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    dry stream bed

    Inheriting a previous owners garden.

    A client recently purchased a modest ranch on 1 acre.  They wanted to remodel the home and formulate a plan on how to care for the existing heirloom gardens created by the former owner.  This was a very overwhelming task to the homeowner, who had no idea what a treasure they had. Not knowing where to start we made a list of priorities, which was to be incorporated into an overall working plan.

    The planning phase.

    These priorities included:

    • Buckthorn eradication.
    • Screening of neighbors to the east, as it is the main sight line from inside the house.
    • Solving grading and drainage issues, potentially involving an injector pump.
    • Introducing color in the fall and winter months.
    • Identifying existing perennial masses for transplant to other sparse areas.
    • Updating the look of the front of the house, both entry and from the curb.

    Implementing the plan.

    After eradication of countless Buckthorn and three Ash trees (decimated by the Emerald Ash Borer) there was a need for privacy planting. The use Black Hills Spruce (Picea glauca densata) and Deerproof Arborvitae (Thuja plicata) helped to block off the view to the neighbors house.  Chosen for their resilience to part sun environments and tolerant of variations in soil moisture as well as a fast growth rate.  Serviceberry (Amelanchier grandiflora) were incorporated to provide both spring and fall color a much needed element.  To compliment these plantings and add additional fall foliage and winter interest,  Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea) and graceful Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis Gracillimus), both of which will thrive in moist soil conditions were added to the landscape. The longer-term plan is to fill in the foreground with transplanted perennials from the massive garden they inherited.

    Drainage solutions

    Dry stream bed to direct water off the property.

    An open French drain concept for drainage was presented in the preliminary stages of design. The client liked the idea of a dry stream bed which would redirect puddling water from an over active sump pump.  This was accomplished by grading a swale from the sump outlet to the lowest spot on the property.. The natural drainage of the area was supposed to exit the property on the South and continue in a drainage easement through 7-8 properties until it hits a drainage exit. The problem with this plan, as brought up by a village civil engineer, was there was no longer a substantial pitch for water to exit the properties through the drainage easement, due to gradual buildup of debris and grade.  To solve this problem, an ejector pump was suggested, which would bring water from a 24” concrete catch basin, to the West side of property to be discharged into another dry-stream bed.

    Once the water flow issues on the property were solved, and the minor surface undulations in grade were smoothed out, the French drain was dressed up to look a little more natural, adding various size boulders and adding contour to the stream bed.  This concept was extended to the entire roadside drainage ditch to move water through the area more rapidly, simplify maintenance, and add curbside appeal to the property.  With these issues solved the client can now enjoy the fruits of the previous owners labor with some of their own personal touches added.

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    Drainage Problems as Garden Opportunities.

    As a lifetime baseball player, I recall wet cleats from early spring practices. If you are a pet owner, maybe this translates into muddy paws needing to be wiped off every time you let your four legged friend in through the back door.  I remember growing up, having a March 4th birthday, that even if it was nice enough to do something outside (which was always my first choice), it was typically too soggy to do anything fun.

    Now, as I spend more time working on cleaning up and bringing my own landscape back to life after a long winter, as our Van Zelst crews are doing on many variable properties each spring, we also battle soggy conditions and muddy boots.  This is a great time to focus in on the problem areas of your property and look to make adjustments, increasing positive drainage, which will contribute to overall plant health, less pest and disease management and more functional use of these problem areas.

    One way to address such problem areas is to help the water to move through the area more rapidly and give it an intended place to go.  These places become areas where plants loving moisture or “wet feet” will not just survive, but thrive.  This application has a few different names in the landscape design realm; French Drain, Dry Stream Bed, Bio-swale, Rain Garden, but they all serve the same purpose, to move sitting, stagnant water through a saturated area to a more desirable location where the water absorption can be spread out over a wider area and made available for intended plants in your landscape.



    Another way to address these soggy areas is to re-route downspouts into underground PVC pipes to move water away from the foundation of your home, or from one wet area of your property to another.  Again, spreading out the saturation area and water distribution on your property to distribute the availability of available water to more plants.

    During this muddy boots season, as you are walking around your own property and notice these problem areas, take note and call us for a free consultation on the best way to address your grading and drainage problems.  We are sure to come up with a creative and cost effective solution that will contribute to the functionality and value of your property.

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