How to Fix a Waterlogged Lawn
Waterlogged lawns occur when clay-like, dense or compacted soil is subjected to periods of heavy rain. The rainwater sits on the surface of the lawn and fails to drain away through the soil, leaving the lawn underwater.
Healthy soil is full of air, which allows grass roots to breathe, but when water saturates the soil, the air in the soil travels to the surface and escapes. This is a problem for grass roots as they need oxygen to live.
Although grass is quite hardy and could survive a few days without oxygen, it would eventually begin to turn yellow and die.
How to Spot a Waterlogged Lawn
This might sound obvious – if a lawn is either partly or fully covered by water it’s safe to say it’s waterlogged. However, you might come across a lawn which isn’t currently saturated, so it is not immediately obvious that the lawn is prone to waterlogging.
A waterlogged lawn is squelchy to walk on and it may have a lot of moss growth. Examine the blades of grass for signs of yellowing which indicates the lawn is, or has recently been, starved of oxygen.
How to Fix a Waterlogged Lawn
Firstly, and most importantly, you must make every effort not to walk on the grass. Footsteps on the waterlogged lawn will squeeze out any remaining oxygen from the soil which will kill the grass faster, as well as further compacting the soil which will make the problem worse.
Once the water has gone, assess the damage and consider the following steps to fix the lawn.
Aerating the lawn will help to improve drainage and will add air into the soil which will improve the conditions for the grass roots to live in. You can aerate the lawn by either spiking the lawn with a garden fork or aerator shoes, or by using a hollow tine aerator. The best tool will depend on the severity of the waterlogging which has occurred and the type of soil you are dealing with.
A hollow tine aerator removes cylinders of soil 10-15cm deep, which can then be filled with horticultural sharp sand which will help to keep the soil loose and draw out the moisture, this will help the lawn to recover more quickly
Regular aeration is essential throughout the spring and summer months to help minimise the compaction of the soil, which will in turn help to minimise waterlogging in the autumn and winter.
Appropriate soil cultivation is essential in areas where soil is all or mostly clay, or where the soil has been heavily compacted. Adding bulky organic matter, like compost, will improve the soil structure and create a better foundation for lawns and grass roots. Incorporating as much as one wheelbarrow of compost per square metre of ground is a good place to start. You may find you need more or less compost depending on the composition of the existing soil.
Moss Killer & Fertiliser
Wet soils and dead patches of grass allow for moss to grow. This should be treated with a moss killer to prevent the moss from taking over, allowing the lawn to thrive.
Fertiliser should be used on the lawn during the spring to help the grass recover from the wet winter. Using a fertiliser will also help the root system to develop into a more substantial network which should further help the grass to withstand waterlogging in the following winter.
Other Things To Consider
A French Drain
Consider a French drain if the waterlogging problem is considerable, although this will likely involve considerable upheaval and therefore incur greater costs. If you have tried everything else and the lawn is still prone to waterlogging, this option will help surface water run away from the problem area.
Choose pathways and patio surfaces which allow water to easily soak in, this will help to prevent the water running off and onto the grass area.
Dig a Ditch
This is not a suitable suggestion for everyone’s garden, but digging a ditch at the lowest point would allow water to run away and sit somewhere it won’t do any damage.
Plant a Bog Garden
Create a bog garden by choosing plants which thrive in waterlogged areas and will also help to soak up water. A bog garden can create an almost tropical look and creates a nice habitat for insects.
Seed the lawn in the spring and summer, both on bare patches and where the grass is thick. Not only will this help to keep moss at bay, it will also help to create a thicker lawn with a more complex root structure which will be able to absorb more water during the next rainy season. Be sure to choose a grass seed which has a resilience to damp roots as it will be better suited to the conditions.
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