Need ideas for an over-saturated backyard in Florida

by ArtRockstar
Hello all,
I'm in South Florida, and where I live the ground tends to get very, and stay very mushy most of the year. I hate going back there to take out the trash, let alone actually spending time there.
I will post photos tomorrow when its light out.
In the meantime, it is a decent sized space for a small swimming pool, if you can imagine that. But I'm not putting in a pool. :) It is almost a swamp as it is!
I would like to be able to spend time out there, I love plants/gardens/flowers, but again I can't walk out there without getting a dirty, muddy foot.
So, any ideas & suggestions are always appreciated!
Crissy D.
Pembroke Pines, FL
  24 answers
  • Katrina Warren Katrina Warren on Dec 11, 2015
    There's an area in the lower back end of our yard in North Fl. that stays constantly damp/muddy.... There is ginger planted there, looks nice, & smells heavenly when they bloom! Cannas & Elephant Ears also love lots of moisture! Not sure how BIG of an area you have that needs raising for drainage purposes but if it's not too huge, you might consider scattering top soil lightly over it, let the grass grow threw it well, then repeat every few weeks or months until you have raised the level to where it needs to be.
  • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Dec 11, 2015
    You can start by putting landscape fabric down and covering the area with drainage rock. Once you have established the size of seating area you can then have a deck put in with pressure treated lumber. Since there is to much water for plants in the ground surround the area with potted trees and container gardens.
  • Julies1949 Julies1949 on Dec 11, 2015
    Take advantage of gravity. At the far end of your property, dig out an area so that the ground water naturally accumulates in that area and the rest of the yard dries out. If you get enough drainage that it actually makes a pond, be sure to put an inexpensive re-circualting fountain in it so you don't get standing water which would serve as a breeding ground for insects.
  • Valerie Valerie on Dec 11, 2015
    If you are wanting to dry it out, get your landscaper out to put in drainage tile( underground), add some fill dirt and grade..away from house.
  • Willow Gates Landscaping Willow Gates Landscaping on Dec 11, 2015
    If you can drain it to a waterway, that's one option. If you're in FL, I'm assuming that you have relatively well draining soil and the issue is simply a high water table or a low spot that naturally accumulates water. If you have poorly draining soil, you can amend the soil so that it drains more quickly and a wider variety of plants will survive. But I think you would be better off doing some raised pathways for access and/or seating, then just planting bog/swamp plants that will thrive with no extra work.
  • Donna Griggs Poletti Donna Griggs Poletti on Dec 11, 2015
    We had that problem with our home in Margate in south Florida. We eventually had to "sand" the property so we wouldn't have so much water buildup and gushy ground.
  • Kathy Kathy on Dec 12, 2015
    If you are in a sinkhole prone area, I would ask an expert before I did anything.
  • From what I understand about Florida, it is one huge swamp. With that being said you need to work with nature and try to figure out the flow of water on your property. I never use landscape fabric and would not recommend just filling in dirt until you figure out where the water is coming from. Diverting the water and planting native (ferns and grasses) and even non invasive plants that live in swampy areas would help to dry up the area. I would start by googling native plants in Florida and then going through pictures of what you like. Trees like willows will love a swampy area but can get huge so make sure you know how big a plant is going to get. Plants can really do a lot to 'soak' up the water. I would then think about making pathways where the water flows and even a patio area where the highest part of the back yard appears to be. If you fill in an area, I would probably look into landscape blocks or even stone to build small retaining walls to keep soil in. I would also visit the botanical gardens and even take a peek at other homes in your area to see what they have done. (open houses and model homes are sometimes great idea generators). Good luck!
    • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Dec 12, 2015
      @The Garden Frog with C Renee The landscape fabric was merely to control the weeds.
  • ArtRockstar ArtRockstar on Dec 12, 2015
    Everyone thank you for all these good ideas and perspectives I hadn't looked at yet. I'm uploading pics now that's it's not raining...the soil is pretty rich, lots of worms so maybe that means good for planting?
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    • @ArtRockstar Muscovy ducks? Depending upon your budget there are many ways to approach this. At least you have some green. Mark out where the wettest areas are and the areas that water runs to. You could use marking paint, hose, or string. So the next time it rains you will be looking out to see how the water runs. Yes if you have worms your soil is good for planting. That is why you want to check what is native to your area. Plants can do wonders. Also do you have gutters? downspouts? do they run into the yard or away from the house? bushes like Fothergilla gardenii, Inkberry (ilex glabra), Winterberry (Ilex verticillata), Virginia sweetspire and even wild hydrangea or Oak leaf would love the moist area. Ferns such as Lady fern, Cinnamon fern and Royal ferns love moist. Then you have Cardinal flowers which would love this. You have options when it comes to planting. I am not sure what zone you are in but the above are for zone 7b where I live.
  • Margaret Margaret on Dec 12, 2015
    When we moved to Fl there was a swamp that was a cattle farm almost always wet and yes it is the water table is high. Over the years they sold the property and build a sub division there. Mostly plants cant grow in water so all of the shrubs died. There were some issues with the slabs too but I dont remember what. Mostly I felt sorry for the people who unknowingly bought the houses in that area.
  • Margaret Margaret on Dec 12, 2015
    I dont know but I wonder if you could put down gravel and rocks with wood walkways like they put in the swampy areas that have tourist attraction
  • Jeff Syrus Jeff Syrus on Dec 12, 2015
    The only one sure permanent fix to the water soaked area of the complete yard is to install a sub-surface perforated pipe system under the entire yard linked together with a gravel bed surrounding the ditched area of pipeline. The water is collected, removed & pumped from the pipeline by a submersible water pump - float atuated motor. Pumping the collected water linked to the yard area pipeline exits the lowest point or topical surface drain gutter.
  • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Dec 12, 2015
    Just an added comment since most do not realize many plants do not like to be saturated. So a new thought before you decide what to plant I would research further with local professionals who would know what plants would tolerate such a wet situation. Everyone states there opinion but with your situation and a different state I would reach out to someone who is in your state. I ran a garden center for many years and sometimes you are right and sometimes there is to much to say.
  • Sheri L. Putnam-Cline Sheri L. Putnam-Cline on Dec 12, 2015
    Raised garden beds (self-watering). Build & set the raised garden beds and fill with the soil from all the walkway areas. (A rototiller would help with this process) The recessed pathways are then deeply filled with large tree chip that acts as a filtration basin to store the water which is wicked up into the raised garden beds. In about 2 to 3 years the pathway chip turns to garden mulch. Dig this mulch and top off all your raised beds and repeat filling with large tree chip. You can get "free" chips from county road clearing crews or local tree services for a low fee. This type of process is used extensively in Permaculture. By going down you build water berms and utilized the water. The raised beds also helps your earthworm population by giving them high areas.
  • Darlene Darlene on Dec 12, 2015
    Maybe planting some River Birch trees would help soak up some of the water.
  • Sue c. Sue c. on Dec 13, 2015
    Your best resource for the right fix for your exact area is a local landscape sales store. I lived for a while further south than you and I know there are lots of places with folks who have great ideas and know your terrain. Any suggestions for planting really should be local. I do know that you cannot simply put down more soil or other media and expect to dry out the yard. Doesn't work that way! If you have a swampy yard it will swallow whatever you top it with. Been there done that :0 Not pretty or funny- the yard that ate a dump truck load of top soil ! I would ask what locally grown plants like your " swamp".
  • ArtRockstar ArtRockstar on Dec 13, 2015
    So many creative ideas and possible solutions have been given and I thank everyone their time. I'm going to post pictures after. It's not going to be a cheap fix no matter what approach I take so it may be after Christmas...and with that I wish everyone a merry Christmas!
  • ArtRockstar ArtRockstar on Dec 14, 2015
    I haven't done it yet, but will update after the holidays! Thanks!!!
  • Mike Mike on Apr 05, 2024

    Just wondering if you ever solved your problem. I have the same issue.

  • Deb K Deb K on Apr 06, 2024

    Hello ArtRockstar, hope this helps you. "Drainage can be improved by cutting a gentle swale to lower elevations; adding soil (if there are no trees nearby) to raise the low spot; or installing a French drain of four-inch perforated pipe with a sock, gravel, and sand. If you do the swale, you can add rocks and other items like water loving shrubs to it to make it look like a small creek running through the yard.

  • Dee Dee on Apr 06, 2024

    What we do here in my state is get a cord of top soil and spread it all over the yard. Beware, this is a lot of hard work, but it does take away the water and the St. ugustine grass grows much thicker.

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Apr 07, 2024

    Off the top of my head - Build a Bog Garden. Better still ask a Garden Designer or Company to suggest ideas .

  • Redcatcec Redcatcec on Apr 07, 2024

    Do you neighbors have the same problem with water as you do? What have they done to clear out the water? I would have a landscaper or more come over and pick their brains on what the cause is and how to resolve it. Get free estimates.

  • Redcatcec Redcatcec on Apr 07, 2024

    Thinking more into your problem, why not talk to the master gardeners at your local cooperative extension, they might have some good recommendations.