Most homeowners can agree that taking care of their own property can be quite a hassle, especially if it includes a large yard or garden. However, things become even harder when your property is located at the base of a hill. Not only do you have to worry about landslides, but you also have to watch out for water that runs downhill.
And while some water won’t be a problem for all homeowners, the inevitable erosion that it causes will definitely annoy everyone. As a result, homeowners, gardeners, and lawn enthusiasts are looking for ways to deal with water running down a hill.
But is there actually any way to stop water altogether and save your property from erosion? Let’s find out!
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Running water down a hill might not seem like a huge concern to most people. After all, unless there’s quite a lot of it, water shouldn’t cause too much damage. But, regardless of its quantity, water causes erosion, which can ruin your garden, lawn, and even your home’s structural integrity.
Additionally, depending on how much water you are dealing with, uncontrolled water can cause mudslides and floods, as well as kill plants. Even lesser amounts of water can strip minerals and nutrients from the soil which will lead to a barren slope. When that happens, you’ll have a hard time planting vegetables, flowers, or anything that requires moderate to low amounts of water. And, eventually, you will be unable to plant anything other than rice or cattails.
Unfortunately, there is no way to completely stop water from running down a hill, especially if you live in an area with regular storms. Yet, there are a couple of things you can do if you live near the base of a hill and always deal with water problems. From installing French drains to relying on a drainage pitch or constructing a berm, the following methods should help you control water running downhill and prevent any damage to your property.
6 Ways to Control Water Running Downhill
Generally speaking, a French drain is a drainage ditch that contains gravel and a perforated pipe. You can use it to easily control and divert stormwater that runs down the hill without having to landscape the entire area. The way it works is pretty simple and involves allowing water to flow into the trench’s side, filtering through the gravel, and entering the pipe. Then, the water will be transported downhill to a nearby area, usually a drywall or water garden.
When building a French drain, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:
- First, start by planning the drainage trench so it captures the water on the hillside and reroutes it safely downwards. As a rule of thumb, it must slope downward at least one inch for every 10 feet of distance.
- Remember to use high-quality tools such as the Corona SS shovel and the TABOR garden pick to reduce the time it takes to build the drain.
- Terminate the trench at a dry well, pond, or water garden so you can take advantage of any excess water.
- Dry wells are perfect endpoints for French drains as they will distribute the water underground and improve the soil’s fertility.
Terracing the hillside is a popular strategy that prevents water from flowing downhill and damaging your garden or house. It works by trapping water in flat sections, which allows it to soak into the soil instead of flowing downhill. Additionally, terracing collects rainwater which feeds grass and trees that are planted on the hillside while also slowing soil erosion. And while terracing takes more work than digging a drain trench, the biggest benefit is that you can use it to transform your hillside into an orchard or thriving garden.
Ready to give terracing a shot? Then here’s what you need to do in order to terrace your hillside effectively:
- Cut steps into your hillside and use retaining walls to hold them in place. You should start at the bottom of the slope and terrace up.
- For your retaining walls, you can use sturdy materials, such as stone, wood, or concrete blocks.
- Usually, terrace steps need to be anywhere between 4 and 8 feet wide. Similarly, the height of the retaining walls should be less than half the terrace width.
Another great way to control water running downhill is with a pipeless drainage ditch or swale. Just like French drains, you can dig them down into the hillside to protect your property. Furthermore, if hillside water often damages parts of your yard, you can build a swale near the base of the hill to reroute water away.
It’s also worth mentioning that rock drainage ditches can act as man-made creek beds, diverting water downhill. For additional effectiveness, you can even construct smaller trenches that connect to your main ditch. And, if you want to improve the look of your yard, you can use gravel, decorative stones, and landscape fabric when building your rock drainage. That way, you can give your drainage a dry creek bed look, which works perfectly for rustic and traditional yards.
Here’s what you need to know when looking to build your own rock drainage ditches or swales:
- You should plan your swale or ditch to collect running water and transport it downhill, similar to French drains.
- Even though the perfect slope differs from landscape to landscape, you should make sure that your ditch has a slope of at least 6 inches for every 10 feet. Otherwise, you allow stagnant water to collect and eventually overflow the ditch, rendering it useless.
Berms are mounds or raised ridges that divert water away from specific areas. You can take advantage of berms by building a mound garden bed that will reroute stormwater to nearby areas and prevent it from running downhill. However, you’ll have to make sure that your berm is diverting water safely. In other words, you shouldn’t construct it in such a way that it channels water onto your neighboring properties.
If you want to construct your own berms, you’ll need to follow these tips:
- You can build a berm by digging and mounding areas of the hillside. Similarly, you can use soil and compost to build a raised flowerbed or ridge to reroute water.
- All berms should lead to a safe termination on your property, such as a drain trench.
- The slope of your berm needs to be at least 6 inches to be able to stop run-off water entirely.
If you want to manage run-off water while also improving the look of your property, you can plant trees, grass, and other vegetation on a slope. Why? Because plant roots will soak up excess water and prevent erosion. Keep in mind that this method works best when combined with previous ideas. And while it won’t stop water entirely, it will minimize the effect that water has on your property.
Sounds interesting? Then here’s how you can make the most of this idea:
- Make sure that you plant any bare areas of your slope with trees, grass, or other vegetation. Any bare patch will allow water to traverse and corrode the topsoil, which will affect the nearby planted areas too.
- You can combine this with previous methods like terraced hillsides and berms. For instance, if you have a terraced hillside, you can plant fruit trees and herbs, while sloped hills and drainage ditches are better for grass.
Sometimes, the soil will be too eroded to support any vegetation or too steep to allow for drains and terracing. Luckily, you can use geotextiles or erosion control blankets, as they protect your soil from erosion. Not only that, but they can support fresh soil, allowing you to revitalize barren parts of your landscape. And best of all, they are made from biodegradable materials, meaning that as they break down, geotextiles will add to the soil’s nutrient content.
Here are a few interesting facts about geotextiles that should help you decide if they are right for your property:
- Since they are made from different organic materials such as coconut, geotextiles can attract insects and animals, which may damage them. So make sure you cover them with a thin layer of dirt once they are placed down.
- Erosion control blankets are versatile and flexible, which means that they can cover wide areas of soil on a steep hillside, regardless of the slope’s angle.
- Depending on your soil’s nutrient content, it may take a couple of seasons before anything can grow on your slope, so don’t expect immediate results when using geotextiles.
Overall, water can be extremely destructive, especially if your property sits at the base of a hill. From erosion to floods, it can be hard to withstand the effects of run-off water during heavy storms. Yet, while you can’t change natural flow patterns, you can always use all sorts of strategic solutions to work with nature, not against it. So don’t give up just yet, and remember to check back for even more advice on how to deal with water problems.