When rains pour, they can bring several problems that are sometimes difficult to deal with. One in particular that frustrates a lot of homeowners is the runoff that goes directly on their lawns. This happens when rain falls so fast or heavily that the ground cannot absorb water at once.
Storm water runoff poses a number of serious issues. For one, it can cause soil erosion, and the the dirt, grass clippings and other debris it scours from the lawn carry pollutants to bodies of water. These things can affect marine habitat by blocking sunlight, which in turn promotes the growth of algae that feeds on the oxygen that supports aquatic life. In areas where sanitary and storm sewers are combined, storm water runoff can overwhelm sewers, causing basement overflows and backups.
If you leave in a low-lying area, your lawn and home are particularly at risk of being damaged by storm water runoff. So to avoid watery disasters down the road and prevent paying expensive storm water management fees in the future, here are simple and frugal solutions you can do today to keep that pesky runoff at bay.
Attach rain barrels to downspouts
A rain barrel is typically tied into a downspout to collect rainwater coming down the roof. The water can then be reused for watering plants, cleaning the driveway and washing cars. While you can easily purchase new rain barrels at your local home improvement store, which may cost anywhere from a $100 or more, you can save some cash if you make them on your own.
Containers such as wine and whiskey barrels and gallon drums make for great rain barrels. You can buy them for a couple of dollars at local food distributors, car wash stalls and local vineyards. Or, if you have a nice neighbor you may even get them for free. To turn them into rain barrels, you can search over the Internet for step-by-step instructions from DIYers who also made their own rain barrels. With a little elbow greasing, not only will you prevent runoff from damaging your lawn and home, you also get to help the environment by reusing rainwater.
Build a rain garden or berm
If you love gardening, one of the best things you can do to collect and clean storm water runoff is to create a rain garden. A rain garden is a collection of native plants that are strategically placed in slight depressions to collect runoff. It is designed to contain water long enough so that it percolates into the soil, where it is filtered. Native plants are recommended for this type of garden because they require minimal upkeep and do not necessarily need fertilizers. Native plant species that have large root system are a great choice since they absorb rainwater pretty well.
Another great way to put your gardening skills into good use to control runoff is to create berms on your lawn. A berm is simply a tiny hill that is covered with grass or other plantings, which will divert water around the area that you want to protect. Before you build berms, you need to have a clear plan as to where you want the runoff to flow and what type of plant to use. Although grass is a great option, maintaining grass berms can be time-consuming since you need to mow them from time to time. You can check your local nursery to find other plantings that are easier to maintain and will blend well into your landscape.
Intercept water by creating a swale or French drain
You can intercept rainwater by adding a swale–a shallow ditch with sloping sides – or a French drain– a trench with a perforated pipe at the bottom and then filled with gravel–on your lawn. Any of the two are great DIY projects you can finish over the weekend. Just make sure that before you start digging, you find a good site where the drainage will be added to avoid ruining your landscape.
Pay special attention to your lawn
Aside from the ones mentioned above, paying special attention to how you attend to the upkeep needs of your lawn can do a great deal in reducing runoff. Things such as leaving grass clippings on your lawn, mowing your turf high (preferably to a height of 2 to 3 inches), washing your car on the lawn instead of the driveway, doing soil test and periodically aerating your lawn can help you manage runoff and prevent the damage it can do to your property and the environment.
This piece of home and garden improvement advice was written by one of the regular contributors of McIntyre Masonry, a family-run stonemasonry company in Edinburgh that provides a full range of services related to stonework, including structural alterations, chimney repairs, boundary wall restoration and build and lime mortar pointing.