The drainage ditch on your property doesn’t have to be boring or hidden! By thinking creatively, you can morph your drainage ditch into a breathtaking sight that acts as a perfect habitat for insects and birds!
In this guide – we’ll show you our best tips for making your drainage ditch look good – even if you’ve tried before and failed dismally.
Making your drainage ditch look good can be an exciting project. Whether you have inherited an existing drainage ditch area that you want to spruce up, or are planning a new runoff path for water on your property, starting is the same.
Decide on the look and feel you want to design and let your creativity flow!
To begin, take a look at some ideas online! There are plenty available. I found several excellent ditch design resources and share them below.
Drainage Ditch Design Resources
I browsed the top Universities to find the following drainage ditch design resources. Put these to good use!
- Ditch Design – Alternative Approaches – Purdue University
- Drainage Types – Surface vs. Subsurface – Michigan State University
- Subsurface Drainage System Design – University of Minnesota Extension
- Drain Spacing Requirement Calculator – South Dakota State University
- Mole Drains – Perfect for Farms with Hard Clay Soil! – Michigan State University
If you study the above resources, you soon discover that you have a few drainage ditch options. But – how are you supposed to make your drain ditch look good?
Start by carefully considering which style you could apply to your particular drainage ditch situation. Then plan something original for your setting that will make you eager to get started on the project.
If you’re not sure how to start – don’t panic! We’re about to share some of our best drainage ditch design tips to help minimize fuss or second-guessing.
Consider the Volume of Water Flowing Through the Drainage Ditch
While planning, keep the amount of water that flows through the drainage ditch in mind. Is it seasonal, or is there a constant trickle of water from high lying parts of the property throughout the year?
(Or, maybe you manage a larger property with a massive drainage ditch? No worries – the strategy is the same.)
The design and plants you select should stem from a practical assessment of the situation!
Here are some of the assessment areas to consider.
Decide What Garden Style Is Right for You
Unless you have a dedicated team of gardeners, most of us don’t want to spend hours maintaining the property drainage ditch.
If you have a smaller property, you may want to make it a unique feature in the garden.
However, if you are a homesteader, you may need the area to be functional and attractive, with as little effort as possible.
Make Your Drainage Ditch a Garden or Landscaping Feature
Making your garden ditch into a feature area can be a fun project. You can create a feature garden with the area that surrounds the drainage basin. Instead of trying to hide any soggy patches around the drainage site, landscape it!
By adding a prominent centerpiece like a birdbath or large garden ornament, you can work outwards with gradually smaller plants.
Surround the new garden bed with a border edging of rocks or stones, and voila! You have a feature area. Large flat stepping stones can also lead to the centerpiece item.
Sunflowers are a symbol of good luck - what better way to create your own good luck path! These are handcrafted in cast iron so they're super durable and won't crack. They're also frost-proof!
If the area surrounding your drainage ditch is particularly wet throughout the year, consider using a theme for that particular area. Create a small feature mini ‘jungle’ or magical swamp area where kids can safely explore and hunt bugs.
(Want something unique? Like straight out of a David Lynch flick? Try Recycling an old door that leads to another ‘realm’ and let the little one’s imaginations run wild!)
If your drainage ditch spans a considerable length, you will have a larger area to work on, and it can transform into a truly spectacular feature. An idea that I love, especially for less formal settings, is to create a meadowland setting!
(Don’t forget the wooden bridge!)
This weather-resistant bridge of fir wood can transform your drainage ditch or creek into a garden feature that you may fall in love with immediately after installation.
The bridge also supports 450 pounds - so the bridge is more than a garden feature - it's a fantastic (and serviceable) addition to your field, garden, backyard, or homestead. And, I bet your family will love how it looks.
Adding Stone and Landscaping Your Drainage Ditch
Here’s how to transform your ditch.
Add some stone to the bottom of the drainage ditch. Then, remove unsightly weeds or plants from the sides. Be sure not to strip the sides of all plants all at once! Stripping could cause erosion of the soil into your drainage area.
Cut the grass along the sides as short as possible. You will probably need a Weed Wacker to do this.
Then, using a sturdy metal garden rake, move along the sides and agitate the soil to soften it. The dirt doesn’t need to look perfect – or neat! You are just creating places where seeds can settle and root.
Next, grab a bag of ‘Meadow in a Can’ or wildflower seeds and spread it evenly over the area that you have prepared.
These are available in many varieties and pack sizes, so take a look and pick something suitable for your region. Beauty Beyond Belief has an extensive range of seed packs specific to the various areas and planting conditions.
Turn your garden into a wildflower paradise for honey bees, native bees, and more. A mix of beautiful annual and perennial pollen- and nectar-rich flowers.
Everyone loves wildflowers, including insects and birds.
A great feature of using these seeds is that you will only need to plant once. Each year the flowers will reseed themselves, and you will be able to enjoy a pop of color in your garden with minimal work.
How Do You Landscape Around a Drainage Ditch?
Consider the gradient of the area, your climate, and the type of soil you have—also, the volume of water flowing through the drainage ditch.
Also – think ahead as much as possible. Plan what plants will grow in the area. And – provide enough time to establish roots that stabilize before the next downpour!
Landscaping around a drainage ditch can be a (surprisingly) fun project as it may be the only area on your property that receives constant natural irrigation.
If you are working on steep side slopes, you may need to select shrubs and hardy plants that prevent erosion.
Mix and match various varieties of grasses or add low-growing plants like ivy if the area is tough to mow.
Can You Fill a Drainage Ditch With Gravel?
Covering a drainage ditch with gravel is an excellent idea! Gravel stone allows the water to move while at the same time keeping the ground in the area firm.
How Can You Make a Decorative Drainage Ditch?
So long as the drainage ditch is not blocked and water can move as intended, you can let your creativity run wild.
You can make your drainage ditch fabulous by adding features. These can include garden ornaments, stones, planting preferred plants, adding large feature rocks, a birdbath, or even an insect hotel!
Gorgeous insect hotel with metal roof to keep the rain out. Suitable as habitat for butterflies, bees, ladybugs, and other insects.
How Do You Cover a Drainage Ditch?
If your drainage ditch contains a significant amount of water at any time of the year, it must be covered to keep children safe.
Most drainage ditches can be made safe and attractive by simply adding a layer of gravel. Level the gravel and ensure that one side is lower and tapers off away from your property.
If your drainage ditch is deeper? You may need to add a drainage pipe to ensure water drains away faster than with gravel alone.
You do this by wrapping a perforated pipe in landscaping mesh and placing it at the bottom of the drainage ditch along the length of the area. The drainage pipe should line up with existing culverts so that the water has somewhere to go.
Next – and this is very important – cover the pipe in gravel.
You cannot use sand or soil to cover the drainage pipe because it will block the drainage holes. Only once you have covered the drainage pipe with a layer of gravel can you add sand and topsoil!
It is best to only plant plants with shallow root structures, like grass, where you need to use this type of underground pipe drainage.
What Can I Plant in My Drainage Ditch?
The bottom of the drainage ditch will almost certainly be soggy, so you must select plants that thrive in muddy soil.
The University of Illinois Extension has an excellent list of specific ferns, shrubs, and other plants that thrive in wet conditions. My favorite of these is Siberian Iris – the inclusion of these majestic velvet leaves is always a showstopper in any garden!
Gorgeous perennial Siberian Iris with deep purple flowers. USDA zones 3-8. Grows to 32" high and 24-30" wide.
Here’s another reference from the University of Maine that showcases a massive list of wet soil crops – trees, shrubs, groundcover plants, vines, perennials, and more!
Here’s another reference from the PennState extension that lists dozens of wet site plants, trees, and flowers. The list also includes the corresponding hardiness zones. Perfect!
Between these three resources – you have many dozens of wet-tolerant plants, shrubs, flowers, and trees to consider. (Compare any of the plants with your hardiness zone, and go from there!)
Here's an opportunity to transform your unsightly ditch into a bloom of colorful annual flowers that you won't believe!
The best part is that these wildflower seeds are affordable - and hopefully, with luck, they may help attract abundant pollinators that will add more life and joy to your garden!
Also – remember that you may need to focus more on the sides of the drainage ditch than on the bottom.
The soil mustn’t erode as it will eventually block your carefully constructed drainage system, and water will start backing up.
Can I Put Rocks in My Drainage Ditch?
Yes. For sure!
Rocks can be purely functional, or if you have any impressive rocks, add them as a feature of the area.
Rocks look lovely in any setting where there is water. You could even create stepping stones with some flat garden stones.
If you have a large field with a ditch that stretches for longer than you'd like - then check out this massive batch of over 30,000 live wildflower seeds!
Imagine the colorful blooms waiting for you with these non-GMO flowers. They're also annual flowers - so you can hopefully enjoy the pleasant sight of blooming wildflowers over and over again.
One More Drainage Ditch Tip for Farmers, Gardeners, and Homesteaders!
Also, remember that your drainage ditch doesn’t have to look perfect. Just try to keep it neatly landscaped – and keep it clear of debris buildup.
If you can follow those drainage ditch design and landscaping tips, I bet your drainage ditch will last a long time! In fact – history shows that drainage ditches can withstand the test of time.
I was recently reading an article from the Harvard Gazette – where they found a legendary drainage ditch that dates back to the 1700s! Wow!
Back then – the ditch makers dug a ditch, bordered both sides with heavy stones, and lined the bottom with soil. The wild part is that archaeologist students only recently discovered the drainage ditch.
That equates to hundreds of years later – and it’s still intact! (Although, it was buried underground. I’m still impressed. Big time!)
Conclusion – Making Your Drainage Ditch Look Good!
With some imagination and planning, your drainage ditch area can become a feature on your property. Gone are the days of hiding or disguising the water drainage ditch area.
You can transform this vital water system into a breathtaking sight that the neighbors will comment on – for all the right reasons!
What about you? Do you have any good drainage ditch design tips you can share?
I know some of the best landscapers love to show off their work – so feel free to share with us.
Thanks so much for reading – and please have a beautiful day!