Monday, October 12, 2020

An unexpected drainage project

A complex location, with a raised sprinkler head, a newly
reinstalled downspout, and the access to the septic system.

Rain barrels on the move

We moved the three rain barrels that we'd installed at the back of the garage. Initially, years ago, they were elevated on a wooden platform, but when the wood gave out due to stress from all that weight, we reinstalled them in the same place on separate cinderblock towers. I wrote about them here: Three more rain barrels and here: Reworking the elevated rain barrels.

Well, since there was no cross bracing between the towers, the cinderblocks tipped and sank into the soil at different rates. This caused a problem with the plumbing since the barrels are connected together to have one spigot. 

My husband disassembled barrels and reinstalled the downspout for this end of the gutter that runs along two sides of the garage. The other end feeds into two different rain barrels. 

The three barrels sat unused through the summer, but the dry season was coming and I'd be growing a large selection of cool-weather crops and I'd need the capacity of those three barrels. In looking at this location we could not install a concrete pad to provide more stability because the main septic pipe from the house runs through the area. We decided to move barrels to the north side of the garage where there was already a concrete pad and to move the ten-foot gutter to gather the water.

The north side of the garage now has two sets of rain barrels and my potting bench area.

The two blue rain barrels have a spigot on each barrel. The barrel on the left fills first from the gutter along the front of the garage and when it fills, it overflows into the next barrel and when that fills up, it overflows into my two watering cans. I wrote about installing them in Climb up my rain barrels. (There used to be three barrels here, but the oldest one split.) 

The three white barrels are connected at the bottom and have one spigot. They all fill together and drain together, Now there is a hose that runs from that spigot, along the length of the back of the garage, and is available for irrigating my crops out there.

But... there was now a new drainage problem

With the barrels not here to collect the water from the gutter and the ten-foot gutter at the back of the garage moved, it was really soggy. We had a drainage problem, but with the infrastructure for the septic system and the irrigation system here, there were limitations. The solution was a shallow dry-well and a path of stepping stones. I could use materials on hand.

I dug an oval hole about 2.5 feet wide and 3.5 feet long and as deep as the irrigation cross pipe--about 10 inches. In another location, I would have made this hole bigger and deeper. The length of landscape cloth is long enough so the ends will be able to fold back over the gravel.

The bricks with holes will provide good voids for water. The bottom of a broken pot turned upside down will provide good open space for water. I also laid in threes lengths of plastic pipes to create more voids, but in the end, I removed them because they didn't settle well with the gravel..
I mined the volcano gravel that I'd used
next to the French drain along the driveway.

After digging the hole, lining it with landscaping fabric (which we'll never use as weed barrier cloth), and placing the gravel, broken cement, and pot sherds that I had on hand, it rained for a day and filled up the hole with water. This was instructive because I could see that the overflow was on the side away from the downspout and in between the two raised beds.

I needed more gravel to bring it up to soil level, so I mined the gravel I'd used for the French drain along the edge of the driveway. (Read about that project here: Ooh la la! French drains ) Note: since then, we've learned that weed barrier cloth does NOT work to keep out weeds and I certainly do not recommend it for anything except projects like this to keep gravel separate from soil. 

I removed the majority of the gravel from the first fifteen feet along the drain. A nice rich compost had formed amongst the gravel over the last twelve years. I wasn't going to waste the compost, so the rock mining became a multi-part project: gathering the compost and cleaning off the gravel. I put pine needles into the newly opened space along the French drain. 

Separating the gravel and the dark rich soil into their respective containers. I rinsed each load of gravel with rain barrel water three times. I wanted to remove as much of the fine white sand from the inside of the gravel as possible. I want all the pores available for water storage.
When the gravel was even with the soil line, I added the top layer of cloth, which was two lengths running the opposite direction so there was enough length to tuck in securely. After tucking in the top cover of the dry well rocks, the drainage tray was pulled out over the wrapped rocks.
I laid stepping stones right on the fabric and the placed more washed gravel on top of the exposed fabric. 
Two of the stepping stones were smaller, so I used them for the pass-through area between the beds. I also used plastic pipes at the end of one bed so the hose doesn't drag across the bed as I'm watering.

A new pollinator garden

The narrow space along the wall where the rain barrels had been is a good place for a pollinator garden. It faces west so it receives afternoon sun and it's close to my edible beds.
This wall faces west, so it receives full afternoon sun. A couple of weeks later, most of the plants have adjusted.

It was time to thin out the coreopsis from this container.
In addition to the other wildflowers in this pollinator garden, I added some frog fruit (Phyla nodiflora) along the front edge.

I added stepping stones to join those that lead from
the concrete pad to the shed. It also got soggy there
 after heavy rains, so we solidified that section as well.
I'm growing parsley, purple carrots. and more tropical
sage in the 3 large containers behind the bench.
I populated the pollinator garden with plants from our yard. 
- Tropical sage (Salvia coccinea) seedlings from my edible beds. It sprouts everywhere, but it's a great pollinator plant attracting butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.
- Goldenrod (Solidago odora) transplanted from across the way where they had grown out into the path. Pollinators love these plants.
- Tickseeds (Coreopsis lanceolata) from a container garden, which is good for spring blooms particularly. I only used about 1/3 of the plants from the container. I'll find other places for the rest of them including replanting that container.
- Frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) pulled from crawling out onto the driveway near the mailbox garden. This is a ground cover that will fill in between the other plants and probably out and around the stepping stones. 
- Ohio spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) with its pure blue flowers has self seeded in several areas especially in our the kitchen window pollinator garden, which I talked about in Growing Florida's wildflowers from seed.
- Florida betony (Stachys floridana) is already in this area. I actually pulled out quite a bit of it 

The projects in the garden never end. Since travel has been disallowed this year, more of our projects are getting done. I hope that you've found peace as you work in your yard.

Green gardening matters,
Ginny Stibolt

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