How to improve garden drainage using plants

Many people feel like their garden drainage has got worse lately. The lawn has been wetter for longer and puddles have appeared where they previously didn’t. 

If this is you then you are in good company and it’s not just that you have been stuck in the house so long you are going mad. Rainfall fluctuates year to year but rainfall indicators suggest that the UK is getting wetter and local areas are getting worse at dealing with rain when it comes in hard and fast.

This article looks at some of the less conventional ways we can improve drainage and some of the wider issues which are making it worse in the UK.

How plants help with drainage

You have likely seen deforestation in the news lately. Deforestation is a contributor to climate change but it also has some impact on flooding locally and can teach us some lessons about garden the causes of boggy gardens.

Trees and plants in general help to regulate the flow of water in our environment in a variety of ways.

Absorbing water into roots

Plants absorb water into their roots from the soil around them. Generally speaking the more leafy the plant the more moisture it will absorb. Modern garden trends have moved away from foliage dense gardens and towards man made materials. 

For every plant removed and every tree cut down there will be a little less water absorbed from the soil

Catching water

Plants also catch water in their leaves and branches, some of this water will evaporate directly back into the air, some will be held and drip down slowly. Both will slow the build-up of water which can overwhelm the current capacity of the ground. 

Holding soil in place

This is less of an issue in gardens than it is in forests but roots hold soil in place and contribute to the organic life in the soil. Soil can hold a tremendous amount of water so as it is washed away or removed the ground can hold less and less water. 

For each plant or tree removed, there will be a small impact on water retention. Barely noticeable for one or two plants but extremely damaging when it becomes hundreds or thousands of plants.

Local trends

Getting the garden done is a must this year, with more people after gardens than ever before. Our sister company Acorn Landscape Gardening builds amazing gardens for people all over the northwest. This gives me a great insight into the current trends.

The current trend is that people are moving away from natural surfaces and planting. They are instead replacing lawns with artificial grass and playing beds with porcelain paving. It makes sense. Man made products like this are high quality and make great, long lasting spaces to enjoy the summer months. 

But this trend is starting to cause issues. Man made surfaces hold much less water than natural ones. With more rain falling and less places for it to go flooding is getting more frequent and anyone with a low point in their garden is ending up with more and more runoff from neighbours gardens. 

It’s a kind of tragedy of the commons where we are all free to do as we please but each person makes the collective issue a little but worse.

What can we do to help?

There are a few things we can do to help our own drainage issues and every bit we do will help the local areas too. 

Keep it natural

When you are planning or improving your garden think about how to keep as much nature as possible in there. Most of us want low maintenance so we tend to stick with man made but there are lots of low maintenance plants which can be added to the garden which don’t require much attention.


Rather than getting rid of your turf, consider keeping a small area, or even better a small wildflower meadow which you don’t need to cut and will be a great habitat for bugs and other wildlife.


With the UK getting wetter and the amount of land absorbing water decreasing our gardens are getting boggy. Part of the reason this is happening is man made development which reduces the amount of water which can be retained in an area. 

To help reduce bogginess in your garden and play our part in helping the local area, it’s a great idea to keep the garden as natural as possible with grass, trees and bushes.

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