The Atlanta landscape is riddled with hills and slopes, making drainage problems a common occurrence. Proper drainage is the base for all landscaping and keeps your home's foundation strong by directing water away and keeping it from pooling. Sometimes drainage issues are a fairly easy fix by moving dirt around or redirecting a downspout, but other times they require the installation of a drainage pipe system like a French drain.
To assess the saturation level of your yard, first walk around your property for a few hours after a good rain and take note of where saturation remains. You want to make sure that water is not collecting close to any building structures, wood (like a fence, arbor or play set), or even within your planting beds. When water does not run off properly it becomes a favorite spot for bacteria and mold, killing plants and creating rot.
If there are no pools on the surface, just earth that is overly saturated, then you may want to first try dusting the area with a fine sand and monitoring it over the next couple months. If there is any puddling (and for a more long-term solution), you may need to work a mixture of sand and dirt into the earth. Gutter extensions are a cheap and easy fix if your home's drainage pipes are creating problems, and the materials can be conveniently found at your local hardware store.
If you have a minor flooding issue or a larger area to correct, then the installation of a French drain below the freeze line is a common way to correct runoff. To install the system, first mark a downward sloping route to follow with striping spray paint, having the path end in an area where water will not affect the property or landscape of your home and your neighbor's home. A six-inch slope for every 50 feet will ensure the best result. Then you'll want to dig a six-inch wide trench (using an old fashioned shovel or consider renting a backhoe), and layer it with three inches of gravel. Next, lay landscape fabric over the gravel for the entire length of the trench and place your PVC drain pipe on top. Then add gravel again, covering the pipe, and fold excess fabric over, wrapping the pipe and gravel. There should now be about five inches between the top of the gravel and the surface of the ground. Finally, fill the trench back in with sand and topsoil, leaving a bed of stones at the end of the drain.
If you feel overwhelmed with the idea of tackling a french drain project, or have a more complex drainage problem, then you should contact one of these landscape experts for a professional assessment. The pros also have techniques that can save your sod and give your landscape a more polished finish in a much shorter period of time.