Runoff problems? It seems every neighborhood has 1 or 2 properties with serious runoff problems. These areas of bare dirt gather up a momentum of mud every time it rains. The mud ends up on the sidewalk and in the streets and ultimately sewer drains. Why is this happening, can’t something be done?
It baffles me why some homeowners seem to ignore these problems. These situations are usually caused by a number of conditions. Perhaps this area of the property has severe shade problems and grass will not grow. If the runoff area is not getting at least 2 to 3 hours of filtered sunlight a day it will be hard to grow grass there. Consider removing some trees or at least remove some lower branches so sunlight can help dry out the soil and grow grass. Another option is to heavily mulch these areas so soil does not erode away. Be sure that the flow of water from a downpour will not move the mulch around. If this happens you need to work on drainage problems.
Rainwater from the rooftop needs to filter its way into the ground and not just blaze a mud path across the property. Install a French drain to stop or slow down the movement of water in that area. You can also divert some of the water with an above the ground drainpipe onto a grassy area that will prevent erosion and allow the water to filter slowly into the ground. This will help to keep mulch in place in these bare dirt areas.
Speaking of drainage, is your property graded correctly? The ground must be pitched away from the house foundation. Create a drainage swale in the grass to help divert the force of the water coming off of the house during rainfall. If you have severe drainage problems getting a professional to correct this may be your only choice.
The most likely reason your may have runoff in your yard is poor soil quality. Grass cannot thrive without the proper soil conditions; neither can tomatoes in your garden. Soil pH needs to be between 6.2 and 7.0 for best growth, this requires you to take a soil test. Our soil pH test kits are available at your local lawn and garden center or hardware store. Quality soil is a general statement, but you need the proper mix of clay, silt and sand to create a good growing medium along with some organic matter. Sandy soils are a larger particle that drain quickly and is frequently used to break up clay soils when mixed together. Silty soil is made up of medium sized particles and may erode quickly if not kept moist. Clay soils are made of very small particles which compact easily and need soil amendments added such as sand or peat moss. Good soil is rich in humus which is created by decaying materials such as leaves, grass clippings and compost. Healthy soil also has a higher water holding capacity. This is the type of soil quality you want to achieve.
Exposed soil without any vegetation to hold the soil in place causes problems too, such as fertilizer runoff and leaching. Any applications of fertilizer to bare soil are really worthless since there are no grass plants to absorb the nutrients. Many times these areas get fertilized anyway when making fertilizer applications. If there are not grass plants to absorb the lawn food, the fertilizer either leaches downward in the soil or washes across the soil surface potentially into streets and eventually water ways. New Jersey enacted their lawn fertilizer laws in order to reduce this type of runoff and water contamination. Studies show that unused nutrients from fertilizers can create algae blooms which are not good for the environment.
Please do your part to establish grass vegetation on any exposed bare dirt areas of your home, Mother Nature will thank you.