Alternatives to a French Drain

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Terraces can be used instead of French drains

Many homeowners have drainage issues that cause problems with their landscaping and lawn. A common method to solve landscaping problems is a French drain. A French drain is simply a trench dug in a low-lying area that is filled with stones and topped with sand. The drain can then be covered with lawn, shrubs or flower beds. In addition to French drains, there are other methods that can be used to take water a way from problem drainage areas. These often include vegetation, swales and terracing



Collecting water is often controlled simply by the right vegetation. Lawns absorb a considerable amount of water. When planting lawns for erosion control you must consider that almost all lawn grasses require a sunny area in order to grow properly. If the area IS shady enough that grass cannot be planted, then consider planting garden beds. Garden beds are often used in areas that are susceptible to standing water. Plant a bed of ground cover or shrubs that can withstand high levels of groundwater. Deep rooted shrubs such as currant, red alder or vine maple in garden beds prevent erosion.


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Another alternative to a French drain is a landscaping technique called a swale. Whereas French drains are normally 12 inches wide, a swale is a low area that is approximately three feet wide. Swales are small valleys that lead water away from low areas. Swales are almost always covered with vegetation such as grass or ground cover. Some landscapers place stone in the bottom of the swales. Some use other decorative features such as bridges and walkways to make the swale appear as a dry stream bed. Multiple swales can be used to carry water away from hilly areas to prevent erosion. Ideally, swales should lead to ditches or wooded areas that are capable of accepting runoff water.



Terracing is a good alternative. A terrace provides multiple level areas on a hillside instead of one angled space. The flatter areas of the terrace prevent water from racing down the hill and causing erosion. Terraced areas are planted with ground cover, shrubs or flowers. Do-it-yourself homeowners should avoid high terraced walls as the pressure behind these walls can be high and cause them to break. Shorter walls that are spaced closely down the slope are a better alternative for homeowners.


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