Eliminate Standing Water on Your Homestead and in Your Backyard

Reader Contribution by Stephanie Leaf
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Combating areas of standing water can be a serious problem that homesteaders, gardeners, or any homeowner must face. Standing water is caused by a variety of issues and while many times, can be resolved easily; it can develop into a real concern for the health and well being of your home and homestead.

Sources of standing water

Standing or stagnant water is very common in outdoor spaces and refers to any pool of water that does not flow or have any movement. One of the most common sources of standing water occurs when objects such as buckets, tools, planters, and children’s toys collect water after a rain. With small children, I am constantly battling trying to remember to collect all toys and bring them inside after use. We many times leave them out in the rain, leaving them to collect rainwater. Buckets, wheelbarrows, and other carrying tools are also items we have a hard time with remembering to put away. I am continually guilty of starting a weeding project, not finishing, and leaving the bucket of weeds out to be filled with rainwater shortly thereafter.   

Gutters and drains are also common sources of standing water. Gutters and drains can become clogged or simply restricted if not cleaned out properly and frequently. This issue is often overlooked and usually not addressed until a clog is noticed and a larger problem has occurred.

Water features such as ponds and birdbaths can yield standing water if not properly maintenanced. We have a very small pond on our property that easily collects and holds water.  For years now, keeping it running has not been a priority so it constantly collects water and needs to be drained and cleaned frequently. Not only can it become unsightly but it also attracts rodents and insects.


Another common issue that leads to standing water is uneven grading. Water can settle into areas where the ground is unable to drain sufficiently. Many times this occurs in gardens where the ground is slanted or inclined. Our property has many areas where water collects and needs intervention in order to drain properly.

Problems and concerns

Standing water can become a real problem as it causes many health concerns for humans and animals. Not only can standing water be unappealing in looks and smell but it can become a breeding ground for bacteria, mosquitos, algae, and mold. In addition to this, it can also attract rodents looking for water sources.  More than just an annoyance, standing water that is not addressed can pose real dangers to your home.


Stagnant water can breed insects such as mosquitos. Mosquitos love stagnant water and actually need a source of water to complete their life cycle. Of the four stages of a mosquito’s life, three of these phases are spent in the water. This makes standing water the perfect breeding ground for mosquitos. Even very small collections of water, such as children’s toys that have crevices could be enough to allow for mosquitoes to breed.


Water that has been standing unaddressed for some time can attract rodents looking for sources of water. This water can then become contaminated with fecal waste which contains many types of harmful bacteria. Leptospira is a harmful bacteria that can be found in water that has been contaminated with animal urine. These puddles or areas of standing water could be very dangerous to pets or children who may come in contact with or ingest this water.


Algae is a common microscopic organism that can eventually breed and grow in standing water. Algae can grow in puddles or collections of water, as well as, ponds and water features. While naturally growing algae is necessary for the success of the ecosystem, algae growth in puddles and buckets can turn harmful quickly. Once the algae has grown to a certain point, it will begin to turn colors such as green, blue, and black. Both unsightly and harmful to animals who may drink it, algae is an issue that can be prevented. In ponds and water features, it is important to reduce growth of algae by use of a filter and skimming methods. 

Water Damage

Water that is settling close to any structure can cause extensive water damage. Continuous standing water can cause wood and brick mortar to break down at higher rates than normal. Water located near the home can seep into the ground and down into the basement if not addressed.

Standing water prevention and maintenance

1. Store any container that can hold water upside down.

2. Pick up tools, buckets, children’s toys, play tables, kiddie pools and sandboxes before each storm.

3. After each storm or heavy rain, check homestead for any areas of standing water to identify problem areas.

4. Clean birdbaths and ponds regularly to ensure no growth of bacteria and to ensure that any pumps are working.  Place birdbaths and ponds in areas with limited light in order to reduce photosynthesis which leads to algae growth. For more pond and water feature care, see this article titled, “DIY Natural Backyard Pond.”

5. Clean out gutters, drains, and feeding vessels regularly.

6. Before adding any hardscapes, such as pavements, walkways, or garden beds, make sure all areas are properly graded and address any possible areas of poor drainage.

7. If your garden has an incline, make sure that you do not plant anything in the area where the water settles. If you do not take the drainage of a garden into consideration, you will end up with vegetable plant sitting in a dirty puddle after each rain. For more guidance on standing water in your garden check out this article titled, “Dealing with a Wet Spring in the Vegetable Garden“.

8. Address any areas of your yard that does not drain properly by putting in a French drain or other draining solution.

9. Set up a rain collection system and reuse the water to water your plants.

Standing water is a just one of the continual issues that homesteaders and gardeners face.  Many times the source is easily fixed or eliminated and other times more in depth methods to correct drainage issues may occur. A quick survey of the property after a heavy rain will help identify any problem areas and allow for quick clean up to avoid breeding mosquitos and bacteria. Using these methods, you can eliminate any harmful problems that may occur due to standing water on your property.

Stephanie Leafis transforming her family’s Maryland home into their homestead dream property. She and her husband own a masonry business and do the majority of the renovation projects themselves, with plans to expand their garden, cultivate herbs, build a chicken coop and involve their children in every aspect of self-sufficiency. Connect with Stephanie atWingin’ it on the Homesteadand onFacebookandPinterest.

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