Gardening next to house in sandy soil..

lookn4idzJuly 4, 2014

Where I used to live, we had clay soil everywhere, any slope and the water would run downhill. At our new house, I need to fix up this entrance area and since the ground is all sand , and any water seems to just go down irregardless of the slope... how are people landscaping along the side of their homes and ensuring that water is still being diverted away from their foundation?? Are you burying anything under the garden area that will divert water that has passed through the garden away from the home? As you can see in the photo the driveway is a bit higher than the rest of the area so I need to bring the ground up some, I want to put plants in and along the house ... there will be a step coming off the front porch so plants will go to the corner for now. I also don't have gutter in that area so will have to use something that can take the rain and not make a mess. Any ideas as to how you would tackle this, or what you have done yourself would be greatly appreciated.

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"As you can see in the photo the driveway is a bit higher than the rest of the area so I need to bring the ground up some..." I would think absolutely not. This IS the path for drainage. Presumably, it continues unobstructed to the street area so that the water can LEAVE your property. Trust me ... you will need it. Once you plant it properly, the swale will become barely noticeable.

As long as you have slope away from the house for several feet (10' is ideal; what is shown in the above picture is minimal. Maybe it could be improved with careful lowering of the drive, a little ... but I can't see that so am not advising it ... just mentioning it as a possibility for one who can see and make the determination.)

Don't know where you live. I am in central west coast Florida and yards are nothing but sand (as is, I believe with a few exceptions, the entire rest of the state.) You needn't be concerned that water soaks into the soil near the foundation. What enters the soil will keep on going down so as not to be a soupy mess and cause problems. (There are certain rare exceptions that would generally involve a larger area ... like several of your neighbors or neighborhoods.) It is that you want to drain away EXCESS surface water ... thus, the need for the drainage swale as shown in the above picture.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 11:33AM
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I meant I need to bring the ground up some along the foundation as the driveway is higher and the natural drainage is towards the house which I don't want. I think I will do some sort of drainage underground from the corner of the garage and out and get more slope on the planned garden side. I didn't know if people put down some type of membrane and then planned the garden on top of that .. the membrane or other product would be sloped away from house to ensure water would be directed away? If anyone knows of such a product?

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 9:07AM
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You want to leave at least 6inches between you siding and dirt/mulch.

Might be better to dig lower to create a shallow ditch for it to drain away from the house. All depends on what the rest of the yard looks like. Also depends on the grading of the driveway

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 9:31AM
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It certainly looks to me from the picture that water would indeed come off the higher driveway toward the house. A moderate amount of water just soaks into the sand, which is desirable. As Yaardvark says, though, you need to make sure that there's a channel for excess water to flow to the street.

Perhaps deepening the swale a bit and raising the level right next to the house would work (I'm not an expert!). but I wonder . . . is that going to be a main pathway into your house/porch? If so, that idea would be awkward.

Just as an aside, we have sandy soil and my subdivision says not to plant anything within 10 feet of the foundation. That's a lot!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 11:46AM
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I agree with lyfia, it looks like you can not/ should not raise the grade at the house. Better to enhance the swale by digging down, if a more voluminous swale is required to carry the water.

There is no membrane necessary or beneficial. And if you think you'll put one down just to control weeds ... I dare you to find a single person here who will recommend it.

Violet, I'm thinking your subdivision may be recommending no planting within 10' of house because of blowing sand control. We live in sand, too, but it doesn't blow and all houses here have plants within 10' ... and often within a foot or two! (I am not recommending that!)

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 3:00PM
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thanks for everyone's input .. what you are calling a swale is not really one .. nothing has been flowing downhill as it seems to pretty much just go down into ground. I don't really want much of a swale there since it will be a traffic area. After listening to your feedback, I will improve the soil obviously, I have 8 inches to bottom of siding, rather than go up there I go down in what you call the swale area .... at this location I could dig a V down into ground, lay some perforated tile at a gradual slope to the front yard ... this will all be covered with stone and somehow blend in with the walkway that will run along there ... the grass will be out of there and we need crushed for the driveway. On the flower bed I use cedar mulch, keep plants at least 1 foot from house and slightly slope the cedar mulch so it is deeper in back and gradually thinner towards swale, this will help divert water .. but still doing its job. In the end I have a foundation garden, walkway, driveway ... with an area for any excess drainage hidden below the stones?? sound reasonable?

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 11:43AM
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Actually, if you do everything right, the driveway should be the swale and carry the water away. What is that about drainage tiles and stone? It sounds like you are going to complicate things and make worse. (We're calling it a swale because it's a linear depression). If 20 times more water than what fell in the heaviest rain storm you've experienced so far came down, some of it would not soak in, but run off. It would follow that linear depression.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 6:55PM
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I don't really want water running down my driveway, nor do I want a depression between the garage parking and house, the stones and tile are a french drain, an area for excess water to drain to and it then runs to the lower elevation ... you surround it in stones and since my drive and walkway will be stones it should all blend? so basically you have what you call a swale but it is below the ground level and out of sight.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 7:44PM
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I can't really envision what you are talking about. But "out of sight" makes it sound like "also in danger of being unable to handle heavy storms." Best to check with a local pro.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 10:58PM
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here is a pic of a french drain ... I won't have grass on top but clean gravel, more of a V shape and doubt I will go 2 feet down but 1 foot.. this is the idea though .. it would handle excess water.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 3:05PM
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PKponder TX(7b)

It's your yard, you can certainly do what you want, but that nice, gravel filled ditch with perforated pipe will be full of sand and virtually useless in 5 years unless you plan a method and access to clean it out.
It looks as if there will be a lot of runoff from the garage. The swale that's there would carry that excess water away much faster.

Where is the walkway going?

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 4:20PM
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It's puzzling to think why one would opt for more expensive, complicated and likely to fail than simplicity, flexibility and fail proof. I don't think the OP understands what is being pitched, or has his/her plan fully thought through.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 9:28PM
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I came on here looking for ideas mainly about practices with foundation gardening and ensuring I am not exposing my foundation to excess water, they were limited so I did contact a local pro and the building inspector who suggested the french drain idea which would handle any potential excess water, it is sand around here so very easy to install and not expensive. At this time there is no so called swale in the yard, the water does not presently flow down the driveway .. it hangs out by the block step area till it filters down through the soil. I don't want a ditch between the garage parking and house because it is going to be a high traffic area. The french drain does have to be wrapped to ensure sand does not clog the holes, but water penetrates, one can even put a clean out on it but I won't be. Maybe it is overkill but I am determined to maintain a dry basement, provide an avenue for excess water to drain(out of sight), a safe walking area and I would like it to look good ... I have what you call swales in other parts of the yard where there is grass and next to no foot traffic but in this location I don't think it is appropriate ... thanks everyone for your ideas..

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 11:23PM
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perhaps in your case it would be worth it for your peace of mind to consult a live landscape professional in your area. Sometimes feet on the ground is better if you don't believe you are getting appropriate answers here.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 9:43AM
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"Maybe it is overkill but I am determined to maintain a dry basement, provide an avenue for excess water to drain(out of sight), a safe walking area and I would like it to look good ..." This statement is what tells me that there is a disconnect. Also, I think you don't understand that it is possible for a swale to be nearly imperceptible. The word creates the vision of a ditch in your mind. How will water enter the "french drain" you envision, if it is not directed there by surface grade of a generally linear pattern -- a swale? You "don't want water running down the driveway" ... but where is all water falling ON the driveway going to go, if not down the driveway?

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 12:18PM
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