Landscaping & Design/leveling, drainage


Hey Mark,
   I have a couple of problems with my yard, i am hoping you have information to solve them.
   Here is what I am working with- a 49'x30' main space with two annexes which are approximately 15'x20' and positioned "kitty corner" to each other. I am unsure of the slope, as in changes from one end of the yard to the other. The slope is generally away from the house.
   First problem,the ground is not level. We have to use a weed whacker for the lawn as a mower hangs up on the many high spots. Also there is a wave like configuration along the length of the yard. Flatter adjacent to the foundation, then sloping down to create a 6' wide and 1' deep trough,then back up the far side followed by irregular sloping toward the property line.
    Second problem, flooding in the basement. I realize this can't be cured simply with drainage, but it will make a difference.
     AND, for an added challenge, we have gas,phone and electric lines which run from top to bottom of the yard in a nice 30'x21'x9' wedge at one end of the yard.
     What do I want to achieve? A level lawn with a gradual slope which will enhance and not hinder drainage.


The best solution would be to regrade. You may need other drainage devices to support the grading. Any grading involving over 5 cubic yards usually requires a permit. The utility lines are in an easement and so you will need to get permission from the utilities to make any changes such as grading over them. Basically,the grading would involve cutting off the high spots and then filling the low spots with the backfill.

Actually,"knocking out the high spots into the low ones" is the same thing as grading. Grading is basically a "cut and fill" operation,unless soil is brought in from off site and as I said in my first response, "Basically,the grading would involve cutting off the high spots and then filling the low spots with the backfill." Cut and fill and grading are not two separate things.

The point is,most municipalities require a permit for any grading operation that involves more than 5 cubic yards of soil and so even if you cut off the high spots you are still doing grading (cut and fill) and so you should check with your local building code to see what it says about grading.

The slope should be at least 1/4 inch per foot but depending on how much water falls on the property,such a minimum slope may not be able to drain the water away at an adequate rate and if you cannot increase the slope,other drainage devices such as pipe and catch basins may be needed to carry the excess water away. Your basement may require some type of perimeter drainage and a sump pump and of course a suitable outlet for the water drained.

Mark Harshman

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Design of landscape structures and design of planting arrangements in the landscape. I usually do not answer questions of a horticultural nature or about growing plants or gardening unless they are related to design. I will answer these questions at my discretion. I will answer maintenance questions at my discretion,usually when they are related to design. I am a landscape designer. I am not a contractor or a gardener. Although I will describe how something is built I do not provide detailed installation or construction instructions. Here are example categories of problems I can help you with: Design of residential walks,low walls,low retaining walls,fences,drainage systems,arbors,plant selection,xeriscapes (low water use landscapes),rain garden design,rain water harvesting,permeable paving,sustainable drainage. No advise on an architectural or engineering level. I DO NOT PERFORM ACTUAL DESIGN WORK THROUGH THIS SITE. I only provide suggestions and advice. For more comprehensive help check out my website at:


Landscape concept plan for a 30,000 square feet housing site. Involved site recon by pace measurements and photographs and a site analysis and a site analysis report and recommendations and a preliminary cost estimate. Design elements included canopy trees,shrub cover,accent flowers,trash receptacles,benches and planters. Landscape concept plan for a 7,000 square feet site for a community center. Involved site recon by tape measurements and photographs,a site analysis and the creation of 3 conceptual designs for the site. Work was done through a local professional design center. Design elements included tree garden,playground,sitting area,lawn,cooking area,lighting and concrete and brick paving. Landscape concept plan for a 3,000 square feet housing site. Involved site recon by tape measurements and photographs and a site analysis. Concluded in 3 concept designs for the site,shown at a formal presentation,a site analysis and recommendations. Work was done through a community volunteer program. Design elements included decks,a playground and fencing. Briefly as draftsman for landscape designer/gardener. Conceptual landscape design for residence. Involved site recon by tape and pace measurements and site analysis. Design included covered patio area,ground cover and flower beds. Two years experience as draftsman for transportation department in engineering firm and for engineering consultants to phone company. Duties consisted of plotting topography. Survey crew member. General assistant to surveyor. Work was done for U.S. Army and County Highway Department. No instrument work. Duties included tape measurement,holding graduated survey rod and plumb bob for sighting and clearing brush. Marketed Landscape Design Services. Brochure writing,promotional material and marketing graphics.

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