Garden drainage solutions: 5 ways to stop your flower beds, decking, patio, and lawn from flooding

These garden drainage solutions will help prevent puddles and protect your plot from rainwater damage

garden drainage solutions: rain on flowerbed
(Image credit: Anne Rippy/Alamy Stock Photo)

Garden drainage solutions are a must if you live somewhere that's graced by heavy rainfall frequently. Without necessary measures in place to control water run-off, plots can begin to flood, flower beds can erode, and plants can become ruined.

What's more, puddles on your landscaping ideas, such as decking and paving, can lead to damage, thus reducing their lifespan drastically and upping the need for more regular maintenance. It's a safety hazard, too – no one wants to slip over while trying to enjoy their outdoor living space.

The effects can also span outside your backyard. Without somewhere for stormwater to safely go, street drains can become overwhelmed, and excess pollutants can make their way into local water sources, such as streams and lakes.

Reduce the risk of flooding with these 5 garden drainage solutions

'Excessive rain, blocked drains, collapsed pipes and poorly planned drainage systems are all common causes of flooding. Whatever the issue, overflowing water can cause a range of different problems, so it's essential to minimize the risk of flooding whenever it's possible to do so,' says Chris Moorhouse of Wickes.

Haven't got your garden drainage sorted yet? Don't worry – we're here to help with plenty of expert tips to incorporate into your patio, lawn, and other backyard features.

1. Improve your lawn's ability to soak up rain

A boggy lawn is a gardener's woe. Excess water will compact the soil and drown the grass, leaving a muddy stretch of brown in place of luscious green turf. There is, however, a way to avoid this mishap.

David Hedges Gower, the founder of the Lawn Association, suggests ensuring you have a lawn care plan in place that includes aeration. 'Aeration will allow the best chance for your lawn to survive if you have flooding,' he says. It will ensure there is adequate space in the soil beneath your lawn for soaking up as much water as possible.

However, for the best results, you need to ensure you're doing the right type of aeration. 'Adding a fork into a soil profile will not change its soil structure and therefore will rarely improve anything for more than minutes,' he says. Instead, use a plug aerator. There is no need to remove the plugs afterward – they will break back down naturally into your lawn's surface. You can find more info on how to aerate a lawn with our dedicated guide.

David also warns against artificial grass if you live in an area prone to floods. 'Fake grass, together with its matting and installation substrate, cannot percolate heavy rainwater as efficiently as natural turf,' he says.

lawn in rain

Prevent your lawn from becoming waterlogged

(Image credit: Antony Keetthawee/Alamy Stock Photo)

2. Install decking with rainfall in mind

Without proper garden drainage solutions, timber decking can be prone to rot, the likelihood of mold is increased, and the shape and finish of the structure can become distorted. What's more, pooling water beneath your deck can erode soil, harbor bacteria, and encourage insects such as mosquitoes.

When your decking is installed, ensure there is adequate spacing between each board to reduce the risk of puddles forming on the surface. Beneath your deck, apply flashing as a moisture barrier, and for ultimate protection, a drainage system. Look for products that will keep water safely away from the joists, beams, and the exterior of your home. It can be as simple as corrugated plastic sheets, but you'll want to ensure they are water-tight.

Alternatively, install a sloped, non-permeable surface below your deck that will drain water away from your home in a controlled manner.

rain on decking

Gaps in decking will help with drainage

(Image credit: John Kershaw/Alamy Stock Photo)

3. Incorporate drainage into patios

No one wants their patio ideas to be covered in puddles, which is why it's important to add garden drainage to your outdoor living space.

One of the most effective approaches is installing drainage channels, as suggested by Chris Moorhouse of Wickes, which can provide a solution for patios and driveway drainage, including areas around garages and conservatories. 

'These are typically discharged into a storm drain, or soakaway,' he explains. 'Soakaways are a long-established way of dealing with rainfall. They are essentially a pit in the ground traditionally filled with gravel that allows surface water to slowly soak through the soil. This both mitigates against flooding and stops damage to the house and its foundations.'

Another option is to use permeable paving, or budget-friendly gravel – both of which will reduce the likelihood of standing water on your space. Don't forget about the impact of a slight slope, too, which can help drain rainwater run-off into nearby flower beds or other drainage areas. This is especially prudent if you're starting a patio from scratch.

rain on patio

There are a few ways you can make your patio more flood-proof

(Image credit: Richard Smith/Alamy Stock Photo)

4. Improve the soil structure of your flower beds

'Drainage in planting areas can be improved by adding horticultural potting grit,' says Chris from Wickes. 'Simply dig over the soil and incorporate the potting grit to allow surface water to slowly percolate through the soil, avoiding waterlogging.'

Applying organic matter will also improve the soil structure of your flower beds and borders, as will adding a balanced fertilizer in spring, followed by a layer of mulch over the root area, as recommended by the RHS.

If you get lots of rain in your region, you may want to swap out borders for raised garden beds instead, as they tend to be better for drainage and the soil structure is easier to control. 

There are also plenty of bog plants well suited to wetter soils, so if you want to reduce the risk of damage, opt for these in areas prone to water retention.

tulips in rain

Keep your precious plants safe from floods

(Image credit: MaglidoPhotography/Alamy Stock Photo)

5. Get creative with rain gardens

Don't forget there are plenty of creative ways to incorporate garden drainage ideas into your outdoor space.

Green roofs, for instance, will help to absorb rain thus reducing run-off. They look beautiful too, and are wonderful for visiting wildlife. 

Other elements that can be included are water butts – ideal if you're looking to create a more sustainable garden. Plus, there are other linking elements that can be added to channel rainwater around your plot towards a dedicated rain garden (a shallow, dug-out dip in the ground, often filled with suitable plants, made for soaking up water). These include rills, rain chains, and small ponds. 

'The Rain Chain' Garden, 2009 Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, England. Designer: Wendy Allen

'The Rain Chain' Garden, designed by Wendy Allen, has many clever features that deal with water run-off

(Image credit: Arcaid Images/Alamy Stock Photo)

What should you do with a garden after it has flooded?

If your garden has already flooded, there are a few things you should do (alongside incorporating the above tips for next time a storm comes around, that is).

Collect up any debris and ensure that storm drains aren't blocked. It's also a good idea to wash down hard surfaces, such as paving, to remove any lingering pollutants. One of our picks for the best pressure washers will come in useful for this. Wear gloves and protective clothing while you do so, advises the RHS.

In terms of your lawn, keep off the grass. Walking on it while it is still waterlogged will only worsen conditions.

If your kitchen garden has flooded, unfortunately it's best to discard edible crops close to harvest as they may no longer be safe to consume. 'It is prudent to avoid growing salads and other uncooked crops for two years in case disease spores remain in the soil,' says the RHS. 'However, the following year after flooding, it should be safe to grow crops that are to be cooked'.

It may sound surprising, but after a waterlogged period, it's crucial to water your garden thoroughly in dry spells. This is because the plants will be more susceptible to drought stress.

Holly Crossley
Acting Deputy Editor

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion.