Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Rain garden I - The process

This is the first in a series of three posts about building our rain garden.  The rain garden is supposed to be a well drained bed of moisture loving plants that catches and absorbs storm water runoff.

This post is not meant as a how-to guide; you can find those elsewhere.  The main resource I used was Rain Gardens:  Sustainable Landscaping for a Beautiful Yard and a Healthy World by Steiner and Domm.  It has a Midwest focus, but I found it informative and inspiring.  For Virginia specific info, see this page from the VA Dept. of Forestry and links therein,  a rain garden guide for northern Virginia, plant recommendations from the VA Cooperative Extension, and various other online resources.

On to the fun part, pictures!  These are clickable for larger versions.  (Please excuse the blue tarp in most of the pictures.  It is covering our generator, which is waiting for installation.)

We used a hose to decide on the location and shape of the garden, then marked the edges with spray paint before digging.

This part of the yard was solid clay, so it had to be replaced with well drained soil.  We rented a miniature backhoe to dig out the clay.  Here is the final hole.

We used the extra clay to re-contour our side yard and make it more even.
A dump truck brought 30 cubic yards of replacement soil, a 50/25/25 mix of topsoil/sand/compost.
We leveled the main part of the garden and built a berm on the downhill part to hold the water in (with an overflow pipe to release excess).
After mulching the garden, I finally reached the fun part of the job, laying out and planting the plants.
Getting an "after" picture has been a moving target, since I keep adding more plants, and since we've had some things wash out and need repairs.  Plus of course the plants are still growing.  This picture will have to suffice for now.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Link roundup

Here are several weeks' worth of interesting stuff...
  • Growing native perennials from seed from Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens:  This is New England focused but has some good tips.  Propagating your own plants from seeds is a lot cheaper than buying from plant sales.  For your first try, I recommend cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), which has an unusually high germination rate for a native plant.  Its beautiful red flowers are great for hummingbirds.
  • What it takes a nursery to stock a plant from Beautiful Wildlife Garden:  Ever wonder why nurseries don't carry more native plants?  This blog entry explains the steps in growing a plant until it's big enough to sell and discusses how much demand is necessary to make it profitable for nurseries.
  • Embrace the clay! from Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens:  Here are some plants that actually like clay soil.  All of these except the coneflower are native to Virginia.
  • Aruncus dioicus ~ A treat for pollinators from Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens:  Apparently I read this blog a lot?  Anyway, this is another VA native plant.  The blog entry explains how versatile it is as an ornamental.  I haven't noticed a lot of pollinators on my own, but it's still a nice plant.
  • Thomas Rainer:  Interpreting nature from View from Federal Twist:  This summarizes an interesting talk by Rainer about designing self sustaining plant communities with different layers.  The post includes some pictures of doing this in a suburban setting.  Making it look orderly enough for suburbia is an interesting challenge.