In the summer of 2005, we witnessed an explosion and evolution of wildflowers on our lot. We have tried to protect areas around the perimeter of the lot to take advantage of the natural vegetation, such as sallal, daisies, foxglove, ferns, and wild bleeding hearts.
However, as we built the waterfall and excavated for the house, more and more of the natural vegetation was lost. In addition, the landscape plan that Tamisha had done earlier, needed to be tweaked. The house and waterfall were not quite where we figured.
We could not do any fundamental landscaping until we had dug and installed the pipes for our ground sourced heat pump. This was done in late September.
It became a race with winter. Our plan was to bring in good soil, plant trees, and the lawn before winter. This would give us a big jump on spring planting in 2006.
So, we got to work with the basic parts of the landscape in the fall of 2005. Tamisha helped us with some modest tweaks to the landscape design, and we were ready to start landscaping.
We did a soil test and found the soils quite acidic and low on a number of nutrients. We have lived in houses where the entire top soil profile was the thickness of sod ... laid on top of clay. On the other hand when we owned homes in Iowa, we had rich hummus for around 6 feet deep. It is easier to grow plants in good soil, so we decided to make the most important investment in out landscape, we purchased good rich soil.
In total we brought in 17 truckloads, 255 yd2 ,of sifted top soil and a turf mix with 25% mushroom compost for the small lawn. An additional truck load of shredded bark was brought in to protect the soil from erosion. The pH of this soil was nearly neutral ... ideal !!!
One advantage of soil with a high organic content is that it does not dry out as quickly as the sandy loam that represents most of what was at our lot. This will reduce our summer irrigation needs.
One of our green building priorities was to eliminate storm water run-off from our lot for up to a 1 inch rain over a 24 hour period. For this, our landscape plan calls for a series of rain gardens that will capture and hold storm water long enough for it to perk into the ground. There will be a rain garden below our cistern (picture below), below our pond (picture with solar collectors), and along the southern edge of our property. The drainage system will direct water from gutters into these rain gardens.
So how do they perform with real conditions. The two pictures here were taken 24 hours apart following a particularly heavy rain during the evening of December 28th. By December 29th all of the water had perked into the ground. (It rained 35 straight days from late December until mid January, and these two rain gardens performed as planned. We planted water tolerant plants in the spring in each rain garden and will be converting them to attractive landscape features..
You can click here to download an easy to use 'how to' manual on rain gardens from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. It's the best I found. Clearly, the plants used in the Pacific Northwest will be different from those in Wisconsin, but the principles are the same. The best approach is to visit nurseries and ask questions and get recommendations.
The next step was to pack the new soil with a roller and to plant some grass seed for the smallish lawn we planned. There will be no lawn in the front of the house to reduce water needs during the summer. The lawn will be to the east of the house with a great view of Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens. The area that is designed to be planted to flowers and shrubs was mulched to keep our good soil from washing. After a couple of one inch rains, the system seems to be working.
One of the characteristics of our lot is the number of rocks. They are everywhere and we dug up a nice collection as we excavated for the house, waterfall, and rain gardens. Here we have used them to build a retaining wall to stabilize our lawn area and build it a bit higher.
Finally, we planted 5 trees and a few plants in around the waterfall we may move the plants, but the trees were planted in the fall . Trees grow slower than shrubs and we felt it was a good idea to give them a bit of a head start.
It is now the end of November, a significant part of the landscaping plan has been put in place and we now wait for spring, a completed home, and many weekends of visiting nurseries and adding to our landscape.
We will need to bring in quite a few loads of soil for the berms on the front of the house. The vegetation on the berms will be primarily grasses. We ordered seeds during the winter and started them in the greenhouse.
We welcome your comments on this site.
You can email Christine Garst at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunday December 17, 2006 05:34 PM -0800
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