Top it off with your swale or dry streambed

You can also run pipes from your downspouts or from your underground drainage system into the percolation chamber.

Before you dig, check for any utilities in the area, and make sure you aren't digging on top of a septic system or any other underground structures. See Chapter 11 for details on who to call before you start work.

Terraces

If you're going to build terraces, first check with a civil engineer or a geologist to ensure that it's safe to do so. They can also help you develop a design that will hold up to the forces of gravity. You may need to get a building permit for your retaining walls.

On shallow ground with less than a 3:1 slope (1 foot of elevation change for every 3 feet of horizontal distance), you probably can get away without installing retaining walls. On steeper slopes, make walls from urbanite (salvaged broken concrete), wooden timbers or logs, natural stone, or a reusable segmental retaining wall system. (See Chapter 14 for information on building retaining walls.)

If you aren't building retaining walls, follow the procedure in the earlier "Swales" section to make your terraces. Excavate earth and form it into a berm on the downhill side, creating a level area behind the berm. If your topsoil layer is thin, remove it, grade the soil underneath, and replace the topsoil when you're done. Compact and stabilize the berm by stomping on it. Prevent erosion by planting sturdy plants with good root systems and by covering the soil with a 3- to 4-inch layer of organic mulch such as wood chips.

Dutch drains

In its simplest form, a Dutch drain is a ditch filled with coarse gravel. Water runs into it from surrounding areas and soaks into the soil, where plants can take advantage of it. That system works fine, but more sophisticated approaches can make it last longer and work better.

To construct a first-class Dutch drain, follow these steps:

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