Heavy rains come at least once a year and that’s true everywhere I’ve ever been. When they come, it can be a challenge to keep your lawn from flooding and some ingenuity and gumption are often needed to successfully move water through your lawn. Once you know how to stop water runoff in your yard, you are on your way to lawn guru status.
When my neighbor’s yard drains directly into mine, however, I find it hard to stay Zen. The fast-moving water that I am unable to control at the source has had devastating effects on my soil and lawn health and has had me dying to find a water barrier for my yard. Finding that a complete, impenetrable water barrier would be impractical at best, I strove to discover how to stop water runoff from my neighbor’s yard once and for all. Join me on my journey below!
Problems that Water Runoff Can Cause for Your Lawn
What’s the big deal if my neighbor’s water is flooding my yard? Take a look at the list below to see some of the consequences of excessive, unchecked water originating from the folks next door.
- Dirt/Woodchips/Grass Clippings Debris – Heavy water flow will pull dirt, woodchips/mulch, and grass clippings/lawn debris from along its path and deposit it on your lawn. This build-up can kill plants, make a mess, and lead to dangerous walking conditions.
- Soil Erosion – It takes on average 100 years for 1 inch of topsoil to form naturally. It takes milliseconds for undirected water to erode that life-giving layer. Few things are more harmful to a lawn, and the Earth as a whole, than soil erosion.
- Drowned Plants – Plants need water just like us. But just like us, too much water can and will most definitely kill. The roots cannot get oxygen and they drown. If the water doesn’t kill your plants outright, it can weaken them and lead to pest or disease issues.
- Slippery Surfaces – Runoff coming from a neighbor’s yard can cause your walkways to become flooded in places where water was never intended to go. These supposed-to-be-dry-now-soaked surfaces can become slippery and lead to accidents.
- Wet Socks! – Similar to the issue above, water flowing where it is not supposed to be can lead to puddles which may lead to the dreaded wet sock. On the way home it’s not too bad, but on the way out, yikes!
- Pest Breeding Grounds – We know pests like mosquitos love stagnant water. Flooding from a neighbor’s runoff can give these and other pests the environment they need to reproduce. This in turn may lead to large swarms of bugs turning your summer get-togethers into summer see-you-laters.
- Pesticide and Herbicide Pollution – The perfect lawn maintenance routine for your neighbor’s turf might be a death sentence for yours. Harmful pesticides and excessive or the wrong kinds of herbicides can be spread onto your lawn by the rushing waters. If you are lucky, the large amount of water will dilute the chemicals, but there’s no guarantee damage to your turf won’t take place.
- Salts and Contaminants – In some areas, salt is applied to walkways in the winter to prevent ice build-up. That salt will easily find its way onto your lawn during heavy spring rains if the neighbor’s runoff is not blocked. Additionally, things like oil or other chemicals may make their way to your turf, causing the discoloration or death of your grass.
- Uneven Growth – Some areas receiving largely different levels of water can have a visible effect on the uniform coloring and height of your lawn. This patchiness can cause frustration or lead to issues with drought or pest damage.
- Weed Seed Deposits – Not every neighbor’s lawn will be as well kept as yours and they may have neglected weeds that were bolting in their yard. These seeds, carried by runoff, can find fertile ground in your lawn and when dumped in such a large concentration on one low pooling area, will outcompete the turf and flourish.
As terrible as all of that sounds, it is not the end of the world as we know it. In fact, there are tons we can explore that show us how to block water drainage from a neighbor’s yard. Check out 9 ideas below!
9 Ways You Can Stop Water Runoff from Your Neighbor’s Yard
We cannot stop water from entering our property, nor should we want to. But we can diminish the destructive force of uncontrolled water and utilize its life-giving properties to our greatest benefit. Assisting the non-destructive movement of water through your lawn can be done through three techniques: infiltrate, divert, and block.
These techniques can stand alone or be used in tandem to achieve ultimate control of the water moving within your space.
1. Plant Trees and Shrubs
The amount of water leaving a row of trees or hedges is always significantly less than the flood that entered. This is why plants work so well to protect watersheds. By planting your own aesthetically pleasing and functional buffer zone, you can greatly reduce the amount of water that makes it from your neighbor’s lawn to yours.
If areas of your lawn tend to accumulate pools and puddles, then a well-cared-for tree or two, as well as some companion plants that don’t mind wet feet, can be used similarly to the sump that protects your basement. They pump the water out of sight and reward you with their plentiful bounties of air, shade, and tranquility.
2. Dry Well
A dry well is a hole with the sides, but not the bottom, lined with landscape fabric. The hole is filled with gravel and a top grate is placed to allow water but reduce sediment buildup. A dry well is dry most of the time but offers an extra water catchment system when excessive runoff occurs. Once full, water slowly infiltrates through the permeable soil layers below.
Dry wells come in many shapes and sizes depending on water storage needs and local soil conditions. A 4 to 6-in perforated pipe can be added to the center of the pit to speed water infiltration. If the soil below the well is clay, a drain pipe may be needed to direct water to a place where it will be more readily absorbed.
A swale is a shallow ditch that is dug on contour to aid in slowing down fast-flowing run-off, moving water to where it can be distributed gently, and increasing infiltration of standing water post-storm. On contour means that a swale follows the natural curves and height of your lawn, making it a gentler method of handling water than a traditional diversion drain.
To increase the effectiveness of my swales, I like to place a berm on the opposite side from where the runoff enters and then plant it with thirsty plants. Swales can be blended into the landscaping with either grass or mulch. It is very important that the bottom soil of the swale is penetrable and porous since the goal of a swale is to absorb water and not just get rid of it.
One of the easiest and cheapest ways to divert water from your lawn is to dig a trench. When it rains and your neighbor’s runoff rushes towards your lawn, it will fall into a trench and move onto a storm drain or another property.
While this is an excellent short-term solution to prevent irreparable damage, it does come with its own issues. Most notably is that you are passing the buck of water responsibility down to the next neighbor or the often overtaxed city waterways. You also aren’t doing much to prevent erosion and unless reinforced with stone or concrete, your trench won’t last more than a storm or two.
5. French Drain
A french drain is a much better way to stop water runoff in the yard than just a simple trench. Combing a trench and dry well, a french drain allows you to bring the excessive water underground where it can be filtered, moved to a better-draining area, and infiltrated into the existing watershed.
Because it prevents groundwater from building up and deals with surface runoff, french drains can protect your basement and foundation from expensive water damage.
- Dig a trench 1.5 ft deep and 10 to 12-in wide, enough to handle your neighbor’s runoff.
- Line the bottom and sides of the pit with landscaping fabric and fill with 2 to 3 inches of gravel.
- Wrap a 4 to 6-in perforated plastic pipe in landscape fabric and place it into the trench on top of the gravel.
- Fill in the rest of the trench with gravel.
To blend with the landscape:
- Pull landscaping fabric from the sides of the hole over the top layer of gravel
- Place a layer of topsoil over the fabric and make it level with the existing soil height.
- Seed with grass or plant with flowers to create a rain garden
6. Dry Creekbed
A dry creekbed is similar to a swale but focuses primarily on moving heavy runoff from your neighbor’s yard away from walkways towards areas of better infiltration. Instead of planting grass or using woodchips, a dry creekbed is lined with varying sized stones. Heavier stones should be used to handle stronger flood waters, while smaller rocks can fill in the gaps. To prevent weeds, you can place landscaping fabric in the ditch before adding the stones.
7. Retaining Wall
If you want to know how to stop water runoff from a neighbor’s yard, a stone or concrete retaining wall may be the answer. I find these to be very effective if the water from my neighbor’s lawn is entering my property at a high point with a lot of force.
Often, the more gentle methods of water reduction cannot handle the force of this gushing runoff and a wall may be needed to stop it completely. It is important that the wall not be built where it will cause standing water on either side, as constant saturation can lead to structural vulnerabilities.
Similar to the trench, this should be treated as a quick fix and not a forever solution. Sandbags or earthbags can be placed along flood paths to block water flow and protect vulnerable areas of your lawn. Once the waters have receded and you have successfully figured out how to block water drainage from a neighbor’s yard, you can think about a more permanent structure such as a berm.
A berm is a small hill that is built along a flood path to block the water from entering and moving it where it is wanted. The advantage of a berm over sandbags or a retaining wall is its ability to be planted on and absorb pooled water.
Some berms are planted with grass but mowing can be a challenge so using it as a hedge or raised garden can be especially successful. Just remember the bottom of berms stays wetter than the tops, so plant accordingly. If you use a berm, swale, and dry well in combination, you can generally deal with even torrential amounts of your neighbor’s water flooding your yard.