Why is this water not dispersing?

Louisville, CO

Hi all - Thanks for any help... as you can see from the photos below, I have an irrigation issue. I live in CO and have clay, not dirt. One part of my yard was continuously getting way too much water. I have dug up the offending area and checked the sprinkler head for leaks. No leaks. The last 2 pictures are taken 2 days after watering (10 minutes). The water simply has no where to go. It looks like a bowl of water and the water level decreases only by the sun's evaporation. It is in the middle of my yard and I'm not sure what to do...one sprinkler guy suggested building a french drain. I can't figure out why the water won't eventually disperse? Thanks for any help...

Thumbnail by swandering Thumbnail by swandering Thumbnail by swandering
Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

My clay soil only drains because I'm on a slope. If I dig a hole in the clay it takes a long time for water to drain. It's like a stopped-up drain!

If you have some way to get the water to drain down hill, that should help.

I had to put in raised beds to have a vegetable garden on top of the sticky, red, Carolina clay!

Richmond, TX(Zone 9a)

wow, that's an extreme case of poor drainage. Do you happen to know whether there is rock underneath the clay? if yes, that would in effect, create the bowl effect you describe. Sometimes builders/developers cover construction debris with 6-8" of soil and call it good. Here you are, thinking you have good (or at least decent) soil, and all you have is a thin layer covering a mess. A french drain would help. Amending the clay yearly will also help.

another question: do you get the ponding when you get regular rain? if answer is NO, it is possible that that particular sprinkler head is shooting too much water too fast. This would not be the cause of poor drainage but would certainly aggravate the situation.

You don't say whether the plants/lawn in that particular zone are suffering (drowning). You don't say how long you've been having this problem. If recent occurrence, could be that adjusting the sprinkler head might help the situation. If ponding has been happening all along, then I'm surprised you have any lawn at all!

Where I live in Houston, there are companies that repair sprinkler systems, regardless of who was original installer. They might be able to help by fixing the particular problem, w/o suggesting that you replace the entire system. Some shysters might want you to pay them for that.

Good luck.

Sacramento, CA(Zone 9a)

The French drain is probably a good answer but I think I would start with something less expensive and time consuming and I would probably just swap out that sprinkler head with one that puts out considerably less water.

I've converted several "regular" sprinkler heads to these drip irrigation "Hydroports". http://www.homedepot.com/h_d1/N-25ecodZ5yc1v/R-100157628/h_d2/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10053&langId=-1&keyword=Raindrip&storeId=10051

It will really allow you to tweak how much water you get in that area and where it goes.

Louisville, CO

HI all - thanks for the responses.
Vossner: I WISH my builder covered the clay with 6-8" of soil. They just covered the clay with sod and didn't amend or add anything to the clay underneath. I will recheck that sprinkler head and probably just turn it off regardless, or get a new head as GardenSox suggested. The first picture I posted is the lawn in the suffering area! You can see a pool of water with dead grass and algae if you look closely. The second 2 pix are the same problem area after I dug it up. Pretty gross! My house is new and the lawn is approx 3 years old. Each year the lawn has had a harder time coming back. In any case I still don't know how to get this corner of the yard to drain? Any suggestions? I don't see why this area has a harder time than the rest of the lawn even though there is clay throughout. Thanks!

Sacramento, CA(Zone 9a)

I'm not sure if it will really help because I don't have clay soil, but perhaps adding compost to that spot every year will slowly improve the drainage?

Richmond, TX(Zone 9a)

Swandering, I had not read gardensox suggestion when I wrote you. But I just looked at the link and the type of head suggested is quite interesting. I have a spot where perhaps this type head would be a better option. I will have to show DH and see what he thinks.

Your intent to close the head is a wise one.

As to the clay soil, I think it gets a bad and unfair rap. I'd much rather have clay than sandy which doesn't retain any moisture, or rock like so many people in Austin TX. Then again, it's a matter of what you get used to and how you amend it. A few years of amending my clay soil, I'm to the point where I can almost dig holes w/ my bare hands. Having said that, it doesn't mean clay won't get hard as a rock in the summer, especially if underwatered. I won't be digging a holes w/ my hands if this is the case, regardless of a strict amendment program. That's just the nature of the beast.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

The builders in my area also left bare, hard clay on the surface when they left.

Here is what the drainage was like if I dug a hole below grade (see picture). So I built raised beds and considered any unimproved "soil" (rock hard clay) to be like waterproof concrete, plastic or rock.

You might need to build up your low spot until the grade runs smoothly and there are no pools. Pure clay is OK to build it up.

But you still need some real soil on top of the clay: might as well make raised beds. They need to be above the water table, and the water table is equal to the top of the impervious clay layer! Over the years, as compost in your raised beds decomposes and soaks slowly into the clay, the clay will soften and acquire soil life which will gradually soften it and allow roots to penetrate once it drains well enough to let air in quickly after a rain..

I "carved" the clay layer that formed the floor of each bed, so that it would slope gradually towards one edge or one corner of the bed: the DOWNSLOPE corner. (The soil surface in a bed should usually be level, but the floor has to slope a little towards thje runoff direction when you have no "perk".)

Then, no matter what it took, I ran a trench from the low point of that bed to some point in my yard lower than that bed! Eventually I ran those trenchs together and led them downwards to a corner of my yard where a steeper slope ran downhill into trees and briars.

A mattock will let you cut a narrower trench then a shovel and hoe. Call it a slit trench. If it is narrow enoguh, you aren't likely to break your ankle in it, and you can mow right over it.

A bigger trench might need to be a "French Drain" ... as far as I can tell that's just a trench filled with $100s of dollars of gravel. I suppose a "drain" also means that it goes down deep enough to find a stratum of soil that DOES drain well. Not in my yard!

I learned that perforated, corrugated pipe is cheaper than gravel, and much easier to carry around the yard! I just wish they made a 2" pipe as well as 4" and 3".

But the key thing is that the floor of the trench must always slope downhill at least a little. That is easy to "survey" ... just wiat for a heavy rain and the standing water level will tell you where the high point is in your trench.

This message was edited Jun 5, 2012 7:29 PM

Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA Thumbnail by RickCorey_WA
Rawalpindi, Pakistan(Zone 9a)

Have you ever considered a soak pit at that point? A deep hole back filled with river gravel. Water will enter the soak pit go down and then be utilised to raise the water table of your land instead of draining and wasting.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Well, in our 'rainy season', getting it to run off is highly desirable!
In the summer, I never water enough to get run off (or even seepage out of the bed, usually).
The raised beds that I did not line with plastic dry out pretty fast in the summer, from roots and evaporation.

My main drainage trench with 4" perforated, corrugated pipe drains that low spot now.
Also, the beds above it are raised a little higher, so this spot didn't need to be as deep.

However, there was one bed that I wanted to drain,but didn't have time that year to run that mini-slit-trench all the weay down to the perf pipe. But there was a soft spot in the clay that was easy to dig out, and it was under a stump that I wanted to rot faster. So I ran the slit trench (as wide as my mattock blade) to that spot under the stump, and dug that hole down a foot deeper.

Now that hole is big enough to hold any run off from the bed (except for during rare heavy rains).
So the bed is drained just fine, and the sump hole holds water for many days after each rain, which means it almost always has some water in it. I'm hoping this encourages that stump's roots to rot faster!

Rawalpindi, Pakistan(Zone 9a)

What can i say, with Monsoons failure, abnormal summers, draught conditions, water table going down fast, we can't exactly afford to look down our noses at this valuable commodity.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Where I live, 8 motnhs of the year have freqeunt light rain, and getitng it to drain away is necessary.

But, 3-4 months per year, there is no rian and then I agree with you: we have to conserve it and use it wisely. That is why I'm putting together a drip system, so I can drip a little water onto the soil, un der some mulch, so none evaporates and I can use as little as possible.

Water is life!

Rawalpindi, Pakistan(Zone 9a)

Lucky you. Here there has been no rain at all for last eight months and this streak it seems will not finish in a hurry.
Put down some thirsty plant. Eucalyptus for one.

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