Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dirt Therapy

It's been a rough week around here. In response, I took out my frustration and anxiety on the rain garden, which needs to be dug by Saturday because some of my sedges will be arriving that day. Ironically I haven't had time to finish it because of all the rain, but hacking away at clay and rocks to dig six inches down is a surefire way to release stress!

These pictures are pretty ugly, but this is the reality of creating this garden. I look forward to seeing how nice the "after" pictures are. So here it is last week when I removed the sod...

As you can see, this rain garden breaks the cardinal rule of being at least 10 feet away from the house. I discussed this issue with Dr. Stacy James of the Prairie Rivers Network, a local environmental NGO, and she concurred that it shouldn't be an issue. Here's why: this spot was a natural depression even before I removed the sod, plus my house is on a slab so there's no basement to get flooded. More importantly, water has been pooling in this spot for years anyway with no damage to the foundation, so putting plants there will absorb the water faster than it would drain without the garden. I can't say that everyone should disregard the 10-foot rule, just that in this situation it shouldn't cause damage.

This is a picture of the "garden" doing its job today. The trench to the right is the depth that the whole garden will be once this rain stops and I can finish. The berm will be more even as more dirt is dug, and I've rounded the corners a little so it's an oval shape. My poor photography skills don't really capture that, but hopefully you can get the idea. You can see how this spot retains water. (That's a leggy spirea in the foreground; it will not be in the rain garden but is on the other side of the berm)

Digging this reminded me how amazing it is that anything grows in my corner of the world. The soil was nothing but compacted clay intermixed with fist-size rocks. I cursed the barrenness of the soil and the glaciers that left my property with the grimy table scraps from their earth-moving, rather than the nourishing humus of areas farther south. On the bright side, I'll be picking up my Pennsylvania sedges this Saturday, and the rest of the plants will be here in two weeks, so there will be many more in-progress pictures to come. It's not the prettiest process right now, but it's good for the soul and I'm hopeful for its future!

1 comment:

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

It looks good to me. It's smart to work with your topography instead of fighting it. The cure for your lousy soil is compost or leaf mold dumped on the surface every spring. Eventually, you'll have decent soil. You may be too old to get out and do the gardening yourself, but it will happen.

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