4 Common Signs of Lawn Drainage Issues

By TruGreen December 20, 2023
Drainage issue on a lawn

4 Common Signs of Lawn Drainage Issues

You probably didn’t need us to tell you that virtually all lawns need water to remain healthy. Without sufficient water, your grass can wilt, turn brown, and eventually die. However, too much water can be damaging, too — especially if it doesn’t have anywhere to drain. If your lawn becomes waterlogged after rainfall, there’s a good chance that you may have yard drainage issues that need to be addressed sooner rather than later. But how do you tell the difference between normal muddiness and a legitimate soil drainage problem? Here, we’ll teach you just that and provide insight into what can cause poor lawn drainage.

4 Signs Your Lawn Isn’t Draining Well

If your lawn is draining poorly, there will be a few telltale signs. Keep reading to learn about what you should keep an eye out for if you suspect lawn drainage problems.

There Are Puddles On Your Lawn

Minor puddles and pooling water are normal after heavy rainfall. However, if they don’t dry out after a day or two — or if they crop up after minor rainfall — it could be a sign that your soil isn’t draining as it should. Aside from harming your grass, standing water can attract pests (specifically, mosquitoes). So if you’re dealing with lots of standing water on your lawn, it’s something you’ll want to address sooner rather than later.

Your Soil Is Always Muddy

Deep puddles aren’t the only sign that your lawn isn’t draining. Persistent muddiness can also indicate a potential drainage problem — especially if the muddiness is widespread or present even when it hasn’t been raining. 

You’re Struggling With Lawn Disease

Many lawn diseases thrive in moist conditions. Turf that doesn’t drain well will certainly be more prone to disease.  Lawn disease can show up as small spots that turn white or brown, or large areas that suddenly become discolored in a short period of time. So if you’re frequently battling lawn disease, it could be an indication that your soil isn’t draining effectively. That being said, the presence of disease alone isn’t definitive proof of a drainage issue. If you’re concerned about lawn disease and think it may be related to poor drainage, your best course of action is to contact your local TruGreen® lawn care expert. They can help you determine what lawn disease you’re dealing with and why, and create a tailored plan to help get the problem under control.

Your Plants are Succumbing to Root Rot

If you’ve ever accidentally killed a houseplant by giving it too much water, you’re probably already aware that excessive moisture isn’t good for plants. Specifically, a surplus of moisture can lead to root rot (which is exactly what it sounds like: rotted roots). Left unchecked, root rot can kill your plants. So if your trees, shrubs, flowers or grass are failing to thrive or outright dying and you’re not sure why, your soil’s moisture content could be to blame. Also, look for areas of your lawn that are turning yellow. The yellowing is caused by an extended lack of oxygen to the roots — putting stress on the turf that can be followed by disease.

What Can Cause Poor Lawn Drainage?

Poor lawn drainage occurs when moisture — be it from rain, snow or even just watering your lawn — has nowhere to go. Ahead, we’ll take a closer look at the common factors that can contribute to poor drainage.

Having a Low-Lying Property

When it rains, water naturally accumulates in low-lying areas, such as ditches and potholes (or, if you’re unlucky, in your basement). Ideally, this water should be redirected so it doesn’t pool up. However, if your property is in a low-lying area, heavy or rapid rainfall can lead to it accumulating faster than it can evaporate or drain into your soil. Ultimately, this can lead to muddy lawns, puddles or even full-on flooding.

Soil Compaction

Compaction occurs when soil becomes compressed. This can occur naturally, but is usually a result of heavy foot traffic. This compression pushes the soil particles closer together, making the soil dense and leaving less room for water to flow through it. With less room to move, water drains more slowly, which can lead to a soggy, waterlogged lawn.

Having Clay-Rich Soil

Some clay in your soil can be beneficial: clay is rich in minerals and holds on to nutrients that your plants need to thrive. However, clay particles are extremely small, porous, easily compacted, and retain water easily. If you have too much clay in your soil, it can have a negative impact on drainage, causing your lawn to become waterlogged and unable to drain effectively. 

Can You Fix a Lawn With Bad Drainage?

The best lawn drainage solutions address the underlying cause of the poor drainage. If your lawn drainage issues are structural — meaning, they’re caused by the location or layout of your property rather than compaction or your soil’s composition — it may be trickier to get under control. It is still possible, though. Here are a few things to know about what you can do to improve your lawn’s drainage and promote a healthy, thriving outdoor living space.

Lawn Aeration Services

Poor drainage caused by soil compaction can typically be addressed with lawn aeration. This service entails using a specialized machine (called an aerator) to break up thatch and loosen compacted soil. Done properly, it’ll help water drain more freely and resolve (or at least lessen) your lawn drainage issues. At TruGreen, we pair aeration with overseeding for cool-season lawns in our lawn aeration & overseeding service to help promote a thicker, healthier lawn.

Landscape Drainage Systems

If your lawn drainage problems are persistent or you’re frequently struggling with flooding, you may want to consider installing a yard drainage system. There are many different types, including pumps and physical drains, and installation can be labor-intensive. However, it is a permanent solution, and arguably the most effective option for those with stubborn or severe lawn drainage issues.

Professional Lawn Assessment

Given the wealth of potential causes, poor lawn drainage can be a challenging issue to tackle on your own. If you’re struggling with your lawn, your best course of action is to sign up with your local TruGreen professional. We’ll help you identify if poor lawn drainage is the root of your problem. Plus, we’ll provide you with year-long care to help keep your lawn healthy, happy and thriving for years to come.

Steil, Aaron. “Testing and Improving Soil Drainage.” Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, August 2022. https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/testing-and-improving-soil-drainage. Accessed 19 May 2023.
Traunfeld, Jon. “Common Soil Problems.” University of Maryland Extension, 2020. https://extension.umd.edu/resource/common-soil-problems. Accessed 19 May 2023.
Wet Yard - Solving Drainage Problems.” Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, 2023. https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/soil-water-conservation/drainage-problem-wet-yard. Accessed 19 May 2023.


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