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Swale to return rain to groundwater vs. garden

 
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Hi,

Super newbie here. I have attached pics as I struggle with being brief when describing my yard woes.

Due to being at the center of two perpendicular slopes, the street, no gutters, and my driveway, I have runoff and erosion in my yard. It’s nothing insane but it’s enough to erode my yard and sweep gravel, leaves, etc with it.  It doesn’t rush like a deluge but it’s still an issue I’d like to address.

In the future, I hope to have a permeable driveway but I lack money skills and equipment to do anything myself.

In the meanwhile, I’m wondering if I can create a swale from the road to the large tree, about 1x3’.  Because of the tree and driveway, there isn’t anywhere or way to redirect this water to a garden. Instead, I’m hoping I could slow the water so it could infiltrate into the ground instead of rushing over my driveway, across my yard, and to my sloped backyard.

Or would it be possible to create something on top of or right next to the tree roots to connect it to another swale that could connect to a garden? I’m reaching. I’m open to any cost effective solution (mind you I’m a one woman, unskilled show so I’m limited in what I can do).  

Okay so my idea is to create this dry creek or swale with or without vegetation on top (suggestions?) and mitigate some water that way. Then another dry creek right where my driveway and front walk meet, parallel to my house, to a mini rain garden. I’ve already started said garden but it isn’t a true rain garden as nothing leads to it and it isn’t actually where the water goes. The water all goes about 3 feet from my house and all advice online says to stay 10 feet away. I have no water issues in my basement but...

I’ve rambled. Please ask questions. I have thought this to death and need some advice! What would you do if you were me? Thanks!
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Edge of property line and said tree
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View one of water path
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View 2 of water path
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Driveway and street view from house
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Front yard
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Gravel portion of drive
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Side of house where water continues downward but no longer eroding or running off
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Backyard - final destination. Note the neighbors fence for an idea of the slope
 
Brianna Williams
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To clarify, we park two vehicles in the driveway so that gravelly part to the side is not an option. Our vehicles side by side have about 1 foot between the vehicle and the tree. Also forgot to mention kids being able to play in the front yard is huge which is why I have limited plantings there to begin with. Thanks!
 
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From your description and your requirements for access, swales won't be the best choice since the would need to be rebuilt every time the automobiles compact the berm part of the swale.
Swales are not meant to be driven over twice a day, the soil would compact and that will make the soil water resistant so you would not get any soaking in benefits.

Your best bet would be to dig a trench just off the street and install a French drain system to direct the street flow on down the road.
From the look of the water markings you would probably need at least a 4 inch diameter drain line with about 4 inches of gravel over it.

Hopefully others will chime in here with some other alternatives.
 
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Here's my current idea:

Large French drain across top of driveway, overflowing into dry creek which runs along driveway to small rain garden.  If concern about water pooling that close to the house, line the rain garden with EDPM to make a bog garden.  This garden overflows past the house in another dry creek.  Again if concerns about water so close to the house, line the dry creek until it empties into the back yard.

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For what it's worth, I third RedHawk and Ludie's suggestion of a French drain along the side of the road. Wrapping it around towards the tree a bit until it starts to interfere with tree roots as that's where the lowest spot currently is. If you can get some gravel delivered for a french drain, get some extra and fill in that low spot a bit. Can't hurt.

Ludie's dry creek map looks good. You could take it as close or far from the house as you feel is safe. You want to avoid it having a steep slope anywhere, which would make the water move fast and continue the erosion. You might consider stair-stepping the dry creek where the slope is steep so you have almost-flat sections separated by dropoffs. You would have to plant up the dropoffs with really hardy grass like vetiver grass if you can get it. Or you could use some extra rocks and gravel and maybe make little rock walls. Or enclose the rocks in chicken wire and you have a pretty sturdy mini-gabion that will really hold the earth back and keep it from collapsing. Anyway, you need things to go across the path of the water. Slow it down, let grass or rock barriers accumulate the soil behind them and stop it washing downhill. It could end up being pretty if you want to get artsy about it.

You could always dig a little bit of a basin across the path of the water, far enough from the house, fill it with mulch, plant it up, and have that be your rain garden. Or at least an extension of it. Since it will flood once in a while, it will be a natural. Just make sure to design the way the basin overflows very well. Make a wide sill that's dead level and compacted well (hopefully you have some clay in your soil), and plant it with vetiver grass again or some other really hardy grass. And then be conscious of slowing down and directing the water downstream of that.

That's my 2¢ for the moment. Be sure to post before and after shots with whatever you do!
 
Brianna Williams
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I'm sorry this is a very belated response but thank you all so much for your thoughtful responses.  We ended up having to move so I didn't get to implement any of your suggestions but I am so appreciative of the thoughtfulness and time in your responses.  It all seemed right on.
 
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Brianna Williams wrote:I'm sorry this is a very belated response but thank you all so much for your thoughtful responses.  We ended up having to move so I didn't get to implement any of your suggestions but I am so appreciative of the thoughtfulness and time in your responses.  It all seemed right on.



Best of luck in your new digs!

For what it's worth, if you run into this problem again, wood chips are a great way to slow down water. That photo where the water was eroding a little channel of rocks and such would be a great spot to dig a bit deeper and fill it in with wood chips. This also has the effect of creating a nice climate for mushrooms, which can help clean up the water on its way.
 
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