Drainage solutions and irrigation fixes are more important than plants in your dream garden. A good landscape designer will tell you that. Plants are the first thing you see in a garden, but they’re the last thing to go in.
In the Upper Blue Mountains, drainage and contours are an issue on many properties. You need to develop the contours and drainage and manage all the issues of the site before you put a plant in. Planting before fixing those issues is like putting your carpet down before painting. It’s just creating new problems for yourself down the track.
Why drainage problems happen
Especially in winter, it rains a lot up here. And although there are always exceptions to the rule, most houses in the Upper Blue Mountains are built on a slope. The site for the house itself is often cut into an embankment, which opens up the site to issues of seepage. Water is always going to make its way down to the creeks and waterways. You just don’t want it doing so through your house. Or ruining your garden in the process.
The problem is often worse in newer houses. Builders put the building on the site and don’t do anything about managing the site. And everyone today builds on a concrete slab. So the builder will cut a hole in the ground and put the house in the hole. But they often haven’t worked out a plan to stop the soil running towards the house. Or the drainage doesn’t work. Or the neighbours’ water is still coming towards them.
It’s often less of a problem with older or unrenovated cottages. Older houses were built on bearers and joists, because that was a cheaper way of building. The builders levelled the floor up to ground level. It was higher at the back and lower at the front.
It’s not unheard of for us to get a call from a client, saying, ‘I’ve moved into my newly built house. There’s a puddle of water outside the back door—can we fix it?’
The solution to drainage problems lies in developing the contours of the site before you put a plant in. With many of the jobs we do, we can spend two weeks taking care of those issues. That’s followed by only a day for planting and mulching.
The time this first stage takes can vary. It depends on what’s involved in managing surface water or storm water run-off.
What we’ll generally find ourselves doing is contouring the water around the house. The other common solution involves adding pits to achieve that end. If the client has got seepage coming out of the hill, we need to put subsurface drainage in. That will ensure that the water that’s coming out of the embankment can be caught and taken away.
Keeping the flow of your garden
Solutions to drainage problems aren’t tricky. But they do take time to put in place. Ensuring you fix those problems as early as possible will make your garden a much more pleasant place to be—for both you and your plants.