always wet area next to house

I've got a small area of soil right next to our house that I'm having trouble with. It is roughly 3' wide and maybe 14 or 15' long, right up against the west side of the house, between the house and the sidewalk, near the front door.
I planted several things there this Spring, and everything has died. I dug down in there, and found that the soil is staying very, very wet. Also, though the good topsoil goes down about 3", the underlying material is simply gravel, and that is wet too. There is no water or anything visible there, and no water actually rushes into a hole when I dig, but it evidently stays the wettest spot I've ever tried to garden in.
Yesterday I realized why - the prevailing wind and weather here comes from the SW, and when it rains against the side of the house, the water just runs down the side of the house and down into this little area. I mulched the area, which probably holds the moisture in even more. I don't think there is any good drainage under the sidewalk, so the water just sort of sits there. I could probably grow rice there without too much trouble!
So, I have two choices, really. I could start thinking of growing only plants that don't mind having a lot of water just a few inches below the surface.
Or, I could dig everything out down to about 9", leave two or three trenches, and mound up some light, organic soil, sand and peat moss in between the trenches, and plant there. I thought about trying to get the area drained better, but I don't see any easy way to put in drainage tile or anything like that, without busting out the walkway. That might be a project to consider next year.
Anyone ever have a situation like this? How did you handle it?
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We have what we call swells around here. Sort of like ground water that travels in a certain direction and is usually be nigh. One runs into my basement from the north and leaves our above brick work with a permanent damp spot luckily outside. A remedy could be a french drain . I just learned to live with it. Weird as even in a drought that spot is damp.
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Bill S. Jersey USA zone 5 shade garden
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Maybe you need roof gutters, and/or need to unclog them.
So long as you don't have a basement and/or water is not coming in then you are in pretty good shape. However three inches of soil over gravel is not good for growing plants, that it's wet is much worse, you need to dig down into the gravel to see why it's not draining, probably clay... almost as if the builder back filled with gravel in an attempt at remediation because the wet area was evident... be thankful that water is not coming up into your house.
You can probably easily place perforated PVC pipe under the walk to lead water away but still it needs somewhere to go that will perc. Most houses don't have very good plant growing conditions right up against their foundations due to all sorts of debris buried when backfilling... I don't recommend planting within three feet of the foundation, especially if there's an overhang, then for most folks that negates any watering benefit from rain... and often there are building materials buried that poison the location for growing much of anything.
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Just had new roof gutters and downspouts installed as part of purchasing this house. I can attest that they are working fine, because the water coming out at the south end of the house blasted my mulch out into the yard several feet.

I have a basement, but it has only been affected by water once in the last 4 months, and that was a trickle that went away quickly after a very heavy downpour.
Part of the issue is that this place was built with virtually no roof overhang. The older homes I've lived in had probably 2' of roof overhang, but this one was built in 1979, and the roof only sticks out about 2" more than the side of the house. Thus, if the wind is blowing at all, a lot of rain is hitting the west side of the house and running down into this area.
I haven't completely figured out what we are going to do in this area long term. My wife would like something more along the lines of an old fashioned porchf. Right now there is just a small raised slab by the front door. Mostly I was hoping to have some nice yellow pear tomatoes the same year we moved in, but I may have to settle for a fall garden with greens.
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How about a 3" or 4" dia. hose to run the water out to where it won't be a bother, or you could try raised beds, or simply an earthen mound 6" to 12" high, circular or rectangular.
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- Billy
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On 6/16/2010 1:23 PM, Ohioguy wrote:

I'd put in French trenches and direct the water away.
I'd worry about what to plant later.
Susan
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Ohioguy wrote: ...

do you have a basement or crawlspace?
or
does it get plenty of sun otherwise?
if so it sounds perfect for strawberries. :)
any of the mosses would probably love it there if the soil is acidic.
hmm,
i'd dig it out (take off the dirt over the gravel) and turn it into a raised platform for rock garden plantings, but as to what i would plant would depend upon the light. all of this depends upon so much what the rest of your yard/house looks like it's pretty tough to recommend anything specific.
songbird
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It gets full sun from about Noon on, so right now it is getting 7 hours or more of direct sun a day. Soil in the area is a bit alkaline, and would probably remain that way due to the amount of concrete right next to the planting area.
Yes, I have a basement, which has never flooded, but got a trickle of water once in the corner.
I have also noticed that whenever I water my trees and plants, water is dripping from the faucet, which is about 30 years old. I'm starting to think that is a contributing factor.
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I once had a leaking garden connection that dripped over the area of the roots of a clematis henryi and it produced flowers the size of dinner plates. just huge. Ingrid

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Somewhere between zone 5 and 6 tucked along the shore of Lake Michigan on the council grounds of the Fox, Mascouten, Potawatomi, and Winnebago
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Dig a little deeper. Top soil and then gravel sounds like drainage.
There should be top soil, 6 to 12 inches of gravel and then a drain pipe.
On the west side of the house I'd be thinking ground cover like pachysandra or one of my favorite plants, hosta.
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I just can't figure out how to install any sort of tile without busting up the sidewalk. I'd really rather not do that if I don't have to.

I don't mind it being ornamental, but I was hoping to offer visitors the chance to grab a snack when they came to the front door. Plus, my kids just LOVE tomatoes, which was why I planted the yellow pear tomatoes. That's the kind my grandpa always plants.
In the end, I may try some water loving plants. I've never grown any of them before, and it would be interesting. However, it would probably be better for the house to make this situation go away.
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Make a big hole outside of the sidewalk, and use a hose and some suitable lengths of PVC drain pipe or similar to tunnel the pipe under the sidewalk. The "Tunnels" episode of the "Building Big" TV series on DVD demonstrates the technique in a family activity segment. The episode may be borrowed from a local public library or maybe from Netflix.
You might also rent a cement cutter and cut a tidy slice out of the sidewalk.
    Una
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On Fri, 18 Jun 2010 14:32:48 -0600 (MDT), snipped-for-privacy@att.net (Una) wrote:

It's pretty easy to tunnel under a sidewalk with a pressure washer.
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Why not plant something that will love the wet soil? Just look for bog plants that like it Hibiscus, Astilbe, Cardinal Lobelia, Siberian Iris, Louisiana Iris, Marsh Marigold,Rushes,Marsh Mallow,water forget me nots. I got water celery jumped out of the pond likes it wet. here is a page http://store.wickleinswatergardens.com/hardy-marginal-bog-aquatic-plants.aspx
west side of the house, the soil is staying very, very >wet. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Somewhere between zone 5 and 6 tucked along the shore of Lake Michigan on the council grounds of the Fox, Mascouten, Potawatomi, and Winnebago
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Just an FYI, if you don't mind getting dirty... you can dig under a sidewalk fairly easily with water pressure. Dig a pit down on either side of the sidewalk, at the depth you want the pipe to go through.
Turn the garden hose to high pressure and just start forcing the water to erode a spot of soil under the sidewalk, advancing the hose as it digs through the soil. Eventually, you'll break through on the other side and can thread your pipe (or wire or cable) through.
There are specialized boring tools that the guys that lay underground cable and the like use for getting under roads and driveways... but the hose method works well for small distances, and it's nice and cheap.
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: ...
I am no expert but I think your focusing on the wrong thing. Water pooling next to your house/basement walls is not a good thing for reasons beyond gardening. In another post you mentioned that heavy rains caused a temporary leak into the basement? These things do not get better with time.
I would take care of the house/water issue first. Garden part should come later. Temporarily, line up a few well drained pots/containers.
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sorry to come in here, but i missed the original post.
i agree with 'newbie' on this one, and might add you need to do some visual research when it rains to take note of where this water comes from, also are you at the bottom of a slope where all water from the above properties drains to.
as far asi am aware water can be the enemy of foundations as it seeps through the cement i have been told it weakens the structure of the cement, in worst case scenerio could cause reinforcing to rust and swell causing the cement to crack.
also don't recommend having gardens or trees up against the foundations, should be app' a 2 meter buffer zone between plantings and the foudations. all toward stable moisture levels around the foundations. also considers termites.
anyhow for now take a look at our french/agricultiral drain presentation you may have to consider something like this?
http://www.lensgarden.com.au/tipson.htm
here is our story on our research:
start copy:
how we determined the placement of the ag' drain we were involved in installing.
first up like i said i had done a couple or 3 or 4 years of observation, this water came travelled through our neighbours foundations and flooded our front yard in times of heavy rain and the water continued to flow through his foundations and across his underhouse storage garage area, so at the least inconvenient for him as it was not dry storage then, for some days week whatever after the rain event.
anyhow after a period and as any good neighbour might i began to sell him on the idea of an ag' drain, yes i will be bitterly honest here if he didn't do it above his house we were going to have to do it along the bottom side of his boundry in his yard to benefit us alone, there was no option to do anything in our yard. but it would hardly be worth our effort for some front yard flooding.
we got on well and he could see the issue with probable failure of cement slab and cement stumps. so i talked him through how i saw it.
he was near the bottom of this app' 6% slope. now at the top of the slope was another street that storm water went direct to the adjacent wetland, a couple houses right at teh very top app' 200 meters up and away. so that meant abut 5 houses could not gravity run their storm water to the street or storm water drain as they too were below the slope.
so as our enquiries found, the builder developer was permitted to put in a large rubble drain down the inside of teh back property lines of these affected house, this rubble drain was fed into a gravel sump (huge hole filled with gravel to allow the trapping of certain water and let it permiate into the clay sub soil) yes all soil was clay.
needless to say of course these sorts of systems provide a cheap remedy and are council apporved but have serious limitations, you see clay makes for an ideal dam, farmers can't have dams without clay soil, once clay saturates no more water will flow into or through it, why dams work so well. and later on at another suburb our next door neighbour put in a large car apron creating a catchment of which i indicated to him he could not pass that water down to us, so his builder put in such a drain system, they made it obvious they did not like ahving to do it, and yes in heavy or continued rain it all flowed out the top of the sump across our back boundry into other yards. it was like a geisher.
the best most expensive treatment would have been to seek pemission to put a pvc drain through 2 yeards (these 2 yards efected from the overflow and it would have saved another 2 from ever being affected) to the lower storm water drain, you can imagine expensive hey and ths overflow water was never going to affect him, out of sight out of mind.
anyway this drain scenerio had same/similar issues, the builder could have gotten pemission to install a pvc drain down to the wetland then there would be no problem for any others, i look carefully now at topography before we buy.
so that was a major issue in my neighbours issue, some hidden ones we found the digger guy helped here also was a disused septic tank with the top smashed in so they could fill it with dirt but they didn't punch a hole through the bottom which would have helped, the tanks should have been removed but guess the owner then was not going to fork out the cash. this was the cause of why the water continued until the level dropped in that tank.
the digger bloke pointed out that the old leach field pipes all had a downhill flow back toward the house, a bad plumber i would say, must have been issues with the owners who had it then? so we factored all that in as the job the ag' drain had to control. the old septic system actually had some uphill flow factor in it between the tank and the leach field pipes. legacy of house being built without owner supervision there is a lesson to be learnt there, with the home we built we were there each and every day even then they tried shot cuts.
we ran teh drain and connected it to a lower storm water pipe to evacuate that water away from his house, we use pvc in leiu of black flexable as the pvc can be cleaned at anytime using a plumbers eel. you can in fact make your own pvc ag' pipe by buying normal pipe then with a grinder cut slots down 2 sides.
anyhow all worked well in the above scenerio.
end copy.
snipped
--
Matthew 25:13 KJV
"Watch therefore, for ye know neither
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