Mosquito Control: How to Get Rid of Standing Water in Your Yard

rain water standing in a yard

Do you ever feel like you need to rock some fly fishin’ waders just to cross that giant puddle in your yard after a big rain? And let’s not forget about all those mosquitoes now drawn to that standing water to mate, lay eggs, and have dinner on us (literally). Homeowners are often fed up and wonder how to get rid of standing water and control mosquitoes in their yards.

In this article, we’ll explore the eight tips for getting rid of standing water in your yard. Let’s dive into the standing water pool!

Eight Tips to Rid Your Yard of Standing Water

Standing water in your yard is like a convenience store for mosquitoes — they’ll stop in whenever they need water (to lay eggs) and snacks (you). Remember, female mosquitoes must have standing water in which to lay their eggs. With these eight tips, you can keep these loitering snack cravers out of your yard by ditching the water they love. 

1. Dethatch

A yellow colored dethatcher in a lawn
Photo Credit: Agri-Fab / Wikimedia Commons / CC0

What Does It Mean to Dethatch? 

Dethatching is a method used to remove excess thatch, which is the layer of the lawn where the grass roots meet the soil. This process opens up the lawn allowing nutrients, improved air circulation, and increased water infiltration to reach the roots. It’s kind of like a deep raking.

How Dethatching Prevents Standing Water 

A thick layer of thatch holds water, which creates the type of humid area that attracts mosquitoes to a shady lawn during the day.

Why Should Homeowners Dethatch? 

When the buildup of thatch exceeds the decomposition rate, the layer grows thicker and can cause problems for your lawn. With proper dethatching: 

  • Standing water is eliminated.  
  • Runoff is redirected so mosquitoes can’t lay their eggs. 
  • New grass can grow in the soil instead of the thatch layer, leading to deeper, healthier roots. 
  • Air, water, nutrients, and pesticides can get down into the roots where they are needed most. 

How Do Homeowners Dethatch? 

You can use a dethatcher machine, or if you want to save money and “put in some elbow grease,” a simple lawn rake or dethatching rake will work. Dethatching machines come in different types, but those with knives and blades are generally more effective than simple lawn rakes. 

2. Aerate

A picture showing a hand of a person who is aerating lawn
Photo Credit: Oregon State University / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

What Does it Mean to Aerate?

If your soil is packed tighter than a Monday morning commute, it’s time to aerate! Aeration is the process of making holes in the soil with a lawn aerator.

How Aeration Prevents Standing Water

Core aeration pulls plugs of soil from your lawn, creating holes that improve drainage and make it easier for water, air, and fertilizer to reach the roots. This is good news and means mosquitoes must look elsewhere to lay eggs.

Note: One type of lawn aerator is called a core aerator. This cores or pulls out little plugs of soil and drops ’em right onto your grass. But no need to panic! These plugs actually break down and even give your lawn an all-natural boost of fertilizer. 

3. Regrade

What Does it Mean to Regrade? 

Regrading involves “earth moving,” meaning the soil is moved around your yard so that water flow is redirected when it rains. This prevents water from pooling in your lawn. Without pools of water, mosquitoes won’t be able to breed.

How Do You Know If Your Property Needs Regrading?

Standing water is a good indicator to look for when considering regrading. Here are some drainage problems that indicate regrading is needed:

  • Heavy water runoff towards your home’s foundation, driveway, and/or sidewalk
  • Low spots where rainwater ponds and kills your grass 
  • Lots of mulch washing away from your larger garden beds 

Note: Professional landscapers or landscape contractors typically do regrading with heavy equipment like backhoes and front loaders. Larger jobs require bulldozers.

Swale vs. Berm

Hmmm, swale or berm, which one to choose? It all depends upon your drainage issues.  The explanations below should help you decide.

What’s a Swale?
swale in a yard
Photo Credit: John Lord / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A swale is a long shallow channel “cut” into the soil that works with gravity so the water is directed where it can drain properly. Its “design intent” is to reduce rainwater runoff and hold water temporarily for a day or two until it infiltrates into the ground.

Swales are most commonly used for stormwater drainage or erosion control. They can be installed in a homeowner’s yard to slow down or temporarily contain runoff from driveways and sidewalks, and redirect water from low-lying areas near a house’s foundation.

Note: A swale can consist of grass or be lined with gravel or riverstone. It can be free-standing or connected to drain into other structures such as French drains, storm drains, rain gardens, or dry wells.

What’s a Berm?
dirt berm with trail in yard
Photo Credit: KaraGrubis / Canva Pro / License

A berm is a raised mound of soil or a long, raised, rounded ridge of soil that diverts runoff water to the swale. On typical residential lots, berms usually have heights of one to three feet and lengths of 10 to 20 feet. A berm can be used as a barrier in case your neighbors have their runoff emptying into your yard.

The width and height of the berm depend on the property and where the water is to be redirected. They usually have grass growing on them and are constructed with gradually sloping sides so they naturally disappear into the existing ground.

Note: Landscape contractors will usually come out for a site visit to assess the situation, make recommendations, and give the homeowner an estimate for the work to be done. If the work is extensive and beyond their scope of practice, a landscape architect can be consulted to handle drainage calculations and site plans. 

4. Check Irrigation System Lines and Valves

If you have an irrigation or sprinkler system on your property to water your lawn, garden beds, and trees, ensure the pipes are not clogged and there are no holes or cracks. Holes, cracks, and leaky valve heads can lead to standing water that attracts mosquitoes! 

Oftentimes, irrigation and sprinkler systems are programmed to function in a certain zone — the lawn might be one zone, the tree buffer might be a second zone, and the garden beds another. Make sure each zone is properly programmed so the right amount of water is dispersed at a specific time during the day.

Tip: Ensure each zone has the proper amount of water flowing from the heads. Too much water leads to moist conditions drawing in our blood-sucking intruders! In my experience, I’ve seen sitting water from leaky valves and too much water volume for smaller shrubs.

Important Note: If you see any of the signs above, call your local irrigation company to tune up or repair your system. 

5. Examine Landscape Lighting Components

What does landscape lighting have to do with mosquito control and standing water? That’s an excellent question, and I’m glad you asked!

Over time, existing landscape lighting components become cracked, broken, or completely damaged. Water can creep into broken or cracked in-ground well-lights, well-light housings, spotlights, and path lights. Mosquitoes will find these small protected spaces very appealing for their lifestyle. 

6. Install a French Drain

french drain in a yard
Photo Credit: Robin Stott / Geograph / CC BY-SA 2.0

What is a French Drain? 

Water loves the path of least resistance, and a French drain uses that principle, combining good old-fashioned gravity with a “pitch” in grade and subsurface drainage to redirect all that excess surface water and groundwater away. Surface water and subsurface drainage can be directed into a storm drain, dry well, or catch basin.

How is a French Drain Constructed?

Installing a French drain is not for the faint of heart! It should be left to the professionals unless you are experienced or fearless.

Prep Work Before Digging:

  • Call your local township’s office of “Call Before You Dig.” It alerts all utility companies to come out and spray paint the location of your utility lines (gas, electric, phone, cable, etc.). If you have decided to use heavy equipment for digging, you don’t want to hit a gas line with a backhoe, or you could get killed.
  • Measure the area needed for the trench location. 
  • Use stakes and a string line to define the edges. Don’t use spray paint because it will disappear once you start digging, and you’ll lose your bearings.
  • Decide on both points: The entry point (where the water enters the trench through a drain box) and the exit point (where the water exits the trench) 
  • Decide the point for the clean-out box: You’ll want to position the clean-out box about halfway down the “run” of the trench. 
  • Observe any obstacles: Trees, tree roots, boulders, or any obstructions in the way of where the trench “run” will go


  • Dig the long trench based on your measurements and make sure you have the proper “pitch” for gravity (length, width, and depth depend on your location and drainage issues).
  • Line the trench base with gravel. 
  • Lay the perforated pipe on top of the gravel with its holes facing down. The draining water will be pulled into the trench, pass through the gravel, and leach into the surrounding soil.
  • Attach the pipes to the entry and clean-out boxes, and ensure the exit point is not heading onto your neighbor’s property! You will need a way to secure the pipes together. 
  • Fill with topsoil
  • Tamp down the soil to compact it so it doesn’t create a sinkhole above your trench. If you don’t, you defeat the purpose of trying to get rid of standing water in the first place. You’ll end up having a low-lying area for standing water.

7. Create a Dry Creek Bed

xeriscaped dry creek bed
Photo Credit: remedypic / Canva Pro / License

What’s a Dry Creek Bed? 

While “dry creek bed” and “swale” are sometimes used interchangeably, the two have some key differences. Dry creek beds typically feature a lot of rocks in their design, while swales incorporate more grass and other plants. 

However, it’s worth noting that there is still room for plants in dry creek bed designs, and some people may refer to rock-lined swales as dry creek beds.

Important Tip: Don’t design your dry creek bed to drain toward your neighbor’s property line or onto a sidewalk. You could end up with a legal battle on your hands. 

8. Extend Your House’s Downspouts Underground

If your downspouts can’t hold all the water from your roof and the overflow dumps water onto your foundation plantings, it’s time to divert the water away from the house. As a landscape designer, my crew has done this for some of my customers, which works well. 

How is This Done?

Extending your downspouts underground is an easy way to drain water away from your foundation and hide the pipe under the grass. You decide where the water will flow, how far away from the foundation, and where the exit point will “daylight.”

You can connect your existing downspouts with the newly purchased PVC pipes. This all depends upon your existing downspouts’ size, condition, and configuration. 

Here is a simplified overview of what happens from there:

  • Dig a trench that fits the newly purchased PVC pipe (buy a solid pipe with no perforations).
  • Lay the attached pipes in the trench.
  • Connect or glue them together snugly.
  • Fill the small trench with the topsoil.
  • Tamp down the area above the trench so the soil doesn’t sink in. 
  • Plant grass seed.


Are There Any Trees I Can Plant That Will Soak Up Standing Water?

Well, yes, there are! Some of my favorites are trees that love “wet feet” and are picturesque, stately, and functional.
Here are a few examples of trees you can plant that will be so thirsty, you won’t have to worry about standing water standing for long:

• Weeping willow (Salix babylonica)
• Dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)
• Swamp maple (Acer rubrum)

Note: Make sure you have a lot of room on your property for these trees to grow. They can get tall and wide, so don’t plant them under utility wires or close to your foundation.

What Causes Standing Water in My Yard?

Here is a summary of the most common reasons standing water accumulates in your yard: 

Overwatering or improper programming of zone watering: This is mostly due to irrigation systems that aren’t functioning properly, have broken, or have been improperly programmed.
Bad grading: The home builders might not have graded the lot properly during the initial construction phase. So, if you weren’t the original owner, the grading issues might not have been disclosed during the buying process. 
Compacted soil and thatch:Water loves hanging out on hard clay soils. There is actually nowhere for it to go. Add thatch (organic matter, grass clippings, leaves, and roots) to it, and you have a double whammy! 
Hard subsoil: Hardpan is the thick layer of soil that water can’t penetrate. 
Heavy rain: Water pooling and water drainage in your yard after heavy rain can make life difficult, invite unwanted mosquitoes, and pause outdoor activities.

Are There Health Risks Associated With Standing Water in My Yard?

Pooling water has the risk of bringing health problems through these means:

Mosquitoes find standing water a perfect breeding ground. Different species of mosquitoes can carry mosquito-borne illnesses like West Nile virus, Zika virus, and encephalitis.
Mold loves moisture! It can start to grow on your walls as the spores spread. Allowing pooling water can actually start the process. 
Vermin: Rats, possums, and mice love standing water as watering holes and can spread disease to surrounding humans and animals.

Call In The Pros

So gift those fly fishin’ waders to an actual fisherman and tackle the problem of those blood-sucking intruders by calling in the professionals of Pest Gnome. You’ll feel much better when your yard is dry and no longer a convenience store for the local mosquitoes!

Main Image Credit: Infrogmation of New Orleans / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Harley Grandone

Harley Grandone, a writer and landscape designer, enjoys writing blogs. After 20+ years of being a landscape designer for major residential home builders like Toll Brothers, she’s delighted to combine her love of writing with her love of the industry. When not writing, she can be found in the backyard trying to devise new ways to control mosquitoes and prevent the sycamore tree's bark from clogging up the gutters.