged roots. It's good for the environment in all sorts of ways - it filters runoff so contaminants don't make it back into the water stream, usually uses native plants so you don't have to use artificial means to sustain them, and (my personal favorite) it cuts down on mowing.
Is there a place for the water to drain to even if you chanel it away from your property? That is, is the water draining into your property from nearby property? If so, you may want to talk with your neighbors or city to seek a solution. In the second photo there seems to be a garage--could it be that when the garage was built the grading for it caused the problem? Whatever you do, you have to be careful that your solution not become a problem for one of your neighbors.
Some important points were mentioned in previous replies. I certainly wouldn’t just add topsoil until you solve the problem itself (pooling water). The type of soil you have is important because (as previously mentioned) if it’s less pervious you have to accommodate that. I’m unfamiliar with the particulars, but there are tests you can do by simply digging a hole and pouring water into it and measuring how long it takes to drain. While it looks like you have a grading problem, the issue with simply regarding is: do you have anywhere (legally/politely/ethically) to direct the water? Local codes will usually address this, but regardless of laws you certainly don’t want your problem to become your neighbor’s problem.
If the water is coming from somewhere else you may be able to redirect it before it reaches this area of your yard. We had a similar problem in which runoff from other properties was pummeling our garage wall and we were able to redirect it through the use of “berms and swals” back to the neighbor’s property from whence it came (they are also downhill of much new construction and newly carved-out runoff paths). The neighbor didn’t mind because it was merely directing the same water to a different path before it reached their stream. However, the magnitude of the damage the water was causing made it quite clear that we were in dire need of a solution.
If redirection is not a legal (or political) option, you might want to look into installing a dry well. We also did one of these in an area where we couldn’t redirect runoff. Basically (again, you’d have to look into the particulars), you fill a big pit with rocks separated somehow from the dirt (landscape fabric and/or a catch basin) and direct the water to the pit using perforated pipe in gravel-filled trenches. The water collects in the dry well instead of your yard and dissipates through that instead of through your lawn. Again, the type of soil you have will determine whether this option is realistic. I think the water table can be an issue here as the “dry well” is supposed to be DRY when not serving its runoff purpose.
If all else fails, Chris’s suggestion of gardening to work with the problem instead of combating it may be your best bet.
Having been through two years of constant drainage-battling I want to encourage you: you CAN make a difference and once you solve (or at least ease) the problem, you will be able to enjoy your yard much more. Good luck!
I am a Master Gardener and live in a community with high water table, flooding. The table is so high that drywells are not possible. The rain garden suggestion is my advice there are several websites available and many community extension services that can provide information. Many people have redirected water to a low spot on purpose in communities like mine because there is no where else to send it. This can be an DIY or hired.
There are many species of trees, shrubs and plants that take up copious amounts of water, they retain it like a camel in drought situations as well; you may be surprised how common these plants may be. Addtional landscaping and solving a drainage problem is usually an aesthetically pleasing solution for everyone. Please let us know what you decide!:)
An option to regrading and trucking in a lot of dirt to get a proper grade would be to dig out the low area and put in a small decorative pond to collect the water. May be less expensive than dirt/grading and you get some enjoyment out of it.
The basic problem is the water is trapped in your yard, both vertically and laterally. So your yard is acting like a retention pond. This is not a good thing unless you design it to perform that function. Given the breadth of the ponding, I think you have both vertical issues (heavy clay strata near the surface of your property), and lateral issues (yard sloping toward structures which trap water).
The first thing you must do is either channel the water away, or design retention into your landscape. Designing retention into your landscape is my suggestion. You do not need to worry about violating someone else's runoff rights by diverting water onto their property. You also can incorporate water scapes adding appeal and uniqueness to you property. The type of retention you decide upon can vary based on the source of the water.
If you are getting run off from your roof and driveway, adding rain barrels or french drains to your downspouts and curbs can serve collection purposes. Be careful about the location of french drains so you don't create a basement or foundation water problem. If you are getting run off from neighbors' properties, adding french drains along those property lines should help. If you simply have a high water table, and are not getting run off from other places, install the drain or pond at the lowest point in your yard. I have also seen an odd condition where farmland was converted into building or housing land. During the excavation, an old, clay field drainage tile line was broken. Then a footing or foundation wall blocked the flow of water through the drainage tile. So, not only was there the increased run off from the buildings, but a blockage of underground drainage compounding the retention problem. We installed a french drain to fix that problem. We dug it out by hand, but you can also rent a small backhoe or auger depending on the size of the drain you need to put in.
Once you can get the retention problem solved, adding topsoil and planting a lawn will be easier. You probably do have a lot of clay in your soil though. So, you may want to consider removing a few inches and replacing with good topsoil, or mixing in plenty of organic material.
Unfortunately, I don't think the easy fix of just adding soil will solve your problem. But, I hope you let us know how whatever you try turns out.
I am in no way an expert,thats why i use this site,but i would think adding top soil is the last step,not the first.You have to figure out what is going on under ground first,and work your way up to the top,or you will just be covering up the problem.I would have my soil tested first.