Repairing a Drainage Problem

Repairing poorly installed drainage can be a lot of work but it can also be a bit of a fun job. We must be flexible, also. For instance, I had to change my approach in the middle of this job. The problem I needed to tackle was that runoff was flowing through a carport that had not been designed for handling heavy rain.

The carport had apparently been added on after the original driveway was built. Water flowed across the driveway, around a front corner of the carport and down the inside edge. We studied the area and found that a low place in the concrete allowed this to happen. I originally thought we would need a concrete saw and a catch basin. So, I bought a catch basin (that’s that black box in the picture below) and rented a concrete saw. I learned long ago that an expensive part of the job is that you can rent the machine but you have to purchase the blade. Concrete blades do not have a very long life expectancy.

It's a slow and careful job to cut concrete but sometimes you just gotta do it.

It’s a slow and careful job to cut concrete but sometimes you just gotta do it.

There was a crack in the existing concrete right at the low spot. We decided that we needed to take out the entire portion in order to make the finished job as it should be.  Anyway, we cut the concrete. It was a nice job.

We had to cut it into three pieces to remove the offending concrete. It was rather heavy.

We had to cut it into three pieces to remove the offending concrete. It was rather heavy.

Whoever had poured the concrete for the walk to the back door had fortunately put a four inch pipe under it. I was going to take the water to that pipe and channel it down the hill. That’s when I discovered that the water outlet on the catch basin would be too low to allow me to hook up to the pipe under the walkway. An old man told me one time, “Here in Georgia the water always runs downhill.” I have always remembered that. So, I had to go find some other way to channel the water downhill. I really liked the way things turned out. Below is the drain system.

A good drainage system for use in driveways and around buildings

A good drainage system for use in driveways and around buildings

I found that I could purchase just the components I needed at my concrete supply place. We lay the drain in just the right place and, before pouring the concrete around the basin,  fooled around with a couple of levels, making sure that the water would run into the drainage and not go around it. It pays to be careful when setting something in concrete.

When fitting drainage boxes to be poured in concrete, use the level over and over just to be sure.

When fitting drainage boxes to be poured in concrete, use the level over and over just to be sure.

The drain was fitted with a special piece that was designed to fit corrugated black pipe. There are two kinds of corrugated black pipe: “solid” and “perforated.” The solid pipe is used to move water from one place to the other and the perforated pipe is used to pick up and re-distribute ground water. Two things to remember when installing this pipe are:  1. The stripe goes up and, 2. The holes go down. In the picture below I have used the solid pipe to move the water to the back corner of the walkway. I then put in an eighteen inch piece of perforated pipe to pick up any moisture from the shrub bed itself. This is placed in a bed of gravel.

Driveway drainage system being hooked up after concrete pour

Driveway drainage system being hooked up after concrete pour

We filled around the pipe with pea gravel and raked the soil out to shape the planting bed. The gravel will keep the dirt from coming in contact with the siding on the building. Notice the rock at the corner where the driveway meets the drain. That rock has been carefully chosen and carefully placed to enhance the water flow.

drainage pipe covered with pea gravel for a good transition. perforated pipe is used at sidewalk

drainage pipe covered with pea gravel for a good transition. perforated pipe is used at sidewalk

The next job was to replant the roses, clean the bed well, smooth out the pea gravel, and spread pine straw. It was extremely cold at this point and I didn’t get a finished picture. Perhaps I’ll sneak one in here at a later date.

smoothing, planting, and mulching the improved shrub bed.

smoothing, planting, and mulching the improved shrub bed.

Thanks for checking out John the Plant Man. If you have a landscape problem that requires deep, analytic thought and amazing skills, get in touch with John by emailing me at wherdepony@bellsouth.net

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Dealing With Dog Damage and Drainage in the Landscape

We love our dogs and we love our yards and gardens but sometimes the dogs don’t quite see things from our point of view. Dogs are creatures of habit. They like to run on familiar paths and to lie down in comfortable places. If a dog needs to dig your dahlias for her comfort, she won’t understand why that doesn’t really please you. The story continues. Here is a picture of this week’s culprits.

Dogs don't really stand around new ways to damage your garden--it just seems like it

Dogs don’t really stand around new ways to damage your garden–it just seems like it

I was called in to look at a problem area that I had fixed before. The only problem was that I had previously repaired a drainage problem. I hadn’t taken the dogs into consideration. If you would like to see the original project from 2011, CLICK HERE.  The original project had employed a dry river bed. I looked at the damage and remarked. “The dogs run through it.”

Pachysandra doesn't like to grow where the dogs run

Pachysandra doesn’t like to grow where the dogs run

I watched the dogs for a while and saw that every time a car drove up they ran around and through the place where I had wanted pachysandra to grow. I knew I wasn’t going to change the dogs’ habits so I decided to change the design. I laid out a series of whisky barrel rings to use as forms for making stepping stones. To see a detailed article on making these stepping stones, CLICK HERE.

Maybe if we made some nice stepping stones for the dogs to run on...hmmm

Maybe if we made some nice stepping stones for the dogs to run on…hmmm

We mixed concrete and poured the stepping stones. I thought an impression of autumn ferns would add to the river motif, so we embedded some fronds in the wet cement.

Impression of autumn fern imbedded in a stepping stone using a whiskey barrel ring for a form

Impression of autumn fern imbedded in a stepping stone using a whiskey barrel ring for a form

We ran over to Willow Creek Nursery in good old Rome, Georgia. I told Adam I would put his picture in this article if his materials estimate worked out. He figured out the amount of stones I would need for the job. He got it right on the money—I had two rocks left over. CLICK HERE to “like” Willow Creek on Face Book.

At Willow Creek Nursery, Adam helped us with our stone purchase

At Willow Creek Nursery, Adam helped us with our stone purchase

We laid the rocks around the drying stepping stones. The plastic is there at this point for protection and to make wrinkles.

Rocks laid around custom made stepping stones

Rocks laid around custom made stepping stones

Here’s a picture of the project at the end of the day. We will leave the forms in place for a few days until the concrete cures.

Now the dogs can run through their path without hurting anything

Now the dogs can run through their path without hurting anything

We backed up to look at the job, a car drove up, and the dogs ran right over the rocks just as I had planned. Yay. Here’s the finished job:

aestheticsj, check. drainage, check. Dog damage? check

aestheticsj, check. drainage, check. Dog damage? check

Happy dog, happy wife—happy wife, happy life. Thanks for visiting Johntheplantman. Tell your friends about it.

 

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Cost Effective three part Erosion Control on Pear Street

 

Pear Street is a well designed community of homes in Rome, Georgia. The street runs along the top of a hill overlooking one of the rivers flowing through the wonderful North Georgia town.

 

Pear Street Community, Rome, Ga.

Pear Street Community, Rome, Ga.

 

 

And, all was well on Pear Street until they removed a sitting deck at the end of a walkway and noticed that there was an erosion problem that needed to be solved. I was called in to study and fix the problem. I noticed that the erosion problem started with a walkway that was slanted toward the hillside. It seemed to me that this walkway was acting like a riverbed and funneling all of the water down to the problem area.

 

The sidewalk acts as a riverbed

The sidewalk acts as a riverbed

 

I went to the end of the walkway and looked at the eroded area. I really couldn’t get a good picture because nothing I did showed the bank as steep and nasty as it was. An engineer had suggested a retaining wall, but I couldn’t see how we would be able to put in a serious footing, and if we did do a wall the cost would have been outrageous. There was absolutely no way to get machinery to the project, either.  It called for all hand work.

 

Nasty erosion area needs fixing

Nasty erosion area needs fixing

 

 

I thought about it for a few weeks. I came up with “Johntheplantman’s three principles of erosion control”

1.Capture and redirect the water

2.Fill and re shape the eroded surface

3.Provide sustainabilty for the surface to prevent further erosion.

The first step was to catch and redirect the water coming from the walkway. We used a concrete base and installed a drain strip which is similar to a catch basin. The strip hinges in the middle and it is installed with a slight drop toward the outer edges. Four inch black drain pipe was fastened to the outer edges of the catch basin and the pipe was buried to the sides of the wash. This would take the water from the walkway out to the sides and down to the ditch at the bottom of the hill.

Re direct the water with a catch basin and drain pipe

Re direct the water with a catch basin and drain pipe

A ten yard truckload of compost was wheel barrowed in and spread over the washed out area. We packed it as well as possible. Footing on the hillside was precarious.

 

wash out is filled with compost

wash out is filled with compost

 

One of the best coverings for erosion prevention is Curlex which consists of wood shavings enclosed in a plastic netting. I refer to it as an erosion blanket. The material is available in hundred foot rolls and is made to be laid out on a hillside. I’m sure that you have seen it used on highway construction projects. Grass seed is normally used along with this material, but I had other plans.

 

Randy with a 100 foot roll of Curlex

Randy with a 100 foot roll of Curlex

 

The Curlex is fastened to the ground with sod staples

 

erosion mat is attached to the ground with sod staples

erosion mat is attached to the ground with sod staples

 

And the covered site looked like this:

 

Curlex matting installed on hillside

Curlex matting installed on hillside

 

The Curlex in place will last a year or two before rotting which will give a ground cover time to become established over the erosion site. Since the site was in a shady location and also because maintenance would be difficult, I decided to use one of my favorite ground covers—vinca minor. We planted clumps of the vinca on 16 inch centers by poking a hole through the Curlex and planting into the compost below. The vinca will rapidly spread and hold the soil in place.

 

Vinca minor planted through erosion blanket to add sustainability.

Vinca minor planted through erosion blanket to add sustainability.

 

Adding a rock border and a bit of pine straw at the top of the hill gave the finished project a nice look and there should be no more problems

 

Add a little pine straw for looks, and another problem is solved

Add a little pine straw for looks, and another problem is solved

 The John the plant man articles are brought to you by John P. Schulz, author of Requiem for a Redneck 

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

 

A garden path with hand made stepping stones, pea gravel mulch, and a rock garden.

Making stepping stones with whiskey barrel rings–part two

 There was a multi faceted landscaping problem to solve. I stood there looking at a long narrow pathway down a side yard. The drainage was critical to prevent flooding, and we had tried to grow all kinds of grass but it was just too shady. A few years ago, I had put in a rock border down part of the area with underground drainage and catch basins. Now, I was trying to figure out how to cover the ground between the rock garden and the house.

A solid walkway would inhibit the water flow, so we decided to make stepping stones from whiskey barrel rings and let the water flow around them. As for a ground covering, I was afraid that any kind of wood mulch would float and cause a problem, so we decided on pea gravel. To see how we built the stepping stones, read this article

 The stepping stones had been built and we decided to install the pea gravel before finishing them in order to avoid damage from the wheelbarrow. Finally, the gravel was in and we had removed all of the barrel rings. It was time to finish the job. We washed and cleaned the stepping stones. I used a wash of muriatic acid to remove the cement powder and to help to free up any plant material left from the impressions.

Washing stepping stones in preparation for staining.

Washing stepping stones in preparation for staining.

Next, we applied the stain. There are many choices for stains for concrete. I wanted one that was easy to use and which would be translucent, providing me with a variety of tones. I chose a water based stain that was recommended highly by my friend at Basic Materials, a company that specializes in concrete related applications.

water based concrete stain

water based concrete stain

The concrete stain was a bit expensive, but it mixes with three parts of water. I mixed it up and sprayed it on with a pump up garden sprayer.

applying concrete stain with pump up garden sprayer

applying concrete stain with pump up garden sprayer

 I didn’t want a solid color, so I concentrated on getting more stain in the impressions and then leaving a mottled effect on the flat surfaces. I thought it came out well, but we will watch the stepping stones as the color cures and decide whether to add more or not. With concrete stain, you really don’t see the true color until after the sealer is applied, but when the sealer has been applied, it is too late to add more color. I thought the stepping stones looked pretty good at this stage

concrete stain on home made stepping stone

concrete stain on home made stepping stone

We raked the gravel out around the stepping stones and ended up with a finished product that please me. The ground has been covered and the water should now flow through the pea gravel into the catch basin.

Stepping stones and pea gravel with a rock garden border

Stepping stones and pea gravel with a rock garden border

The next part of the project will be to plant the raised rock garden with plants that will tolerate deep shade. I’m researching the choices.

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If you like this article on stepping stones, you may wish to see “Building Rock Steps,” parts one and two.

Would you like a consultation with johntheplantman in your yard? Contact John Schulz BY EMAIL

Do you have a landscaping problem that needs solving? Leave a comment.

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

Erosion control for washed out stepping stones

Solving erosion problems step by step-directions and pictures

 I was asked to fix a set of washed out stepping stones that had been installed down a hill beside the house. When this happens, I always remember the lady who told me long ago, “In every landscaping job, water is the boss.” Here’s a picture of the eroded stepping stones:

washed out stepping stones need fixing. First find out where the water comes from

washed out stepping stones need fixing. First find out where the water comes from

I knew that if all we did was to re set the stepping stones, they would just wash out again, so I started looking around to figure out a way to fix the problem in a sustainable manner. I walked around and studied the project to figure out where the water was coming from. The first thing I noticed was a catch basin that had been poorly installed so that the water went around instead of through the system:

Catch basin is poorly installed and doesn't catch anything

Catch basin is poorly installed and doesn’t catch anything

A bit of a way up the driveway, I saw an extension on a downspout that was pouring water into the problem area. This would have to be dealt with:

Downspout pouring water into the situation

Downspout pouring water into the situation

I looked up the hill at the road and saw that a lot of water was coming from that area. I then studied the grassy area to see if the water could be re directed. I decided that a berm (a modified hill) would be an effective way to change the water flow to an ivy covered area in a natural area. I painted lines on the grass following the hillside to get a picture of where the berm should be in order to direct the water to a desired location.

A berm will be established within the painted lines to redirect the water flow

I now had a plan. I have developed what I call “Johntheplantman’s  3 principles of erosion control”

1. Capture and/or redirect the water

2. Repair the eroded surface

3. Provide protection for the repaired surface to prevent further erosion.

We started working on the project by changing the water flow one step at the time. The first and easiest step was to change the downspout so that the water would go under the eroded steps. This proved to be even easier than I thought because the pipe from the poorly installed catch basin was already in the ground. I took the extension off of the downspout, added a vertical extension and an elbow, and then ran the pipe. The pipes would be connected with a four inch black wye.

four inch solid drain pipe used to control water from downspouts

four inch solid drain pipe used to control water from downspouts

We removed the existing catch basin and installed a three foot drain at the edge of the drive. This drain was connected to the existing pipe from the removed catch basin. The drain has been carefully cemented in so that water will flow straight to it. We mortared in a back border of rocks to stop any water that might jump the drain.

A three foot drain correctly installed with rock border

A three foot drain correctly installed with rock border

The stepping stones were raised and reset using cement. We decided to keep them level instead of sloping down the hill and they came out more like steps then a pathway. I found the look rather pleasing.

Stepping stones raised and leveled with a cement base

Stepping stones raised and leveled with a cement base

We dumped about six cubic yards of compost to form a small hill (berm) inside the orange line that I had painted. In case you look at the picture and wonder, I had decided to modify the orange line. We will open up the rock border of the bed below, using the rocks to line the edge of the berm. The water will be diverted down through a dry river bed to the ivy below.

compost has been dumped inside the painted lines for the berm

compost has been dumped inside the painted lines for the berm

We next raked out the berm, moved some rocks around and filled in the pathway to the stepping stones with shredded cypress mulch.

A cypress mulch pathway with rock borders leads to the stepping stones

A cypress mulch pathway with rock borders leads to the stepping stones

We tied in the downspouts to the pipe running under the stepping stones. Downspouts put out a lot of water and should always be taken into consideration.

The water is run from the downspout and drain under the walkway and stepping stones

The water is run from the downspout and drain under the walkway and stepping stones

We used cypress mulch to finish off the sides of the stepping stones both for aesthetic reasons and to stop any erosion that might be caused from direct rain. I have found that cypress mulch is much better than bark in these situations because it tangles with itself and doesn’t wash out.

Cypress mulch used to fill in between the steppingg stones and the rock border

Cypress mulch used to fill in between the steppingg stones and the rock border

The berm is raked out and only needs a rock border. My client on this job, Ann, is an accomplished gardener and wishes to lay the rock and the dry river bed (dry creek bed? Which is best?) on her own. She also has ideas about plants for the berm which I am waiting to see. The planted berm will add a much needed foliar anchor to that side of the house. I think berms are way cool and fun to work with.

This berm, when lined with rocks, will direct the water away from the stepping stones

This berm, when lined with rocks, will direct the water away from the stepping stones

I am going to suggest that vinca minor should be planted down the sides of the stepping stones. This is a rather tame vining plant that will grow in and help to prevent further water damage.

Vinca minor is a wonderful ground cover for erosion control in a shady area

Vinca minor is a wonderful ground cover for erosion control in a shady area

There are many ways to deal with water. A couple of articles that you may wish to see would deal with retaining walls or with dry river beds. Try them out. There’s also an article about using mondo grass for erosion control

Do you have a problem that needs solving? Leave a comment

******

If you would like to have a consultation with John Schulz in your yard in the North Georgia area, email me at wherdepony@bellsouth.net

As usual, I would just love for you click here to go to Amazon and purchase the ebook edition of my wonderful book, Requiem for a Redneck to go on your Kindle. I have also noticed that Amazon now has a free Kindle app for iphones and tablets. Is that cool or what?

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