The unusually wet June certainly has given everyone insight into how the soil drains in their yards. Problem areas usually appeared as areas where the mower kept sinking into the ground, or ones where the grass died completely.
Ideally, these issues should have been observed when the yard originally was graded, but either poor grading or a lack of options have left you with a problem area.
The next question is whether you want to fight the problem or embrace it.
The main criteria as to whether to fight or not boils down to how valuable the area is to you, as it will most likely take some expense and maintenance to keep the soil drier.
Significant issues causing water in basements should be done by professionals who can evaluate and correct the grading. Smaller areas can be regraded by hand, or have a drain installed to route water to a different location. The trick is having a spot to divert the water. This can shift the problem to another area of the yard, but that location might be more desirable.
If the wet area is near an unused area of the yard, consider embracing the fact that the site is wet, and create a garden suited to it. If grass has been a problem in that spot, consider removing it; chances are it is not going to improve.
First, evaluate the area after a period of rain. Is the soil soggy, or under a significant amount of water? Few plants can handle being under water for more than a day or two, so if that is the case, seek out plants that can grow in a marsh environment. If the area is merely soggy, seek out lists of plants and shrubs that can handle wet soil for periods of time.
Plant options are extensive enough that an attractive planting of various perennials and shrubs can be designed. Consider incorporating sedges (Carex spp.) into the plan, as their roots act as pathways to help soil drain quicker. Lists of plants suggested by University of Illinois resources can be found by using an internet search for the following term – plants for wet areas site: illinois.edu.
A careful evaluation of a challenging area in your yard can have beautiful results.
If you treat the abundance of water as a site characteristic rather than a problem, a workable solution might be as easy as using the right plants for the spot.
Jim Stendler is a University of Illinois Extension master gardener for Kane County. The “Learning to Grow” column runs weekly during warmer months of the year. Call the extension office at 630-584-6166 for more information. Feedback on this column can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.