Like most rural yards I have a shallow runoff ditch between the road and my main yard. Over the whole 40 ft span the ground seems to slope in a consistent direction towards a larger common ditch/creek. But there are a few 1-2 ft spans of it that flatten and hold ~1 inch of water occasionally, causing the entire span to stay saturated.

The soil in the runoff ditch is clay so it's prone to saturation anyway. I wouldn't care much except for the fact that I need to mow the grass along this area, and 2 inches of clay mud isn't conducive to that. The soil does occasionally dry, but it can also go weeks as mud, especially in the spring.

Would a smooth-piped french drain with a fabric pipe sock & gravel help this situation? The saturated area is about 40 ft long and 3 ft wide.

I'd also like to get some thicker grass to grow there to help with evaporation, but not sure how much that will help the situation.

  • Seems like the simplest solution would be to convert this to an area you DON'T "have to mow" - there are many resources on "rain gardens" to serve that purpose, and suitable plant types for them. It would probably involve a shift in your point of view as to "what my yard by the road should look like," though, or you'd already be there. Consider it? epa.gov/soakuptherain/soak-rain-rain-gardens
    – Ecnerwal
    Apr 20, 2019 at 23:32
  • @Ecnerwal I'll take a look, but unfortunately I doubt that is an option. This is not merely a depressed area that collects water, it's a designated channel for runoff. If I planted trees and bushes here the water would simply redirect to another path in the lawn, creating the same issue. The runoff comes from 100+ yards of roadside ditch, it has to be given an outlet. As far as mowing goes, it's less about mowing this specific span and more about needing to get near/across it. Apr 21, 2019 at 1:54
  • @Ecnerwal Thanks for the rain garden info though. I'll definitely keep all that in mind as part of the final solution. Apr 21, 2019 at 2:01
  • Well, as I understand them, they are stil acting as a channel, but they are also acting to slow the flow of water, both filtering it and allowing more of it to get back into the ground, rather than "just leave" - but when too much comes, they are still shaped to that it will just leave, and they are a depressed area, so the water collects there, rather than being diverted elsewhere due to them. You might even want to dig out a bit more. IIRC (not having re-read everything just now) most of the recommended plants are not trees (which tend to do poorly with constantly wet roots.)
    – Ecnerwal
    Apr 21, 2019 at 2:34

1 Answer 1


It sounds like the grading of your ditch and/or yard degraded (pun not intended) or was never perfectly graded.

even a a berm of a few inches is enough to trap water in a puddle and saturate the soil. Especially clay.

Some time with a shovel and a laser level to grade the yard and ditch better would be more effective.

If you lack a laser level or the eye to find the high spots, you can instead mark where the puddles end and dig there to lower the soil to provide a runoff path for the water. Repeat until you have no more standing puddles after rain. Put the excess soil into the puddle itself. (pull up the grass sods first as needed)

  • I think is what I'll end up doing. The full length of the ditch has a proper grade, but it indeed had created a few berms of soil along the length of it, that each dammed up a little water. Not sure how/why that happens, but wish I could do something to prevent it. I drove my tractor along the length the other day and the rear tire pressed a channel about 5 inches deep along the length, which helped funnel some of the standing water, but the soil is currently 100% mud, so i'll have to wait for it to dry and then permanently fix those dammed areas. Apr 28, 2019 at 12:07

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