Poor terrain behind the house caused drainage and runoff problems from the start

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You’re looking at a rhododendron “tree” two stories high.
But that’s a story for another time.

Our lot has the house more or less in the southwest corner of the property with the “back” of the house a mere 4-5 feet wide before encountering the hurricane fence of our neighbor and their huge treeless grassy yard. Some time in the future perhaps we’ll attempt a purchase of a little more room, but I’m not optimistic.

That narrow 4-5 foot corridor that consitutes the back of the house was a problem. The house next door with its huge grass lawn sits on what is the summit of a small but wide ridge which leaves our lot slightly downhill with a gentle slope toward the street which would be off to the right in the photo below.

Consequently, that “back yard” was not really attended to over what looks like the past ten years and when purchased, that back yard was nothing more than a dirt incline that left the house about a foot and a half lower than the ground at the fence line … basically a dirt “ditch behind the house.”

Whenever it rains, that ditch filled got very wet and drained slowly into a late basement addition directly below the kitchen which was apparently added sometime in the last 30 years. The basement room has a concrete floor, concrete-block walls and one small window. Would presumably make a good wine cellar or cool storage area of some kind – even a root cellar since the only floor-level door accessing that part of this tri-level house is the “basement” door from the carport.

However, the drainage seeps through the walls when rain is heavy leaving anything in there subject to both mold and rust. I had to put a ply-board floor on 2-inch decorative bricks to allow the water to flow on the floor and out the other side (remember, the ground into which that basement room was built reflects a slightly downward slope which causes the water to flow toward the house.) The neighbor’s lawn is vast and does absorb the majority part of the rain uphill from the house. But the little dirt path on the other hand, couldn’t handle hardly any downflowing drainage and merely acted like a leaky canal, collecting the water at the foundation of the house and forcing it to drain down at that spot directly opposite the basement cold room.


My solution was not something we plotted or planned. Once we started new landscaping, digging up a garden, expanding the rock garden, building a red-rock walkway … any project that caused us to dig up the lawn, we dug out turf squares which we then carried to the back of the house. We eventually over the course of working and reworking our landscaping, laid out enough turf squares to first level the dirt path and then raise it over two-three layers to get it to the same even height of the neighbor’s lawn. We’re still not there yet (even with neighbor’s lawn) but we’re getting there.


Decorative “trellises” made from sidebars from a
wrought iron bed frame that we stuck in the ground to
“train” the vegetables in how to grow up.

We’re after a “leveled look” that makes the transition from neighbor’s lawn to our “back yard” seamless. In addition, 2-3 layers of turf squares created a greatly enhanced absorption capability and now we’ve just passed thru our second winter without any significant flooding through that basement room. This allows us now to look at some sort of concrete sealing of the walls and floors that would allow us the use of that room which is … oh … maybe a 25-36 square foot space. Would also make a wonderful place to store dry and canned food and get it food off the shelving elsewhere in the basement.

You can see the first layer of sod we’re now starting at the base of the tower. We’re pleased with our back yard because each year the sod settles and the grass grows. I used to could only mow that sod after raising the blade to maximum height.

I can now mow it at the same height as the rest of the lawn which means that when mowing and I get to the back of the house, I just keep going without stopping to adjust the blades. That’s meaningful to an impatient old lawnmower. Oh … and I don’t have or like a riding mower which would be too big for mowing the yard in this lot anyway. Mine is a front wheel pulling mower that also mulches and only if I’ve negelected the mowing will I bag or rake when cutting. I’ll be 60 this summer and I like the exercise mowing gives me.

post by Deersong’s husband

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