How can we cure surface water flooding in garden?

We live in an area with high water table, currently about 2 inches below ground level. Land is also heavy clay pan. Subsequently when it rains the site floods to several inches takes days to drain away into a garden soakaway. Problem compounded by rain water from roof draining into soak away in already soaked garden. There are no visible drains to tap into, these seem to pass under house and if there were any outside of house, they are now buried under extension built before we moved here!

Ground slopes towards back of property and have been told that, even if a drain could be found, to lay another to join it may make the new drain or garden soakaway too shallow. Have tried one contractor but they offer no solutions. Anyone else been here? We can live with a soggy lawn but wading through several inches of water in wellies just to get the bin is not a novelty. We understand that, in summer, the land dries out, not lived here long so yet to see. All help really appreciated.

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6 Responses to “How can we cure surface water flooding in garden?”
  1. Taniya Singh Said:

    You can dig trenches across the ground, lay pipes in them, cover them with sand and gravel and top soil, and make sure the pipes discharge into your neighbours’ gardens.

  2. Ulises Stockdale Said:

    I haven’t been in that exact situation, but if your water table is really two inches below the surface, it must be difficult to garden (unless your growing rice, cranberries or some other watery crop). One common technique is hauling in top soil to build up the area around your house, sloping it away from where it is not wanted. Raised rock slabs as a walk-way to your rubbish bin will help. Unfortunately, walking on the land while it is soaked is the worse thing you can do because you compact the soil and reduce its capacity to hold water and air, which just exacerbates the issue and adds to the clay pan.

    In addition to a garden soakaway, you may also want to install rain barrels so that the rain or snow melt (I don’t know what type of climate you’re living in) doesn’t reach the land at the wettest moment, but later when you might actually need it to reach your plants. Remember that a 1,000 sq. ft. roof in a 1 inch rainfall sheds 625 gallons of water onto your property, so plan to capture and store your water accordingly.

    Another technique is trenching, or creating swales and berms to focus the water where you want it and keep your plants or paths elevated above the water– you can direct your gutters into the trenches. However, in your case you may need to build up the amount of land above the water table first or create raised beds as part of the swale/berm system. Rain gardens can also be effective– they involve putting in a large amount of peat, which is highly absorbsive. However, again, taking at face value that you’re only two inches above water, that strategy might not work for you. Could also try to dig several garden soakaway structures if you have a large enough garden.

  3. Taniyah Hutchinson Said:

    well, how about a big hole in the ground acting as a pond (as the water level is so high you won’t need to spend a fortune on the lining) and a water reservoir to which the water from your garden could be drained to. Make the most of it and have a water garden, there’s plenty of thursty plants that will be very happy there, I also like the suggestion about stepping stones, I know it’s not very practical for going to rubbish bin, but may be fun in another part of the garden. You probably won’t be able to get rid of it, just need to direct the water where YOU want it.

  4. Savannah Cuthbert Said:

    The trick to beginning a garden where there is a high water table is raised beds. Plants have to have drainage their roots cannot be always moist. You have to bring in good soil/compost/organic material, and raise your planting surfact up 10 – 12. These beds can be constructed in many ways, can find suggestions in books on the internet, etc., but raised beds are essential. You keep adding compost/organic material, you break down the clay and drainage improves. Good luck

  5. Camryn Leighton Said:

    You said it all when you noted heavy clay pan. Even if you get most of the water out, your still going to find your have lousy soil for gardening. Soggy gumbo when wet, rock hard when dry.
    Build raised beds for your veggies and flowers. Try to get them up at least three inches. Your results will be worth the investment.
    And, at the back of your property. Plant some native swamp-loving plants. If you’re down-South like me, some Louisiana Irises would be very happy there.
    As far as your flooding problems, a long garden hose from the back to the front can be used to siphon out your swamp when it fills up after a heavy rain. It take a day or two to drain; but it’s cheap and it does work.

  6. Preston S Said:


    I know how you must be feeling, I guess you live in a rural aspect down south.

    The advice given in this thread is all good stuff, raised beds etc but if you have a clay base it is always going to act like a huge terracotta pot.

    You need to move the water away from your property or at least control it.

    I tried to dig a soak-away, basically a large hole full of rubble, After a weeks work, 8ft down and still hitting clay, It soon filled with water
    and I now have a pond.

    Not one to give up I brought a submersible pump and 50 Mt’s of blue water hose from Screw-fix direct for just under £100.

    I can now pump out the water which is making a big improvement to the surrounding site.

    I am thinking of laying perforated pipes to run excess water from the worse trouble spots into the hole (we now call the well).

    The pumped out water is sent away onto farm land sloping away from the house.

    In the summer I hope to have free water to beat the mandentory hose pipe ban.

    There is loads of sites regarding this subject, the best being from the local water authorities.

    Good luck


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