Friday, February 13, 2015

Progress isn't always pretty

After removing the palm from the garden area, I had to rework the garden layout a bit. Which also involved figuring out the best way to deal with the downspout from the corner gutter. It hits about two feet away from the wall and right next to the patio. If I just let it empty right on top of the garden, the water would absolutely wash the garden away. We get some pretty heavy rain and storms in the summer.

So instead of thinking of the excess water as a problem, I really wanted to think of it as an asset. First thought was a rain barrel. But after researching, I realized that it wouldn't be the answer to my problems for three reasons: cost (even for diy it can be pricey), volume, and water pressure. So I began thinking about making some sort of French drain right down the center of the garden with a gutter and rocks. It was a good idea and would probably work, but then I did more research and got to the "root" of things. I plan on turning my raised bed into a rain garden.

Figure A Rain Garden Details


These types of gardens are strategically planted and used to keep water runoff from roofs from going into storm drains. Think of it like a bog. During a hard rain, the water would be routed to this bog garden where the water would collect until it is eventually absorbed by the plants and the rest slowly drains into the soil. In Florida, we call large scale ones of these "retention ponds." Alligators love them.

I am in somewhat of a unique position to be able to create this because my entire yard is made of sand. It is like 80% sand. Water drains through sand FAST. So I'm not concerned about my garden flooding, but I do want it to be able to soak up all this water before it soaks down below the root line. The magic words here are "organic matter". It holds an immense amount of water and nourishes the plants. This can be compost, manure, wood, hay etc.

I just happen to have four bales of hay sitting in the corner of my yard just rotting away begging to be used. We had them as photo props from our portraits in December.

I planned for the garden bed to be a 10ft x 6ft L shape with a 3ft width. The first step was to dig bout two feet down and make a pond shape that was sloped slightly away from the house and to the outer points of the L.

As my children can prove, it's a pretty deep trench.

I then checked the grading to make sure water would, in fact, move howi wanted it to in this area. I turned the hose on full blast with my garden wand attached and let it run for about five minutes and used the water to even out sides of the "pond." Watching this giant mud puddle forming and not being able to jump into it was the hardest thing my kids have had to do this month for sure. The water drained from here fairly quickly once the hose was shut off.

That done, I threw what little yard debris I had, mostly dry crunchy palm fronds, into the trench. I LOVE the idea of hugelkultur, but my yard is seriously lacking in the wood department. Next, I dragged a bale of hay over and tossed it with my metal rake until it was all loosened and filled the garden.

I pulled the smaller pile of dirt on top and it compressed the hay down to just below the level of the concrete.

I've made a lot of progress in the last two days, but it hasn't been pretty. In fact it hasn't helped the overall appearance of the yard much at all. But I know that progress has been made, and that's enough for now.

-------Since writing this post, I was able to source some local horse manure and added a layer of it about an inch or two deep all over the whole bed. I layered another couple inches of dirt on top of that, then tossed a several inch layer of hay, another inch of dirt, another layer of hay, and another several inches of dirt which was the last of the dirt on the patio. I cleaned out my other garden bed and put some green manure of snap pea vines and New Zealand spinach on top of the bed. I'm hoping to get to cedar to begin construction the bed today.





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