Too Much Water in the Garden?

by - March 24, 2012

It is raining again. The cistern is completely full, the French tile drain is at capacity, and everything goes squish when stepped on. There is more rain the forecast for tonight and tomorrow. Our garden sits on a small plateau that seems to retain water. Two days ago I dug out a dead hibiscus to discover standing water at the bottom of the hole and a big fat spider.

Currently all the paths are under water, which first blew my mind but then validated our decision to dig the paths down while building the beds up. There are still spots where the beds are too low and little seedlings are barely getting air.

Remember last year when I thought it would be cute to upcycle a sink into a small garden water feature? Remember how I pulled it out and filled the spot with rocks? Well the pond is back - not by choice.

When there is too much rain or when your garden seems to stay too wet, what can you do?

Wet conditions are usually caused by a high water table or water retaining soils such as clay. Occasional ponding or squishy conditions are okay, but if you start noticing a funny smell and have trouble with moldy sick plants, you may have too much water too often. There are several options for improving the space:
  • Build up. You can do a raised bed or mound up the in-ground beds. This will add several inches to the root zone.
  • In the same respect to building up the beds, recessing paths gives the water a place to flow away from the roots of your plants. 
  • If there are tight clays, break them up and improve infiltration by adding compost and organic materials. Don't be tempted to add sand though - sand and clay make bricks!
  • Install a drain pipe or French Tile drain to help lower the water table.
  • Utilize the lowest spot to excavated a small pond. Water features can be attractive and draw in more wildlife. Just make sure that you want the wildlife to be there and have a plan for mosquito control.
  • Plant according to the soils - if there is a lot of water, use water loving plants!

You May Also Like


  1. Rain can be a friend or foe of gardeners and plants but water can be utilized properly especially with purpose. This post features one good way of using excess water that can accumulate in particular garden spaces. Thank you for sharing experience for us to learn from.



Get lovesown posts in your inbox!