Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Backyard Transformations

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I was having some work done in my back yard, but never got around to posting about it (along with a bunch of other things I never got around to posting about, but will likely get to soon).  I don't really have much in the way of before and after pictures, and right now the after pictures wouldn't look too much different from the before as most of the changes so far are under the ground.

The problem that needed resolving was this:

Water near front door

Every time it rained, an area 10 feet by 25 feet quickly became flooded - and unfortunately, that area was all around the back door.  In fact,  for several weeks this winter, there was 3-4 inches of water between the back door and the gate.  I did a temporary fix by building a 'bridge'

Bridge over the River Crofton

but of course that didn't resolve the problem of all the mud in the yard, mud which was generously tracked into the house by a minimum of 12 muddy paws several times a day.

And so a couple of weeks ago, I called in the big guns.  Together we worked out a plan that was within (more or less) the budget that I had set aside for landscaping, would resolve the problem (as well as it could be resolved when you live near the beach at sea level, on an island where all the homes to the west have properties higher than yours, and where the soil is clay).

We began by removing a section of back fence to give access via the back lane, and in came the machinery to dig dig dig, scraping and re-grading the soil and preparing for the drainage pits and pipes.

The municipality wouldn't allow us to channel water off the property (unless we connected to a storm sewer which runs down the middle of the street at the front of the house, and for which I'd have to pay many more thousands of dollars to have the road dug up and about fifty feet of pipe laid just to connect to whatever underground pipes were being done in the back,), so we dug a pit 4'x6'x6' and filled it with 2.5 tonnes of rock.

Got any bodies you want buried?

We dug trenches diagonally from the west side of the yard to the pit, and from the downspout of the back porch to the pit, sunk drainage piping surrounded by landscape fabric to prevent clogging, put in an access port to clean it out if it should clog, and surrounded the drainage pipes with more rock.

Drain from back porch to pit

Drainage channel diagonally across yard

Meanwhile, we had a 10' x 25' exposed aggregate patio built along the back of the house.  We discussed removing the back porch altogether, as the landscaper really thought it stuck out like a sore thumb, but between costs and utility (the porch is easy to contain dogs on, a good place to put stuff down when fumbling with the back door, etc.) I vetoed that idea and had them build around it.  Some day I will have a nicer back porch built, or at least replace the ugly cover with something more esthetically pleasing.

Down comes the aggregate

Finished exposed aggregate patio

Lastly, we added sand and topsoil.  We used sod over a small area, so the dogs would have somewhere to pee, and seed over the rest, fenced off with snow fencing while it gets established.  One area was left unseeded (covered with tarp) for a perennial garden.

From back porch.  Tarped area will be planted with shrubs and perennial flowers.

So, with the exception of the new patio, it doesn't look too much different from the mud and bare land I had before - except that it is ready to be 'softscaped' now.  However, as the budget has been used up on the heavy work, I'll be doing the rest myself - at least, for this year.

Here's my plan for the yard.  It's still subject to change, as I haven't quite decided where to relocate the umbrella clothesline (which I carefully had them work around and then decided to move!) - I use it all the time, so it has to find a home.  I'm also unsure of the placement of the 4x4 cedar compost box I want to use for garden materials like lawn clippings that are too long and wet to leave on the ground but fill up my other composter too quickly. I'm pretty I'll use the back corner, camouflaged by shrubs, as any other place creates an obstacle or an barrier to something else.

Plan for back yard - for those with good eyesight!
(You can click on the picture to make it full sized, and to view
a slideshow of all the photos in this entry)

I have already built a level contained area for the various garbage and recycling bins and for my mostly-kitchen compost bin, and I have the wood for the cedar garden compost and for the new raised veggie beds.  I've ordered two custom-made 5x2x2 planter boxes for the end of the patio, which I'll fill with tall evergreen shrubs to provide a privacy screen from the nearby neighbour's deck. I've got seeds and some plants and lots of compost and peat. I've spray painted a metal flying pig and hung it on my wall behind the red chairs.

But most of all, I have sat on my new patio at sunrise with cup of coffee in hand,

Sunrise, first morning on the new patio

and watched four baby birds take their very first flight:

Mom, is today the day we get to fly?

Please, please, please can we fly today?

One last snack before you go!


Are you getting this, camera lady?


(Aw, camera lady, you almost missed it!)

Cost of drainage project:  $5,600.  Cost of  a morning sunrise spent with baby birds:  priceless.


EvenSong said...

While there is no way I can imagine living on a lot in the city, or even a small town, you certainly have a plan for making the most of what you've got! And a very well organized plan, at that. It's looking pretty good, so far. Can't wait to see the final product.

And you weren't kidding about bringing in the big guns. Did they let you run the track-hoe??? ;-D

I don't see the clothes line in your sunrise view, and I can see an advantage of having it immediately adjacent to the patio, for depositing one's clothes basket on solid, dry ground as the clothes make their way between laundry and drying station and house again...

Jean said...

Evensong, no they didn't let me play with their toys - you'll notice I'm safely behind the back door when the machinery is operating. :(
I had removed the umbrella part of the clothesline before taking the sunrise pictures, and have since dug the cement-encrusted base out of the ground. Your reasoning for keeping it where it was makes sense, but when it is open (and especially when there is laundry hanging on it - which tends to be much of the time given the dog laundry around here - it does block the view. I may just move it out a bit - but don't want the birdies sitting on my clean laundry while they fly back and forth to their house and a new little feeder on the side of the shed. I'll mull it over a bit more, and then decide what to do.
As for living on a lot in a city or small town, if I wasn't just a stone's throw from the ocean and so close to many great trails, I would go bananas. I sure miss my acreage, every single day. I'll never get used to hearing neighbours' voices right outside my windows.

Funder said...

Wow. Amazing work - great job by your contractor, and great work planning it out! I *love* the flying pig!

georgia little pea said...

that was a lot of work by construction workers without shirts on ;p

i clicked on the drawing and wonder why there are only 2 dogs drawn. Is the 3rd one sleeping in the house? And what is square foot gardening? I'm going to guess a mixture of seeds in one square foot. that was a glorious sunrise and i think i would have kept the porch too. it's a very sensible thing to have.

hey! your word verification is getting stranger. not only is there a word, there's also a picture with numbers. i hope i get them right.

Jean said...

GLP, I only put in my own dogs, as I am wishfully thinking Petey might actually find a home by the time the garden plan is realized.
Square Foot Gardening is a method developed by Mel Bartholomew in which vegetables are intensively grown in raised frames marked off in square foot sections, using a medium of five types of compost, vermiculite and peat moss. It produces more produce in less space with much less labour supposedly (we'll test out that theory!) and one can easily harvest and rotate one square foot at a time. It was popular in the 1970s, but has recently resurged with some new-and-improved books and workshops and websites on the technique.
As the the annoyingly complicated word verification - I hate it, and yes Blogger has made it even harder to read - but when I tried removing that step from the comment set-up I was inundated with robots trying to sell me body parts I don't need and truckloads of Viagra. :(

Caroline said...

I love the layout and use of space!
We are into square foot gardening as well and I have found a great website for it, you may know it already but here it is <>
The one thing I'd miss is a tree. We planted trees in our bare back yard when we moved here, a Filbert, two Saskatoon Berry bushes, and a Holly bush. The Filbert and Saskatoon Berry attract birds and squirrels and we even had a Falcon! They also make a nice barrier between me and the houses next door and behind me.

Jean said...

Thanks Caroline, and thanks for the link. I bought the newest square foot gardening book, by Mel Bartholomew, and found it really helpful. I've also used
. Readers who want to know more can also google it to come up with a bunch of youtube videos on the topic.

As for trees, I will likely get one small tree - perhaps one of those weeping maples or something, but for the most part am avoiding them for two reasons: I don't want roots going through the drainage pipes or the sewer pipe which also runs through my back yard, and I don't particularly like either conifers or raking, so mostly I'm looking at non-conifer evergreen shrubs. Oh, and I don't want anything that will block my limited ocean view, though I would like to block out the neighbours' yards a bit more.

Anonymous said... looks wonderful..we had to also do work like that for poor drainage but the end result is such a grand thing..our neighbors planted bamboo along their fence on the other side..not our side for more privacy and it has taken and providing a beautiful privacy panel and interesting color and softscape..since they had no plans to put anything else there the problem of the bamboo taking over is not a big deal and the roots are not going into the yard..just withing the landscape area..the added bonus was they got the plants free on Craigslist so just a thought..

Unknown said...

Everything looks great! We also have a problem with mud, mud, mud. Love the pictures of the baby birds. we have just recently put out feeders & I think now that I will need to get some houses too :)

Black Jack's Carol said...

Hi Jean,

I also clicked on your drawing and loved it. Just the right balance of down-home charm and efficient-looking lines and measurements.

I would be overwhelmed with the stress of it all, but you have come through with flying colours. I love the thought of you enjoying the changing skies and baby birds from your beautifully planned patio.

What a great update and thoroughly entertaining post!