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What should I do with this drainage ditch? (pics)

Posted by aggierose (My Page) on
Sat, Jul 14, 12 at 18:37

We are buying a new house and the back yard has a huge drainage ditch in it. I would love to find a creative way to make it some sort of usable space. Obviously, I can't fill it in, but do any of you have any idea of what I could do? It's possible to lay something over the top of it. It's approx 6 1/2 feet from the rock retaining wall to the fence and the ditch is the entire width of the yard which is about 80 feet. If making it usuable space isn't possible, what suggestions do you have for what I should do with the landscaping? Thx!

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Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: What should I do with this drainage ditch? (pics)

I don't know; I suppose the bulk of your usable yard really ends at the top of the retaining wall. Covering it over would be a mistake and most people with a swale gouging out their yards when it rains would literally kill for a nice cement channel directing storm water away.

Perhaps a well thought out and nicely designed bridge would give you easy access to plant something and break up the expanse of fence. And a layering of shrubs at the upper yard side of the retaining wall would give you something to look out at.

It's almost a perfect example of a "ha-ha"; see pictures in the attached link.

Here is a link that might be useful: The ha-ha


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RE: What should I do with this drainage ditch? (pics)

  • Posted by fori CA (My Page) on
    Sat, Jul 14, 12 at 20:44

I gotta say that's one of the most tastefully done drainage ditches I've ever seen.

Could you line it with flat river rocks, overlapping the lawn on the far side to make it less straight, plant stuff that isn't grass on that side, and pretend it's a dry stream bed? Okay, that's cheesy.

How hard is it to get the lawn mower over there, anyway?

You might want to sit through a year to see just how much action that ditch gets. Trickle or torrent?


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RE: What should I do with this drainage ditch? (pics)

Fori, it's going to be a huge pain to get the lawn mower on the other side of the ditch! That brick retaining wall is only about 1- 1/2 feet tall, but I don't think that strip of grass is even wide enough for a lawn mower. It will be close. I'm not opposed to planting something along that entire strip of grass in front of the fence, but I would want it to be something really pretty since its what we will look out to, and also be perennial, as well as very low maintnance. I don't mind that the ditch is there, I just wish it didn't take up so much of the yard. I had even thought of somehow putting a deck across the ditch in one corner so we could have a sitting area there. It would have to somehow attach to the area right in front of the fence and then the area on the other side of the retaining wall. That way the ditch wouldn't be filled in and the decking would still allow for water to go through. That would probably look bad though.


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RE: What should I do with this drainage ditch? (pics)

Lucky you! That is definitely a unique feature. My preference would be to remove all the grass on the far side of the ditch and
plant with formal columnar conifers interspersed with larger feature boulders and (gasp, I'm surprising myself here) rock mulch.


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RE: What should I do with this drainage ditch? (pics)

Where does the water come from? Is the house behind the fence on higher ground that drains into your yard or does the drain run across everyone's yard catching run off and going to a settlement pond? Can we do a fly over on google maps? If you did a deck would you have a way to get under it if the ditch became clogged? Where do you live and what is your average rainfall? Lots of questions.


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RE: What should I do with this drainage ditch? (pics)

frankielynn, the water comes from the right (when looking at the ditch from the back patio). I'm not sure which houses feed into our ditch and which ones go into other peoples. If it was possible to do a deck we'd have to leave a way to get under it if needed. I'm in Prosper, Tx, which is just north of Dallas. Lots of storms in the spring with lots of rain, but usually pretty dry in the summer. I could be wrong, but the ditch seems like overkill to me. Seems like it could have been much smaller and still done a good job. I guess that doesn't matter now though!


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RE: What should I do with this drainage ditch? (pics)

Actually, if the cost weren't prohibitive, I think I would be inclined to cover the entire length of it with some kind of decking, probably making it in separate sections small enough to move if needed, because you will need to get in there from time to time and remove accumulating organic matter so the water doesn't back up.

I also think that little strip of grass has got to go, too hard to keep it cut. It would be nice if you could make a deck wide enough to go from retaining wall to fence. I'm sure that would be pretty expensive, but it would hide the ugly concrete ditch and give you a tremendous amount of outdoor living space.


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RE: What should I do with this drainage ditch? (pics)

Actually, if the cost weren't prohibitive, I think I would be inclined to cover the entire length of it with some kind of decking, probably making it in separate sections small enough to move if needed, because you will need to get in there from time to time and remove accumulating organic matter so the water doesn't back up.

I also think that little strip of grass has got to go, too hard to keep it cut. It would be nice if you could make a deck wide enough to go from retaining wall to fence. I'm sure that would be pretty expensive, but it would hide the ugly concrete ditch and give you a tremendous amount of outdoor living space.


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RE: What should I do with this drainage ditch? (pics)

My vote is with Adrienne's suggestions. I'd be inclined to throw a few bushes in too. You would have an opportunity to make this back area a woodland area placing plants behind the drain but also in front of the retaining wall. Placing rocks in this case would allow water to drain away but soften the look (I never thought there would be a case that rocks could be used to soften a look).

We had a similar situation w/o the concrete ditch and we just had to avoid the area because of the swampyness. I would have loved to have had this instead.

I'm guessing the width of this channel was determined by the amount of water capacity it was expected to receive. Since the extra width would add quite a bit of additional cost compared to a narrower one, I'm guessing the builder was required to have it that wide because of the amount of rain it collects. You may be surprised at how much ultimately goes through there.


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RE: What should I do with this drainage ditch? (pics)

I would also go with removing the grass on the far side and planting that strip. That dark wall of fences feels claustrophobic to me; I'd be inclined to try to 'obscure the bounds' by planting shrubs that would get at least as tall as the fence and have an arching growth habit that would cascade down - I have no idea what plant(s) that would be in your climate... :-) Similarly, I'd plant some sort of small, arching trees on the house side of the ditch at the ends where the ditch goes under the fence, and continue with relaxed sort of mixed plantings along the side fences.


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RE: What should I do with this drainage ditch? (pics)

I wonder if i could do a combination of landscaping and a deck that would look good. I really would love to have s deck somewhere for more sitting area, or even just another place for my kids to play, but I like the idea of getting more plants in there too. Woodyoak, I agree about the dark fence. It's too dark for me. The current owners obviously love dark, dark brown. The interior has a lot of it too! and the house gets very little natural light so it feels like a cave in there! We will be repainting everything and adding/changing lots of lighting asap once we move in!


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RE: What should I do with this drainage ditch? (pics)

Be careful about painting the fence a lighter color - light colors draw your eyes and might actually make the fence a bigger feature! If you're going to plant on the strip in front of the fence, having the dark fence behind the plantings would give the planting a greater sense of depth than a light-colored fence would. The plantings would likely be a lighter color than the fence, so your eyes would be drawn to the plants instead of the fence; the dark fence would appear to deepen the shadows in/behind the plants, making the plantings look deeper than they actually are.

If you're going to build some sort of seating area, check with whatever the approprite water management authority is to determine how much clearance would be required above the ditch and whether any structure is allowed at all.


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RE: What should I do with this drainage ditch? (pics)

Woodyoak, we definitely are not painting the fence. The only painting we will be doing is inside the house. Sorry if that wasn't clear. I agree that plants would look really pretty in front of that dark brown.


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RE: What should I do with this drainage ditch? (pics)

The grass strip along the fence is an easy fix. I think most would agree to remove the grass and plant along the fence. A mixed shrub/ornamental grass border would be low maintenance but the strip looks just a couple feet wide so not sure what would fit there. Columnar evergreens just seem boring to me. A hummingbird/butterfly garden might work, with lantana, salvias, butterfly bushes and the like. I don't know how you could put a deck or pergola over that drainage ditch, perhaps you could anchor the pergola with posts on either side of the ditch and a removable (?) deck flooring. A bridge seems a neat idea, but it might seem like a bridge to nowhere? Maybe a focal point at the fence like a unique bird feeder? Having lived most of my life on Gulf Coast, and seen and survived many floods, you would be very surprised at the amount of water that can come in a heavy rain or flash flood, associated with tropical storms, hurricanes, or just plain rainfall. River rocks in the ditch can EASILY be carried away, as well as people. Please be EXTREMELY careful when that ditch has water in it. I really like the brick/stone that the wall is made of, it really could turn out to be a very nice asset.


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RE: What should I do with this drainage ditch? (pics)

Bearing in mind the experienced voice of Louisianagal, you could always make the ditch itself a feature by making it a lifelong project to do pebble or tile mosaic in it :-) Just kidding, really. My first thought when I saw your question was "bowling?" - but that did lead me to wonder what kids would do in this ditch - skateboard? Is that a good or bad thing? Chalk art? See if they can get under the fence to the next yard? Child safety, and I think you mentioned somewhere that you have kids, would seem to me to be paramount, either with or without water. So you'd have to set some rules around it, I suspect. Maybe it should just be a no-go zone with other parts of the yard being enough of a draw that the kids don't pay attention to this one.

I'm also curious what your neighbours have done with the ditch through their yards, and if I were you I'd also be wondering how long that wall (which I agree is very nice) in your yard has been there. Reason being, if there really can be a flood of water but hasn't been since the wall was built, it might scour out that wall somewhat.

Karin L


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RE: What should I do with this drainage ditch? (pics)

If I lived there I'd want to extend the screening that the fence provides and see less of the roof of the house next door. Given that money is no object here in hypothetical-land my first proposal would be to install contained running bamboo in the narrow strip. It would require installation of a plastic root barrier. Limbed up to the top of the fence, the bamboo could appear fairly "open". Limbed up higher, it would seem more open and at least filter the view of the neighbor's roof. The canes would arch over the concrete and put it in shade. A litter-eating groundcover below would be nice. If a similar effect was desired but with less involvement than installation of a root barrier, canes of crape myrtle as a solid run (or in several large groupings for a different effect) might be something to consider... or Vitex... or?

A seating area of a meaningful size would make more sense closer to the house and trying to put something like it over the drainage ditch seems like it would cause legal or maintenance problems. But a modest play structure of some sort--like a swinging bridge-- might work and not cause trouble.

When the day comes that the fence needs re-painting, I'd consider taupes or greys instead. I don't think the dark brown has broad appeal.

Limbing up some of the regular trees would help combat some of the heavy shade conditions.


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RE: What should I do with this drainage ditch? (pics)

I would build a deck over it. There is an interesting photo of something similar on HOUZZ. The name of the phot os "Lafeyette".


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RE: What should I do with this drainage ditch? (pics)

I don't think your neighbors would take so kindly to you having a deck there. They'd be loosing all their privacy as you would easily be able to see into their yards with it there. My guess is you have an easement in the area too which means it could be all torn up and not need to be replaced by somebody needing access.

I think doing plantings and mulch with rock and then plants in front of the retaining wall too to tie in would look nice, and then you wouldn't really see it at all.


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RE: What should I do with this drainage ditch? (pics)

I think if you were sitting on a deck placed at a level even with the top of the stone wall, you would be looking back at your own house, not into neighbor's yards. Besides, who says he can't make the fence a little taller? I still think a deck would look great, with tall clumps of ornamental grades around, some lighting.... You need something that is going to not cause you to look at that part of the yard and say: "oh, look, there's a drainage ditch!" Another option would be a dry creek bed with river rock.....Maybe a combo of creek bed and deck? Creek bed on one or both ends running under a deck with couch seating.....


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RE: What should I do with this drainage ditch? (pics)

I agree that you should remove the grass and plant along the fence. As said columnar evergreens are not the adequate choice here as they seem kind of dull. Probably some shrubs would do just fine. You can contact the specialists at my company who would be more than happy to help you! Contact here - Paul's Mowing Melbourne


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RE: What should I do with this drainage ditch? (pics)

I agree that you should remove the grass and plant along the fence. As said columnar evergreens are not the adequate choice here as they seem kind of dull. Probably some shrubs would do just fine. You can contact the specialists at my company who would be more than happy to help you! Contact here - Paul's Mowing Melbourne


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RE: What should I do with this drainage ditch? (pics)

Um -- the OP last posted in July of last year....


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