What is a French Drain?

Sometimes you need to plant a specific plant in a certain area of the yard due to sunlight requirements–but perhaps that particular area does not drain well and the plant you chose doesn’t do well in soggy soil. You need a way to get the excess water away from the area. A French drain serves two purposes and is a perfect solution to two problems.


The French drain allows excess water to drain away from a garden area, allowing you to put plants that do not like soggy ground in that area. It also helps with erosion. Excess water in an area can erode the soil after time, making a swampy place in that part of the yard.


A French drain can be any length that is needed but is generally 2 feet deep. It is filled with stone or a gravel mixture, then covered with sod. The French drain directs excess water away from a garden or a part of the yard that is low and collects a pool of water during hard rains. If you don’t want to cover the French drain with sod, you can cover it with other landscaping–such as a small bridge leading from one part of the garden to the yard or another section of garden.


The French drain can turn a previously unusable part of a yard into a garden or patch of grass that can actually be utilized. It also creates a safer yard for those with children, especially if the excess water pools and lingers for a long time.


When creating a French drain, use a mixture of small stone (1/4 inch to 1/2 inch in size) and gravel. Pack the gravel mixture into the trench firmly enough so that the sides of the drain do not erode and leave you with a bigger hole or dip in the yard. Consider running the French drain toward an area that needs frequent watering. The excess water that is diverted to a drier area will save on your water consumption.


Check the French drain periodically throughout the season for settling issues and erosion issues, especially if you are having a heavy rainy season. Water, especially fast-running water, can move the gravel and stone mixture if it is not properly packed into the drain. The longer the French drain is, the more likelihood that you will have to add more gravel mixture over time.